Well, oops I’ve done it again… And no, I don’t mean getting arrested for drunk driving while eating a cheeseburger in a juicy velour tracksuit. Rather, I have got insanely behind in my attempt to provide almost real time updates from the face-melting awesome Spanish EWS action. Please feel free to take your pick from any of the below excuses I have prepared earlier as to why:
- Insane uplift shredding
- Unscheduled sickness
- EWS practice commencing
- Hanging out with famous people and only making it mildly creepy for them
So, without further faffery, let’s attempt to cover off 75% of those topics then shall we? And how about we start with breaking some of my own rules, because that would be something novel. Rule #67 of PRO stalking is to never attack your prey whilst they are eating a meal or before they’ve had coffee. Sorry Sven…
Then again, its not everyday you wake up to the chance of a day of shredding uplift action with the Dynamic enDUrO of PRO Photographer Sven Martin and Anka Martin who rides for Juliana bikes. Sven does an even better job of being a Dirty Nomad than I, so it seemed apt that he ENDUROed the fuck out of the DN jersey for the scheduled session of two uplifts for the day.
Two uplifts? Eh? 2? Dos? Seems a bit light? Fuck, I can usually squeeze in 3 before morning tea. However, no one had mentioned that these were going to be the worlds BIGGEST uplifts. The fact we were changing shuttles should have been a bit of a give away, but I just rocked on blissfully unaware we were pretty much on our way to Everest basecamp for a change.
Stand back and check yourself for a case study in Quantity vs Quality and as I shall try and articulate, a day that actually seemed to have everything in it, like a random melting pot of radness. But some Dirty warnings:
- There is gratuitous and over the top scenery footage – I may have possibly taken 347 photos that were 97% all the same
- No happy ending today I’m afraid – Which by the time you read this is hopefully old news
Right, onwards and upwards and holy fuck, do I mean upwards…
Giant uplift #1
As we drove out of town, I had the creeping sensation that perhaps all was not quite 100%… Was my rear guard action against the sore throat about to have a breech in the lines? It never rains on Mission, so as sure as fuck I wasn’t about to entertain the prospect that I may fall sick. One thing that was sick however was the scenery attacking our faces like a rabid spider monkey. It was so banger that Bigbird and Nige had to unleash a golden shower:
I can be accused of a lot of things and most of the time, I will take the plea bargain… But being car sick is not something I am usually guilty of. Add to that the fact that I LOVE uplift almost as much as being bitten, and you can begin to imagine how epic this transit must have been when even I started to want to get out of the van.
Don’t blame the uplift, blame the Nomad… Yes, I was starting to deteriorate health wise and ramp up my denial all at the same time. I’m not sure how long the uplift took, but I refused to believe that I could feel unwell in this setting:
It was so fucking epic that the first thing we all did was piss all over it like we were at a German tupperware party that has gone sideways.
I helped unload the vans by posing for photos with a smile that isn’t really a smile and a chesty mount pulled so tight it actually made me feel even more car sick standing still. Quality set up…
Like a mildly blind ENDURO sheep I had no idea what we were doing today, but happily followed the herd to our first spot for the morning. Just so happened that it crossed a Gnarfield that meant we were more Trials than ENDURO, where I got to behold Sven’s ability to float over the rubble as opposed to my approach of looking like a Walrus having a wank with sandpaper stuck to its flippers.
It didn’t take very long to work out that the Basque Boys had brought us somewhere extremely awesome… I’m talking “Fuck I would never have thought I would come here in my life and I don’t even really know where I am” awesome. This was exactly what my Kevin Costner Dances With Wolves OCD had been craving:
But, not unlike the first time you have office place sex, I was premature in my celebration of the epic scenery. How was I to know that we weren’t even there yet… Wait? WHAT? It gets better? But how? Unicorns with machine guns? Kate Upton on Laundry day? A new Bronson hand delivered by Ratboy complete with coaching tips on how to fix my fundamental cornering technique issues?
I kept a close eye out for all of the above, but in the end it was just this shitty old lake that took things Nek Level:
I know that 5% of the time I can take the piss or exaggerate a bit, so lets suspend those two aspects for a moment, yes, I’m going to get mildly gushy. Its not very often you come to a place like this, the beauty and its vastness was one thing, but the tranquility of it was extraordinary. Sven didn’t even know where to shoot first, which is saying something. It was actually an oasis of amazingness that appears to have disconnected itself from the rest of a crazy wired world.
