Part one of our three part ENDURO World Series drama mini-series finished off just as the mojo was starting to pump through the veins after a rocking stage 4. But, many questions remained unanswered, especially with what was on the horizon with stages 5 and 7 in particular. The oddballs had some tricky shit in store, so the day was by no means done at that point.
Without further faffery that I may possibly be famous for, lets rejoin the action on the crawl up to start Stage 5…
Transition 5 – Got my technique down and everything
Fully pumped out of Stage 4 and I was now well versed at the art of rocking out of a stage, trying to catch my breath as best as possible and then boxing on, trying to spin out the effects of 7 minutes of frenzied sprinting and holding on.
I figured I had plenty of time to beat the tranny to 5, but for those of you that like to keep just a little more cash in your account than you probably need to, I wanted to have the extra buffer on hand in case it was needed. I was also operating on the principle of the quicker I got there, the more rest I could have, not to mention the easier it was to eat.
Stage 5 – Hatu Patu
The question to be answered – Would I survive stage 5?
Overly dramatic question that one you may think? Perhaps… But not if you were Dan Atherton, my stalk buddy from the CP Enduro having his day come to a prompt end on stage 5 after two massive stacks, both of which included landing on the melon. As you may recall, he described Stage 5 as ‘Fiddly’ in practice.
The issue with Red 5? It had a couple of cunty bits and one in particular that caught even some of the best out. 5 was also the section that fucked my head up completely the day before the race. One section in particular even got its own video made about it on Pinkbike (see link below), yup, this was the section in question:
Even the Whale of all stalks got the foot out here, some of the best in the business were giving this part a big “hmmmm”, it was cunty to say the least:
Nico Lau would agree, I saw him nail it in practice, but on race day obviously shit goes up a notch, which if you don’t get it right, can go down just as quickly. Either that or he was over riding some obscure weird German brand of bike and wanted a Nomad…
However, if you want a display of how to do it properly, look no further than Iago and his Nomad, that’s the one Diago, hit the right hand line going in that sets you up nicely to hook right on the high line and surf that motherfucker down and out of the kill box:
I was rather ecstatic then to arrive at this section, hit the right entry point and then get the call from a spectator to “Stay high bro“, hooking to the right and cleaning the whole section, fucking hell… I DID it! Absolutely pumped! Couldn’t ride it in practice, but through some stroke of randomness managed to clean it like a soapy ball sack during a race run, how fucking cool did that feel?!
The irony wasn’t lost on me that I fucked up some of the easier sections, for me stage 5 was all about getting through the section of DOOM that had received so much attention. Perhaps a shame I had allocated 95% of my talent to that one piece of trail… But its a moment I shall internally dine out on for some time to come.
If you want to see a whole video of people getting dry humped by this section, as well as nailing it, then click here for some additional entertainment (first crash is epic).
Results wise, another 24th place for the stage… Not surprised about leaking over a minute to Sean, whilst I revelled in the glory of slapping the hard part in the face, I wasn’t that quick in other sections by comparison:
- SM ex-PRO – 3.58 for 2nd
- JC totally PRO – 3.24 for 5th
- DN not quite as PRO – 5.21 for 24th
So to answer the question on 5, survive? Fuck, how about thrive motherfucker!
Transition 6 – Easy as eh
A quick stop in at Tech central to top off the tanks and then like a fired up F-22 I peeled away to head off to stage 6. With 30 minutes to do a 10 minute climb, it was a pretty relaxed affair, good news as stage 6 was going to be a baller to say the least.
The conversation along the way with a fellow competitor was pretty deep & meaningful, assessing the differences in lifestyle choices between working in a
cunt factory office job versus traveling around the world riding your bike. This extended to the varying levels of happiness between each way of life and the inevitable comparison between material possessions versus the riches of life experiences. Holy fuck, see, ENDURO isn’t just about railing ruts and nailing your nuts, apparently it has a human side as well.
Given I was now pumped up on gels and other stomach melting products, the short climb back up to 6 was given a thorough golden shower and all that was left to do was sit around in the sun watching ENDURO colleagues being fed into the Stage 6 meat grinder number after number. Here we can see Lester getting his kit on ready to rip another one to pieces:
Before I knew it, it was time to stop obsessively eating high carb food in flashy packaging and get on that motherfucking start ramp!
Stage 6 – Downhill time!
The question to be answered – Could I do something rad on this stage?
Like the name may suggest, this stage was basically down the National DH Track, or a good portion of it at least. The mojo generated by stage 5 and the little rest meant that I was pumped up for Stage 6! Probably my favourite stage of the event, plus I’d already done 3 practice runs down it and of all the trails so far, it suited my style the best was the internal view.
