Whistler EWS #6 Roots, rocks & slippery moss.

The EWS tracks were riddled with roots, hundreds and thousands of them, surrounded by the most amazing, loamy, hero dirt one can imagine, whilst winding it’s way through some spectacular forests. Old man’s beard blowing in the breeze, with very thoughtful hand carved wooden signs naming the trails and low clouds that move slowly caressing the mountain tops and hillsides surrounding this spectacular valley we‘ve all grown to love so much. Oh, Whistler you are so gorgeous and so scary at the same time.

After the very demanding “Crankzilla” round we endured last year, of course we were all pretty scared coming into this round, wondering whether or not it would be a repeat of last years suffering or if the organizers would be kind to us… Turns out, they do have a gentler side and they wanted everyone to have a fun weekend of riding and racing. It was quite a relief to see all the lift access that we were allowed to use to access the trails, with very minimal climbing and very relaxed liaison times. Everyone seemed a bit relieved, but that didn’t mean that race day was going to be an easy day. Easy days don’t really exist in Whistler. Even though we didn’t have to climb much, it still took most of us the entire day to fit one run in on most of the stages. They were all amazing, they offered everything, they were super technical, steep, rooty, rocky, pedally, physical, long and demanding – a pretty perfect combination for an enduro race track and everyone seemed to love them. Again, none of them were easy, but practice day was a big, rad day out on the bikes soaking up the sunshine and the big blue skies.

 Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

We were all pretty relieved about this round, and then the rain came. It rained all day and all night and those relieved feelings turned into anxious worries & nightmares about how we were going to get down those root riddled tracks come race morning. All the practice went out the window, along with my confidence. Race day turned into a day of somehow getting down the tracks and surviving them. It wasn’t pretty, but of course we all did it. You just switch into this mode and get on with the task at hand. I felt stiff and scared and not too confident in these conditions, but we slowly checked the stages off, one at a time and every run improved slightly. By the time we got to stage three, I felt like I knew how to ride my bike again, stage four was actually fun for me and stage five was just a blast through the bike park and by the time we rode this stage, everything was bone dry & trustworthy again. Of course. Bloody Murphy!

 Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

I felt so ready and confident on all the race tracks during practice, but waiting my turn come race morning, I definitely felt a tad bit timid after the rain and I knew that I was in for quite a challenging day. Maybe it was a combination of the changed, wet conditions that we couldn’t practice on, but also maybe a bit of what happened at the last round in Colorado. Either way, I just wanted to get through this round safe & sound. These races are never easy, even when the stats look a bit easier, some other unforeseen element will jump in there to make it hard for us in some other way. It ended up being such an enjoyable day out. The girls all had such a laugh and such a great time cheering each other on, listening to all the war stories, the mishaps and the funny maneuvers that were pulled off to get down these slippery tracks. Falling off bridges, losing gloves mid race run, stuck upside down clipped in, it goes on and on, and those are the things that I remember, that makes these hard days enjoyable, and what makes me chuckle for weeks down the line. There were so many Juliana riders out racing at this round and every single one of them represented so well, racing and riding their hearts out. Kelli ended up in 12th place, myself in 16th and Sarah in 17th spot. It was great to have the whole team back together and out there representing again. Huge thanks to Allan, Mary & Tom for getting our bikes dialed and our bellies full all week.

 Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

The organizers were spot on with the ratio, the trail combo’s, the lift access and the liaison times. We had amazing feed stations with the most delicious mouth watering watermelon and a great atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. Cheers to everyone who worked so hard to avoid turning this round into “Crankzilla” two, you guys killed it!

Loving this chill day today, catching up with life and looking forward to a week filled with yoga, adventure rides, some laps in the park, women’s clinics and chilling at the lake of course.

Peace out,

Anka

x

Crested Butte, Colorado Round #5 Wildflowers, never ending single track & sadness.

I’m sitting on the plane, heading to Vancouver for the next round of the EWS stop in Whistler, and I’m a bit stumped as to what to write about from this last round. There are no words fitting enough to express my sadness after the tragic death of a fellow rider. Will was a really good rider, he knew the track, he was going fast, and he was racing. He was doing exactly what we all do pretty much every weekend, what we all do for our day jobs. We all know that mountain biking has it’s risks; injuries and broken bones are part of the job description, but somehow we always seem to put that word – death - out of our minds, we know the possibilities are there every time we synch down those number plates onto our handlebars, or scribble down our emergency contact details, but we keep those thoughts tucked far away to focus on the task ahead.

Amongst all this sadness and shock, emerges a great sense of pride, to belong to and be a part of such a wonderful community. We’re a small traveling family who loves riding and racing our bikes in really beautiful places. We look out for each other, we encourage each other, we laugh and cry together, we celebrate the highs and the low’s and this weekend was a great reminder of how lucky I, we are to be a part of this wonderful community. When something like this happens, it hits home hard. It puts everything into perspective, it throws the results and the points right out the window, and nothing else matters other than riding bikes and sharing moments with loved one’s. It is a reminder for us to slow down, appreciate the views, stop to smell the wildflowers, take a picture, savor the moment – I know we don’t always have time to do this during the races, but make time before, after and during if you can. Life is too short not to. Be nice to people, smile, be passionate, look at the stars, laugh, skinny dip, share, make love & appreciate everything, because life works in a funny old way and we never know when our turn will come around, but lucky for us, we’re living a life that we love, we’re following our dreams and we get to share this with our mates. How freaking cool is that.

