An EWS Race weekend… An 800km drive… A 13 hour flight and all of a sudden I’m back in the cHub feeling not only jet lagged into Zombie status, but also disgusted with myself that its the first time in a few weeks that I haven’t put knee pads on in the morning. Revolting.
But before the standard dose of post mission wallowing kicks in, there’s a Race Report to boot out the ass of the internet to let you know what was UP with the EWS Final in Finale.
One day I’m going to sit down and be able to type out a beautiful race report about how hard I hit each stage, how pinned I felt, how fearless I rode and how I was in the top 10 for every stage after getting on top of my trio of fundamental technique flaws and turning up to a race with arm muscles. Alas, I suspect that report will be once I’m A) In Masters and B) Not at an EWS round.
As such, the flavour of this race report may have that usual tang of extreme amateurness, as it oscillates between the ridiculous and calamity with a regularity that puts Swiss trains to shame
How would this compare to Spain? Would I be able to build on the Spanish goodness? Would I make it into the top 200? And have I asked enough questions to appropriately set the scene? Let’s stop fucking around then and head off to answer the ENDURO Pub quiz.
Stage 2… Or 1?
The big news for Day 1? Stage 1 was cancelled… Boo and Hiss, there was much whinging due to the general popularity of #1, but as we like to say once you (I.e. Just me) get into your late 30’s as an excuse for being slow: “Safety first“. Given that thanks to the storms smashing Finale there was now access issues getting into the bottom of Stage 1, the organisers were forced to pull the pin.
Stages are a bit like dogs, once they get a name, it tends to stick. As such, we just kept all calling the new first race run of the day Stage 2. Stubborn fuckers aren’t we?
Stage 2 was the third longest of the weekend (3.5km’s), but with the least vertical drop (280m) of the entire race. What’s that a recipe for? Bitching… Oh yes, the ENDURO town of Springfield was more than happy to stick a burning pitchfork into Stage 2, with several PRO’s I have Instagram stalked making their feelings well known on the topic. Unleash the whinging.
And guess how many fucks Enrico, AKA the Pope of ENDURO, AKA the sheriff of Finale, gave about all the whinging? Approximately zero, possibly even into the negative territory. Its a hard trail, its got rocks, its tight, its techy, you have to pedal like fuck – So in summary, get the fuck on with it.
And there was plenty to get on with as well. I won’t rehash the preview, but within a few seconds of entering the bandito bowels of Stage 2, my brain indicated to my central nervous system that there was something new we oddly hadn’t considered: It was slippery. Yes, the overnight rain had added a new dimension to the opening test of the day, to go along with all the awkward tight rocky sections:
As soon as my senses detected the dark brown action, it sent the following message to my control room:
“Fuck dude, it looks really slippery, we had better use the brakes a LOT, even though we sort of know that makes things worse”
On top of that, one Nomad dislikes tight, flat and slow technical sections… Whilst the other Nomad dislikes questionable grip levels. Whilst we were busy fighting over who felt the most disadvantaged, I got my first introduction to Matt for the weekend. Starting only 20 seconds behind me on an old Aluminium Nomad with something called “26 inch wheels“, he caught me on every single stage we raced and then showed me a clean set of mini hoops soon thereafter. Matt is the poster child for the phase we often borrow from Mr Cuntypants: Its not about the bike. Yes, it may stick in your throat like Mandingo jizz saying it, but I was getting an eye full of it the entire weekend.
