Mountain bike al suo meglio! (Mountain biking at its finest - according to google translator)

Cinque, Quattro, tre, due, uno, wai! These were the words that summed up the weekend for me. A countdown in Italian sounds so much nicer than the beeps that you usually hear in a start gate – it had a relaxing feel to it, very calming before you headed out there to attack the track. This weekend I was in the beautiful village of Sauze d’Oulx at the Enduro des Nations race.

Italy sure is a special place. The energy & passion of the Italian people is contagious, and when you mix that with the amazing cappuccinos, great food, wine, spectacular mountain scenery & perfect, natural flowy trails, you get one of the best combinations for a race weekend ever. The whole vibe of this event is electric, thanks to one man in particular, Enrico. His passion for enduro racing & riding is something so rare, and so amazing to be around. You cannot help but feel like you are a superstar at a big formula one race or something. He makes every single athlete feel special and welcome and he knows everyone by name. He gets so taken up and excited about the races and that is how he gets all the local people and the villages excited & involved with this race in particular. Like I have mentioned in the past, we need more Enrico’s out there in this sport!

Today is another perfect, blue-sky day out here in Sauze, and I have just finished up another great weekend of racing. It was the first stage of the Enduro des Nations race, which means that there are teams of 3 from all different countries racing against each other to see which nation is the fastest and then next weekend they will have round 2 in Valloire, France to see who the fastest nation will be.

The tracks out here are amazing, natural, single-track riding at it’s best, with long descents covering all kinds of terrain. Roots, rock, fast, smooth sections, jumps, grass, steeps, the whole lot and with all the people screaming down the trails, it got pretty blown out and beat up by race day. Our bikes & bodies took quite a beating and it felt like we were racing downhill on our little bikes. Of course on Saturday morning the thunder hit and the rains came down by the bucket load, just enough to get everyone worked up into a frenzy before the start, scrambling to put spikes onto our wheels – as one of the rules at the SuperEnduro races is that you have to use the same set of wheels for the entire race, same fork and same frame, so you cannot be prepared, if something like that happens, you have to be able to act quick and change up. Yes, something that I am not so great at, changing tires and then getting them to be tubeless…my morning was frantic to say the least. Thanks to Matt Wragg for helping me with that and also to Jerome & his dad, for all their mechanical help & advise on everything. Jerome really is such an amazing person & racer, always staying calm, smiling & willing to help out even when he has to get ready for his own race. Merci! Well the spike was good for the first stage, and then not so much, but we had to keep running it until we had our allocated lunch break back at the pits where once again, everyone was frantically trying to get their regular tires put back on.

I didn’t have a team, as my situation is not an easy one to fill: South African, American, sort of Kiwi – not so easy to find other girls who will fit that mixed up nationality status…not a problem though, as you are also able to race solo & still get to have an overall ranking or position along with the teams. It was a tough battle between the girls, the level of racing has really improved from last year, and with 23 solo girls entered and 3 girls teams racing, the numbers had increased hugely from last year’s turnout. We battled it out over two days of racing and after so many races we were only seconds apart, which made for some really exciting racing between the women. I ended up winning the overall race, with Morgane Such in second place & my good friend Pauline Diffenthaler in 3rd. The French girls ended up winning the team race with Italy in second and Finland in third. Bravo to all the girls that raced this weekend!

For the men, the competition was super tough as usual, but Jerome Clementz took the overall win, with Nicolas Vouilloz in second and Nicolas Lau in third place. The UK ended up winning the team event with France in second & Italy in third place. Jamie was also out here representing New Zealand, and he killed it as usual. He did get a 1 minute penalty for not leaving the lunch area on time, but there are so many rules and regulations involved with these races, and each event has it’s own set of rules, that it is really easy to make a mistake like this. I almost forget to check in at the checkpoint after my final race, luckily someone reminded me, if not, I would have lost the race. I guess that is how you learn hey?

All in all, a wonderful event, great spirit, great level of racing in the men’s & the women’s fields, amazing terrain and of course way too much pasta, pizza, red wine & gelato! If those things listed above isn’t enough to get you inspired to get a team put together and head out here for next years race, well then, you’re just missing out on a really great event.

The Enduro des Nations will continue next weekend in Valloire, France, where the battle to be the fastest nation will continue, and I think the French are hungry to get their title back in their home country, it will be another exciting weekend of racing between those guys.

For now, I am done racing for a few weeks. These enduro races are full one, you do one event, but during that event that runs over 2 days, you end up doing between 8 – 10 different races on different tracks, so they are full on. I am very happy & relieved with how my enduro season has turned out this year. It has been a tough last few weeks, with back-to-back races and a really high level of racing between the girls. There has been no easy race, no chilling, just full on pinned down every run. My body is so beat up, and I feel the need for some much needed R&R. Time to get back on my xc bike now to train for the upcoming 7 day Trans Provence race in September.

Check out some of the coverage from this weekend:

Peace out Anka x.