The surprise at this stage was how fast the day was going, we were 5.5 hours into the race and it had gone like a blur, on to the penultimate stage already? Get the fuck out… For real? It was like being an at awesome party and then the next thing someone is like “Fuck, its 2am!“, well, so I hear, I have usually passed out by midnight, but you get the idea.
Stage 6 was rad… I could have ridden it all day to be honest and next time I am in Rots, I’m looking forward to sessioning it a bit. Still steep and some tricky bits, but nothing like the destruction and carnage of Stage 1, with steepness that was actually fun:
I was fucking PUMPED for stage 6! Possibly the gels helping, but I knew my lines and I was feeling pretty stoked on racing, so was more than ready to throw it down and say “Yeah Boi” a lot.
The top section was fully rad, hit all the jumps, hit all my lines and was feeling pretty golden. Into the middle and it was getting a bit blown out to be honest, but still all good. I then had to make a decision, hit the A Line or B Line? I hadn’t ridden A in practice and SHOULD have (more on this in part 3), but the decision was somewhat made for me when the final drop off before the junction had been massacred and I stalled a bit, forcing me into a messy B Line detour, safe yes, good for your race time, no.
I was determined that stage 6 would be the one where I would keep the Swiss Ream Machine behind me, but the B Line debacle pissed away much of my buffer and he caught me heading into the lower section. I was determined to stay on his wheel, so I set off in pursuit… We flew into the next section and whilst I had pinned it every time in practice, it now had a distinctly soft top soil scenario going on. The Swiss guard made it through, I did not… Going down probably the hardest I had hit the deck all day and as I crashed through the high-quality gardening top soil, I could see my Garmin tumbling along next to my face.
A quick scramble to retrieve its now broken carcass and a desperate grab of the bike and I was back into it, with mere seconds to try and get some composure, it was all about smashing the final section in an attempt to minimise the damage of a very surprise shit eating moment.
Thanks to the young dude that stood on the side of the track and not only called out “High line BRO!“, but put his hand out showing where to hit it… And hit it I did, fuck it was golden as well. I’m not sure how I didn’t see it in practice and its always dodgy accepting line choices from strangers, but this one was rad and sent me carving into the next section faster than ever before. In my mind I looked as rad as this:
I got to the end of stage 6 feeling massively stoked, yes, I didn’t hit the A-line and the crash was messy, but even those things could mess with the stoke factor and EWS fever that was now raging, Stage 6 was straight up just an awesome trail to race on. The results didn’t really reflect how stage 6 felt, but I guess everyone stepped it up, hit the A Line and didn’t crash!
- SM ex-PRO – 4.16 for 4th
- JC totally PRO – 3.43 for 8th
- DN not quite as PRO – 5.31 for 28th
So to answer the stage 6 question then, I felt rad, even if the results didn’t reflect it, but I would say it was inconsistent radness, but ultimately I felt pumped, so it didn’t matter so much.
And nek minute, were we now cruising out of the forest towards the final tranny… Seriously? Frothing, feeling pumped and hadn’t missed a stage start time… As I rolled out with the ENDURO machines that sandwiched me in the start order, there was a collective feeling of euphoria and a little bit of amazement from everyone that it was already time for the final countdown…
Transition 7 – Shuttles, Gondie & riding
Well, this was an intricate set up of a transition, how about this:
- Ride out of the forest
- Load up on the shuttle
- Drive across Rotorua to Skyline
- Catch the Gondola up to the top of Skyline
- Ride up a 35 minute climb to the top of the mountain
Yeah, all at the 6 hour mark, no biggie. The upside of this situation was I finally got to snap a stalkerish pic of the Swiss ENDURO Ream machine, here he is on his phone working out how many Strava top 10’s he had just picked up, whilst also calculating how much time he lost passing me on each stage… And yes, he was kitted out head to toe in Scott kit to match his Scott machine, doesn’t get more Swiss than that:
Kudos to the organisers for pulling off this logistical mission, very smoothly done as well… I had wondered what would happen if your shuttle was late and the gondie queue was a bit fucked, but with only one Tranny to negotiate, it was looking like there was ample time to avoid having to wrap your lips around the associated time penalty. The 35 minute climb to the summit gave plenty of time to ponder the last stage of the day and with it, the inevitable question that hung in my mind…
Stage 7 – Skyline and the Bridges of doom
The question to be answered – would I be able to get down the psych out of Stage 7?
