If you tuned in for Part 1, then you may be wondering how I intend to drag out a sequel race report when I managed to transform into a cunt bonfire and wasn’t actually in the race come Day 2. Don’t worry, I have plenty of shit to spin out in a multi faceted way and for once, I may be able to do so in a non-narcissist manner given I wasn’t partaking in round 2 of the Millau massacre, a point in itself which I have to sum up as being fucking weird.

Yes, waking up to Day 2 and I definitely felt like an imposter. The day before I was a part of it, but then suddenly I wasn’t… with no transponders adorning my arms, stripped of my ENDURO Jewellery, I was now general public… a shuttle driver, a spectator, a cheerleader and the guy trying to explain why he wasn’t participating in day 2 whilst trying not to sound softer than one of the local cheeses. It was a new and undesirable experience to say the least:

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Stage 6 – For me, only just a drill… Banger pic from motivation coach Duncan Philpott

I wasn’t the only one waking up on Day 2 and in looking out the window, feeling both stoked we weren’t riding as well as gutted we weren’t racing, a truly perplexing paradox of cycling emotions. Of the 43 DNF’s in Open Men’s for the race, 31 of them happened on the first day, so I wasn’t exactly Robison Crusoe.

On one hand, you’d failed your French exam and would therefore miss the whole reason you were in town, on the other it looked like more horrendous shithouse weather was being dished up… I know I’m supposed to say “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment”, but after what 2017 has slapped us in the face with so far, that Euro quote has started to wear thin. So, whilst my knee pads were violently cast aside, I quickly assumed my role of a croissant devouring shuttle driver cum supporter who manages to mispronounce “Allez” when spectating. Fuck you silent ‘Z’.

In the end this was the total reverse of Madeira, which consisted of a super shit practice and then redeemed itself with an ok race weekend. Its therefore perplexing how I managed to reverse that equation when in my favourite country on my favourite bike… So why did I melt down faster than a Snowman furiously wanking in a Swedish sauna? I’ll try not to be a self licking ice cream on this topic and think its best to sum it up as follows:

I picked a very bad day to have a very bad day

Which is to say, coming off a sinus infection and antibiotics with time off the bike and straight into perhaps one of the hardest days of the season is not a great combo. When feeble kitten strength met Rage filled giant French Tranny’s, my summer French fling became an ENDURO horror/snuff movie faster than you can type up an arrest warrant for Donny Junior.

I was mainly gutted that I was missing out on the Day 2 stages to be honest, as they were all absolute bangers and definitely better than the Day 1 trails, but some more on that below…

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Stage 5 & 9 – Another ripper I never fired a shot in anger on… And something about a bridge. Pic of the year here thanks to the genius that is Sven Martin, I owe him many craft beers

So whilst I can’t really describe to you how I persevered through a ridiculously wet, muddy and motherfucking difficult day 2, I can absolute invent a series of questions that you probably didn’t have and then go about answering them in an equally dubious manner, which is probably more enlightening that me describing another EWS stages with my usual generalisation of “Fuck that was SO hard man” routine. Roll words…

What about those that actually made it to the end?

Whilst I stood around preening my tail and lapping at lightly warmed milk, many battle hardened units pushed on through a second day of French Merde to emerge victorious, with a solid points haul or just a memorable life experience. No shit the French dominated, 7 of the top 10 slots in PRO men of course, with rumours of a few Millau training camps here and there (#freeridenotpreride clearly dead as fuck in 2017). Massive respect to everyone that made it through the Millau Massacre, everyone that did also had their own tale to tell, but here’s some that caught my eye:

Adrien Dailly – 3rd win of the year and second on the trot… Why he’s not draped in Lapierre signage is beyond me, the whole Dailly scene seems to be super low key and he almost looks like a privateer, except for when he’s moving on a bike. He didn’t give a single Huck Norris (you had to be there) about the conditions or those horrendous tranny’s and don’t be surprised if he goes U21 and Pro Men world champ titles back to back. Fucking scary this is his first year in the seniors.

Jesse Melamed – Had the flu, had an even shitter weekend and persevered to 7th overall and the second non Frenchie in the Top 10, what an insanely gritty ride, surely his first EWS win is coming soon?!! Maybe Whistler, unless Mr Rude comes back from being MIA.