Crested Butte is a special place; I will remember it for it’s never-ending, fast & flowy singletrack trails, the stunning Aspen groves, and the wildflowers that were just mind blowing. The place has character, it has soul, amazing pizza, tamales & so many cute cottages, o, and it had no air, but that’s a whole other topic that I struggled with last week. The tracks were beautiful, they were physically hard to race, but that just makes us stronger right? I don’t think this round will end up counting towards the overall series, and it doesn’t really matter. Who cares. What matters is that we got to travel to a really amazing place to ride our bikes and to experience another culture. I’m happy that we’re just moving straight into the next round, as what happened this weekend hasn’t really had time to sink in or has it? Will this affect me more than I think it will? I don’t know, we’re all so good at compartmentalizing things instead of dealing with them. The tears that keep streaming down my cheeks when I think about Will, may be an indicator that it has had a huge effect on me.

Right now, I just want to get back on my bike, go for a pedal and feel the wind in my face to clear my head.

Rest in peace Will. May you find that never-ending singletrack trail out there and rip it up.

Anka

x

A brief history of my trusty Trans Provence adventure steeds.

Usually I only start thinking about the Trans Provence event towards the end of the season, but this year it is much, much earlier, as in just over 10 days away, so it will be a bit of a new experience for everyone in terms of what the places, terrain and villages look like at this time of the year, the climate and how the legs will feel this early on in the season. Either way, this is the highlight of my season every year and I'm well excited. I thought I'd do a little TP preview or tribute to all the bikes I've used during this favorite adventure of mine. This year will be my 5th Trans Provence...

2011 - Santa Cruz Blur TRc - ended up in 2nd place behind Tracy Moseley. 

2012 - Green Santa Cruz Carbon Nomad - another 2nd place, this time to Anne Caroline Chausson. 

2013 - Prototype "roarange" Bruliana - the first Juliana Bronson, before the launch of the Roubion - This bike helped me get my first TP win. I love my bike.

2014 - Evergreen Juliana "Roubion" - named after the village of one of my favorite days of the TP & because I won the race the previous year - pretty special stuff to me. Ended up in 2nd place behind Ines Thoma this year.

2015 - I'll be back on my trusty evergreen Juliana Roubion. Looking forward to share this journey with good pal Tracy Moseley & the Dark Cloud Crew again this year :)

It all kicks off on the 20th - 26th of June, so have a wee look at their website and follow our journey through the spectacular mountains in the South of France.

Peace out,

Anka

www.trans-provence.com

 

The calm before the ews storm.

Rotorua (/ˌroʊtəˈruːə/, from Māori: Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe.

Roto means lake and rua two – Rotorua thus meaning Second Lake. It was the second biggest lake that Maori chief Ihenga discovered. Also referred to as the heart of the North Island. It is known for its geothermal activity, with bubbling geysers, thermal springs and hot mud pools spread throughout the town earning its nickname of Sulfur City. These hydrogen sulphide emissions are what give Rotorua that permanent “rotten egg” smell. Charming right? Well, you do get used to it. Rotorua is also referred to as Rotovegas. Besides all the bubbling & boiling under the earth, Rotorua is a mountain biker’s Mecca. Mention the Whakarewarewa forest to anyone who rides bikes and it will bring a massive smile to their faces and a sparkle to their eyes.

We are all fortunate enough to explore this forest and all it’s magical trails this week, as it’s the first stop on the EWS calendar for this year. Pretty exciting that it’s all happening in New Zealand – not quite in my backyard, or island for that matter, but it’s still amazing not to have to leave New Zealand and travel to the other side of the world for a bike race. It’s also pretty amazing to share this beautiful part of the world with our friends from all over the world. With over 100km of singletrack, criss crossing through the dense panga clad jungle, there is plenty of riding and exploring to be had, more than we can cover in a short few days of riding anyways. It’s pretty hard to have an easy day out here; you just want to keep going and the flow of the trails just leave you yearning for more. Just another shuttle run, or two or three is what usually happens. It’s hard to rein it in and start resting up for the first big race of the season when it’s just so darn fun out there in the forest.

Roto_n3x6328.JPG

And resting up is what we’re going to have to do to make it through race day. It’s looking like one monster of a day, with 7 stages and an estimated 7 hours out on the bike from start to finish. The weather is also not looking too stable, as Fall is in the air, rain is in the forecast and the trails are covered in roots, which means that our work will be cut out for us come race day. What will be will be. Not much you can do when it comes to Mother Nature and what she has to offer. I’m looking forward to a few days of the bike, catching up with my team mates Kelli & Sarah, soaking it up in the hot springs and of course a visit to see the new born Kiwi bird babies. Rotorua also has a huge variety of fabulous restaurants and coffee shops to choose from, speaking of, time to head to town for a flat white and maybe a little spin in the forest…resting schmesting – life’s far too short to be serious!

Best of luck to everyone this week!

 

 

 

eNZed enduro

Last weekend was the inaugural 3- day NZ Enduro adventure. I wouldn’t call this a race, because it really wasn’t your typical race, it was a proper backcountry adventure, with crazy, technical terrain and tracks to navigate, blind for most people and we got dropped off on top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere with a helicopter, and we just happened to get timed. Only in New Zealand hey!

