If you caught up on all the tourtured antics from EWS Madeira, then congratulations for clawing your way through the myriad of first world ENDURO problems, but you probably also wondered aloud a few times as to why the fuck one would want to keep putting themselves through such experiences.
Well, after completing my 7th EWS and staring down the barrel of my 8th, I can now surmise there is a distinct behavioural pattern here, and I’m waging that I’m not the only one that goes through this process. Whilst there are some variances, as an overall framework the typical EWS experience tends to follow this vibe:
- Turn up thinking you’re legitimately fit enough and well prepared this time, with tiny slithers of hope you won’t look like a nude teabagged clown
- Have all dreams brutally shattered and pegged into submission on day 1 of practice – Face realisation that, oh, once again its much harder than you expected, even though you expected it to be hard…
- By the end of Day 2 of practice, come to the realisation you now resemble ENDURO dog roll that’s been fed to a gimp, spend time praying for some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure overnight which means you have to instead stand on the side of the course with a cow bell screaming ‘come on cunt’ at people you vaguely know from awkward pit interactions: “I liked your pic on Instagram… Will you adopt me?“
- To all intents and purposes, survive the race weekend, oscillating between flashes of semi brilliance and actual pants pissing terror to arrive at post race beers with a sense of euphoria that somewhere deep in your psyche connects back to your first climax where another person was at least present
- Return to the real world to choke on the contempt you taste in your mouth for the corporate zombie drones that want to cut and paste your soul into a PowerPoint presentation and sudden realise that you must immediately swallow down another EWS red pill, or you may cease to exist as an entity.
And rinse… And Repeat… And that therefore brings us to Millau… Or as I have been calling it “Me-Lau”, but I think its actually “Me-uuuu”, which when I attempt that pronunciation, I sound like a cat waking up from weekend on the crack pipe (Ed note – Uncle Pete’s cat was not hurt, any more than usual, in the making of this post).
To be honest, motivation wise to get back into it after Madeira, there’s only really one factor: Its fuck France innit and its full Euro summer, so who wouldn’t want to go?! I mean, all I’ve heard about right now in Europe is how fucking dry and hot it is, heat wave they say… Ah, FOOLS, you forgot this is an EWS round AND its 2017, so this makes total sense:
Everything you read about Millau online is heavily devoted to either that epic Bridge or how dry and hot it is… Something the weather cuntery of 2017 wasn’t going to stand for at all. Whoever put the rain curse on the EWS in 2017, your Kung Fu remains next level. So whilst its too late to pack rain tires which my fingers wouldn’t be strong enough to put on, at least we have some low down on what awaits in the week ahead, French wetness aside:
- 9 stages total (5 stages on Friday and 4 stages on Saturday)
- Approximate distance: 88km total (21km of race stages and 67km of liaisons)
- Approximate amount of descending 4200 m / climbing: 3300
- Terrain type: The Millau EWS will take place in the typical landscape of Aveyron. It will alternate between loamy forest and rocky ground. Expect some steep terrain.
All those bullet points are insanely EWS worthy of course, so I made the obvious mistake of getting into some of the best form of the year, thanks to cutting volume and upping intensity to unusual levels for me. This of course made me a prime target for the flu and a sinus infection… 10 days later and I’m back to being a shell of my interval crushing self, just how I like to be heading into the knife fight in a telephone box with a gorilla that is an EWS round.
But that hasn’t been what’s head fucking me the most… For the first time this year, mainly due to how things felt in Madeira, I’ve been pondering the most extreme of first world problems – Which awesome Santa Cruz gets to take the trip to France? Its been Hightower all year so far, so perhaps it was time to revisit who gets deployed on the next mission:
Not to spoil the plot for a future post, but there’s an outside chance there were no fewer than eight back to back ‘testing’ sessions, or as close as I can ever get to anything analytical enough to be considered testing. Given French gnar and steep shit is on the horizon, I have a particular thesis I’m working on for the amateur ENDURO rider:
What’s more important, larger wheel size with its improved roll over and traction, or is more travel and a slacker head angle what’s best when shit gets real and anatomy measuring becomes relevant?
The trend says 29er’s of course, but I’ve felt in the last few missions that for me at least I’m just lacking a little bit of forgiveness and slackness on the Hightower when shit is getting mega freaky.
In reality if I could do anything, like a famous person, then my ideal machine would be the evil love child of these two works of art: A 150mm-160mm 29er with a 65 deg head angle, coil shock, steep seat angle and Alu rims… However that bike won’t be available until July/August (#worstkeptsecret), so I guess we just have to keep a stiff upper lip and solider on with what we have… Fuck my ENDURO lyfe.
In the end, the Nomad 3 got the nod for this trip… Almost 10 months since our last mission together and its time to team up on EuroGnar once more. And strangely that’s a decision not based on science or the clock, which showed that the Hightower is consistently faster over my rather tame test courses. WTF?! Before you accuse me of a Loic Bruni moment, I’ve gone back to the little wheels not because I want to enhance the spectacle of the sport (not something I ever need to be worried about), but ultimately the heart overruled the head on this one.
When it gets that little bit steeper and a little bit rowdy, the Nomad just has a way of feeling slightly more composed and settled, which based on the last round is something I think is more important in the amateur killing fields on an EWS weekend. Ultimately The last time we were in France together we had a pretty fucking rad time, so a solid track record which I’m keen to see us uphold, along with multiple violations against croissants:
Final note, whilst this may seem like another instalment of the EuroEnduro series, this time its an all new venue in Millau and the first time I’ve had the chance to do an EWS round in France. So far its been Italy x 3, NZ x 2, Spain x 1 and Madeira x 1, so the stoke is high to be adding the French flag to the list… And like the last time we were both in France in 2015, once again there will be plenty of steep shit and non-stop French gnar to contend with, as we found out when track walking stage 3 today:
Don’t worry, whilst I violated the Amateur AF code today by doing a “track walk”, I made sure it was balanced out by proceeding directly to the nearest artisan boulangerie to commit multiple felony’s on baked goods to wash away our sins.
Given how much walking sucks, it was considered wise to leave the track walk business to the pro’s after only going down the shortest stage and to get back to the important business of sitting around the pool scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, to occasionally look up to utter “Fuck that bridge really is one big motherfucker…”
Practice kicks off tomorrow French time, Wednesday & Thursday with a slightly complicated logistical arrangement, before racing on Friday and Saturday… Yes, you heard that right, the first time I’ve seen a timetable like this, so watch this space to see how it all pans out in the steep French gnar as the great Santa Cruz amateur bike selection experiment unfolds…
Oh and yes… Its the night before practice and it just started to piss down so hard I couldn’t think of a Russian hooker related analogy or joke to describe it. Apologies for the poor form, lets all blame 2017.