“But, this isn’t your first time?” Quipped Mrs Dirty… I raised an eyebrow and appreciated that this was her first time at an EWS Event. “No, but it doesn’t work like that” I replied. “But its supposed to be fun right?” she continued…
Its hard/semi-amusing explaining to someone that spending the morning of an EWS race actually shitting yourself is a special kind of fun that others may not quite get (more fool them). Given I strive to be as #enduroasfuck, clearly I got it and so did my nervous system, hence my Race day morning revolving around being a short distance from the bathroom.
By why the nerves? This wasn’t my first ENDURO rodeo? Nor my first time at La Thuile. Granted, it was the first BIG race since cunting myself massively last November, but we can’t keep using that as an excuse (even though I did all weekend).
Nor did I have to worry about getting paid, getting a new contract or my place in the points standing. So, in essence, it should all be about the FUN! But ultimately I think it was this that was making me roll like I had ebola:
Yes, it wasn’t just one thing, it was the vibe that was doing it. As I like to say, context is always important when spinning a tale… So, with that in mind, here are some critical elements to appreciate for the BS I’m about to gush forth with, as well as explain a busy Saturday morning:
- Its SO fucking hard – No, not what you text a co-worker mid meeting as you wink (10% of the time it works 90% of the time FYI), but I’m referring to the terrain and race in general. Yes, granted, I have a habit of saying they’re all ‘hard’, but seriously, avoid painting me as the little amateur who cried hairy wolf here, but this was actually fucking hard. How can we tell? PRO’s even said so, which is pretty much as definitive as it gets
- You have confused me with someone else – Eagle eyed observers may have recognised that my number plate was ‘171’ for this round… I have no idea why, but what this meant was that I was starting inside the top 200. Yes, as you may recall from previous rounds, finishing inside the top 200 has been my life challenge to achieve. Consequence? I had a LOT of very fast people starting the stages behind me… Would you like to start the New York Marathon in the second row after eating 3 Big Macs 5 mins before the start?
- The false sense of security – It did occur to me at some point during practice, and as I pointed out to the Swiss Missile, that we hadn’t actually done a full race stage without stopping. Normally not an issue, but these were some of the longest and most brutal stages that I’d seen, possibly ever, so worth bearing in mind as the story unfolds.
And with that box ticked with a magic fucking marker, its time to get ready to unleash the ENDURO dirt on EWS Round 4 from an exceedingly non-PRO perspective, its time for another tale of…
Dirty Nomad Vs. The EWS top 200
Much like the original Die Hard, I was rolling with my crew of hard hitting Germans, all of whom were making it Reign. They weren’t about to wait around for the F… B… I either, it was time to get our ass topside for stage 1:
Actually, I have to admit, after much whinging in the previous 2 days about the climb up to Stage 1, it turned out to be not too bad at all. Sure, it was around 1,000m of climbing over 12km’s or so, but you had to be a real cunt to be complaining in these surroundings! Gone was the deep chill of the mountain wind from Thursday’s practice, in its place, well, basically perfection:
I mean, fuck, seriously? Look at where a Mountain Bike can take you FFS. Into Mountains! What you can’t see here was my hatred of eBikes expanding exponentially every time a Squid passed me on one silently at twice the speed and without sweating…
As you can tell, I took my sweet time getting up to Stage 1, playing that usual ENDURO delicate balancing act of not missing your start time vs not shooting your load too early by being a Bandito on the first climb. As I was to learn as the day went on, the key theme is patience. OMFG, there was even a lake:
The funniest part of the morning was watching the group dynamic of my top 200 number plated peers. You see, its as fashionable as fuck to ride up in your full face helmet, the bigger the better, and all your armour on. And man, don’t even think about wearing a pack! You bike packing nerd fuck head.
Its not often I feel like a Bandit, but as I made my way up to the summit basically nude with a tramping pack on, I did appreciate putting on fresh kit at the top and not feeling as wet as Ivanka after watching dad’s speech. Cue super rad scene setting photo of where we would eventually end up after Stage 1:
Stage 1 – Col Croce
The important thing is to take a step back from idiotic nervousness and appreciate that its a reasonably rare experience to get to start a race stage from such an amazing location. You could easily never get to come to a place like La Thuile in your life, then even more easily not get the chance to stand up in a place like this and take in the spectacle of these magical Mon-tons.
