With a 10 hour drive ahead of us me and the mrs once again set off on a long drive to get to a race but unlike any normal race the was the Enduro World Series, the pinnacle of the currently unstoppable endure trend and my first big mountain race for a long time. I was slightly nervous on the way down as i didn't know what to expect but at the same time massively excited as i could wait to ride long fast trails with chair lifts back up.
On our arrival we rather naively thought that being mid July and Italy the weather would be lovely so to keep cost down and to keep it true privateer we were going to camp however this plan soon went to poop when we got there it was chucking it down and the Italian campsite I'd found online looked more like a home for gypos ! Onwards and upwards though and after a bit of searching around we found a hotel in a sweet location and that weren't trying to rinse us one on our desperate situation which in the long run with the weather finding a hotel definitely turned into a very good idea.
So with a good nights sleep, a proper shower and even a workshop to use I awoke fresh faced and ready to go for first day of practice on thursday. Now i was super pumped to go ride as i hadn't ridden big mountains for a couple years let alone race them so the thought of getting up there and shredding for 10 minutes without having to push or ride back up was awesome and it didn't disappoint, La Thuile has amazing scenery and incredible riding all the way around it and the stages certainly had al this going for it with stage 1 which would double up as stage 4 swell being nearly 20 minutes long and with 2 chair lifts and a 40 minute ride after that to get you to the top of it you really did start up in the clouds.
The stage itself was a tough on with a mixture of short little climbs and sprints to test the legs, wide open corners to snaking single track it really did have it all. Stage 2 climbed a different mountain and this had to all be done by leg power with a gruelling ride up followed by a section of pushing/carrying the bike the stage itself was shorter at about 7 minute and predominantly DH with awesome swithbacks and plenty of loam.
Stage 3 would take you back over to the same mountain as 1 and 4 and consequently 5 and 6 as well and would be a slightly longer stage than before coming in around the 13 minute mark again throwing at you a variety of trail with loose rock, pedalling and finishing up on the dual slalom track near the lift at the bottom.
Stage 5 was approximately 10 minute long and was a favourite of mine with some great wooded riding towards the end and quite technical, mainly DH but just when you thought you were ok the organisers would throw in a steep little climb or a sprint section just to keep you on you toes.
Finally stage 6, now to me this was the hardest as you'd just about made it through 2 days of racing and although not the longest stage it felt like the most physical because it had a horrible flat muddy pedal in the middle then some steep little climbs at the end which would sap what minimal energy you may have had left out of you.
Race day 1 and its hammer time my first EWS and my first time racing in the big mountains for a while, would my hands, arms and general fitness hold up who knows. On the lift to stage 1 i was well excited just to be racing if anything id been seeded pretty low down but didn't care just meant i didn't really have to worry about anyone around me and just focus on doing my own thing. As i was counted in that when the realisation of what i was doing set in and everything sort of dawned on me or maybe that was just the shitty weather i don't know but as i got under way i felt good however what must have been 15 minutes or at least felt like it my hands were killing me or more specifically my fingers and i were struggling to pul the brakes as hard as i wanted to or as late as i should have been but hay ho i got the the finish despite the killer climbs and it being so wet streams were running down the course and got a fairly respectable time and even passed a tonne of peeps on the way. Now of to stage 2 and after the tedious climb this would turn out to be my best run of the weekend finishing in 56th showing that the shorter more dh orientated run is perhaps at the mo what I'm better at given its hard to train for alpine stuff living on an island there the highest point is about 370 feet. Stage 3 and I'm not going to lye my hands and fingers were tight so i knew this was going to be a difficult one and once again as i got counted in I just went for it knowing that keeping it smooth and fluid on the turns would count as much as giving it hell on the pedally sections and with this in mind that strategy kind of worked rounding out the first day in 79th i think.
Races day 2 and it was game face. Stage 4 started sweet right up unitl the 5th corner which was a long open off camber right hand to which the exit of it spat me up shit me over the bars and snapped my back brake lever in half, when i got up got my bearing and carried on i must have lost at least 20 seconds on the crash not to mention nursing myself down on a lever that was about 1.5cm long but oh well thats racing so feeling rather disheartened at loosing so much time and stressed at the thought of having to do the rest of the race on a buggered brake i went to shimano to see if they could do anything and they could…score! new lever and i was on my way. Stage 5 went well with the weather now turning nicer and the tracks drying up i was being consistent in my times and my riding finishing alway around the high 70's 80 mark which i was pleased with for a first race. Final stage now and after a time check some clean clothes and a refuel i was pumped to get up there not just to get the job done but to give it my all on the finally stage of the day. It was a physical one with a lot of pedalling in the middle and unfortunately i hadn't done quite swell as id hoped but still averaging a similar stage result and finishing with a smile on my face at no major incidents or race ending moment it was time for a cider to pack up and think what needs to be done before the final round at Finale Ligure roll on the races.
Final shout outs got to my girlfriend for keeping me fed, watered, clean and running. All Mountain Style as without there gear my bike would be beaten to hell and all who have helped me train and keep my bike up and running. Cheers.