Ah… 7… Well, so big that it needs it own cool looking poster thing:
Fucking Stage 7… More like Seven the movie for me to be honest, I had lost the plot in practice, so this one was tapping into the nervous system in a big way…
There were 4 parts giving me the shunts about stage 7:
- The drop in the forest on the lower half of the DH
- Bridge #1
- Bridge #2
- Bridge #3
Unsurprisingly, its was the unnatural items that held the most anxiety for me. Was it irrational? Yes. Should I have easily been able to pin them all with no drama? Yes. Did I manage to ride bridge 1 and 3 in practice? Embarrassingly, no. Was it time to man the fuck up? Yes.
Seven was cut firmly into 3 very distinct parts, so allow me to BREAK IT DOWN accordingly…
Top section – Well, it was blown to bits in practice and that was very early on in the piece, some may recall it was a tad, fresh shall we say? This was practice getting sideways as eh:
No bull shit here, the top section was cunted and so was I. I knew that I was losing a shit load of time, but I wasn’t overly concerned to be honest, as the strategy was firmly to have some gas in the tank to deal with the bottom section. I didn’t talk to anyone that wasn’t surprised how fucked up the top section was and ultimately, it was probably too fresh to put in a race. Even Lester went over the bars FFS, which says a lot.
Some of the ruts had got so deceptively deep that in the darkness you thought you could stick it in them and rail it, but they turned up to be holes, not ruts and had the effect of swallowing the front wheel and punching you forward, nasty.
I really bumbled my way through the top, slow and messy the best summary, but that was the trade off for wanting to navigate the lower section, plus its possible everything may have been feeling just a tad tired at this point shall we say?
Middle section – Fuck, the big grind across the field and even a little climb, the mid section only served the purpose of robbing you of energy, but it did prove a handy location to let the Swiss cyclone past, and in a sign of radness, he even took the time to dish me a high 5 and yell out “YES! Now we pin it down to finish!“, check it bandits, how many high 5’s being dished out mid race on the wiener circuit?
Lower section – Over the ramp and into the Crankworx DH course… Ok, so they had detuned it a little to stop people on little bikes maiming themselves, but they left in plenty of shit that made your starfish not just flinch, but tighten up like it was your first night in prison. Of all the stages, I just wanted to get down this one clean and not make a total cunt of myself, as oh yes, this was Crankworx HQ and the crowd was plentiful!
I knew when I hit the first jump into the forest that things were traveling well and the flow was on, heading towards date with destiny #1, the drop in, I had seen a sneaky line that meant I didn’t have to take the high risk launch option and coming into it, I ignored the Romans and hit the exact line I wanted to, dropping down through the holes, cleanly into the berm and looking at the exit to rail it through, rewarded with a “fuck yeah boi, thats the line!” from one of the hecklers…
BOOM! Through the first stress point with a bit of class, lets move on…
Bridge #1 loomed and whilst it wasn’t a massive deal, it had messed me up in practice, so I just had to run through the check list I had developed: Brake on the bridge, spot the entry, look ahead and just drop it in… It all worked perfectly, but perhaps I was going a little fast as I did get slightly kicked by the lip of the drop which resulted in a pants shitting moment for me and the crowd, who gave a collective gasp and “woah fuck” sound, I quickly gathered it together and headed meters later to the next deep breath moment, Bridge #2:
Bridge 2 a piece of cake in comparison, just had to keep it straight and for fucks sake don’t even look at a brake lever, of course this generated not only warp speed, but quickly spat you into brake bumps and the mother of all braking zones in order to navigate a left hand hairpin, excellent course design to be honest.
How fucking pumped was I now? 3 bastards down and only one to go… I was like the ENDURO version of Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, except without a sword… and not a chick, but similar attitude. Bridge #3 loomed and I was ready for it… Check the speed, keep it straight and just let it fly off the end… Fuuuuuuuck!!! Essentially vertical with a lip that spat you straight into a fast berm, fuck me if it wasn’t like a roller coaster. Did I have a massive smile on my face after that? Yes… Only the crowd filled lower lower section to come!
Heading up in the Gondie, a fellow competitor had pointed out the high line out of the woods to set you up nicely for the bottom section, I hadn’t seen it before and had been nervously sucked into the shit low line during practice, so I made a firm mental note to hit that shit when I arrived on the scene, which I managed to do… However, once you commit to the high line, its a bit like being Lance Armstrong or Bill Clinton, you make that call and you have to stick with it, as backing down results in a massive fucking mess.
As I rode the higher than I realised tightrope of the high line, it was reinforced to me that I was on the right track with some spectator endorsement coming my way:
“Fuck yeah, thats the line bro!”
Fucking held it, down the final drag, BANG, jump, BANG, final jump, BOOM, sprint to the line and it was done… Holy FUCK!!
