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.

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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 โ€œEnduroโ€ 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 wasnโ€™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 โ€“ 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, thatโ€™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 womenโ€™s order they way they did on Saturday didnโ€™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: 44ยฐ05โ€ฒ37โ€ณN 7ยฐ03โ€ฒ04โ€ณE

Iโ€™ve been to a few press camps and bike/product launches over the last few years, and theyโ€™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 โ€“ and donโ€™t forget the cool bike swag (weโ€™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 Iโ€™d usually be the only woman attending these launches โ€“ for the most part. So, yes, they are great, but itโ€™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 โ€“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 didnโ€™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 โ€“ one of the highlights in my cycling career, as that race to me is what mountain biking is all about. Itโ€™s long, hard, raw, blind; technical and you have to navigate your way down the mountain to try not to get too lost. Itโ€™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 Womenโ€™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 (Julianaโ€™s demo bike queen), to help get all the women set up on their bikes properly, Katie Zaffke โ€“ the Juliana brand manager, Julia Hobson our guide and fellow Juliana ambassador, myself, Ash Smith โ€“ 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 wouldnโ€™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 womanโ€™s line of bikes and they were doing it properly. They were helping us to create our own separate identity and supporting us. Itโ€™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 โ€“ 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. Sheโ€™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/

ย 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 โ€“ hero like no other, the scenery, simply spectacular and father Fall didnโ€™t hold back in providing some extra spectacular changing fall colours to keep the photographers very happy indeed. The weather couldnโ€™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 havenโ€™t seen since last season, to check out everyoneโ€™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 itโ€™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 fitโ€ฆblah, 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 - ย 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 โ€“ 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-bikeโ€ฆpushing 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 didnโ€™t seem that long during the race, but there were way more flat pedal sections than I remembered and the flow; I couldnโ€™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 โ€“ 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 thatโ€™s a good start. I loved racing on my pretty new teal Juliana Roubion; she did steal a few hearts out there thatโ€™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 itโ€™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 couldnโ€™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 itโ€™s beautiful forests, trails and people. The colours, the smells, the sea & the foodโ€ฆI already miss it, but there are more adventures waiting abroad and itโ€™s time to go soon.

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

 

 

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

Itโ€™s pretty early on in the season for a big race, but this was one event that I wasnโ€™t going to miss. Iโ€™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 weโ€™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 โ€œanti-gripโ€ 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 โ€“ 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. Youโ€™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 weโ€™d feel a little more confident, weโ€™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 youโ€™d be able to let it go, but you just couldnโ€™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 didnโ€™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 crewโ€™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 youโ€™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 โ€“ 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 menโ€™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 โ€“ 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 & Iโ€™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 wasnโ€™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 wasnโ€™t going to miss this for anything โ€“ knackered or not, weโ€™re going to the gorge to ride or race or hang out โ€“ whatever you like to call it โ€“ 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 youโ€™re off the back. Of course you feel that little bit of disappointment โ€“ that is normal, otherwise you wouldnโ€™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 โ€“ 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.

Itโ€™s been a while since Iโ€™ve had the time or the energy to actually sit down and type down some thoughts. Itโ€™s been hectic to say the least. My off-season has not been โ€œoffโ€ or slow by any means. Iโ€™m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as February is nearing its end, which means Iโ€™ll get a few weeks of actual off-season downtime, I mean training. It sounds like Iโ€™m winging โ€“ donโ€™t get me wrong, Iโ€™m most definitely not. I wouldnโ€™t want to change anything about my life. Iโ€™ve loved, absolutely loved every minute of every day โ€“ well the 6am wake upโ€™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.

Letโ€™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 โ€“ 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 โ€“ 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 wonโ€™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 โ€“ the new Juliana Brand manager joined us later along with the Anthill film crew to capture our womenโ€™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 โ€“ 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 โ€“ 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 โ€“ donโ€™t ask! Banter, shredding, Go-Proโ€™ing, crashing, laughing, bonding and showing the boys how to ride little bikes โ€“ Juliana Bikes. I no longer feel sad to not ride a Santa Cruz branded bike โ€“ 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.

single digits & the grand finale.

By now, everybody must be so sick and tired of hearing about Finale, and about how amazing that place and the final race of the season was, with all the epic photo's with the shimmering blue sea in the background, well, yes, it was pretty freaking amazing. In fact, in all of my years of racing in really cool places, this little sea- side town on the Italian riviera, has managed to jump to the top of my favorites list, it has found a special place in my heart and I'll definitely be back for more next year. It was our first time over there this year, never being able to wait out 3 more weeks after the end of the season to go to this race, I mean at that stage of the season and year, it's just another bloody bike race isn't it? Jon Cancellier has always been the one singing love songs about Finale, about the amazing tracks and the amazing place that it is and he's always tried to get us out there, so when it became the final race of the enduro world series, we had no more excuses. Finale it was. Now, I can fully understand Jon's love relationship with this little town. The place, the people, the food, the sea, the amazing colors (pantone's that just don't exist in the new world), the old people that are an integral part of the community, the cobblestone's and church processions, the old walled medieval city that you ride your carbon bike through whilst window shopping the most exquisite leather boots & hand bags on route to the special stages - absolutely everything about this place is awesome. This is the kind of place that English people relocate to and write books about.