Having said that, on our first encounter it wasn’t that clear cut given how awkward #2 was:
Feeling like I had legs of a lightweight Frenchman and with the sweet scent of redemption filling my flaring nostrils, I decided to make a cunt of myself by passing him back on the next climb… Get your tissues and hand moisturiser out marketing fuckbags, look at these 27.5 wheels going like a bullet train past outdated technology. I can feel the PowerPoints exploding with validation climax:
Whilst I was busy basking in my faux shot of racing self esteem after powering up the main climb in the stage, I was given the next EWS sized dose of food chain reality with the arrival of Graham on the scene. Turns out Graham lives in Chamonix and as the weekend soon proved, the 40 second head start I had on him was basically irrelevant:
Given I was already at the Humble Pie buffet with the ladle in my sweaty hand, it made sense to heap my bowl with a double dose. Yes, Matt had his revenge, reminding me that whilst I could pedal, my inability to dance in the tricky parts would see him waltz off into the distance. Catching me as I fucked up the one part that we had ALL talked about not fucking up and stalling on:
The funny thing about Stage 2, aside from being passed like a mobile chicane, was that it was a LOT better to race on than practice on. Yes, I’m in a minority there, but I actually enjoyed it more in the race, even with questionable grip levels. And there is no question the lower section was good times, assuming you had something left in the tank and didn’t arrive as a giant panting foam monster. Romans were yelling.
Being yelled at in Spanish last week and Italian this week was excellent, making one feel as Global/PRO as fuck. But, there was nothing quite like having your name yelled out by what sounded like the cast of Coronation street. Team Norgate was on point all day with some epic support, I have no idea how many KM’s they tramped, ran or scrambled, but when they yelled at me here I puffed up my furry chest and in a rare moment of clarity, let go of the brakes… Easier said than done for a recovering control freak:
Stage 2 ended up being a surprisingly tough little piece of Mountain Biking. Oddly, I actually enjoyed it much more than the flaming pitchfork in my hand suggested I might. Yes, it was challenging and didn’t suit me, but it rewarded those that got stuck in and had a light touch in the tight stuff. Smells like its… Er… Results time? Before that though, a bit of a milestone: This was the first time I had raced the first stage of an EWS race and not crashed. Pass me a fucking medal, it was probably because it wasn’t called Stage 1 I suspect.
For this weeks unrealistic self-loathing results comparison, I have chosen a couple of PRO retirees who apparently have done a few races here and there: Fabian Barel and Tracey Moseley. Both are bathed in World Champs rainbows and seem to know a thing or two about being as ENDURO as fuck.
Added to the mix as well this week, my Liaison Domination homeboy, Rich Norgate. You may remember him from such adventures as the TP Tour and then as Mountain staff on the TP Race. If I could wake up one day and ride my bike as fast as Rich, I would consider life to be complete. I would even go as far as hoisting a giant and cunt sized “Mission Accomplished” sign across my Aircraft Carrier. Shame I don’t have one. While he may not be PRO, Rich looks it and is an excellent example of a shredder in the ENDURO food chain that many of us can only aspire to get to.
- Fab Barel – 9.24 for 17th
- Rich – 10.28 for 119th
- T Mo – 10.32 for 1st in Pro Women
- Dirty Nomad – 12.12 for 222nd. Holy fuck… Little did I know that would end up my best result of Day 1. Fart noise. Yes, that reality check was being rammed so far up me that it was having to exit out my mouth and turn into a beanie. Winning stage time was 9 minutes flat by the way… I’m just glad the Italians let me keep my bike.
No chance to dwell on a Finale Fisting, it was time to get on the road, literally, and mix it up with the Saturday roadie bunch rides along the coast back to our ‘timing control check point’. A what? In a unique layer of Italian bureaucracy, it turns out this is the point in the day where you stand around and piss away all the contingency liaison time you’ve accrued all over your shoes. Should have wasted some Gelato while waiting… #firstworldregrets
Still it was a good chance to catch up with people you’d raced with in Spain and say fuck a lot about the first stage of the day.
Stage 3… Or 2?
A fairly decent hike out to the start of stage 3… Which is probably about the right time for a word on the Finale transfers: They were massive. And, unlike Spain (Terrible Ex comparison in progress), they were mainly on the road and, mainly up. The transition to 3 probably one of the exceptions as it had a 4WD track climb for most of it, but its fair to say they felt like a lot of work compared to the prior weekend. Still, Mon-Tons aren’t going to climb themselves are they?