Have you ever been in the situation of meeting someone, then the second time you meet them they’re completely different? Or worse, you don’t even remember who they are? Putting aside the fact that all may be because they’re cunts, that scenario pretty much summed up racing Stage 1.
I had mentioned to the Swiss Missile when we practiced early on Thursday that it was going to change a shit load from the time we were down in La Thuile sipping coffee and when our soft compound tread would grace its alpine majesty 2 days later. Anyway, enough wanking on about what ifs, lets get this shit started with a Sven Martin banger (yes, that IS me heading to turn one #mememememe):
And holy fuck, it had seriously changed, well, maybe not for the PRO’s, but it was a lot rougher and more ripped up than I remembered. My dating history with Stage One’s is troublesome at best – We start out with good intentions, but at some point I make a dick move and it ends awkwardly.
This time around I felt like a piece of wood zip tied to my bike… I was as rigid as Mandingo and missed every high line (which I had nailed in practice, blind) that were now well worn in at almost every corner. I just kept pointing that Nomad straight down the bombed out gullies and then much like a teased over enthusiastic dog, I hauled on its levers far too much, sending the ultimate in mixed message to a bike that really just wanted to get the fuck on with it.
And then, before I had even felt like I’d gotten into my work for the morning, I began to meet what I ultimately dubbed the “Usual suspects“. As some may recall from Finale last year, getting passed at an EWS round wasn’t exactly a new experience for me, but given this time around my number plate read ‘171’, you don’t need to be a mathematician to realise shit was about to get real.
Bear in mind here my aim is to try and crack the top 200 overall for an EWS race weekend in Open Men. For golden context, and spoiler alter, at the end of day 1 I was 3 minutes behind 200th place. What did this mean from getting an ENDURO gang bang run on my hairy ass?
Well, let me introduce you to the shred train that I saw on every single stage at some point, usually coming past me at speed I could only fantasise about:
- Ian – Ended up finishing 127th for the weekend… With a 1 minute penalty… Yeah… Fuck.
- Charles – Shredder on a Reign, ended up finishing 128th for the weekend, with a 30 second penalty
- Chris – Came 88th for the weekend… Yes, well inside the top 100. Also turned out to be Katy Winton and Greg Callaghan’s coach, so knows a thing or 1,000 about how to absolutely smash it. Fair to say when he came past, it was beautiful to watch for 5 seconds or so
- Mark – 136th for the weekend, which included a massive over the bars which I witnessed at one stage
- David – Aussie, 132nd and looked wildly fast whenever he blasted past me. Also recovering from a shoulder injury from South America, so wasn’t sure he could even ride La Thuile. Turned out he could ride the fuck out of it
- Jakub – 159th for the weekend, something I would consider to be a dream result, but he never really looked that stoked. Euro Champagne problems
- Luca – Oddly Luca was German and not Italian and I could tell I was really fucked on a stage when he came past me, as he started 7 riders behind me, so yes, 2 minutes 20 seconds after I set off. He also dressed like a dirt jumper and rode what looked like a home made bike. Yay. Quite good clearly as he wound up 113th overall for the weekend.
Like a squad of ENDURO terminators, they attacked the stages with a ferocity and fever that I was clearly lacking, no matter how much I tried to speed tuck that shit.
I’m somewhat relieved that I didn’t have a Go PRO or telemetry on board, as it would have shown that I spent a disproportionate amount of time squeezing the Saint levers and getting bounced off line. From the alpine top section, to the grass meadow like set up of the mid section, to the loamy delight of the lower portion, I felt oddly slow and tentative.
You can’t really go into these races with that type of approach I think, you have to be on it and racing from the first start beep, but I seem to adopt a more Trans Provence/Adventure race type approach and ride like someone who didn’t spend 2 days doing practice.
As the usual suspects filed past me with alarming regularity, I had a few loose moments and already my arms were starting to feel tired. Holy fuck man, on Stage 1?! I can genuinely say that I think I rode stage 1 better in practice, but of course that’s balanced by the fact it was beautiful and comparatively smooth early on in practice before it was brutalised by the whole EWS community.