Anyhow, back to the racing. We all knew we were in for a big weekend, being known as one of the toughest enduro races on the Superenduro circuit, as far as technical tracks go, but also as far as the liaison stages go. Big days, pedaling everything on the bike. The stages were released two days prior to the race, so we had some time to find & check out the different special stages, which is not so simple to find your way around tiny little medieval villages and roads. Most of us were able to get about 2 or 3 runs down each track before racing, which was great as the tracks were pretty full on. They were mentally & physically pretty draining. I'd say the most technical and demanding of all the races we've had this season, so it was great to practice the very precise tech sections before having to race them - especially when you're all jelly legged from pedaling the liaisons & all the pedally bits in the stages! (Hat's off to Tracy Moseley who pedaled the entire loop, both days & didn't do one shuttle run during practice and still managed to win - you bloody legend! That my friends, is "the spirit of enduro").

We had 4 special stages on Saturday with 45km of liaison stages & 2 special stages on Sunday with about 30km of liaison stages, so we had to be prepared for a big day out on the bikes. Luckily the cloud cover on both days made it just bareable to pedal up & around the mountains in full face helmets & back plates without shriveling up from dehydration. Of course we had to do the most technical stage twice, which also happened to have a nasty, rocky, uphill section in it right before the scary descent - perfect when you're seeing little white spots. Our day was cut a bit shorter after stage 3 as they cancelled the last stage due to a big accident earlier in the day. I was looking forward to that stage, as it was a flat out, fast, loose downhill stage, but I was pretty happy to head back to Finale and eat some gelato. Well, the gelato had to wait, due to Sven & the media crew racing down stage 4 after hearing the news that it was cancelled with Sven charging ahead only to stop dead on one of the many rocks (due to the heavy camera bag apparantly), flying over the bars & smacking himself silly and sampling some of the very rocky terrain with his hands & elbows. So it was off to the Italian hospital to check out his head and to get some stitches in his elbow. Too many team Dark Cloud members around this weekend... Thanks to everyone for looking after him - cheers!

Happy that he was OK, we sampled some more of the delicious red wine - which is perfect post concussion medicine and ate some more delicious ligurian pesto pasta made in heaven, I swear, followed by the gelato I never got to eat earlier and the most decadent cappuccino's that we're not supposed to drink after 11am in the morning - for no apparent reason, you just don't, but we ignored that rule and consumed as many proper cappuccino's as possible. The racing on Sunday was great, the whole weekend was amazing, the vibe was good. Everyone was of course racing as usual, but there was more of a relaxed atmosphere amongst all the competitors. We all wanted to do our best, but as far as racing, things were pretty set for the overall, a few points here and there, with the general feeling of everyone just wanting to enjoy & savor this last weekend of fun on our bikes. I did come to this last race with a mini goal, besides savoring this last race - I wanted to become a single digit. I was sitting in 10th place for the overall series results, which I was content with, but I really, really wanted to become a single digit, so that was my final goal in Finale, which I managed to achieve, while having an absolute blast. I ended up in 8th place for the weekend (with a massive crash near the finish line of the last stage of the season), and that managed to put me into 9th position for the series overall. Happy girl. (It must have been my spiffy new sombrio outfit that Aaron sent over to me for the last race - thank you Aaron!).

Sven & I were asked to design the first ever enduro world series trophy this year, with Simon Muir creating and making all our ideas come to life. This was such a huge honor & such a huge responsibility, but in the end they turned out beautiful and we couldn't have imagined anything better to present to these talented, amazing bike riders to remember their & this special year.

Below is a little description behind the meaning of the trophy:

"Close-up on the trophy, designed by Anka Martin and Sven Martin and built byย Woodguards' Simon Muir: eight tiny compartments each contain a relic from one of the race destinations - soil from Punta Ala, alpine rock from Val dโ€™Allos, a bottle of Genepe from Les 2 Alpes, bark and aspen leaves from Winter Park, old manโ€™s beard moss from Whistler, white organic linen from Val dโ€™Isere, to symbolize the white-out conditions, and fresh chestnuts and sand from the beach of Finale Ligure. (A final compartment remains as an empty invitation for the champions to add a personal memento from their year of racing. Wonder what that will be?)."

