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Source athlete Hannes Slavik of Austria (no relation to namesake Tomas) has been racing 4X for a long time, but he has for 2014 decided to attempt the cross-over to Enduro. Check out Hannes' adventures as he tackles the many physical, mental, and tactical challenges that lay ahead - join the journey!

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by Hannes Slavik // photos by Markus Slavik

The last 15 years my training focused on making my legs fast and powerful. Squats and sprints – for 15 years it was all about that one minute head to head racing action, but believe me, that doesn't mean I don’t have good cardio.

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Then I arrived at Terlago Italy for the first round of the 2014 SRAM Enduro Series and after my first training session I realised that Enduro racing is way different from what I had expected it to be. I knew that gaining 1500 meters of altitude on the bike wouldn't be much fun, but I just didn’t think that there would be SO MANY uphill sections during the stages. My Ghost Cagua enduro bike worked perfectly and Magura’s ELECT system saved me some power and time, but still, my conditioning was not optimal for what laid ahead.

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Muddy Race Day Terlago

Up we went to stage 1, my Vario Seat post had a technical problem which I couldn’t fix, so I had to take my seat down before each stage with a screwdriver, what a way to start 4 hours of torture.

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I felt really fast during the downhill parts, but that was not enough, you couldn’t win this race with leading in these parts only – and man... I lost it all on those many, many short and long uphill sections.

After riding more than one hour up to stage one, I had no power left for those slippery uphills. As I came to stage four we had to actually run the uphills because riding wasn’t possible anymore on the muddy ground. I gave my best, applied all my power and was able to finish the race. In the end I finished in 78th place, which didn't disappoint me as much as I thought it would. I did make some mistakes at my first Enduro race and learned from it – also I just burned myself out too early over that race weekend.

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Riva del Garda

They canceled stage four because of the bad weather  ....  YEAH about 350m of altitude gain avoided, good for me and my still tired legs :)

There was a massive 90-seconds uphill sprint at the start of stage one. That one killed everyone and as I was racing the downhill part of this stage I swear I had double-vision. That was one of the most dangerous and challenging things I have ever done on a bike ...  At the finish of stage one I was just glad that it was over. I was ok with my speed and this time, I didn't lose that race on the uphill.

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The other stages went really well. Fast flat pedalling sections, but no more real uphills. The single stages could have been a little bit longer for me and I should have finished stage three a little bit faster… but I really had fun racing those nice slippery trails. Coming to the last stage I felt good and was quite happy with my performance so far.

I made some small mistakes in the upper part – and as if that wasn’t enough, I went over the bars in the lower section. Those mistakes cost me 15 to 20 seconds and a top 25 place in the end. When it was all said and done I finished in 33rd place.

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Bottom Line: It’s Easier On The Top

So: way more cardio will be on my plan for the upcoming season, even when it’s challenging to coordinate it with my 4x training. I can go fast on that Ghost Enduro bike and there is still room to make it better...  and I am looking forward to collecting more experience over the next races of the SRAM Enduro Series.

Overall this first week of racing Enduro was an exhausting but great experience for me. There is just one thing I am a little bit disappointed about… while I was working on stage five in Riva, the top teams shuttled it about six times. Without such help, which gives you the opportunity to ride all the stages a few times more than most of the other riders while saving energy at the same time, it’s hard to compete. That is not the Enduro lifestyle I thought I will meet, it is a little bit like DH training for the top teams, and I have to find a way to compete with this.

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Back To 4x Action

So back to where I actually come from:  World Series 4x Pro Tour and round 1 in Poland. After my first Enduro experiences it was time for some 4x action again.

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Like in the last few years on this track, I was able to show in the qualification run how fast I can be. For the second time in a row only Tomas Slavik managed to be faster than me and in third position the legendary Michael Prokop was the only other rider getting in under the 40-second mark.

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The very first race of the season always brings a little more pressure and excitement. Especially after I broke my collarbone last fall and then my thumb in the winter, I am more than happy about this great start of the new season.

I won my 1/16th, 1/8th and quarterfinal. Then in the semifinal I fought with Prokop for the holeshot – I lost the that fight by the smallest of margins, but I made it safely into my second World Cup Final.

It was a long day, and I had to summon all my power for the final. My gate was fine but not perfect and therefore I had to take up position behind the two world champions, Slavik and Prokop. This third place I held to the finish line without any problems, made it to the podium and improved my fourth position from Fort William with it.

I then took 5th place at the "Dirt Masters" Pro Tour round (#2 of the season), which also moved me to second position in the overall Pro Tour ranking. I missed the third round in Fort William, and then it was onto World Camps in Leogang.

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I finished 4th in the World Champs qualifying only 0.001 seconds behind the third position. I easily made it into the semi, where unfortunately I had a crash right after the gate which took me out of the race. My bike was damaged and I could then only cruise down the small final to an 8th place finish.

Until next time, Ride On!

Hannes

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