I couldn’t believe it, I was down in one piece! I had hit all the things that had shitted me in practice and felt absolutely stoked! I collapsed over my handlebars in the finishing area as my body worked out that I had pretty much held my breath most of the lower section and all I could repeat over and over like a crazy person was “Fuck, I made it… Fuck, I did it… Fuck, I made it“. Eventually one of the EWS organisers came over to me and said “Yes, you did, and now how about you move out of here?”
I wasn’t alone in my euphoric state, all around me there were high 5’s being dished, people letting their stoke factor flood out all over the show and a general appreciation for what we had all just achieved. Beers were being expedited into hands and war stories already being unleashed. If ever there was a time to feel rad and pumped, this was it:
I can’t recall getting to the end of a race and feeling like this… Its a unique combo of elation, sense of achievement and just being straight pumped that you did it. Im sure its different for everyone, but there was an overall collective excitement from all the amateurs that we had made it through an EWS round.
Writing this up post event I can instantly tap back into the feelings that are generated by the day… This is why we do this shit, call it YOLO, call it living for the experience, but the memories and feelings that are generated from a day like this can’t be replicated, don’t have a price and now have a unique place in my life that I will always remember.
If you have 7 minutes to spare, then check out Stage 7 onboard with Josh Carlson, EWS PRO and shredder… Make sure you hit pause and then change the settings to 720p to get the full HD experience of the stage. And yes, I hit the same tree as Josh at the start…
So then, to the final results for the day… Yup, I got pummelled here to be frank, but even when I saw these numbers, it didn’t really matter. Yes, that sounds a bit weetbix triathlon doesn’t it, but honestly, I fucked the top section massive and wouldn’t trade how I rode the lower section at all, I achieved what I wanted to achieve and didn’t eat shit, so I will remember that feeling of hitting the sections I wanted to defeat longer than I will worry about the results:
- SM ex-PRO – 7.29 for 1st
- JC totally PRO – 6.47 for 8th
- DN not quite as PRO – 10.16 for 27th
So, the big question answered for 7, did I beat the psych out? Firmly FUCK yes to that! Its a great feeling too, as you can probably tell here with the goofy grin plastered all over my face… That’s what one beer post 7 hours of EWS action will do to you… Or probably just me:
I was supposed to punch out and drive back to Auckland that evening, but there was no way I was able to leave the ENDURO arena of radness, besides, the PRO’s were starting to flood down the hill and that has to be seen to be believed, loose as fuck and faster than you can think possible on so called ‘little bikes’. Plus, this may be the only EWS event I ever get to do in life, so I wanted to soak up as much of its awesome atmosphere as possible, many had the same plan:
So, a final look at the overall General Classification results for the day, the summing up of the 7 racing stages and this is how it shook out for me and my comparison homeboys:
- SM ex-PRO – 40.53 for 1st overall in 30-39, 21 seconds ahead of 2nd
- JC totally PRO – 35.20 for 1st overall in PRO, 12 seconds ahead of 2nd
- DN not quite as PRO – 54.47 for 27th… Not so flash, but I will take it given the build up and history of the last 6 months! I was about 4 minutes off getting inside the top 20, so I think that gives some perspective as to how hard it is to get a result here. To top 10 overall I would have needed to find 10 minutes over the 7 stages… Yeah, fuck, that’s a lot of work!
Its one thing I haven’t talked about too much, but the BEST of the best were here… Especially in the PRO division obviously, but in amateurs there were probably the fastest people I have ever lined up against, which reflected in not only the placing results, but also the times. Its the way it should be, this is the pinnacle after all, so expect the raddest cunts around to show up and smoke it.
Racing is definitely a funny thing… The whole day was a whirlwind with many moments where it felt like I couldn’t ride my bike, contrasted with moments where I felt like I was riding the fastest I have ever been. And ultimately, I guess this is the thing about racing that draws us back again and again – You are exposed to experiences and ride in a way that is absolutely out of the ordinary. You are tested in ways that are easy to avoid on a normal ride and you push yourself to do things that you normally want to ride away from muttering under your breath “Don’t like that shit any way“.
There were hardly any people, PRO or otherwise, that got through the day cleanly and it wasn’t until the videos and Instagram pics started to flood out on Sunday and Monday that it clicked that everyone found the day a challenge in different ways. Now its done, its an experience that I will always remember and am hugely grateful for, even if my knee pads weren’t so much:
So, there it is… A couple of mega posts for a mega day in one of the greatest forest you can ride a bike in… Massive respect to everyone who finished the day and to the organisers that put on an amazing event, it really was world class and one that will continue to surge through my mind for some time to come.
Part 3 will wrap up a few tips and tricks, then its onward and upward to Trans Provence! 2015 Radness is set to roll on. Thanks for reading and thanks for all the support gang!