Of course the weekend and the season couldn't just wrap up, it had to end with a bang, or more like a massive thunder & lightning storm with torrential rain flooding the pits, cutting out the electricity and leaving everyone soaking wet and shivering. Perfect. The thunder cracked so loud in these little narrow cobblestone streets and the lightning lit up all the nooks & crannies with shutters slamming, bells's chiming, rain pelting and pantone colors popping against the black skies. Nothing could dull the vibe & excitement that was present, this was the grand finale. SRAM organized a big party for Jerome, with champagne & a big cake to celebrate his victory - which we happily celebrated with him & everyone else who shared his excitement, until the wee hours of the morning.ย What a fitting place to end the season which started on the beaches of Punta Ala, Italy, then stretched into the big, scary, snow capped glacier filled mountains and now back to the beaches of Finale Ligure, Italy, where bike checks are done on the beach and the pits struggle to keep the sand out of the seals. O, and where parking tickets apparently don't mean much & tow trucks don't exist - or as Italian, Simon Cittati from SRAM puts it: "It is merely an invitation to pay". We were invited to pay quite a few times over the course of the week...

The season was over, we made it, sort of, we're going home, we had fun, we made new friends, good friends, we bonded - again, I rode well, I am happy, I'm content, I am relieved, our van survived, I LOVE my bike, I love my new big - well sort of big wheels, I loved our new adventures. Now it's time to chill, time to reflect, time to reconnect & to start making plans & plotting adventures for next year. Ciao!

Thank you to everyone that supported me this season: Will, Rob & Mary-Anne from Juliana Bicycles, Jon Cancellier (for the sickest bike ever & keeping it in tip top shape all year), Keeton, Marty, Todd, Dani, Simon, Evan, Dawson & the whole SRAM family, Aaron from Sombrio clothing, Fred & Fabien from URGE helmets, Tyler from SDG, Michael from Schwalbe, Stikman at Troy Lee Design, Jo Jo from G-Form protection, Blick & Dani at Oakley, Kevin at Camelbak, Andy at Crankbrothers, and so many others for various things & of course to Sven for all his support along the way & all the pretty sic shots he got of me ;) A huge shout out to everyone involved with the EWS - you guys killed it and made it happen. Bikes are rad. You guys rock!

diary of my Trans Provence week

The Trans Provence is always the highlight of my season. It is a week filled with amazing, unknown, wild & crazy trails, where we trek up and over many big, vast mountain ranges, starting near Sisteron, making our way all the way to the beach in Menton. I love this point to point style adventure, where you are actually moving, pedaling & pushing yourself across mountain ranges and valley's and that sense of satisfaction that you feel when you get your first glimpse of the sea shimmering in the distance. It's pretty exciting stuff & that is what keeps me coming back every year for more adventures. Last year we had some bad luck with Sven getting heli vacced off on the last day and then Jon Cancellier getting carried out 200 meters from the finish line with torn ankle ligaments - not ideal. Mix in there some crazy rain, thunder, flash floods & hail storms on exposed mountain tops with not a tree in sight, then you start understanding how a small group of riders started calling ourselves Team Dark Cloud. Not satisfied with unfinished business, Team Dark Cloud had to come back this year to make sure that everyone finishes up, get's to plonk into the med, look at Smail's speedo du jour & to give a puff on the old cigar.

Base camp Day 0: Clamensane

Home for the next week

So here we are, Trans Provence 2013 Day 1: Clamensane - Digne

The day started off sunny & cheery, only to turn to shit as soon as we got to the top of the mountain of stage 1. This was dejavu - exactly like last year and how we came up with Team Dark Cloud to begin with. We had to laugh & just get on with it - was this to set the precedent of the week to follow? I set of on my first special stage on day 1 in a hail storm - this was going to be a long, tough week, and Team Dark Cloud already lived up to it's name. This day was the biggest day yet - we fought, slogged & dragged our bikes through clay & mud the entire day. I was knackered.

Day 1 - happy girl.

Day 2: Digne - Colmars

The sun was shining as we set off under blue skies on day 2. We had a big old hike a bike to tackle first thing in the morning - just what we needed to loosen up our sore, aching bodies & awaken blisters from the day before. It was going to be a good day as the sunny skies lifted everyone's spirits and filled it with banter, laughter and lots of war stories.

Day 3: Col de Champs - Guillaumes

This is a morning of big views & big mountains, as we get dropped off on top of the Col De Champs - it is a sight that will take your breath away and the gateway to the Maritime Alps - a sign that we're heading in the right direction. The first special stage of the morning was a write off for myself and many others too - starting off with getting lost, falling into a hole & then slipping & getting stuck in my bike on the wooden bridge right at the finish while the clock ticks away. To end it off I gave the bridge a good punch with my knuckles as I slammed into it - ouch. All of this before a proper coffee.