Katy Winton – No stage result lower than 6th all weekend until Stage 9… And a flat tire that loses you a shit load of time and drops you down the order, there’s no question that would have been a total motherfucker after battling through such a weekend.

Karim Amour – Coach Karim went 5 from 5 in the Masters and was fittingly crowned Masters World Champ in France, so smooth and fast that this was the only Go PRO screen grab I could manage to grab that wasn’t a blur…

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Another French hairpin about to be Ka-reamed

Was it really that hard?

I’m gonna say, ah, FUCK YES, but my guess if you ask Adrien Dailly, the answer may be a solid “Non“, so my lightly microwaved cookie dough ass opinion may not count for much here. However Vital MTB described it at one stage as: “Racing on what some are calling some of the most difficult tracks (in the wet) in Workd Enduro history

Jesse Melamed described it as the “hardest and worst day” he’s had on a bike (Probably due to racing with the flu) and indeed, the general consensus was this was one beast of a day, let alone total race. In theory Madeira was slightly longer, but didn’t feel like quite as much climbing and whilst Rotorua was fucking epic, at least you could ride almost all the transitions.

To be honest, the race stages were actually like a sanctuary for me compared to those savage liaisons. I think they fucked the liaisons up to be honest, mostly due to the time allocated and then the total lack of clarity once they started running late. Clearly they recognised this, as the Day 2 start and liaison times were all extended to make it less mental, would have been nice to have that on Day 1 as well…

After Madeira, the Millau maths didn’t seem too bad to be honest: 88km’s and 4,200m of descending, which of course means about the same amount of climbing as in Finale, except in Millau its almost straight up:

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Where a million ENDURO souls cried out in pain and then were silenced. It was also a total cunt

Whilst I’m going to say YES, it was that hard, there’s another aspect that I think is worth touching on here, not so much for myself, but in general – The cumulative impact of a season like this, with the 5th round in the rain at some point over the race weekend. For the first time that I’ve seen it was evident all around the pits, from racers and mechanics, the strain was definitely showing as people naturally began to tire of these sorts of conditions. Its easy to say “Yeah, but it’s an awesome job, so suck it up“, but its natural that anyone would be starting to get a bit WTF on it at this stage in the season… First world ENDURO problems come in all shapes and sizes.

I suspect that perhaps not running stage 5 on Day 1 was the only thing that could have been done differently, aside from more tranny time allocation, but perhaps I need to take a good dose of man the fuck up and not be a Dirty cry baby about it. I think I’ve faced bigger challenges and plenty of others got through it no problem, so who knows. I’ve never missed a start before, so this was my EWS first time for everything moment.

But what about that weather?

Cue the Catch 22! I’m not sure if this is the funniest or most ironic part of the whole mission… Whilst we all got shitty pants about the rain and fucked conditions, what if the Millau business as usual had been in effect? Which is to say, what if we’d had to do this in 32 degree heat?

Hold that thought, as in the weeks preceding the race as part of the “No really, it IS so hot right now” Euro heat wave, the temps in Meow had hit 42 degreesMotherfucker… Racing in that would have been almost as insane as pulling out of the Paris climate accord because you’re fucked in the head, and the locals felt the same way. At one point the organisers were concerned if the whole thing was even going to go ahead based on rider safety.

So in some respects we dodged a microwave bullet… Slip & slide or fan bake?

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Everyone had a different preference and style

Is it getting too hard in general?

I’ve thrown this question in as its been asked from a number of quarters about the EWS format and how its evolved in 2017. The 7 French riders in the top 10 probably don’t think so, but this isn’t necessarily related to just the Millau round.

The racing in 2017 does seem to be harder than previous years, which may easily be dismissed as me turning into an older cunt, and not to mention the weather, but EWS Rounds are now FULL beast mode and it certainly feels like it’s stepped up.

I don’t envy Chris and the EWS team, or the local organisers – How do you organise a world class event that caters for PRO’s, amateurs and masters? From both a course difficulty and liaison perspective that’s not an easy ask, World Cup organisers don’t need to worry about such a balance, so its natural that it needs to be geared towards the PRO’s.