As you can imagine, last weekend was a pretty special one for me, as it played off in our backyard, and it gave our international friends a really good taste of what this region had to offer in terms of spectacular scenery and natural, technical, native forests. These tracks are what we fell in love with and really what sparked our drive to move out to the Nelson/Marlborough region. I was afraid that having a “race” on these tracks would take the magic out of these beautiful trails, but it was definitely a great way to show all the people that we race and travel with throughout the season what we had to offer & why we loved living here so much. They all seemed to be over the moon and fell in love with everything about it. It was really amazing to share this with so many of the top racers in the world.

We started off racing Whites Bay in Rarangi on Friday, then on to the Nydia Track in the Pelorus Sounds on Saturday and finished off on the Wakamarina track on Sunday. Of course we lucked out with the weather, as riding these trails in the wet would be absolutely treacherous and good weather meant that the heli could fly and shuttle us, which was such a unique experience for all the visitors and a first time for most people and also the first for an event to do.

It was a long, hard & really taxing (mentally & physically) weekend of riding and racing, but a great way to kick off the season. I definitely felt very race rusty and made tons of silly mistakes – I even got lost on a trail that I’ve ridden loads (it just shows you that having a home advantage doesn’t always help). To me, it was more about catching up with everyone after the off-season, enjoying the sunshine and riding beautiful trails. That’s what racing is all about to me after all.

Cheers to everyone that made the effort to come out to the other side of the world to ride our trails.

Haere Ra!

 

 

 

 

 

 

ColoRADo EWS # 5 - 39'00 N 105'30 W

Colorado views never disappoint. Sven Martin Photo. We used to live in the US for 12 years, until 2011, when we decided to pack up everything and move to the other side of the world, or hemisphere to New Zealand, so whenever we do return to the US these days (which doesn't happen very often), it is truly a treat to catch up with all our old friends and race team mates from back in the day when we used to race all the NORBA races across the country. Somehow, we're all still racing bikes of some sort and still involved in the bike industry. It is such a small industry compared to others, but it is filled with so many genuinely good people, and we'll forever have this connection, these bike memories and this like minded passion that keeps taking us into the mountains and connecting us in far away places, and that is what racing is all about to me. Results from Colorado - does it really matter? I didn't win or top 5, or even top 10, but I rode my best, better than last year, got my jump back on, pushed my riding abilities and loved it, saw some old friends, met their children & made some new friends.

There were a lot of negative things going on at this event, but I'm too sick of bike politics to go into it, so instead of harping on bullshit, have a wee look at some of the bangers that Sven captured over the weekend. :)

Some of the race tracks for Day 1.

Stage 1 was down the Trestle DH track. Sven Martin caught me in the air.

The usual American laws & stuff. Oops. Just remember to wind down the window when you return the rental.

This was probably the shortest stage ever raced in the EWS, it was super sweet though, but over before it began.

Sven Martin Photo.

Stage 3 - Sven Martin photo.

Post race indulgence. We were in America after all.

Catching up with old friends & getting to know their kids is pretty awesome :) Thanks CG for giving Ryder your gloves - you have a fan for life.

Wiping the CO dust off the old girl, prepping her for the next day's race. Pretty tough keeping your bike, body & mind together for 3 days of racing & training.

Got this message whilst walking around the pedestrian mall in Denver on Monday after the race. A first for me. Luckily no one seemed too perturbed by it, either that or they were all just too crazy to care on 16th street.

I've been up in Whistler for a week now, waiting for the next round of the EWS to kick off over here. It's been wonderful to have some downtime. I've gone stand up paddle boarding at date night with Hannah Barnes, Seb & family, riding around Lost lake with Seb & his kids, meeting up with friends over chai tea latte's, more chic flicks & wine with Hannah, watching some amazing music under the moon, exploring some new trails, swimming in the lake, soaking up the hot summer sun and the highlight has been my month yoga pass that I bought. I've yet to skip one day of practice, I'm in heaven, this is exactly what I needed this time of the season to prevent bike burnout, especially in this crazy world called Whistler. Our 4 day practice starts tomorrow, look forward to a whole lot of riding coming up.

A highlight has been going on a 3 hour adventure ride and treasure hunt with Seb Kemp and some of the kids that he coaches. Amazing kids!

Peace out,

Anka

doyouevenrideinsnowbro? EWS round #4 La Thuile, Italy

These tracks had it all - loamy hero dirt, slippery, wet rocks, grass, roots, steeps, ups - perfect all rounder.

Peaceful prayer flags in the forest.

Love this shot that Sven got of me. Had no idea he was hovering high up in the tree when I rode past.

We had our fair share of pedaling over the practice days & race days. Climbing up towards the snowy peaks.

Stunning views, big mountains, this is Euro enduro.

Cheers to Matt Delorme for capturing this banger.

It was survival as we set off on stage 1 & 4 from the snowy, sleety, misty, freezing top of the mountain.

pretty flowers & sunshine were also aplenty.

Heading out on stage 2 on the other side of the valley.

Ciao Italy! Off to ride Verbier next with the darkcloudcrew.

[embed]https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152541518117445&set=vb.47659052444&type=3&video_source=pages_video_set[/embed]

PS: cheers to Sven Martin for all the stunning shots & thanks to all the other hard working media dudes out there during the races - they are working and riding twice as hard as us lot and not getting any sleep while delivering the goods!

peace out,

Anka x

Back on the bike: 20000m down, painkillers galore, epic scenery, semi functional ankle = one happy girl.

EWS round 3 Valloire, France. Pretty spectacular mountain views.