Day 4: Guillaumes - St Sauveur sur Tinee

Once day 3 rolls around, your body has sort of got used to the shock of everything and you actually start to feel good and get into the swing of things. We had surprise today, we got to ride a chair lift for two of the stages in the Roubion bike park. It was fun to change it up, but these were my worst two stages of the day - way too groomed and perfect I reckon, I didn't know how to ride normal stuff! It was a good way to mix it up with all the other riders and hang out a bit. At this stage, we had no idea what Ash had in mind for us for the last stage of the day. I have no words to describe this last stage. It was wild, very sparsely marked, super exposed, almost 30minutes long and at the end of the day when you're mentally & physically already a write off. Most of us got lost somewhere along the way, crashed a few times, almost died a few times, but we all lived to share the stories at a local pub on the side of the road. It was awesome. Thanks Ash for keeping it real.

Day 5: ย  Valdeblore - Sospel

So day 4 was supposed to be our easy day, to rest up for the biggest day of the week, but it sure didn't feel easy to any of us and day 5 was looming ahead of us. It was a long slog heading out in the moon glow from the camp site and silently pedaling on through the morning fog. The fog never lifted and just got thicker as we made our way up into the mountains, creating quite a sullen atmosphere, as you didn't hear much laughter or chatter this morning. It took us about 3 hours before we reached the start of the first special stage that morning and we still had a long way to go. My goal was to hold back and get through these next 2 days without doing anything silly - I was in the lead and I wanted to keep it that way. All I had to do, was not crash, flat or have a mechanical - easy huh? Holding back is not easy when you're loving the tracks and you just want to pinn it, but this is what had to be done. After the first 2 special stages, we had a bitch of a road climb to get to the 3rd stage - 20km on the road with super tacky tires & 6" trail bikes are not that enjoyable. We got on with it, as that's what you do in this race, but we all cheered up when we were welcomed by local hero Nico Vouilloz at the start of the 3rd stage. How sick is that. I think we all tried to pinn it even harder after seeing Nico, but unfortunately Olly our South African friend was a bit too inspired and pinned it into some rocks, smashing his face and dislocating his shoulder pretty badly. Our day was about to get a whole lot longer & Olly just inducted himself into the Team Dark Cloud crew. He got heli vacced out of there, but Team Dark Cloud had another stage to finish up for the day. Not the nicest thing to have to do after seeing your friend off in a heli, but we grabbed a headlamp from one of the shuttle vehicles, turned up the volume to some Irie reggae tunes, mellowed out and smashed out the final run of the day - which happened to be my fastest run of the day after we all decided to go steady - oops. Having too much fun.

Day 6: Sospel - Menton - The final countdown!

Yes, the last day has arrived and we're all jonesing to get our tired assess into the Med, but we have to get there first. It was an amazing day exploring a whole new Sospel valley, even making a quick jaunt into Italy for a quick cappuccino after one special stage. The stages were very physical today, with uphill running, boulder clambering, challenging navigation and some long ass sprints, or maybe we're all just tired from the whole week, but it was no rest day today, we had to work hard to dive into that sea in Menton. On my last stage, I kept messing up, doubting myself that I was lost and that I was throwing the whole week away - even turning back at one point to double check a sign - amazing how my mind was playing tricks on me. Anyhow, I got down, I made it, I kept my lead and I took the win. I was very, very happy, as this event is a very special event to me. This is what riding mountain bikes is all about. It is the adventure, the camaraderie and all the experiences that makes this event so special. It is wild, raw, dangerous & everything that I love about racing little bikes as fast as you can down crazy technical blind tracks. Ash, thank you - you nailed it man. This is and will always be what everyone keeps harping on about these days - "the spirit of enduro", or as I prefer to refer to it, riding our bikes in sick places.

Mary-Anne & I enjoying some Italian coffee in Olivetta during a liaison stage on the last day.

Cheers to Team Dark Cloud and every single person that completed the week - you guys & girls are awesome (especially the girls, as this is not an easy week). Heal up to all the injured riders too.

All the lads - I mean girls! (Missing Fay with her broken hand & Kat that went on the first wave)

Our crew grew stronger this year, we were planning on being a bit more cautious this year, to make sure we all got to the damn beach, but when you clock into that balise, it is not in any of our gene's to hold back. We all freaking pinned it and we all lived to tell the tales. We took care of Ollie, we encouraged Todd, we rode for Michael Bonney. This week was way more than a bloody bike race, it was filled with many emotions, reasons, passions, decisions and friendships and that is what makes this week a standout week. Times are forgotten (well maybe not the 1sec that separated Nico & Jerome after a week of racing!), but these memories we create on our bikes will be shared & remembered for many more years to come.

One more TDC shout out - we didn't do too shabby either taking the win in a few classes & the fastest TDC awards goes to Jerome Clementz, who had to go and loose by 1 sec, but killed all of us!

