I’m suspiciously good at doing things I say I wouldn’t do… 29ers, Disc brake road bikes, Glasses in a full face helmet and coming back to Finale to race. Yes, after the melt down of 2015, I was pretty sure that I would be reading the live feed and watching the banger slideshow on Vital MTB as opposed to spreading myself all over the Italian riviera again.

But, you know, that’s what all good addicts say right? I promise this is the last time… I totally won’t do it again… You can trust me here at home, alone… With my knee pads on and this bottle of lubricant. But the moment someone spilt some ENDUROcaine off the coffee table, I got more sniffly than the Donald at a debate.

Nek minute, I’m popping out of a bowl of Gelato is what seems to be the Rotorua of Europe, just minus the pumice. Speaking of which, upon arrival we had to see immediately to the critical priorities.

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The Swiss Missile has his own Gelato decision making process – Sorry bro, no Toblerone

It seems I’ve developed a penchant for slightly complicated shake down rides after my Banyoles experience. By its sheer definition, a ‘shakedown ride’ should be short, simple, relaxing and not really involve the opportunity to maim yourself.

However, the weather was mint, the bike was frothing and I had a willing, if unwittingly so, participant in the form of the Swiss Missile… Which meant there was only one thing to do: The Mens DH.

Some may remember this bad boy from #Finale15, but in summary its based around 50 minutes of climbing for around 5 minutes of Holy fuck DH action that you want to only attempt in the dry and with empty bowels. Just quietly, it was fuuuuucken rad to be back in town.

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Basically Roman

To drag RJ up there, I had described it as “Quite a cool downhill along the ridgeline“, which is a bit like describing having a Rabid Baboon making non-consensual love to your face as “Date night“. This may have explained why his stoke factor was so high, even with jet lag lingering:

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The Swiss missile all set for the hunting trip

Helping perpetuate the false sense of security, Mens DH starts out fairly mellow and straightforward… Not to mention quite fast. They say you learn something new every day, but I’m pretty fucking sure I didn’t need to learn that the top section is actually a two way track, especially when getting a bit loose on it.

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“Come on guys, there’s nothing wrong with eBikes!” <<Judo chop to the throat>>

Yeah, so one downhill run isn’t exactly going to set the world on fire, especially when you’ve just come off an overnight flight and decided to head out into one of the hardest sections of the entire race weekend late in the afternoon, #prerideWTF, so to spice things up we decided to lower the pressure in the Swiss Missile’s shock to 10 PSI and see if we could snap his Capra in half…

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“Well, your head came off, but I reckon we need to go to 5psi if we want to grenade that linkage”

As it turned out, its been rather dry here in Finale, and as we know from experience a little wetness is needed to keep things fun every now and again… Which is not a memo that Men’s DH has received. In fact, in the 12 months since I last stopped breathing down here, either I’ve got shitter, or its gnar factor has peaked out. What was consistent though was my brain being 2 seconds too slow the whole way down on line choice.

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Left… No, wait… Right is sweet… Oh fuck cunt, we’re going down the guts

Its worth pointing out at this stage that there’s currently a fashion movement out there dealing with the latest ENDURO First world problem: Freeride, not preride. Or, more correctly #freeridenotpreride. And yes, before you make the obvious mistake, its got nothing to do with #freeballsnotprecome, totally different genre.

The general inference is you’re slightly cunty if you turn up early and ride what you know will be race stages… Excuse me while I yawn at this notion given how much I was enjoying riding my bike in EuroDisney for ENDURO or the fact that if you live your life outside the Top-200 it makes zero difference to the results.

Whilst I considered this and which picture to Gram bang out for the day, just a few of the things my brain was distracted on instead of being 100% committed to the 50 shades of Gnar wanting to snap my wrists, I also registered that there was a noise behind me.

I instantly dismissed it may be another rider given A) there was no one around and B) it sounded more like an avalanche of angry Bison on motocross bikes. Regardless, my brain issued a simple command in amongst genuine confusion: If you want to live, get the fuck off the trail. Thank fuck I have excellent survival skills:

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Preride this motherfuckers

Like a startled hunter I was cursing myself that such a prize had defeated my skills, but as luck would have it, the World Champ decided to park up around the corner and chill… I wasn’t about to miss my opportunity to get my PRO stalking account off to a Rainbow striped start, its not every day you get shredded to a standstill by Richie Rude:

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“OMFG Richie, we have the same helmet!!”… “Dude, is that a back pack?”

Whilst I was still trying to piece back together my blown mind like Humpty Dumpty after watching him massacre a rock garden that was having its way with me, PRO reinforcements arrived on the scene. Fuck yeah, Murica, the dream was here to save the motherfucken day and make things great again…

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Day 1 PRO stalking form was fully legit

But where there were those two, there would naturally be one of the greatest of all time, Mr ‘Been There, Won That’ was surely going to be making an appearance. It didn’t take long before Sir Grubby was shredding through and making his debut in a Dirty video coming to you soon. Sorry about the froth on your goggles there chief.

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I can neither confirm nor deny how long I stood here for…

Before I could talk about Swatty boxes or 2.6 inch tires he vaporised from view, leaving me to sniff in the PRO ENDURO dust that filled the late afternoon air… As I surveyed the death gnar around me, drank in the views of the Med and sweated into my new ENDURO as absolute fuck helmet, I only had one overwhelming conclusion:

Fuck it was good to be back

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