After discovering the French & Italian “enduro" races in Europe years before the EWS was conceived, I became instantly hooked; they reignited my passion for bike racing & riding. I had just finished up racing Downhill; I didn’t want to keep going back to the same venues year after year, and frankly I just wanted to actually ride my bike more. These Euro enduro races got me stoked again. It was all new, very exciting and a whole new discipline that you had to figure out and try to master. I loved the raw-ness of it all, the sort of no rules and lack of seriousness that went along with these events. The feed stations and relaxed atmosphere, the fact that there were hundreds of people racing these events for the past 10 years but hardly anyone had any idea that “enduro” even existed outside of Europe. No one spoke English, you just showed up and figured shit out. Threw yourself down a bloody glacier, or rode virgin tracks across freshly taped French pistes - no problems! I loved it, and it turned out that I was kind of good at it too.
After racing these crazy events for a few years, I was ready to move on from this whole racing business, I wasn’t quite sure to what at that time, but I felt like my racing days were wrapping up & I felt more than content with my cycling achievements (no World Champ’s in this accolade, that was never my goal, but traveling the world, riding my bike & making friends for life, that was my goal).
A few “Enduro" races began popping up here and there in the US, and people started talking about this “new” discipline, but honestly, most people had the wrong idea about what they thought Enduro racing was. It usually ended up being much like a Super D with the top XC whippets taking the win in their skin suits and light bikes- don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against those athlete’s, in fact I have the biggest respect for the XC guys & gals, but proper Enduro races should not be won without knee pads.
Along came Mr Chris Ball and together with some of the Euro Enduro pioneers Fred Glo and Enrico Guala, announced that they were starting a new series; The Enduro World Series. Mmmm, I thought, interesting, very interesting. I liked this sound of WORLD series, I could potentially travel to even more exotic places to ride my bike with other likeminded people…now this caught my attention & stoked my excitement levels yet again. So much for me moving on from racing!
Right about this time Santa Cruz, who had been supporting me for many years, asked me to be a part of the new brand they were creating for women - Juliana. They wanted me to become their Juliana Bicycles ambassador and to continue doing what I usually do. WOW. Oh Chris, where were you and the EWS 5 years ago my friend? Of course an opportunity like this was a no brainer, it’s what you work for your whole career - especially in the cycling industry, so yeah, I went for it and the rest is history.
Four amazing, hectic and whirlwind years later, I’ve decided to stop racing this EWS series. Not easy, I can promise you that, as these past four years of racing has been the best (and hardest mentally & physically) of my life. My riding & skill set is better than it’s ever been, thanks to racing on some of the most demanding and technical trails out there, way harder and more varied than any World Cup DH track I've experienced. I’m also fitter & stronger than ever; you have to be and mentally, nothing can get to me anymore. Throw anything at me & I will get through it with a smile, ok, sometimes it’s a grimace. My sense of humour has been turned up a notch or two and waking up feeling like a bus has hit you every morning has become the norm. My passport has a million stamps & some extension pages added, my friendships, memories & the camaraderie have become my everything & most cherished keepsakes of all. I could potentially keep doing these, but one has to draw the line somewhere.
I want to personally perform and do the best that I can at these events, but these days that often means walking the tracks before practise, followed up by three full days of training on the tracks, then each day foregoing exploring a new town, sampling new cultures instead to go study lines and tracks on your Go Pro footage in your hotel room and rest up and recover. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario, I am pleased that this series has risen to such great heights and professionalism that people can make a decent living from, but it is just not where I am at this stage of my life and what I am willing to sacrifice.
This doesn’t mean that I’ve retired, I’ve just retired from racing THIS series. I’m a bit of a sucker for punishment & I’m always itching for new adventures - always, scheming & planning & pushing my own personal limits. There are so many other events out there and places to explore and I cannot wait to start ticking them off my to do list.
Some interesting stats for you from my last four years racing the EWS series.
- I raced 25 out of 30 races from the start of the EWS series in 2013 to the end of 2016. Torn ankle ligaments in 2014 saw me miss the Scottish round and then a broken hand sustainedin Chile during the Andes Pacifico race was responsible for me missing the first four rounds of this years season.
- 9 different countries.
- 5 top 10 results.
- 1 top 10 series overall result.
- My race times have added up to a whopping 24h of racing in total.
Some of my personal feelings about the series:
- Hardest: without a doubt was Whistler’s Crankzilla in 2015.
- Tightest transition times: Whistler’s Crankzilla 2015 & Rotorua in 2016.
- All time favourite venues were: Finale Ligure Italy, Ainsa Spain, Rotorua NZ & Chile 2014.
- Least favourite venue: WinterPark CO.
- Craziest fans ever: Ireland 2015
- Least amount of oxygen: Crested Butte, CO 2015
- The worst weather: Val D’Isere, France where you couldn’t see your front tyre due to mist & snow, half the field got lost but then again, there has been too many rounds to remember that went down in horrendous weather. I end up wearing WAY more rain gear during the Euro summer and getting caught in A LOT of rain, hail, sleet, thunder & sometimes snow storms - but that just makes these events more memorable hey?
So if you are a budding racer looking to broaden your horizons and take up new challenges or want to set new goals and haven’t raced an EWS race yet, get out there and do it, it will teach you things about yourself that you never knew existed!