Anka Martin 1st Pro Women's (32nd overall)

Sven Martin 1st Masters (also 2nd Am & 15th overall)

Chris Ball 1st Amateur (9th overall)

Team Dark Cloud

Paul Smail never disappoints.

Cheers Team Dark Cloud - until we meet again in February to explore Chile!

Peace out,

Anka x

time to reflect.

Where have the weeks gone to? They have been flying by in my world with so many things happening all the time, that you just keep moving on from one thing to the next, with no time to stop and think about the amazing thing that you did yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or last week, you just pack your bags, catch the next shuttle, drop off the next rental car and fly to the next destination, unpack, deal with jet lag and carry on. To me this is my way of trying to live a normal life, to just pick up and carry on, looking ahead at the next event, venue, country, language and or food and putting the past whatever it was behind and moving right along to the next thing.

So, I'm going to keep this update short & sweet, because it's way past due and it's time for me to look ahead and move on.

I'll start back in Canada at the crankworx festival in Whistler.

1) Enduro World Series round #5 - enduro race of epic proportions. One solid, big day of adventuring on our bikes, mostly outside of the bike park on some sick, scary, pretty awkward, tecky new trails - it was incredibly awesome & I ended up 9th overall. The organizers definitely stepped up their game and put on one hell of an enduro race.

crankworx enduro

A big old day out.

2) All day Sombrio photo shoot the day after the all day enduro race - I wasn't tired at all! It was such a fun day though & I got to see some new bits of Whistler. Any day spent with Lindsey Voreis & Aaron is bound to be a fun, entertaining day!

Sombrio photo shoot

3) Escape the madness that is Whistler village - YOGA, YOGA, YOGA! yessss please.

4) An all day filming day on top of the world in the rain for the new SRAM Pike ad - and no, I was not going downhill all day, I was actually climbing uphill a hell of a lot - I was AIR. Pretty exciting stuff and a first for me to do some filming work. Quite excited & nervous to see the final product.

SRAM pop up store - so sick!

5) Free ladies XC & DH riding clinics offered by SRAM and a part of Rebecca Rusch's Gold Rusch tour. Unbelievable turnout from all the ladies and we loved helping them get more confident on their bikes. Although a pump track session in the rain was a bit sketchy.

Free SRAM ladies clinics & free swag from Aaron at Sombrio.

6) Headed up to 100 mile house in the middle of Canada somewhere for Rob & Shanna Parkin's wedding by the lake. It was such an awesome wedding, but we were zooming back to Vancouver at first light as we had a 6 hour drive to tackle to catch our next plane back to Europe for the next race.

Rob & Shanna's wedding.

Arrive in Lyon, France - bonjour good coffee & croissants ย - and cheap food!

1) Met up with Jon Cancellier in Lyon, loaded up our trusty old van who waited in parking lot 5 patiently for the past 5 weeks & headed straight to La Thuile, Italy to meet with Enrico and his crew for some filming.

Grande Mont Blanc

2) Up early for an all day filming affair with Sven & myself featured as the couple who like to adventure on our bikes. They are making this to promote & showcase this relatively unknown riding area & also because it will be the Enduro Des Nations venue for 2014.

3) Up even earlier and heading over to Val D'Isere, France for the 6th round of the Enduro World Series.

4) Pretty knackered from jet lag - I opt to nap whenever I could.

5) Up even earlier than before - like 7 am early and on the lift for Saturday race day. Massive over the bars to wake up to. Sunshine & dust to begin with. Massive hike-a-bikes to the top of the start, then turning into massive storms, fog and no visibility with most of the girls getting lost somewhere on course, it made for a vary exciting, very varied day of racing.

6) Yep, you guessed it, on the lift at 7am again, this time the surrounding mountains were covered in snow. Yes, snow. No practice, straight into racing, holy shit, locked out shock - dammit, sick mud, long tracks, freezing cold, awesome. Super physical stages, so much pedaling, so much concentration, so cold, so happy to survive & end up in 7th overall.

7) Another early morning rise, this time to eat amazing French pastries and copious amounts of cafe creme's at the most amazing bakery in the morning sun. Bliss, but not for long. Rush, rush, rush, pack, pack, squeeze and Sven, Jon & myself are on the road again, back to Lyon airport so they can catch the next plane to South Africa and the World Championships.

8) Thank F#@K I'm not going anywhere. After dropping them off, I had a leisurely 2 hour drive into the "a la campagne" - the quiet French countryside back to the little village with 60 people where my parents & my sister lives. Where the pace is a tad slower, the streets are quiet, the food is fresh & where I can go to find some peace & quiet and just sit down to reflect and think about all the amazing happenings of the last few weeks. I can think about all the high's and all the low's that go hand in hand with racing & traveling. All the should have's, could have's and would have's. All the fun times, the nervous times, the scary times and the o my God I almost died times. I can think about all the money I spent on coffee, pastries & food in Whistler - but I choose to eliminate those thoughts & marvel in all the good memories with good old friends & bikes.