It was time to head into the Northern Alps for round 3 of the Enduro World Series in Valloire, France. A town nestled at the base of the Galibier Pass in the Savoie region. A destination steeped in “Enduro” history, but a new destination for us, which is always exciting. Surrounded by big mountains wherever you turned was stunning, but I also felt a bit anxious, as this was my first weekend back on the dirt and racing since I messed up my ankle 5 weeks ago. By the looks of it, this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

My Roubion

It turned out to be one brutal weekend of racing. It was amazing to be back on the dirt though. The format of the French enduro races are awesome. You show up on Friday, get registered and then go straight into racing on Saturday. First run down the mountain is a practice run, then you head straight back up and race it. Move on to the next track, practice run, then race run. Usually I love this format, but it took me a while to warm up and feel comfortable on my bike again, so there was really no time to get back into it before racing. Because I missed the Scotland round, I had a pretty crappy seeding number, which meant loads of traffic during my race runs, but what made it even tougher was the fact that they decided to run the women in the reverse order for this round – slowest girls first, which caused big headaches for everyone (The fast girls, the mid pack and the slower girls were all equally affected). Everyone was trying to get by everyone, which ended up being pretty chaotic. I had 7 girls that I had to pass and pull over for on every run, so Saturday was a bit of a write off for me and I just saw it as a day of getting back into it. Feeling very race rusty, hesitant and then all the traffic from both ends was so frustrating, but hey, that’s racing and you just have to get on with it. The upside of it all: there were 45 women racing! How amazing is that?

Dramatic mountain views wherever you look with lichen rocks to match my gloves.

We had another big day ahead of us on Sunday, and after realizing that running the women’s order they way they did on Saturday didn’t work, they let the fastest girls go first and that was brilliant. The tracks were amazing on Sunday, more technical, steep and flowy and I loved them. I felt so much better on my bike, hardly had any traffic and I felt like I was finishing in the mix with the girls that I usually race with. It felt great. I wish that we had another day of racing, as I was just getting back into it again.

Typical French tracks; taking fresh tracks to a whole new level. Trying to find and make tracks here!

Absolutely knackered from racing 20000 + meters of brutal downhills (and of course some punchy uphills) thrown in there over the two days. My arms were done and my ankle had had enough. All in all a great weekend of riding, racing, suffering and catching up with everyone again. Cheers to the crew for putting on another amazing round of bike racing & fun times.

Time to go for a swim in the med and some much needed time back on the bike - but first some rest for this old, weary body of mine. Huge congrats to everyone that managed to survive the weekend and to all the Kiwi girls killing it out there!

Kiwi girls representing! Gabby, Rosara, Meggie & myself having fun in the Alps.

Also, cheers to Sven for all the rad shots!

Peace out,

Anka

ROUBION BIKE LAUNCH: 44°05′37″N 7°03′04″E

I’ve been to a few press camps and bike/product launches over the last few years, and they’re all usually pretty amazing. You get to go to some exotic (for the most part) bike destination, get put up in a nice (usually) hotel, get fed local food and the beer & wine usually flows freely – and don’t forget the cool bike swag (we’re all still the same kids at heart asking for stickers but only in grown up bodies). The one constant has been the fact that I’d usually be the only woman attending these launches – for the most part. So, yes, they are great, but it’s also not that easy to always be the odd one out. This was just how it was, a very male dominant industry and if you wanted to be a part of it that was or is the norm.

It was time for my yearly nomadic stint to Europe for racing, riding, adventuring & promoting Juliana Bicycles and my first stop on this 6 month stint away from home was the beloved village of Roubion. A tiny French 12th-century village perched atop rocky outcrops, tucked away deep in the heart of the Alpes –Maritimes in Southeastern France. This area has a very special place in my heart. It is the main character of so many great memories shared with so many great friends and of course mind-blowing mountain bike tracks that just keep going from one mountain top to the next, meandering through old villages. These trails feel like home away from home.

So let me give you some background details as to the reason I was heading back there this time around. I fell in love with this area during the first Trans Provence race that I did back in 2011, and have raced it every year since then. I loved it so much that I also started guiding a few of the Trans Provence trips when it didn’t conflict with any other races or events and every time I return to this area, I just fall back in love with it, so it was a no brainer for me to head to these mountains to test my very first Juliana Bicycle when the Juliana Bicycles brand was launched at the beginning of 2013. I was given a Santa Cruz Bronson (or as I called it my small Johnson, or Bruliana) painted up as a Juliana to race, ride, adventure and put the feelers out there throughout the 2013 season and I chose my first guided trip of the season to put this bike to the test. After a week of schralping up and over the French mountains, I was convinced that this bike was the shizzle. It was amazing. It climbed with ease, descended like a mini downhill bike, handled well, just an all round perfect trail bike and I have never felt so good on a bike, ever and I knew that this bike had to be included in the line-up for other women to ride. Later that year I managed to take the Trans Provence win on this bike – one of the highlights in my cycling career, as that race to me is what mountain biking is all about. It’s long, hard, raw, blind; technical and you have to navigate your way down the mountain to try not to get too lost. It’s a proper adventure.

Fast-forward a year and a bit and I was heading back to my beloved village of Roubion, but this time for the launch of the actual Roubion bike that was now included in the Juliana Bicycles line-up. YES! The name Roubion, named after one of my favourite days during the stage race. Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me. I was heading out to the backcountry of France to shred some of my favourite trails on a bike launch with 10 other likeminded women. A first ever in such a male dominated bike industry, and I was feeling very excited and extremely proud.

