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After a month back home after EWS #1 in Chile and some good riding and training under my belt, it was time for EWS #2 in Scotland.

It’s fair to say that this race was one that I had been thinking about a fair bit. With the weather in Scotland (wet and cold) and the unfamiliar terrain, it was going to be a battle just to be prepared with everything you need to be self-sufficient out in the hills. It’s always a long drag to fly from Australia to Europe, and even longer to keep flying across to the UK. But, the trip was actually really good; I managed to get some good sleep and the flights weren't packed (gotta take those when you can get them!). The whole team met up at the Edinburgh airport on Monday afternoon and we had a quick drive down the road to the race venue/village in Peebles. As usual, bikes were built and a quick spin was had to check out the area.

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Tuesday:
We had five big days ahead of us and the body was feeling pretty tired, so we spent the day trying to get over the jet lag and get some quality sleep. Shaun got our bikes dialed in and we were able to take it easy and get our bearings of the area a little more.

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Wednesday through Friday – Practice:
We had three days of practice. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that you have almost 100km to travel on dirt roads and single track just to ride all eight race stages for the weekend, you need all the time you can get. Our plan was to try and do two runs of each course over the practice days. We accomplished our goal, but it meant 13 hours on the bike over the three days with about 90% of that time spent climbing back to the tops of hills, all while trying to stay fresh enough to be able to race at 100% on the weekend.

The trails here were definitely fun to ride, but they are far from what I consider my strengths to be. Practice was made even trickier by constantly changing weather and track conditions. But by the time the final practice run on Friday was finished, I was feeling reasonably comfortable with the practice I had done.

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Saturday - Race Day 1:
As the sun finally came out for the first time since we had been here, I rolled out at my start time and made my way to Stage 1.  The first couple turns of Stage 1 were going to set the tone for my day to come. The bright sun for the first 200m of trail before dropping into the heavily wooded first tree section was like somebody switching out the lights…with the eyes adjusted to sunshine and then dropping straight into darkness. I could not see anything and rode straight off the track into some trees. It wasn’t a great way to start, but I knew better than to panic and try to make up lost time. The sun had turned the mud to a thick sluggish peanut butter and any small mistake was magnified by loss of momentum and time.

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For the remainder of Stages 1 and 2, I simply struggled to find any form of flow, and small mistakes with the super tight trees meant I was losing time in every turn. To kick me a little more, I burped half my air pressure out of my front wheel halfway down Stage 2 and rode with a very low front tire, which meant even more time lost. It was just one of those days where nothing was clicking…one of those days when you want to pack up and call it a day. I’ve had plenty of those days during the past 17 years that I've been mountain biking, but they've never happened on a race day.

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We had a break after Stage 2 and I was feeling pretty gutted with the race going terribly. But, you have to regroup, think big picture and get on with it.

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Stage 3 was the longest and had the steepest, sloppiest, most technical sections of the weekend. I rode much better and was top-10 on the stage despite a big stall out and dismount/run on a flat section. Stage 4 should have been much better. For whatever reason, the Starter kept me in the start gate for 3-4 seconds after I was meant to leave, and then was like, "Oh, okay, off you go." It’s normally not a big deal since we have timing chips that start and stop our time as we cross the start and finish lines. But, they had issues with the electronic timing and had to switch to manual timing for the stage. This meant they started the clock on your exact designated start time. With the Starter holding me back, time had already been ticking away before I even pedaled off the line…cool deal. It was just another example of how my entire day was going.

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Sunday - Race Day 2:
The weather was holding off and things were drying out a bit for Sunday’s racing. Despite starting the day sitting in 30th position, I knew Sunday’s racing had some better stages for me. I was confident that if I rode like I normally do, I could pull back to a top-10 overall finish for the weekend and salvage some decent points. To cut a long story short, I did just what I had hoped for. My confidence was still a bit off, but it grew with each stage and I started pushing harder and riding a lot better. I was continually getting into the rhythm of the trails, getting closer to the limit of the grip levels and racing smarter. The final stage was one of the better stages for me and I wanted to end on a high note…to leave Scotland with the confidence to carry me to the next round of the series in Europe. It went perfectly to plan and I took the stage win. It was still a disappointing weekend overall, but I had clawed my way back to 9th overall for the weekend. The Stage 8 win was the best way to finish it.

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It was cool to see Richie finding his enduro feet a bit more this weekend, and he finished Sunday’s racing with top-10 results in all of the last three stages. He's on the right track to be pushing for overall top-10's as the season continues.

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So, all in all, it was a very up and down weekend for the team and we left with things on the upswing. The conditions and trails in Scotland were far from my strengths, but to pull some solid stage results has my head in the right place as we move back to the big open French Alps for the next round. I can't wait to get back to the massive alpine hills; it’s what it’s all about for me!

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Bike setup:

Frame: YETI SB66c medium (yes, still 26 inch wheels)
Fork: 2015 Fox Float 36, 75psi
Shock: Fox Float X, 175psi
Wheels: DT Swiss, 240 straight pull hubs, aerolite spokes, EX 471 rims
Tires: Front - Maxxis Shorty 2.3 EXO 3C prototype, 25psi.   Rear -  Maxxis Minion DHR2, 3C EXO, 28psi
Brakes Shimano XTR 987 Carbon Race levers, Saint calipers, 180mm rotors
Cranks: Shimano XTR 170mm
Power meter - Stages XTR with Garmin Edge 500 head unit.
Derailleur: Shimano XTR Shadow Plus
Pedals: Shimano XTR Trail
Chainguide: E-13 TRS
Chainring: – Shimano Saint 36t
Bar/Stem: – Renthal FatBar Lite Carbon, 740mm/Renthal prototype stem 60mm
Seat/seatpost: Thomson Elite Dropper, WTB Devo Yeti team edition
Grips: ODI Troy Lee Designs.
Headset: Chis King

yeticycles.com

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