Good times with good friends.

Time for some mellow country road rides, yoga, yard chores, drinking red wine with dad and cooking with mum. Happy girl.

Thank you Sven for the AMAZING shots!

Peace out,ย Anka

Canadia part one: float planes, bear spray & overpriced groceries.

We made it to Canada hey! So good to be back here. We got here a week before the Crankworx craziness sets in, and it has been such a treat to experience Whistler that is a bit more quiet than during the actual festival. Except this week, they had a massive Wanderlust yoga festival in the village and everyone was walking around with a yoga mat and neon colored hot pants.. don't get me wrong, I love yoga, and I teach yoga, but this seemed a bit showy for my liking, but you know - don't judge, that is very un- yoga like of me, but it did make for some great people watching. I'm just not a fan of practicing yoga with loads of people watching you and taking holiday snaps while you're down dogging or in some other vulnerable type position.

This will be my 10th year coming to Crankworx festival - o my word, where has the time gone to? So, needless to say, you become a bit blase about everything up here and you do take it for granted. This was the first year however that I didn't throw my bags into a corner of the hotel room and rush up to the park to get as many laps in as possible - what the hell was wrong with me? All I wanted to do, was get out on my trail bike for a spin through Lost Lake and take in the beauty of this place, and stunning it is. Am I just getting older? Have I just been here too many times? What gives? Not sure why, but all I wanted to do was explore all the fun, never ending trails around the bike park. They are steep, technical, fast and o so much fun. I find them way more technical than the park trails and you get to jump into one of the many lakes on your way home.

Best bike shop in Pemberton - The Bike Co.

Anyhow, last year I did my first trip to the Chilcotin mountains and I desperately wanted to go back and share that wonderful backcountry experience with Sven & some good friends, so we planned a spontaneous float trip out there. It is a 3 hour (bumpy as) drive from Whistler to get to the Tyax lodge where we stayed over for the night and caught the float plane in the morning for a 9am drop off at Warner Lake. Once dropped off, we were equipped with our map, bear spray & bear bells and singingly made our way up & down the singletrack (as to not scare the grizzly bears) towards Windy Pass, then Lickey Trail and then down the most amazing singletrack trail back to the Tyax lodge, 7 hours & 41km later we jumped into the lake, drank beers, ate fries & burgers and jumped back into the rental car (beast of a truck) to head back down the bumpy gravel road (that ruined all our bikes) to Whistler. A must do experience and definitely my highlight while out here in Whistler.

Float plane goodness.

Good times with good friends.

Warner Lake from above.

Chris the Grizzly.

O, and on a side note: how do people that live here afford to buy groceries? It is mind blowingly expensive!

Next up is the 5th round of the Enduro World Series this coming Sunday - it's going to be a killer, one big day out on the bikes - they're going to kill us, I cannot wait & I'll update you once we've conquered Sunday.

Peace out, Anka xxx

Team dark cloud adventures continues on in Colorado Springs.

After round #4 of the EWS, Chris, Pangus & myself loaded up the rental car with way too many bikes and headed to Colorado Springs to go and visit & ride with Jon Cancellier in his hometown & to check out the SRAM offices. We looked like the grizwalds on vacation with 3 massive bike bags strapped to the roof with us squashed in-between bikes & wheels navigating through massive hail & thunderstorms listening to country music & mariachi bands, we made our way to the Springs for 3 days of adventures.

Sweet shops in one horse towns.

Only in America hey?

Milkshake anyone?

First stop: Chipotle for burrito's! YUM

Next up: SRAM office tour. Pretty awesome to see where it all happens & great to catch up with everyone.

COLORADO

Old Skool machines making cool stuff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some history at the SRAM offices.

Awesome!

Bright bikes in the desert.

Still struggling to breathe at this altitude, and with no off day after racing we made our way to the local lunch loop ride behind the SRAM offices in Ute Park for some fun turns and little techy pinch climbs.

Next on the itinerary was a 40 min shuttle drive up the frontside of the range, followed by a hour and half pedal further up to the top, with even less oxygen, followed by an amazing descent down Captain Jack's for about 1hour and 20 min's - heavenly! We did have some dark cloud moments though, with Chris loosing his helmet somewhere along the shuttle drive & also a massive wasp getting in under my sunglasses and stinging the bejesus out of my eye, so I had to make my way down the trail with one eyed vision. Team Dark Cloud antics has begun...

Cyclops after a nasty wasp sting.

Pretty Colorado.