We all met up in St Martin de Vesubie, where we got to know each other, catch up with old friends and share our common passion of riding bikes and exploring new destinations and trails. We had such a great gathering of women from the bike industry, all of us having worked hard to find our place in this industry and sticking to it. We had Nicole Formosa from Bike Magazine, Aoife Glass from Total Women’s Cycling, Janet Coulson from MBR, Faye Sanders from Bike Radar & Red Bull Bike, Berne Broudy, Sofie Schneider from Velo Tout Terrain, Carla Caballero, Mary Moncorge from Pinkbike and then Kathy Pruitt (Juliana’s demo bike queen), to help get all the women set up on their bikes properly, Katie Zaffke – the Juliana brand manager, Julia Hobson our guide and fellow Juliana ambassador, myself, Ash Smith – the main man behind Trans Provence and Sven Martin & Gary Perkin behind the lens capturing all the shenanigans. Our plan was to ride parts of the Trans Provence race starting where we would usually start day 3 of the race, and make our way to Roubion, and then ride in and around that area, finishing off at the bike park that they opened up just for us (cheers Ash!). It was lovely to get a little tour of the village, to learn about some of the history and to be welcomed by the Mayor, who was pretty stoked to see that some bike company in the US named their bike after their little village. We rode and rode some more, challenged ourselves, taught, helped, guided, informed, laughed, charaded (not an actual word, I know), crashed (that would be me) and ate and drank our way throughout the 3 day camp. Of course it wouldn’t be a proper Trans Provence experience without some torrential downpours, some hail and a landslide blocking off the pass. Building bonds, forming new friendships, riding bikes, sharing experiences and clogging our arteries with copious amounts of cheese. This is what biking is all about.

Everyone was super excited about this launch, as this was a first for all of us and a great indication of the commitment and direction of companies and where they were heading. They have invested and committed to a woman’s line of bikes and they were doing it properly. They were helping us to create our own separate identity and supporting us. It’s been a long time coming, but man, to see it actually come to life is a good sign of great things to come. Women have been waiting for this for a very long time indeed.

The Roubion will officially be released on June 1 – so stay tuned for more details about the bike and how and what it will be specced with and when you can expect them to start shipping to your house. Ladies, I suggest you sell that current bike of yours and make room for this beauty in your bedroom. She’s a keeper for sure.

Thank you to everyone who made this happen and for those helping to promote, grow and support the women out there who ride, live & breathe bikes. Time to heal up for a few weeks for me know, so I can get back out there on my bike.

Check out some other written pieces about the Roubion launch with lots more to come:

http://www.bikemag.com/gear/preview-santa-cruzs-juliana-brand-launches-6-inch-womens-bike/

http://www.bikemag.com/interviews/profile-anka-martin/

 Peace out,

Anka

 

EWS round #1 Nevados de Chillan, Chile: Ja, ja, ja, ja, ja! Vamos, vamos, vamos!!!!!

My Roubion. My plans for the weekend; ride every trail in the valley, from the top to the bottom.

O Chile, how you have crept deep into my heart as quite the special place. From never setting foot on South American soil, to going over to Chile twice in the past 2 months has been quite the new love affair for me. Of course the first time around, everything is always a bit strange, or different and it takes you a while to find your feet in any new country, but then the second time around, those things you thought were a bit strange end up being the things you love about a new country. The first thing that struck me about Chile in February when we went out there for the Andes Pacifica race was the hospitality of the people and their pride of their country. This time around, this notion was again confirmed by spending some more time with this passionate nation, ready to approach, embrace and engage at any time, place or moment. They are truly a warm nation and that is what made this first round of the Enduro World Series in Nevados de Chillan so very special.

Fish from above; thanks Dave Trumpore for this epic shot.

The fact that the tracks were absolutely amazing, the dirt – hero like no other, the scenery, simply spectacular and father Fall didn’t hold back in providing some extra spectacular changing fall colours to keep the photographers very happy indeed. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect; crisp, chilly mornings and evenings, which made for brilliant blue-sky days and the perfect temperature for riding bikes. Quite a difference from 6 weeks ago when we were suffering in the Andes mountains with not a tree in sight and temperatures souring well up into the 40 degree Celsius mark for the Andes Pacifico.

We had two days of practice, or riding, where we could practice the first three stages of day 1 and then the next three stages of day two the following day. They were full, long days of riding and it was brilliant. These two days gave us time to catch up with friends we haven’t seen since last season, to check out everyone’s new shiny bikes and bright coloured kits, to ride together, to scope out lines together and to revel in the spectacular scenery whilst hike a biking together. Yes, it was the first round of the EWS, but the two practice days felt like we were all just in one pretty cool place riding pretty amazing new tracks together. After these two days, you could feel all the hiking in your legs and your body felt like it’s been doing something; it was now time to race and repeat the past two days, just in a more serious matter I suppose, and without stopping to high five with your mates every few minutes.

Jon Cancellier pimping my ride with some matching decals - love our ghetto pits in the back of a rental truck #spiritofenduroyo

You could definitely sense a bit of nervousness at the start of the first stage; this was it, the season opener and this was when your silly brain would take over with thoughts such as; did I train enough or in my case, did I ride enough? Maybe I should have done some intervals and skipped the berry ice cream and beer after every ride this summer; they look skinny, they must be super fit…blah, blah, blah, the brain wanting to pull you out of your confidence zone and into your doubting zone. Fuck it, not much you can do about anything now, just go and ride your bike, have fun with it and see what happens hey. My goal for this first round was to not crash & get over excited like I did in the opener last year in Punta Ala, just ease into it, steady as, get rid of the nerves and finish the weekend with a top 10. That would be ideal and I managed to do just that.