For this race reports “Self loathing unrealistic results comparison” format, we shall measure up to the Dynamic Duo of ENDURO, recent guest stars from that rad day at Pila, PRO’s Greg Callaghan and Katy Winton. For good measure and additional face fuckery, I have also thrown in the top 200 stage time. Drum roll please…
- Greg Callaghan – 9.14.10 for 3rd
- Katy Winton – 11.15.75 for 8th
- Dirty Nomad – 12.28.46 for 221st
- Top 200 time – 11.34.74
I was mainly just pleased to not get run over by Ravanal #iamcursed. The only way it up… Baby… Bring me my chairlift.
Stage 2 – Cambogia Alto
This is the part where we say “Thank fuck for chair lifts“, yes, the Italians know how this shit is done and getting up to 2 was a breeze. Couple that with the very tranquilo Italian liaison times and it was time to lounge about in the sun without sunscreen on so you could cultivate a nasty sunburn and fucked up lips. Ahhhhh, endurolyfe.
Stage 2 started out with the first project in the ‘La Thuile natural trail building programme’, which consisted of taping out a line and then feeding hundred of ENDURO lemmings down the chute over 4 days. Hey fucking presto, next thing you know, you can update your bike park trail map with some new lines! Cue another Sven banger…
Stage 2 was pretty simple to remember – The top section was fresh cut through a Gnar mine field of sniper rocks and if you made it through that ok without crying on the inside (easier said than done), you then got into the rougher and more mature.com lower section which was basically like being punched in the arms by a donkey.
Speaking of donkeys, stage 2 was a nervous affair. The top was a lot different from practice, but at least there was a line worn in, so I played the trust game and let it go down most of those steep sections. The bottom half just seemed to wear me out.
I heard the other riders behind me talking about how they were going to “Fooken attack it mun“, I really wanted to do the same, but in the end it felt like it was attacking me. The bottom of 2 was also the bottom of stage 4, plus I had ridden it 2 years earlier, so knew it about as well as I needed to. I wanted to think ‘attack’, but as I struggled with this next level ENDURO course, the battle was with my mind which wanted to keep poking in the message “Holy fuck cunt, we shouldn’t be here! We’re gonna get mowed down! Holy shit we’re going to eat some shit at some point motherfucker!!” Fuck you brain.
This is one seriously rad stage to be fair, but probably beyond my pay grade to race it as opposed to ride it. Not that there was a whole lot of difference between the two for me, something that the clock would nod sagely at when you consider the outcome.
- Greg Callaghan – 9.08.63 for 171st*
- Katy Winton – 9.36.20 for 10th
- Dirty Nomad – 11.11.92 for 213th
- Top 200 time – 9.39.98
*Greg got a flat front tire and suffered some nasty crashes trying to nurse it out. I had zero flat tires and zero crashes. As TeeJay Van Garderen said this week: “I wish I had an excuse, but I just don’t”
Stage 3 – Mulino
Real talk – I had been looking forward to Stage 3 all day. I knew I would be as rusty as a vibrator in the tropics on #1, and #2 was freaking me out, so I knew that 3 was way more my bag. 2 runs of it in practice as well, so it was all good and I was looking forward to getting into my work on stage 3.
The thing that helped my cause? Heading up to Stage 3 I was lucky enough to ride the lift with Chris, yes, the shredder who would blast past me at some point during every stage. He also happened to be the coach of PRO’s, the same ones in fact I am doing my unrealistic comparison to in this race report.
Whilst I did my best to contain my PRO frothing, he did impart one golden wisdom nugget upon me before rolling off to talk to a gaggle of PRO’s. It was as simple as it was elegant:
Yes, just be patient, take your time, slow it down to go faster and just chill the fuck out. I absorbed this advice just in time to be heading into my favourite trail of the day and aside from a little WTF moment in the very first rock section, I managed to pretty much put into action some advice for once in my EWS career (‘Flow like water’ never seemed to work out for me):
As Spanky said to me “You must be getting better bro?“, well, I didn’t ride this line 2 years ago, so I guess the answer is a slightly caveated ‘Yes’, same scenario from another angle:
But yes, I was going better! Confession time here… Its possible I actually said the words “Patience cunt” out loud as I made my way down the stage. Yes, I have resorted to talking to myself in order to survive EWS stages and calm my ENDURO head explosions.