2km’s long with a 310m drop, Stage 3 was narrow and with a bit of wetness around its crotch, it was going to make it more lively than in practice. I was feeling strangely hesitant heading into Stage 3 and here’s a Dirty Tip for you – Thats not the way you want to feel when having to race any EWS stage.
I’m not sure at what point it happened, but for some reason on this stage I got the FEAR. I think it was triggered by almost losing the front wheel early on, but regardless I tightened up, didn’t hit any of the lines with confidence and struggled to ride down sections like this without braking like a beginner taken onto A Line by mistake:
The FEAR is irrational and sometimes strikes without warning. Whilst 3 was tight and narrow, it still didn’t warrant a mini melt down, besides, stage 4 was supposed to be the bogeyman on day 1. Whats the one thing you need like a cock flavoured lollipop when you’re struggling down something you should be killing? Someone arriving on the scene who is actually maiming the trail to highlight to you how fast you aren’t going. Come on down G Man!
I was waiting until the end of 3 however, where I knew that the Human Tripod would be making an appearance. The final switchbacks were relatively binary – You could either pin them like a legend cunt (or anyone who was French), or you would sort of bungle your way through them while the guy in the tree tried to work out if you were having some sort of fit, or trying to break dance on your top tube. I was the mayor of that latter group… Not even Team Norgate cheering me on seemed to give me any magic skills:
Honesty call – I got to the end of Stage 3 and as I came to a heaving stop there was only one thought in my mind: “I don’t have the skills to be here“. Yes, it sounds rather defeatist, but more of an authentic reaction based on how dreadfully I had ridden down the hill. If there’s one thing that’s more of a kick in the ENDURO balls than being outside the top 200, its riding badly.
I’m not talking about badly by comparison to others, I’m talking about that kind of riding where you look at yourself and say:
I shall go out on a limb here and say that I would be happier to pin stages to absolute fuck, riding to my maximum capability and come last than if I rode like I’d skulled a bottle of Prosecco or two prior to the stage start. That’s right, its a mindfuck:
Rich then arrived on the scene and whilst the BOOM says ‘good times’, the eyes say ‘Cuuuuunt’. Unfortunately for Rich, he struck someone who wasn’t quite as skilled as getting the fuck out of the way, suffering the not insignificant impact of having to take an off course deviation while someone spread themselves all over Stage 3 like ENDURO peanut butter. Deploy the Orange Hulk:
I had an inkling that 3 was going to punish… Correct… If I thought being 3 minutes down on the stage winner on a 9 minute stage was bad on #2, then check this out. Perhaps Fab doesn’t need to retire at all?
- Fab Barel – 3.40 for 1st
- Rich – 4.37 for 145th
- T Mo – 4.32 for 3rd in Pro Women
- Dirty Nomad – 5.46 for 230th… Ummm… No comment and we won’t be taking questions.
Stage 4… Or 3?
And then oddly, all of a sudden we were on to the final stage of the day… Yes, another solid hike up, but it did feel super early to be almost done for Day 1. Spain had long days, excellent liaisons and mint weather, so I suspect we were also missing those aspects here in Finale which exacerbated that feeling that it was quite early to be thinking about the post ride pizza.
But we still had to negotiate Stage 4 and the much hyped ‘Mens DH’ section, which to be fair was worthy of a bit of talking up. As one might say, its a proper trail. The strategy? Simple: Conservative up top and save some talent and gas in the tank to negotiate the hectic ending. Also included in that strategy, don’t fuck up what was clearly the most fucked up corner of the weekend up at the top:
The top section, as predicted was pretty uneventful. If you wanted to make some time, you had to pedal the utter fuck out of it. But for me and a few others I rapped with on the topic, Stage 4 was ALL about the bottom section. Everyone was pumped for this section of trail and with good reason. Riding down the spine of a ridge towards the Med, it had a chilling sense of excitement mixed with foreboding about it. You knew you were on the crest of something rad, both from a riding and vista perspective. And then it just went down quicker than a career minded intern:
I’m going to go slightly overboard on the pics of the lower section, but with good reason, its an excellent piece of trail and as you may guess, iconic around these parts. The crowd was beginning to grow, reaching a fever pitch by the time the PRO’s arrived. However, experienced Roman’s knew that if you wanted carnage, it was best to come out early, get your singlet off and watch people with a 300 range number plate come down.