The following day we had a CO classic to conquer, the Monarch Trail. Tracy & James joined us for this xc epic and I was not going to miss this for anything - swollen eye or not. I looked like a cyclops, but after some drugs, my eye could open a wee bit and I was able to see the trail and enjoy the scenery. What a stunning day we had out there with forever views and little cowboy one horse towns. Of course something was bound to happen - this time it was Jon who took a massive digger into the most hostile rockgarden on the trail, walking away from it pretty shook up with a massively swollen hand and some grazes - he was a lucky guy today.

Monarch Crest Trailhead.

Monarch Trail.

Jon with his swollen hand :(

It was time to wrap it up in the Springs and head up to Whistler Canada next for some more adventures & the 5th round of the Enduro World Series. Thank you Jon for an amazing trip!

Peace out, Anka xxx

Burrito's, burgers, bike parks & wooden hucks - Mmerica - f*#k yeah!

Colorado Freeride Festival Yep, this is Colorado!

yep, you've guessed it, I've been stateside at the colorado freeride festival for the 4th round of the enduro world series. We just wrapped up this race yesterday, after 3 days of racing in some very high altitude mountains where the air is so thin, you struggle to tie your shoe laces without getting short of breath, never mind racing some super pedaly bike park tracks. A lot of people came out here pretty early on to acclimatize, but I thought I'd leave it to the last minute & frankly, I don't really like the thought of having to get to races 10 days before it starts, so I'd have to make do and deal with the nice, crisp, thin colorado air. Strange, because the mountains around here look more like rolling hills compared to the Alps, but you just can't breathe. We had daily thunderstorms rolling through, which made for some nice hero dirt tracks, but also made our days pretty long due to waiting out the storms to go and practice the next days stages.

Exploring some trails with T-Mo & James

Jon C & John D having fun with the heat gun & treating me bike with some matching decals.

The Intergalactic pond crossing challenge.

View from our room.

The important things are always ready in the SRAM pits.

Dawson cooked lunch for us every day!

Burrito's & Hot sauce in the pits.

Treats

Road Life.

Some of the tracks were awesome, most of them were fun tracks to go and ride with your mates and have a laugh, butย for the most part I thought there were way too many flat pedaly stages for a balanced enduro race, and way too many wooden bike park obstacles. There were some great technical tracks, but I just couldn't make up enough time on those bits to compete with the local xc girls on the pedaly bits. The race being held in a bike park, also meant that there was a huge local knowledge advantage, and for a lot of the tracks, if you knew them, you could really gain loads of time on them, knowing exactly where your braking points, gear changes and such would occur, and not having to tire yourself out having to practice them everyday. Anyhow, the race went down well, lots of fun bike riding was had, the Frenchies held their ground (as usual), some of the racers were mad that the one super xc stage got cancelled (definitely not me, as it was a lame uphill stage anyways).ย I ended up in 10th place overall, which I'm happy with, but it was a tad frustrating as I had Anne Caro seeded to start behind me (due to an injury she gained earlier in the season), so I had to pull over for her to get by on every run, which cost me a few seconds every time I pulled over and that added up over the course of the weekend. My fault for not being fast enough, but man, she is a hard one to stay in front of. She must have moved up a few places now in the overall ranking, so that will become someone else's problem at the next round, phew! I did have a ton of fun jumping & hucking myself again,ย but I do look forward to getting back to Europe for some steep, raw, exposed natural mountain tracks without slippery, wet wooden stunts, and without loads of pre-riding.

Race Day.

Pauline & Anne - 2 fast ladies.

Chris Ball getting ready for another day of racing

One of the highlights of my CO trip was catching up with some good old friends Linda & Stu from way back when & meeting their 5 year old son (he was just a wee baby the last time). Pretty special people, it brought back so many great memories and funny bike stories. Super thankful that bikes have been ย able to create such great experiences, friendships and strong bonds between people that will last forever.

Stu, Linda & Ryder - great reunion with good old friends xxx

Bloody well done to Jerome & Tracy for total stage domination - you guys are amazing! I'm pretty sure ย it was all the delicious meals we created & all the red wine and good laughs we had that helped Tracy to take the win ;) What a great few days rooming, riding & racing with Tracy & James.

T-mo & Jey - happy to take the win again.

I'm really looking forward to the next round in Whistler in a few days time - hoping I can find all the stages this year and not get myself lost again, that would be a good start and I'm just excited to catch up with some old friends, to go riding new trails, swimming in the lake, reading a book & having a few beers.

No rental car is too small for Colorado adventures - heading to Colorado Springs for some play time in Jon's backyard.

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For now, the rental is completely overloaded with bikes and it's off to Colorado Springs to check out the SRAM offices and to go adventuring in the mountains with Jon Cancellier, Pang & Chris Ball - pretty excited about this!