Of course this meant that we instantly had to Instagram and hashtag the fuck out of it. Yes, it was the kind of place where its mandatory to pose in the obvious spot with a goofy grin on your face – Luckily something I am highly qualified in #cheesedick #howdoesmynomadlookinthis
I stood lakeside trying to take in the vastness of the surroundings, again doing that thing you do when you’re faced with game changing scenery (see Day 3 of TP for example) and you want your brain to record and absorb as much of it as possible, as the thought of not retaining what’s before you feels like a horrific concept.
It was probably this moment and this place that suddenly reminded me why I don’t have a job any more… Don’t worry, I’m not going to fill a whole paragraph waxing my box lyrically about freedom, pursuing dreams and as many other cliche’s I can fetch from my starfish, but instead I will give a shout out to the Drone Army and I hope you’re enjoying your Deskercise!
Did I mention that on the day that had it all these newlyweds had picked possibly the worst window to come for their #beautifulasfucklake wedding photos? Clearly big fans of ENDURO, as they wanted a shot with the shred team… I was mildly concerned as I have seen a movie once that was like this but had quite a different ending. I was also more than happy to provide honeymoon tips as you’d expect. Damn you translation issue:
Before we could roll though, two of our English contingent, Nige and Grandpa Simpson couldn’t help themselves and had to nude up for the full skinny dip, as you’d expect, its even more frightening on the video that was shot.
NOT an easy place to leave in any way shape or form. Not a breath of wind, amazing clear skies (#fuckyourPSIreading) and pretty much the most perfect location you could hope to find. I felt like a Z for Zachariah character. But, the show had to go down, so off we went to hunt out some Gnar.
Eventually I did find my Dancing with Wolves spirit horse, just wish I had done a bit more thinking about the silhouette before dropping this photo in, suspect it won’t make it to the Santa Cruz website any time soon, Sven’s day job is safe.
Enough horse cocking around then, it was time to get into a rather meaty and long downhill run. Of course, with company like this, we had to Venga Venga the utter fuck out of it, something Sven manages to do without touching the ground… Not sure what he actually jumped off here, but he appears to be constantly in the air…
I guess that answered my question about how his Enve M70’s were still alive… He doesn’t really ride down the hill, rather sort of floats and then when needed plows the gnar with a bit of finesse, yes, that’s technically a contradiction, but I saw it first hand, so roll with it.
And how did the Gnar taste? Excellent! Imagine taking your bike to the DMZ in Korea and then riding it as fast as possible across the mine fields there and you’re halfway to how much gnar we had to process down this thing. It was fucking excellent. The Go PRO couldn’t cope, but here’s a piss poor example of what was attempting to polish off the remaining Enve resistance:
Or, we found flat out sections that had sniper rocks well positioned to ambush you, hoping you would either look at them and eat shit, or look left and go down the bank, flat out and loving it.
The only thing we hadn’t had so far that day was a cracked carbon rim… Luckily for us, Nige is never one to say no to a good rim job and promptly showered us with a plentiful supply of ammo about not only no-name Chinese made rims, but also the chance to kick 29ers in the balls again, we obliged. Good times.
We were dropping down about 1,000m of vert, which if you don’t ride a bike downhill is essentially the equivalent of getting a nude massage from the celebrity that you’ve agreed with your partner is your ‘free pass’. So in summary, quite good.
Holy fuck this stuff was as rough as it was fast, determined to treat me like a middle aged Piñata, it had a perfect combo of high speed rock gardens with little rest sections before it hurled you back into something that made your eyes go wide.