Our weekend in a nutshell.

Day 1:

Stage 1 -  Candonga: Super downhilly stage with super loose corners, shoots, berms and high-speed sections.

Loamy, hero dirt like none other.

Stage 2 - G Del Diablo: This one had about an hour hike a bike to get to the start with a beautiful old Refugio and Alpine Beech forests with the most magical colours. It was a long and very physical stage with all the techie stuff near the bottom, long flat, sandy pedal sections and blown out loamy turns - it was a toughie.

The Refugio at the start of stage 2.

No words needed for this tunnel of Fall colours - Sven Martin

We covered the entire valley, from the top of the snowy volcano's to the Shangri La valley floor - here I'm pushing through the sandy flat to get to the good stuff on stage 2. Sven Martin Photo

Stage 3 - Dakar: Back up to the top of the mountain for this one; another old school downhill type track that was pretty straight down the mountain, soft, ruts, moto style until you entered the woods where it turned into the bike park with a few jumps and super fast berms to the finish line. So sick!

 

Day 2:

Stage 4 - Valle Hermosa: This day started off with a nice little steep hike a bike to the top of the start. It was another spectacular morning checking out the fumaroles – the steam coming out of the mountain with views to die for. It was tough to remember this stage, but it was very flowy, fast and flat towards the bottom, so much fun to start the day on.

yes, there was lots of hike-a-bike…pushing up here with Valentina. Cheers for the pic Gonzalo Fuentes.

I love this shot, heading up to the first stage of day two. Early morning reflections on this hike-a-bike. Thank you Claudio Olguin Parra for capturing this.

Calm before the storm, finding some quiet space to catch up with good friend Tracy Moseley before the start of stage 4.

Stage 5 - Olimpico: This one was my most dreaded one, as it was the most physical one, but also the one with the trickiest, tech sections and I never seemed to find much flow on it. Not much you can do about that, so I squished some gel into my body, ate a banana and went for it. It didn’t seem that long during the race, but there were way more flat pedal sections than I remembered and the flow; I couldn’t find much flow, but ended up being better than I thought it would be.

Stage 6 - Candado XL: I was so excited about this stage starting right at the top of the mountain in the snow with views of majestic mountains and snow covered volcanoes. So stunning. This was going to be a long one; 15 minutes or so starting off in really rough, barren, rocky, moon like terrain and ending up in the most magical, dark, loamy hero dirt of a forest with never-ending berms and steep shoots, it was so much fun! By the time I got the steepest part near the end, I was hanging and two finger braking just to make it down there and not blow it at the end.

The top of the world, stage 6 with Tracy Moseley, Ines Thoma, Isabeau Cordurier & myself - where did Pauline go?

Rugged, volcanic, blue skies, big country - what an enduro should be.

Last stage of the weekend, Stage 6 - what a stunning track.

The crowds were spectacular throughout the weekend, screaming and cheering and calling out your name as you went by. This was the general theme all weekend and it felt great. There were families and kids and competitors – amateurs and professionals, and everyone had a good vibe going. Maybe it was because it was Easter weekend, but whatever it was, it was awesome. The pit area was set up on this lush lawn area with the mountains surrounding us and no one wanted to go home. After practice people were just lounging about, enjoying the day and listening to some seriously good DJ mixes.

My Roubion hanging with her bigger brothers; the new Nomads.

I was super happy ending up with an 8th place overall for the weekend. Better than the 18th I ended up with last year, so that’s a good start. I loved racing on my pretty new teal Juliana Roubion; she did steal a few hearts out there that’s for sure, as the ladies (and some guys) are super excited to get their hands on one of these bad boys soon.

Catching some Southern Hemisphere rays - thanks for the photo Gary Perkin.

Well done to all the pinners out there this weekend and to everyone that made the effort to go to the little ski town of Nevados de Chillan for a bike race. A big cheers to the Montenbaik crew and to everyone who made this event possible. Matias, Eduardo, Chris, Enrico, Nacho and too many others to mention.

Of course it’s all over before you know it, with a mad rush to get everything clean and packed up again and to get back to Santiago for whatever is next. We had a mad rush to get Sven to his flight the next morning with a 4am departure and a 6 hour drive, as he headed to Cairns for the next round of the World Cup and I couldn’t get on a flight for 2 days, so I had a little city layover in Santiago, exploring the city and doing some fun non bike related things, which of course included some eating (ceviche) and shopping of course.

Piscola, pisco sour, pisco this, pisco that, but most importantly; no pisco, no disco!

more great street art.

Delicious fruit shakes!

so cool.

more cool street art in Santiago.

Hotel rooftop view in Santiago.

Santiago street art.

Street art in Santiago.

Santiago taxi interior.

Mosaic tile art.

Time for me to head home now for three weeks or so and to get everything ready for our next journey: our 5 month stint to Europe. Time to savor, appreciate & soak up everything that I so love about New Zealand and it’s beautiful forests, trails and people. The colours, the smells, the sea & the food…I already miss it, but there are more adventures waiting abroad and it’s time to go soon.

Kia Ora Aotearoa! O, Land of the long white cloud, how I love you!

 

 

10 days of Palta’s, ceviche, fruit cups, friendly people, heat, more fruit cups & the Andes Pacifico enduro stage race.