Bearing in mind I felt I was in better shape than at Madeira, it was weird to get K.Oed in a place that I actually loved without putting up much of a fight… An experience that cements my position I probably won’t be back to an EWS round until I can prepare properly for it, on terrain and with riders that means I can arrive without question marks tattooed on my face. No more fists at a gun fight for fucks sake… If you’re reading this and have never done one, but want to, these things really are the pinnacle of the sport, so prepare accordingly.

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Rockier than Christmas at the Balboa household. Rad pic thanks to Sven Martin

What did I miss out on? 

Well, only some of the raddest shit we had ridden all weekend… The real motivation to get through Day 1 was to get into the goodies that Day 2 had flaunted before us during our one run and done practice format.

Stages 6, 7 and then 8 all become new favourite trails and whilst they all suffered from the same “This would be amazing in the dry” disease, Stage 8 in particular was absolutely fucking awesome and the kind of stage you hope you’ll get when you turn up to race an ENDURO. The only slight consolation was these banger trails did look quite finger banged as the rain persisted and riders ripped them to pieces, but I’d happily be back for a re-run in the dry one day.

The boys also said that it felt ‘easier’ than day 1, if you can believe that, as standing on the sidelines it looked significantly more miserable and shitty… Probably why Sam Shaw is smiling atop his gearboxed Zerode giving not a single fuck about mud…

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The very definition of a real mountain biker, with a number plate that confirms shredder status

What about those wheels?

Ah yes, the French experiment of what was going to work better for me when shit gets crazy: Wheel size vs travel & geo. People seem legitimately interested in this topic, so here’s some food for thought.

Its been a one sided Hightower love affair since procurement, with it getting the nod since December for Rotorua, Thailand, NZ Enduro, Rotorua EWS, Wairoa Gorge and Madeira EWS, around 1,200km’s of radness under its big wheels… You’d think that I had been fully converted to the wagon side. And in truth, I thought I was too. But there was a nagging…

A nagging that perhaps when shit was getting very real, I was maybe a tiny bit short on firepower in the travel and geo department. Clearly I have too much time on my hands and so decided to use that time to completely overthink this first world ENDURO problem. As I mentioned in the Mission Briefing, it was time to bring back the Nomad 3 for its first outing since Finale 16.

Almost from the first run I knew it was the right call… Composed, hungry and feeling mechanically beautiful, the Nomad machined everything Millau wanted to throw at it. Technically a lot of the sections would have been faster on the Hightower, but from a fun factor perspective this was like banging an Ex summer fling you hadn’t seen for years; familiar, wild and a shit load of fun.

Important to note, this isn’t about wheel size as such, aside from the times I almost tucked the little wheel under the front trying to ride it 29er styles, no, this is about the package. Forget wheel size for a moment and think about geo, suspension and your riding style. Too much emphasis is placed on wheel size being the biggest part of the puzzle, but for me if I’ve learned anything this year, its that its part of the equation and not a reason to lose your fucking mind in online comments forums.

I’ve now worked out I can probably ride either and what my ideal set up would be, but more on that in a future post. Oh, whilst mentioning the topic of ‘Nomads’, apparently the new Nomad 4 isn’t an Enduro bike, well, this one found its way to 20th place overall in the PRO field and sweet holy fuck, to 2nd place on stage 7… Stand back as I try not to blow my load while I stroke myself getting my credit card out of my Fox shorts:

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“I take back all those mean things I said about your linkages and that you were a confusing product…”

A quick gear froth

Yeah, I sure have a lot to say for a cunt that got DQed/folded like a spy in a suitcase, but as per usual here’s a little bit of froth about some new items that popped up in Millau:

  • Race Face Ambush knee pads – The Dirty kneepad fetish continues, before we get Freudian on what that may mean, the latest addition to the line up performed admirably on their practice debut in France. Good coverage area, ENDURO as fuck with their velcro system and importantly did the job with no questions asked when I hit the deck practicing stage 2. Didn’t get to race them on Day 2 obviously, so watch this space for more feedback
  • Wolf tooth dropper remote – Possibly the only thing I don’t like about the Fox Transfer seat post is that the lever is quite small, plus gets a little floppy after many panicked stabs. So when we did an emergency Reverbectomy after it shit its pants pre-flight, my local bling loving bike shop suggested we throw on a Wolf tooth dropper remote to run the new Fox Transfer. Holy shit, this thing is VERY cool… I can’t speak for durability yet, but this is definitely the best dropper remote I’ve had the pleasure of fingering. Smooth, light, no play and a big surface area with plenty of adjustment, many boxes are ticked in this small yet critical contact point for a modern ENDURO bike
  • Tires & Rims – I went back from 29mm internal width carbon wheels to 25mm Alu rims as part of the move back to the Nomad and… Didn’t notice any difference. Oh wait, that’s not completely true, I actually felt less beat up on the rocky stuff and generally it felt like a more compliant ride. I’m easily brainwashed that I need wider, more expensive and carbon wheels, just like you clearly need that new Audi in order to be happy, dress like a cunt and sleep with models… Turns out its not all what its cracked up to be, literally.

