So first of all, apologies if you’ve been lured here under the false pretence that this is a Race Report… For it is not. But, its important that it’s not, as it would be doing a significant disservice to the race report to cum if I didn’t first get the backstory right, as there is are some significant blanks to fill in before tales of a monolithic and monstrous EWS round can rise up and slap its willie across our horrified faces.
Blank #1 – Welcome to the Island (Motherfucker)
Literally, like no shit, the airport is potentially one of the most impressive things you’ll see… Who says the EU sucks, clearly its udders can be effectively milked for epic engineering projects. I can only imagine what it was like landing here prior to this insane extension. People of Wellington, NZ hear me now: Fuck up and get on with it, this shit puts you to shame…
Whilst my landing wasn’t as exciting as the one ‘enjoyed’ by the Scottish contingent #abortabort, I did get an appreciation on the worlds most expensive airport transfer a short distance to Race HQ in Machico that the weather has a BIG say in how it rolls on Madeira, starting with the wind.
Atlantic side down in the tranquil heart of Machico, everything was perfect for producing Gram envy material to face fuck your friends with…
However, you learn pretty quickly in Madeira that Mother Nature gives zero fucks about what’s going on down at the beach, or what the weather forecast is for that matter… Because up top, its a different world:
When you fly 26 hours and have to eat Lufthansa airline food, which I think has to be the source of all German shit eating jokes/porn, then you sure as fuck want to make the most of the Island. Facilitating that endeavour was the Freeride Madeira crew, who had hooked us up the all important shuttle action and some of their greatest hits.
Of course, this was restricted by the fact that the EWS trails were officially closed, but at least we would be able to get our curiously frothing fangs into a taste of what MADeira was really like. Foreboding is probably a good summary:
It didn’t take long to get introduced to a special Island feature: Madeira ice. It sounds better when said with a Portuguese accent obviously, but it behaves exactly how it sounds… One second you’re rocking along, Nek minute, you’re fucking sideways and most likely on your way to eating some shit. Of course because its 2017, we were setting off in the rain, because why the fuck not?
I’ve had the enforced pleasure of riding in some sloppy shit this year, but nothing so far has been as slippery as some of the terrain encountered on Madeira. Its important to shrink wrap that concept, as its a theme that will reappear with alarming and sphincter tightening regularity…
Aside from the horror of trying to follow Pedro the Millennial as fuck local guide down slopes slipperier than a Russian collusion investigation, the other main initial impression Madeira will leave on anyone is its variety.
If I was Aaron, Bruce or JC Superstar I would be able to name all the different trees here, but alas my David Attenborough skills are about as good as my ability to look through a corner at high speed. Suffice to say, there was a shit load of difference… Bearing in mind this was all pretty much in the same area, top to bottom runs can make you feel like you’ve ridden in 4 different locations:
We worked out on day 1 that the key to enjoying Madeira is that you have to be comfortable with a rather chilled approach and a relatively high faffing to riding ratio. I say this both in terms of overall logistics, but also having to consume some mundane trails in between the GOLD in them there hills. It wasn’t until we hit some really steep shit, 29er rear wheel ass massage steep that is, that I started to get into the island vibe and begin to dish some solid fives.
If you’re an uptight maximiser (nothing to see here), then you’re going to need a valium at some point. Luckily they happen to have the best steak sandwiches in the world here… And no, I don’t mean “yeah, these are pretty good cunt“, I mean actually the best ever in the history of steak sandwiches, almost good enough to get the group to speak to one another at lunch:
Because none of us were French, we adhered to the strict #freeridenotpreride rules and stayed off the EWS stages, even though we were tantalisingly close to the killing fields which awaited us later on in the week… There was much silent awe and shifty eyed looks among the group when we stood at the bottom of Stage 7 and Pedro whispered to us its usually a DH race track…
The other thing Madeira is good for, aside from driving around winding roads, is you’ll get ample opportunity to indulge your inner narcissist with plenty of mental scenery shots, usually involving either pants shitting cliffs or Jurassic park like vista’s over the Atlantic complete with hurricane strength wind. Case study:
So then, the first real taste of Madeira trail and I had the slight vibe that it was a bit like watching a movie trailer and then after seeing the movie, you realise all the best bits were in the trailer… Before you call me Baron and accuse me of all sorts of spoilt cunt/brat type traits, I acknowledge that perhaps I had built things up in my mind, so maybe my expectations were overcooked. Or perhaps I was influenced by cunting up simple things:
Day 2 on our Island exploration and in spite of a slightly chaotic start due to my tire faffery and attempted privateer mechanics, plus a long drive to the West side, things were looking up on account of Pedro casually dropping into the conversation that we were riding with the Santa Cruz team for the day… Whilst riding ‘with’ may have been overselling it, I was clearly quite stoked (possibly gash fizzing) to be able to bank some quality PRO stalking with our new self loathing results benchmark star, Mr Scott himself:
Given the restraining order got lost in the mail, it also gave me the opportunity to spend some more time with the team ‘Hightower’s’, whilst I don’t want to interrupt the MTBR brain explosion thread continuing to propagate Fake News all over the internet, I can confirm that approaching these bikes in this manner will result in Mr Roskopp personally Tasering you himself. Hopefully not long to wait now… Wait for what? Fuck knows… Nothing to see here…
If you like long lunches, then you’re in for a treat in Madeira, as this seems to be the home of a very chilled lunch break, 45 minutes of riding for 2 hours of lunch had me thinking I had suddenly become a fat cunt CEO and whilst I was riding like someone who had just discovered the sport, I was pretty sure I wasn’t banking the salary package. That didn’t stop me from behaving like one…
But like I said, there was some gold in these hills and they arrived in the form of Red Line and Black Line, so worth sessioning these two if you’re on the West side. Suspiciously they look alarmingly the same, but I thought Black line was the superior unit and its worthy of your time to learn it and then smash it:
At this point it’s probably worth touching on the phenomenon I like to refer to as ‘Forced Stoke’… Now that we congregate in like minded groups and then devote considerable time to documenting life experiences in cyberspace, as well as strictly adhering to the notion that its completely rad (As Emmett would say, “Everything is awesome”), what happens when you’re the only one looking around thinking “Hmmmm, maybe it’s not as awesome as everyone else thinks it is…”
Given you’re on a relatively desirable island, riding your bike and hanging out with GC’s it clearly HAS to be awesome… Right? I mean, sick edits have been made of this place… PRO’s say it’s epic and every time you look at your phone the stoke is jumping off the highly used touch screen to slap you about the face. If you don’t like it, there must be something wrong with you.
