After a roller coaster Day 1 at EWS Spain it meant that I was heading into Day 2 feeling more relaxed than perhaps one usually would for a race like this. But, when you’re outside the Top 200, its a relatively sizeable reality check.
Aside from the fact that there were 207 Spanish shredders and PRO’s ahead of me, there is no getting around one simple fact when racing these things: Your speed is your speed.
Unless you’re Floyd Landis you don’t suddenly wake up in the morning on race day and become massively faster, have bigger balls or forget any fundamental technique flaws you may have. 99% of the time you’ll end up riding ‘your speed’ out there, and everyone else will be either faster or slower. Remembering this is a fairly key ingredient in having a good time. In other words, relax cunt.
Getting up for Day 2 and it seemed everyone was carrying some form of ailment or bike drama. Doug was out of the race with a smashed shoulder from Stage 2, Nige was fingered from the same flu I had, Andy was high on Voltarin and I had metal staples in my leg. A relatively munted mob then.
Today I shall attempt the near impossible – A race report without using any contemporary MTB cliche’s, so I apologise in advance if you came here to feed off any of those. And on that note, let’s get after Day 2 on Spain EWS like we’re irrationally horny to the point of it being embarrassing.
If you wanted an extremely tricky start to the day, then you were in luck as Stage 5 was waiting for you with knuckle dusters and a switchblade. Very short, very sharp and with no real warm up aside from the climb up to it, Stage 5 was on the radar as more than a bit of a challenge.
Stage 5 started out normally, not unlike the same flavor coming up on Stage 6… But that lasted all of 10 seconds before the first Danger sign and things got, well, a bit more exposed shall we say?
Also turns out that the term ‘Spine tingling’ has a different meaning here in the ZZ, as it usually relates to having to negotiate a rock spine that has questionable morals and a penchant for looseness. Couldn’t be accused of having a lot of margin for error down here. Harden up though, its the World Series dude:
You know people that say “Oh man, I haven’t studied at all and I’m so going to fail the exam“, then the cunts go and get like, 95% and feel gutted for themselves? Well, when I say I felt slow down here, its NOT one of those situations. I was genuinely gagging on a mouthful of Spanish rock scrotum and in a plot line I’m sure anyone could see coming – The more you nervously braked on this stuff, the more nervous it got. Thanks Captain Obvious:
And just as a final novelty, Stage 5 finished with a sprint down what was mainly a dry riverbed… Although I suspect it gets as un-dry as fuck when one of those rogue mountain thunderstorms rolls in. The point being you had to switch modes and pedal like fuck son:
Rich showed the correct form for smashing the whole semi dry riverbed scenario, in full panther mode here looking like he’s just seen a lame water buffalo sunbathing:
To put the timings here in context, the top 30 Open men were covered by 8 seconds… Yeah, that’s eye watering tightness right there. I have no idea how Martin Maes got down to win the stage in 1.23… I can’t even get my back wheel off the bike that fast. If I had a day job, I would fully be keeping it.
- DN – 2.06 for 243rd (Hang head low now)
- Grubby – 1.28 for 15th
- T Mo – 1.40 for 3rd in Pro Women
See, I wasn’t joking about my rather poor start to the day… Worst stage result of the weekend. Time to move on to greener pastures then!
The liaison up to Stage 6 was pretty cool and gave me the first chance to get a handle on the new Coil shock the Fox dudes had strapped on. I’m an underground Coil fiend and I have been secretly waiting for the Return of the Coil whilst tolerating all this air shock cuntery over the last decade. Finally we will rise up and party like its 1998 all over again. I have to say, I was most agar at how well it climbed, which I hadn’t expected at all. But more importantly, how fucking GOOD does it look?!
With a course delay in effect and no ENDURO Trains leaving the station, we quickly had a Moshpit on our hands as more and more Endurophiles piled into the staging area, a bunch of fiends fevering to get some of the Stage 6 goodness. It seemed everyone was fizzing for its sweet turns.
So a new tactic for Stage 6 then – The “Trail ride” strategy. Trying to ‘Race’ it had so far resulted in overriding things and metal staples in my shin, so the new approach called for riding it like I normally would, just perhaps with some more animated pedalling on the flat sections. The thing about 6 is that it was once again just an excellent trail to be spending time on your bike on. The whole way down laced with corners like this, which encouraged you to… Hmmm… Go really fast? No references to Pins here:
As I’ve ranted on previously, there is something to be said for riding chilled out and as a result, I was loving Stage Sex… Even more than I enjoyed it in practice. Bike was mint, trail was sweet and as I had nothing to worry about except riding my bike in Spain, everything was humming. Oscar was ever the gentleman as well.
The best part about Stage Sex was it felt like I was just out riding my bike, faster than usual admittedly, but it didn’t feel like the same panicked sloppiness of some of the stages the previous day. For the most part, it felt like how I wanted to be riding, which is not a bad target to aim for if you’re living outside the top 100… Or 200 for that matter.
I must have gone alright, as I managed to keep the rampant Tim at bay, I even had enough time after the finish line for a few panting breaths before he rocked up. A mutual fisting always the better outcome.