It also allowed people who were beating old wheels with sticks plenty of time to practice their technique for maximum distraction heading into the next section of gnar, which came straight after a massive section you were just pleased to get down cleanly. Yes bro, can totally hear you:
Team Norgate had amazingly not only got across from the bottom of Stage 3, but had then done the bad ass trek/scramble up into he bowels of Stage 4’s radness to yell at us and snap some more pics. JT here nailing me sitting down during a quick ‘composure moment’ before trying to choose the next fine line between glory and disaster. Unbeknown to me, the red afro woman from ‘Total Recall’ looks on…
Speaking of Orange, Rich was on a charge, hulking it down stage 4, no sitting down on the job here – Just making that never ending gnar field his bitch, all whilst ensuring his goggles matched his frame. PRO as fuck.
I was feeling pretty good on the lower section to be honest, no real fuck ups, hitting the right lines and actually enjoying something that may have caused a little bit of fretting here and there. I must have been going well, as I could smell the finish and Graham still hadn’t caught…
The thing about this section was that the best way to navigate it was of course to get off the brakes off and let the bike do its own thing. The downside to that was the massive speed that you could crank up in a very short space of time doing so, especially when you consider the terrain in question was exactly forgiving. If you got out of shape down here and ran out of talent, it wasn’t going to be a happy fairytale ending was it?
There were 4 lines from practice that I knew I had to get right and in a sense of achievement, I managed to hit them all. And, in a form of mini salvation, this even included getting the right line to the finish:
Oddly, Stage 4 was significantly better to race down than ride in practice, which seemed to be a theme for the even numbered stages so far. The bottom section was absolutely excellent as well, one of those pieces of trails that when you get down it you have that deep sense of satisfaction and stoke, which is then equally matched by wanting to go back up and do it again faster.
Dirty tip for next year – practice this stage 3 times if you can manage it, as it gets exponentially radder with each pass. Winning stage time? 4.36… With the top 10 covered by 6 seconds. Yeah, some racing going down in this joint YO.
- Fab Barel – 4.37 for 3rd
- Rich – 5.30 for 140th
- T Mo – 5.17 for 1st in Pro Women
- Dirty Nomad – 6.39 for 226th
SO…. Slow, but structurally intact still, if I had thought about it I would have concluded I would have been the first freighter picked off by a U Boat in 1942, but this wasn’t the North Atlantic, so the only thing I could do was smile like a stalker and eat Pizza, two things I do WAY better than Fabian Barel:
And that’s Day 1 on EWS Finale in the bag… An interesting day to be honest, going well on stuff I thought may be problematic and then melting down on sections that I had enjoyed in practice. When you stood back from it, they had put on a course that tested all different aspects of your talent: Slow, flat and lots of pedal action on stage 2. Tight, narrow and fast on Stage 3. Then finishing the day with plenty of gnar and steepness. It was no wonder then that you needed to be a strong allrounder like Sir Grubby to be winning overall.
I would be bullshitting you if I said I had confidence overflowing all over my ENDURO jersey at that point. I think that a certain percentage of me was already thinking about getting home in one piece, without any further drama or adding to the 10% DNF rate. Looking at the results, I may have been missing Spain just a tad…
In the PRO world, Richie Rude and T Mo stood on the brink of being World Champs, only having to negotiate one more day before taking the crowns. Its hard to imagine the pressure they must be rolling under knowing they were on the cusp of achieving what everyone wants from the season. I did give it some thought as I washed down my pizza with gelato, adding it to the list of “things I will never have to worry about“.
So what would Day 2 hold? A storm… BIG liaisons… only 2 stages… Stay tuned to see how that would roll.