I got to the bottom of this 6km long froth-fest and was more than a little bit fingered. An absolutely excellent trail, I was double stoked in the knowledge that I had been to a place and ridden an amazing trail that I would have never expected to see in my life. But you know a massive shred attack like that isn’t complete without the fisting – Unleash the flying Finn, Mika Hakkinen’s stunt double:
Giant uplift #2
Head em up, move em out, RAWHIDE! Lets get back in those super sweet shuttles and hit more. And by more, I mean another giant freak show, point and gasp due to its magnificent girth of an uplift. We were going somewhere way the fuck up there… Except, so far up there it doesn’t even exist to your eyes…
We went up on the road… Until man no longer made road…
We went up on the gravel, until man couldn’t be fucked putting gravel down and we arrived in Mars, which was a bit of a turn up as Cohagen hadn’t liked any of my Instagram pics this week:
So we were now shuttling into places where I don’t even think you could fly a helicopter (possible that I’m not an aerospace engineer), so full respect to the Shuttle Commanders, as I don’t think I would be bringing my sweet late model Euro van up here, but they absolutely loved it. Talking of loving things irrationally, my rolling hills/dried grass fetish was kicking off massively up here… Pffffffffffffffff:
I was slightly worried that Spain may seem slightly underwhelming after the vastness of Trans Provence… Well, er… Hasn’t it made a total cunt out of me right here with this one picture?
I know I run the risk of turning this post into a giant Instagram account with perhaps just a little more rambling and less hashtags, but what more can I say about this set up? It was absolutely insane! Everyone was in froth mode at what was laid out before us and even seasoned campaigners found it to be rather brilliant.
I’ve had lunch in worse spots mind you… But, it was over this exceedingly picturesque lunch break that I started to get a sense of impending doom. It seems perverse in front of this amazing scenery, but I was feeling like an army of Spanish cows had trampled me and probed me for their amusement. Surely I wasn’t about to surrender to the Spanish Flu was I?
The thought of riding down the hill was suddenly a big ask. I should have been pumped and pushing people out of the way whilst pretending I hadn’t seen them to get to the front. But I was fucked… Not ‘tired and I need a gel’ fucked, but something way more fundamental. Not even my inner publicity whore got fired up at the prospect of being shot by the Andy Warhol of MTB photography…
We had around 1,100m to drop, and I could tell off the bat it was going to be a big one… From the usual massive alpine surroundings….
Into the gnar and trees that awaited us lower down…
It didn’t take long, but it suddenly registered to me that I was utterly fucked. I’m talking about being unable to keep the front wheel straight type of fucked, a bit of a problem when the top half was essentially like riding down a narrow overgrown channel/rut. I suddenly realised I had to swallow the most bitter of riding pills: Go to the back of the group.
Fuck me with a pillow wall… I had fully lost the battle against Man Flu and no amount of lemon juice was going to be able to save my hairy ass. The Sore throat was now like gargling sand paper, body ached and I just wanted to lie down and cry like I’d just seen the end of the Notebook. Sounds like a good time to try and chase Sven Martin down narrow wooded and loamy single track then?
The lower down this amazing trail and Mon-Ton we went, the more conservative my goals became. First I just wanted to keep pace. Then I wanted to not crash as I couldn’t hold on to the bike. Then I just wanted to be able to turn the pedals. By the time Ed came back to push my bike out, I just wanted to be alive by the time we made it out to the vans.
Like the day before, I was robbed of an amazing descent – Its hard to believe this is a natural trail at all, its like it was custom made for mountain biking, but laid out in the most natural of ways. It was the sort of trail that reminds you why you LOVE mountain biking so much and why its important to explore new places like this. An absolute stunner.
I was broken however, in as many different ways as you can manage. As such, Day 3 meant a trip to the local hospital to get as many antibiotics as they have in Spain. Here’s a Dirty Tip – Ensure you have a Spanish translator with you, as not a lot of English going down in provincial hospitals, as you’d expect.
So I now have more drugs in my room than the Astana team bus, and whilst the rest of the gang went out to smash more awesome Spanish single track on Tuesday, I got to lie around feeling like I wasn’t going to be able to race this weekend… Missing a days riding on a mission in the Mon-Tons?! FUCKING unheard of… tattoo an Emoji angry/sad face on me right now to say the least.
But… To sound like Abba getting blown by Mary Poppins, I’m alive, I will survive and whilst it’s epic cuntery to get sick on a trip like this, I’m still in Spain, in the centre of the ENDURO tornado currently cutting across the Pyrenees and once the meds kick in, I will be back into the Gnar like a junkie that’s just ram raided an ATM.
A massive thanks to the Basque MTB crew for not only putting on an amazing few days of riding, but also ensuring I was fully sorted when my health melted down. These dudes have been absolutely mint on all fronts, from the trails to the meals to everything else in between, a full GC crew. Chur boys.
Spoiler alert – I have just finished two days of EWS Practice, barely, so watch this space for the low down and race preview for this weekend!