To put things in context, Tim was 139th on the stage… Yeah… So I would have been stoked to be able to ride it 20 seconds faster, but mainly I was pretty pleased to bank my best stage result of the weekend. Proof once again that to go fast, its best to chill the fuck out sometimes.
- DN – 4.53 for 2o8th
- Grubby – 3.50 for 6th
- T Mo – 4.20 for 1st in Pro Women
Not that any of us knew it at the time, but Stage 7 would end up being the last one that counted from a Racing perspective. Not that I was too worried about that, I was fully focused on enjoying the last half of the Magnificent 7. Not that it was just the last half of 7 that was golden, no, it was bookended with a hectic start as well. If I was able to use contemporary overused MTB cliche’s, one may have even described this as Gnar perhaps?
Unlike Stage 2, which had been well fingered by practice and racing, Stage 7 had actually got better. I didn’t think that was possible, but due to its awesome surface, the more riding it had, the better it was. After the middle section climb I started to feel like I was absolutely nailing it… I suspect everyone did mind you, it was one of those trails where its very easy to feel like a total fucking hero. Helping in that regard? The supporters were all over this one and making it even more spectacular to race down.
Holy fuck… This is how we always want to feel on a bike! It felt so fast, and effortlessly so as well. This was some sort of ENDURO wet dream in progress and I didn’t want to wake up. I was flowing like water, but water that’s shot out the back of a jet boat going full gas. Fuck it was ON.
Until suddenly it wasn’t… Before I got the Master Alarm going off, I was off and sampling a sweet Spanish dirt cocktail. Full Dirtnado:
The Nomad Crash Investigation team has failed to diagnose exactly what went wrong, even after multiple slow mo replays. I suspect it was one of my almost world famous ‘concentrations lapses’, as for some reason I thought the finish was not far off and I oddly relaxed, not the best call when you’re riding faster than your comfort zone asked for. One thing that can be confirmed however is that even when I crash I manage to get some epic brand whoring in the shot to keep everyone happy.
Over the bars fuckwittery aside, Stage 7 was an absolute favourite and for the most part it felt mint to ride… Possibly went a little too fast, but when its this fun, why not? Only downside is that you may end up looking like you’ve pissed yourself. Fire trucking is the new ENDURO:
Man… Blew it out on that one… Suspect I may have been knocking on the door of the top 200, but this is ENDURO snakes & ladders, but with 98% snakes, so one slip up and you’re on ass detail.
- DN – 5.48 for 223rd
- Grubby – 4.21 for 1st
- T Mo – 5.07 for 2nd in Pro Women
The liaison to 8 was the biggest of the entire weekend, but thanks to the fact this race was organised by golden dudes who love Mountain Biking and wanted us to love the ZZ, the liaison times were spot on. So you couldn’t sunbath and rub yourself in Spanish olive oil, but there was plenty of time to be able to not burn all the matches getting to the scene of the next ripping stage.
Not that we knew it when charging into the final stage of the day, but from a racing perspective our efforts would be fruitless. Zero fucks given about that however, just riding Stage 8 was excellent. The only problem was not getting seduced like a trainee teacher into the views being flaunted around:
Both sides of the ridge were at it… As were my cranks, pedally fucker at the top was Stage 8, an interesting prospect with a Reverb dropper post that was terminal again after its rebuild the night before.
I posted this pic in the preview, but of course the difference then was it was nude of rabid Spanish supporters, well, check it out now, packed and the PRO’s were still over an hour or so from rocking up. Its not often you get to drop into such a cool crowd, perfect time for me to brake check myself in the worst possible spot then an almost lose the front wheel. Ah yeah…
I had been worried that Tim would catch me right as we dropped into this section, and that’s pretty much how it rolled! Pulling over not really an option, so I had to keep it gassed to the end and hope to not hold him up to much. Not that it mattered in the long run. Rich arrived on the scene soon after with tales of pulling off a massive power slide save in the bowl of doom which was ringed with Spanish Romans. Pumped:
It was strange to think it was over! Only the final liaison remained back to Medieval Castle Race HQ, but along the way we ran into T Mo who wanted not only some advice on Stage 8 (actually, not at all), but also why I keep results stalking her.
After I had got done mumbling at Tracey, Smaildog decided that as he no longer had a seat thanks to an epic stack on Stage 8, he may as well fuck that chain off as well for good measure. The big dog taking zero prisoners in the gear department.
Getting back though was not so straightforward and under the “No man left behind” Blackhawk down policy, it was over to Rich and I to provide the muscle. Not often I get linked to providing muscle to anything, but in this instance it was a worthy cause.
What a crazy weekend… As we rolled back into Race HQ to time out, I felt that odd combination of being relatively fucked, but also wanting it to continue. Not to sound like Bree Olsen when I say that, but clearly I have become relatively addicted to ENDURO and as soon as its over for the weekend, its hard to not wanting to ride better, faster and with less mistakes. As we rolled into the safety of the castle and beat the rain for the second day running, I could already tell I wanted more:
Spare a thought for Simon from our group, after fully destroying his rear Mavic wheel, the boys in the pits did a full rebuild in 30 minutes and he had to mad scramble up to the top of 8 to get his race run in. No such drama back at HQ, besides, there was the worlds most massive Paella to destroy. Finally I get a fucking paella in Spain!