It’s pretty early on in the season for a big race, but this was one event that I wasn’t going to miss. I’ve never been to South America and I love being involved with new events, so off to Chile it was. Upon arrival it was anything but chilly, it was bloody hot. Heat like what we’re used to in South Africa, and I knew right then, that this stage race was not going to be a breeze. The heat is what was going to make this event a tough one, and the “anti-grip” dirt that everyone has been going on about.

Santiago was big, 6million people big, surrounded by massive Andes mountain peaks all around. It was dry, barren, polluted & dusty almost like Las Vegas, a city that just popped up in the middle of nowhere, but it was alive, colourful & bustling. It reminded me a lot of South Africa, the constant contrast between wealth & poverty. The shanties you drive past in your fancy car, the electric fences and gates in the neighborhoods. The maids. Only difference were the dogs, strays were everywhere, but they were all so friendly and non aggressive, unlike most South African dogs. Anyhow, those were my first impressions driving into Santiago. The greatest thing to me, were the friendly, warm people. Everyone, wherever you went were such amazing people. My lack of Spanish left me frustrated at times, wanting to communicate and chat, but our charade games would make do most of the time. We were welcomed into strangers homes like we were family, and that was to be the precedent of the entire trip. That and fruit cups. Delicious fruit cups.

The race was amazing. It was incredibly tough. We started high up in La Parva and finished up on the beach in Maitencillo. The 38 – 40degree Celsius heat turned it up a notch and the hike a bikes in the midday heat, made for some very long days out in the desert. The race stages were hard, technical, steep and strange. Strange in a good way, just weird to ride. Dirt like most of us have never experienced. You’d pick your line, go for your line and not even ever get anywhere near your line. This was to be the battle of the week, trying to pick and stay on line or on track. As soon as we’d feel a little more confident, we’d move to a new area with slightly different, anti-grip dirt and the learning curve would start from scratch. It was fun to try and figure this out, but also frustrating at times when the track looked straight forward, and usually you’d be able to let it go, but you just couldn’t out here. Not to mention the size of the cacti & its thorns that loomed around every corner. Besides the giant sized cacti, the rest of the vegetation scattered along the tracks were also thorny and they didn’t move. Our hands and forearms were cut up & battered to smithereens, and our legs looked like we fought with some samurai masters. This is what I love about these sorts of adventures. Everything was new, everything was exciting, and everything was scary. This is what riding bikes is all about to me. The adventure of all of this, thrown into a race with all the variables and the unknown factors is what excites me and why I love to do these sorts of events. It is a race, yes, but it is an adventure. It is an adventure with a group of awesome likeminded people and you have to embrace anything and everything that gets thrown at you.

It was like a reunion of sorts with all our friends meeting up from all over the world for another suffer fest. The dark cloud crew’s early reunion with loads of other familiar faces from previous adventures. Sven had a really bad first day, riddled with mechanicals, flats and of course crashes, that made him decide to focus on photographing the rest of the race. Everyone struggled with the stages, they were hard. Everyone crashed, got lost, got stuck and such, but everyone finished off the long days with a big smile and a sparkle in the eye. The food & the Chilean red wine helped ease the aches & pains after each long day, with loads of speculation of what the following day was going to be like. During the day, when you’re struggling, you keep thinking of the end of the race, but when it comes around, there is that sad, flat feeling of the adventure being over. The Dark Cloud crew had their fare share of mishaps – as usual, but nothing too serious. We all made it. We survived the crazy Chilean backcountry and crazy tracks. I ended up taking the win, with Pauline Dieffenthaler in second and Julia Hobson (fellow Juliana ambassador) in third place. In the men’s, Jerome Clementz took the win, with local Chilean Nico Prudencio in second and Francois Bailly-Maitre in third. Chris Ball also killed it as usual and Will beat me this time around. Damnit!

No rest for the weary as we managed to do some laundry and head South for about 5 hours to the mountains of Chillan to check out the area where the first round of the EWS will take place in a few weeks from now. Feeling pretty tired and beat up, all I wanted to do was sleep on the beach and eat more avocado everything, but it was time to do some more riding and exploring. I was loving this area. It was green and lush with beech forests – it felt like home! I loved seeing the smaller villages and towns and the quaint houses and gardens, this was the Chile that I had pictured in my head. We rode & explored for two days, did bits and pieces of one track; hike a biked to some steaming hot fumaroles to catch the most stellar sunset and to cook an egg. It smelt like Rotorua. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I wanted to keep going further south, to see more lush forests and lakes, but this will have to do for now as our time has run out.

We bee lined it back to Santiago, got home around 3am, woke up at 7am to wash & pack our bikes and to get to the Aquitaine Winery by 10am for a wine tasting tour with Eduardo at his family vineyard. This was a first for me, drinking wine at 10am, blending my toothpaste with tannins. Bloody hell, was it tasty. I could get used to drinking these delicious wines on the terrace at 10am. It was time to head home, back to NZ.

It was a whirlwind trip, with a wonderful race, in a magical country. It has been a little teaser of a big country that I cannot wait to return to and explore properly. Thank you Chile & its amazing people & scenery for a wonderful adventure. Thank you also to Mountain Works & Santa Cruz Bicycles Chile for all your help & late nights helping me with my bike, and to all the organizers for putting on such an amazing event. Eduardo, Nacho & Matias, Maria Eugenia & her family, Montenbaik, Sarita & all the chicas who ran everything. Cheers to all the drivers and everyone involved, it was magical and unforgettable & I’ll be back!

Next up: Trail riding trip with the SRAM family in Craigieburn forest & Nelson.

Peace out x

Dodzy Memorial weekend of stoke.