Well, get busy colouring me with the cunt brush then, as I will have to separate from the herd a bit here. Yes, I thought the scenery was awesome and yes, the crew are cool dudes and if you’re ok with some fair to average trails/commuting to get to some good bits, then you’ll be sweet… But it wasn’t quite doing it for me, which felt strange to be honest. Perhaps I had blown my expectations out, but the reality wasn’t quite lining up with what I thought it would be. It’d be much better once practice started, right?
Blank #2 – Practice makes…. Anxiety
Let’s not beat around the bush… Let’s wax it instead. By that I mean, let’s rip the ugly truth off right away. Practice was a total piece of shit… After a lot of sitting around and 2 days of riding that was a bit patchy at times, I was genuinely keen to get the fuck on with it and crack into these EWS stages. I suspect the weather had been waiting in glee for the words ‘Official EWS’ on something before it utterly pissed down harder than an FSB sting op… Right as we were halfway down stage 1 of course.
The trick with practice was the bulk of the shuttles were arriving at stage drop off points in large herds… With predictable results once we were all unleashed on fresh stages. If you’re an ENDURO exhibitionist then this was fine, but if you prefer some slight privacy to your practice, especially the cuntingly hard parts, then you were fucked.
I’m not going to bore you with the relative details, but both days were slipperier than a Thai honeymoon, and whilst I’ll drill into the personality of each stage in the Race Report to cum, suffice to say they all had one overriding trait: Awkward.
Fiddly, tricky, niggly and any other slightly negative connotation description you can think of that ends in ‘Y’. Whilst Day 1 was average, the practice really fell apart on Day 2, where the ghosts of Wairoa Gorge Day 3 took control and I was reduced to spitting ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck this’ into the face-guard of my Switchblade with such alarming regularity you’d think I was in prison as opposed to on a lust worthy island having fun riding my bike.
Here we fucking go… The loss of nerve peaking out with not only being unable/unwilling to ride sections of stages I would have to race, but also my refusal to run a second round of laps on the stages (against all logic, given the stages feel 50% easier on a second pass) indicating that I had indeed gone fucking Cray Cray. Awesome, I’d only been frothing about this mission for a year and here I was getting busy with a self made melt down crisis before the first timing beep had even sounded. At least we were rolling with some good cunts:
I’ll be honest, by the end of day 2 of practice I had started to make irrational sounds out loud questioning whether or not I wanted to actually race. ENDURO Blasphemy! In theory I should have been stoned in the square at this point, put to death by 200 medium sized water bottles being thrown at my head by pack hating racers.
I tried to employ some forced stoke, but to little avail. I even tried to use logic: “You’re on an Island, in the Atlantic, its sunny, you’re riding your disgustingly rad bike, you’re not at work drowning in incompetent fuckwittery, fuck up with your first world problems cunthead”, but that wasn’t working either. Even the SwissMissile tried to cheer me up by bribing me with coke and offering me some Toblerone and a cow bell, but I wasn’t having it. 2017 appears to be about rain and mental capitulation.
In the end, it was Barrie’s cunted hand that made me realise I had to shut the fuck up and get on with it. Barrie had decided during practice to insert some of the local fauna so deeply into his hand that even after several hours of failed Welsh Vs. Portuguese communication, it was decided to just leave it in there and cross your fingers that a lethal infection wouldn’t ensue.
Main problem was Baz’s hand was so swelled up, finger crossing (let alone gripping a bar properly) was mission impossible, it basically looked like Shrek’s scrotum as opposed to a hand you’d bring to an EWS gun fight:
But even with Frankenhand, it was inconceivable to him that not racing would even be an option. He still had one good hand and that was clearly enough to race one of the biggest EWS Rounds ever conceived by the maniacal, but outwardly calm, mind of Chris Ball. So yes, Barrie’s cunted paw was ultimately what made me pick up my disgustingly drooped bottom lip and get on with it. We therefore decided to spend some time trying to professionally work out if Barrie was going to die:
Once I was shamed back into racing instead of drinking enough beer to fall off the stage and be DSQed, my survival skills kicked back in and I realised that if I was to make it through an Endurozilla sized weekend that wanted to smash me into submission so it could eat my soul, step 1 to not getting maimed was going to be fucking off that absolutely shithouse Maxxis Aggressor that I had on the back.
It had spent the 2 days of practice impersonating a worn out slick, so I reached into my suitcase of purchased courage and came out with this big bad motherfucker:
That of course is 1,300 grams of Maxxis’ finest ‘Break in the event of an emergency’ rubber. A 2.5 Minion DHF DH casing fuck your face/momma beast tire.
Would the Godfather of tires save me from Portuguese destruction? Would I end up being thrown on the trash heap of riders already sent to Funchal hospital? Can you spend your way to self confidence? How much pus would come out of Barrie’s hand overnight? Will you have to sit through another moaning race report? Now the blanks are sort of filled in, stay tuned to find out how the race rolled…