I had set the mini goal of getting to the tarmac section near the top without getting caught by Ian and fuck my face with Italian cheese, I actually managed to hold off the charging Irishman, who even acknowledged that it was the first stage that I didn’t look like a Marshall who had got lost getting down the hill: “You were goin fooken alright mete“. I even managed to keep him in sight for more than 10 seconds.
But the thing about 3, aside from being one of the raddest and most varied race stages you can possibly find, is that its long. Like, fuuuuucking long… The longest of the day and the second longest of the weekend. Section after section lining up to brutalise you and your forearms with either gnar or steeps.
I wanted to ride it faster and harder, but there was a mismatch between ability and ambition. I was also starting to run out of talent in my usual manner… And here, it cums… It kept getting steeper than the bad ass mofo looks:
If you come to La Thuile, you HAVE to ride stage 3. It will still be there, waiting for you to lather yourself in its relentlessness. No BS, it would definitely be in my top 3 all time stages raced in an EWS round for sure (the others belonging to Spain). Even with that utterly cuntish little climb at the end, which left most of us hanging by the time we go to the final slalom like turns at the end.
I probably loved stage 3 so much because it was the first time all day I felt like I was riding properly, which ultimately is vastly more important to me than the result (its important to say that when you are massively out the ass hole results wise), but I also had fun doing it – Thus allowing me to justify spending the morning riding the porcelain pony.
Now that we have the touchy feely stuff out of the way, the results still resembled giving donkey fellatio:
- Greg Callaghan – 11.20.10 for 7th
- Katy Winton – 13.38.07 for 6th
- Dirty Nomad – 15.39.28 for 211th
- Top 200 time – 14.32.10
One of the best part of racing at La Thuile is you get to see your crew throughout the day as they finish stages and you are heading up for your next one. I managed to catch up with RJ, who was showing some serious battle wounds after a big OTB on stage 3.
Listening to his day reminded me that perhaps there isn’t that much to look forward to when I make it into Masters in 2 years… Kudos bro for dusting it off after that kind of stack and getting through the rest of the day let alone the weekend! Meanwhile, I felt as fingered as I looked at the end of Day 1. I’m not throwing the forks, I’m just cramped like this…
Unlike the last two Euro EWS rounds I’ve been to, the final stage of the day finished in the pits, thus giving us the chance to drink a coke or 2, have a nasty La Thuile Hamburger (not a speciality in town as it turned out) and sit back with ice on T Rex arms to watch the big boys get business done. I made sure to give Greg a full Justin Bieber girl fan scream when he blasted through, I’m sure he was stoked.
But the biggest “What the actual fuck” of the day wasn’t how many people passed me in race stages, but it was how many people, sorry, PRO’s, Richie Rude was catching in the stage. If you have a look at Marco Osborne’s Gram account, there is a video of him sprinting up the final climb past Damien Oton, who isn’t exactly a slouch and leaving him behind in a way that made Oton look like me. By the time I snapped this pic, he was almost catching Jerome Clementz who started a minute earlier. Fuuuuuuck:
I would say he’s a weapon, but he’s more than that… And exceedingly calm doing it, on a very fast bike while he’s at it. Speaking of bikes, mine was pretty rad all day, but I sort of wish I was able to raise the bars a little and have a slightly bigger front tire to help give me a touch more confidence. And yes, I did look at the Santa Cruz guys and wonder if I needed a Hightower in my life #perfectconsumer.
Its worth noting however – The last time I rode these trails, it was with lads on full DH bikes, so that’s something to consider. If someone had offered me a V10 for stages 2 and 3, I possibly would have taken them up on it, yes, it was that sort of terrain. Or I’m just a really hairy pussy.
So that was Day 1 in the bag, oddly it felt like it was over quicker than I had expected, but at the same time wasn’t over quick enough for my schoolboy sized arms. It was pretty rad to end the day on a high with the stage 3 action… But we all had one eye on Day 2 and in particular, Stage 5 and 6 loomed large as being beasts.
We had only just begun.