As soon as we wrapped up our 8-day Juliana video & photo shoot, we barely had time to do laundry & wash bikes before we headed out to Wairoa gorge for the DME. A weekend filled with good friends, great memories and amazing bike tracks in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful native forest. I wasn’t feeling tired at all, after filming non stop for the past 8 days, and leaving for Chile for a big race on the Monday following the DME, but I wasn’t going to miss this for anything – knackered or not, we’re going to the gorge to ride or race or hang out – whatever you like to call it – enduro-ing these days. The skies opened up for an entire day & night only to leave all the really techy tracks even more techy & slippery, but the sun was out and it felt like the perfect summer weekend. The tracks that we raced on this year were some of the hardest ones built out there and the slippery conditions made it really fun and also really unpredictable and bloody scary. Saturday was super fun, catching up with everyone, and riding some new tracks. I thought that by Sunday things would have dried up a bit more, but in fact it ended up being even more slippery. My goal was to get down the mountain, have fun, try not to crash too many times and to get to Chile on Monday for the Andes Pacifico stage race.

Well it started off well, and it ended off well, but the end of my 2nd run was pretty great until right near the end where I lost all my biking skills and crashed myself silly for a wee while and even getting jammed up in-between some trees. Not ideal, but no damage done, except for some major bruising. I knew right then that there was no chance of getting on the box that day. The girls that ride out here are absolutely amazing bike racers & riders, especially on the gnarly shit. One small mistake with this lot and you’re off the back. Of course you feel that little bit of disappointment – that is normal, otherwise you wouldn’t race, but that was washed away quickly when you think about the actual reasons for being out here in the first place. This is not about you or I or us, or racing this is about the great memories of an amazing friend & person, and celebrating everything that he was so passionate about. Cheers Dodzy for creating such an amazing playground. In the end Rosara smashed us to take the win, with Harriet in second place and Gabby in third. Super happy to see Gabby up on the podium – it made my day & I knew that this was a special weekend for her. Justin Leov took the Elite men's win & Sven got a pretty sweet looking first place trophy for the mantelpiece that we don't own - well done everyone!

Thanks to everyone for another amazing weekend of playing on bikes!

Next it was time to do laundry and pack up to head out to Chile. Andes Pacifico, here we come!

No better way to end a day of shredding & racing bikes with good mates.

Fire, Salad, Dog. Juliana does Nelson.

Fire Salad Dog. Juliana does Nelson. Cable Bay campfire.

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time or the energy to actually sit down and type down some thoughts. It’s been hectic to say the least. My off-season has not been “off” or slow by any means. I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as February is nearing its end, which means I’ll get a few weeks of actual off-season downtime, I mean training. It sounds like I’m winging – don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely not. I wouldn’t want to change anything about my life. I’ve loved, absolutely loved every minute of every day – well the 6am wake up’s got a bit old, but that is so ingrained in my body clock right now, that I find myself enjoying all the early mornings and waking up with the birds and the beautiful morning light.

Let’s start at the beginning; it will be short and sweet, I promise.

The best lounge ever.

The Juliana Bicycles product launch happened over here in Nelson – very exciting stuff. Gary Perkin flew out here a few days earlier to shoot the entire Juliana bike line up. We took each bike to a well suited, different looking location to best portray each bikes characters and chose a different theme/story line & outfit for each bike. That was full on to say the least, as there were 6 bikes and myself which meant early mornings & late nights, but we got it done in 3 days and we had a blast. There were 2 firsts in that weekend for me; first time on a 29er (which I surprisingly loved, shhhh) and a first time on a hard tail (which I also enjoyed). Never too old to try something new – like they say; do something that scares you everyday (that would include hard tails & 29ers in my books). Even though I tried & enjoyed them, I won’t be trading in my trusty suspension bikes any time soon though, but I can appreciate and see the need and the right place for all the different models that I rode.

Summer days.

Katie Zaffke – the new Juliana Brand manager joined us later along with the Anthill film crew to capture our women’s backcountry adventure that we were heading out on for the next 4 days. We had an awesome crew of girls, all of them from such amazing, varied backgrounds and all of them Santa Cruz riders/racers & adventurers for many years, so it was just fitting to have them all join me on our new Juliana Bicycles adventure – promoting strong, interesting, badass women who can ride bikes properly. I mean were talking ER doctors, bird researchers & hydrologists that also smashes any sort of bike ride and race for fun on their weekends – how awesome is that.

Nydia Track lunch spot with the girls.

So this is heading for a longer piece than I anticipated, so summing up the amazing 8 days of the Juliana video & photoshoot, here goes:

Not a bad view.

Awesome bikes, amazing friends, a lot of riding, pushing, repeating and waiting. Many early mornings, lots of driving, late fish n chips dinners, too many flat whites, camp fires, bird watching, tree deciphering, learning, watching, laughing & vajazzling – don’t ask! Banter, shredding, Go-Pro’ing, crashing, laughing, bonding and showing the boys how to ride little bikes – Juliana Bikes. I no longer feel sad to not ride a Santa Cruz branded bike – I love my Juliana Bicycle and feel really proud and special to be able to represent the finer side of the best bike brand in the world.

Riding bikes.

Thank you to everyone that made this happen, to all the boys that had to put up with us and to all the girls that gave up their time to make this video shoot a reality. Hoping we all look really fast & that all the women go forth & buy Juliana bicycles!

Cheers Harriet, Anja, Katie & Bob & also CJ, Matty, Mike, Boyd, Sven, Gary & everyone else who made this happen.