And finally on the gear froth, massive shout out to Shimano who sorted out my munted rear D by throwing on a brand spankers new XTR unit after calling time of death on my one following its stage 1 make out with that final rock, nothing was too much trouble for these dudes, so huge respect for the race support lads:

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Thank fuck for the legendary race support – Chapeau Shimano

Let’s end on a positive note shall we?

Ok, so my French melodrama reports do seem to be like one of those tortured French drama films that I had to sit through once upon a time at an artisanal film festival, so I understand if like me, you’ve wondered if you can grit it out to the end. But it wasn’t all Enduropocalypse… There was some good still left in Millau.

For a while now I’ve been riding like I’m chasing the ghost of how I used to ride… or how I think I should be able to ride a bike. The rare and inconsistent moments where I capture that ghost and we’re reunited in riding a bike in a way that’s most likely unrealistic to expect, it’s absolutely a transcendent experience that’s insanely intoxicating.

I’m talking about a style of riding back when you were younger and there were no limitations, no broken bones, no scars and an unfucked optimism of what was possible on a mountain bike. Well, there were shades of that in Millau at times during practice as the magic combo of being back on the blue beast in France once again produced magic. That alone made it worth the trip no matter what was documented in the EWS archives. Yes, the last two paragraphs are just an excuse for me to post another vanity pic:

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Attempts to appear as ENDURO as fuck hampered by the elbow guards

But enough narcissistic wanking, the final shout out really deserves to go to the people that make these events what they are. So massive respect to everyone that got through the two days and especially to these two units for the great riding we got done as a crew during practice. Sure, I had to bribe the motherfuckers to get out of the car at the start of Day 2 into the 8 degs of fun that awaited them, but they pushed through that shit to bank a rad life experience. Big ups to the ENDURO Care Bear and the #SwissMissile:

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Contrasting hand gestures and wheel sizes the perfect example of the diversity of ENDURO

And just a reminder how fucking cool Mountain Biking is, to end the weekend on a “Fuck yes cunt” moment, I was reunited with a legendary figure amongst the DN Global Collective community. In mid 2012, roughly a year before Dirty Nomad was illegitimately birthed, we were on a rather hard core road riding mission in the French Alps, the Cols Classico.

This was one of those ‘No room for prisoners’ scenarios, but oddly in the middle of this Road AF mission in Alpe d’Huez, there was a day of Mountain Biking hooked up with a local guide: Bertrand.

Bertrand was widely credited with being the main antagonist behind an event the Doktor referred to as “The Awakening” #therecanbeonlyone, based on that day of his rad guiding, excellent joke telling and just general GC frothing, a change began to take hold…

That one day out set in motion a chain of events that saw a distinct turn back from Road racing to the first love of Mountain Biking just in time to start surfing this ENDURO wave… As such, you can imagine how stoked I was to learn the rad dude I shared beers with in Madeira and cursed the weather with in the Millau car park was none other than the instigator himself… Fuck the weather, its always about the crew:

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“Heeeee, Oui! We must save the Private!!”

P. S – Just to prove that someone has cursed the EWS this year, here’s Millau the day after the race… Normal service resumed. I hope T Mo doesn’t mind me stealing her Instabanger here, but I mean, yeah… Fucking hell:

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Dear 2017, go get fucked… Regards, 2017 EWS Fanatics

P.P.S – My Dirty video will likely be boring as fuck, so here’s the PRO version from the wizards at the EWS Media team if you are utterly worn out to fuck by all these words and just want to watch rad motherfuckers pinning it at crazy speeds in even crazier conditions:

That’s it from another slow moving monster post, stay tuned for some Dirty POV as I churn out posts slower than an overpriced F-35 production line.

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