And then the rain came down… I’m resisting the urge to link the words ‘Rain’ and ‘Spain’ together here, but it was pretty full on when the storm rolled in. The bone dry Stage 8 suddenly became the killing fields and once the timing tent got washed away, not much to do than pull the pin. Some people moaned the PRO’s should have ridden it, but I didn’t notice those cunts volunteering to get electrocuted by the timing equipment and then drowned by the biblical floods. Riding down Stage 8 in the rain would have been utterly impossible. I borrowed this pic from Anka Martin to try and illustrate the point.
So the questions that you didn’t really think to ask or give a fuck about the answers:
- Is life better with a coil shock? Yes. I may not be able to explain why as I’m gear retarded, but I hope to after Finale. The new Fox DHX2 coil is actually like having your cake and eating it. Its firmer to pedal than the Cane Creek, yet provides smoother travel and better traction. Nobody really knows how that works. Best of all? It matches my fork. Winning
- Am I giving the coil shock back? Fuck no, its staying. Long live the new king
- Did the coil shock make you ENDURO enough to get into the top 200? Er… No. Whilst it did make me a better person, and I did move up from 208th to 205th (thanks to those 3 guys that punctured), I was 8 seconds off getting into the top 200, which kind of sucks given I had about 30 seconds or more of dumb ass crashes over the weekend. To get into the top 100? A mere 5 minutes I would have needed. The only way I was going to find 5 minutes was by missing a stage. Good perspective.
- Dude, you got fingered? Ok, that’s not really a question, but just like at a cunty work ‘town hall meeting’ its bound to get asked. A quick analysis says yes, I did, but not as bad as I did in Rots. I managed to halve the time gap to T Mo, from 14 minutes overall in Rots to 6 minutes here on GC. I suspect she hasn’t gotten any slower either. Having said that, when you ride in these things you get to see the entire food chain in action and realising that you may live on a smaller planet than the others is something worth accepting pretty fast. Or from another perspective, I’m not doing this for money am I? So best to give zero fucks.
Stage 9 was always going to be huge… What no one expected though was the quietest of the Flying Finns to essentially be the Richie Rude of Gin Drinking. In spite of Doug’s efforts to keep up, it was not to be. The Finnish version of Gollum taking the award as the loosest cunt of the night. Takes a super effort to do this to a Scotsman as well.
And on that note, now to the Thank Ewes… And as you can see, there are a shitload:
- Basque MTB Tours – A massive week with Doug, Antonio, Barca’s X 2 and Carlos. A legendary crew of guys and absolutely the people to see when you want to ride not only in Zona Zero, but also awesome Basque coast action as well. These dudes are golden.
- All the lads and Anka Martin – Practice and the whole week was a shit load of fun thanks to the whole gang. Sure, Grandpa Simpson caused some key stress from time to time, but it was great to roll with a troop that knew how to have a good time. Thanks lads.
- Sven Martin – For the rear wheel that saved my week and of course for the legendary pics which gave some of the best Instagram climaxing ever
- Fox – So the fork tune was one thing, but then the golden upgrade to the Coil shock was an unexpected win. Jordie and Schmitty the dudes to see for your suspension, just happens they double as an unlikely comedy duo as well
- SRAM – Rebuilt my blown Reverb in an hour. Legendary given it took 5 weeks in Singapore. Shame it only lasted 2 stages however, but a warranty to come in Italy, so all good
- Shimano – Persisted with fixing my Michael Jackson brakes and fitted in a pad change, possibly at the worst time I should have changed pads
- Tom from Santa Cruz – Had more than a few PRO’s to sort out and support, but like a golden dude took the time to help me work out what was up with my shock
- Chris Ball and the whole EWS team – More to come on this topic in future posts, but these guys are my new crack dealers essentially. They have the vision and balls to get us to come to amazing places we’ve never even heard of to ride our bikes on mind blowing terrain, all seamlessly organised from a riders perspective. Bravo team
- Jorge and the Zona Zero team – First thanks to Jorge for not punching me when I repeatedly called him ‘George’ initially, but also for organising an amazing event. Everything was mint, from course design and marking to having great medics in the right places. Seriously well done and I hope you get another round soon
- Smaildog and Rich – The difference between a good and great day is always the dudes you get to roll with out there. I was lucky enough to hang out with the TP Mountain Staff, which felt like it doubled as a golden reunion as well. Occasional cameo appearance from Dirty Uncle Seb rounded out a cool day with the GC Crew
- The Medics – Yes, even thanks to the dude that stapled my legs with those metal staples without warning.
- The Nomad 3 for just being straight up awesome:
So, Spain is in the bag and quicker than the Specialized Legal team can file papers we’re gearing up for the final round in Finale, Italy… Back to back rounds a bit like trying to fuck a washing machine when its on high speed spin. Stay tuned for the low down from practice. Spain OUT!