Peace out, Anka xxx

MegAvalancheeee - ALARMAAAAAAA!!!!!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=01YULr02Kn8] It's been a few days now since I finished racing the Mega and I'm finally starting to loosen up and feel less sore & tired from that crazy race I got sucked into racing again last weekend. It's one of those addictive races that you just cannot say no to. After finishing in 3rd place last year behind Anne & Tracy, I swore I was done. It was the biggest battle & the hardest hour of racing ever, and I had had my mega quota and achieved what I wanted to achieve with this gamble of a race. Anyhow, another year later, another fun day of practice and boom - Mega number 6 in the books. I couldn't help myself.

Mega tracks.

Qualies:

The qualie track was pretty fun, it started up at the same start, even though there was so much snow, it just meant some more rut, snow scooting. The track also had a river flowing down the whole top part of the track, so mud galore and visibility issues right out of the start gate made for some interesting line choices & passes. My plan was to try and slot in behind Anne Caro and try to stick as close to her as possible to the finish. Well turns out Anne never practiced the top rocky, snow sections and managed to get us both lost. We had to get off and run back up to the right lines to carry on, and by that stage a handful of girls had passed us. It turned into a chase the leader game then, trying to make sketchy inside line passes, turning doubles into triples & hucking off weird, unpracticed obstacles to try and get by and just generally some sketchy riding to try and gain a few places. The bottom part of this track is a one line, bike park type track and pretty impossible to pass, so you keep trying, but in the end, you just roll down to the finish in the order that you entered that bottom section into and be happy with that. I ended up 6th. Lesson learned: Don't follow the leader. Be confident with your own lines.

Race day:

The girls don't get much time to recover or think about the main race, as we finish qualies pretty late, wash bikes, eat, sleep & get in line for the gondola to the top of the world at 6am that next morning. I prefer this, as we have no time to think about what we're getting ourselves into and what the glacier may be like this morning. The lift ride to the top is spectacular, watching the sunlight hit the massive snowy mountain peaks all around us. There is so much tension in those gondolas on race morning, but somehow seeing the sun rise, makes it all better, brings a smile to my face and reminds me of how lucky we are to be doing what we do.

Thawing out in the morning sun - on top of the world,  about to race down a glacier! Happy chica's representing from all over the world.

Beautiful morning, doing what we love.

Start line for the girls. Pretty scary lining up on a steep as block of ice.

And the girl's are off!

Views to die for - literally!

We get up to the top about 2 and a half hours before we race, so there is a lot of waiting around, nervous banter, ice kicking and speculating how much softer it could get within 20 minutes or so. It is terrifying from up there. The ice was frozen solid, and it just dropped away right out of the start gate into the steepest, slipperiest glacier ever with a massive right hander at the bottom...The race was delayed by 20min's to hopefully get a bit softer, so that was great news. I started towards the left side, and the plan was to get out fast, cut to the right and avoid the pile up off everyone starting on the right side and slipping to the left off the off camber startline. Well, I started fast, pedalled a lot and picked up so much speed, so quickly, I didn't know what to do with it. I couldn't brake, I couldn't dare put my foot down, and I kept picking up speed as the right hander was approaching faster than I could deal with. I was out front again with Anne and two other girls, with most of the other girls creeping down the glacier - smart choice. Anyhow, I ended up having a massive crash and cartwheeled my way into the safety nets. As thankful as I was for those nets from stopping me from sliding down the mountain, my frustration & disbelief kicked in when I realized that my bike was so tangled up in the netting, that I couldn't get it loose. Sven was up at the top and he timed this whole ordeal - almost 3 minutes later I got my bike free and managed to get going on the glacier again.

My plan was to get away from everyone, quickly, but we picked up A LOT of speed very quickly and the right hander claimed 3 of us... with Anne making it through & taking the win.

Unfortunately, my bike & body got super tangled up in the catch net and it took me about 3 minutes to get unstuck & back on the ice.

Check out some pretty spectacular glacier crashing footage that John & Rob Parkin got with their freaking cool helicopter camera - thanks for that guys!

http://dirt.mpora.com/news/dirttv-megavalanche-2013.html

I was gutted. I almost gave up. I was angry. Why did I pedal so hard out of the start gate? I thought everyone would. I didn't need to. Why did I get tangled up? I guess it saved my life, but the other girls didn't get tangled. Urgh! Racing = Frustrating. It's happened now, what are you going to do? I decided to carry on sliding down the glacier, head first on my back clasping my bike on my chest at one stage (not by choice), and decided to just finish and enjoy the whole experience as I thought I was pretty much last after my start ordeal. I started picking my way back past loads of girls (I managed to ride over Hannah Barnes' foot - sorry Hannah!), slowly getting back into a good rhythm and enjoying myself. I pushed hard, rode the downhills fast, solid on the uphills and just felt great on my bike. Once I crossed the finish line, I realized I managed to finish in 7th place - not too shabby. I couldn't believe it, I was happy to at least make the top 10, but at the same time, it was bittersweet as I started thinking about all the what if scenarios. That's racing though & everyone's got to get their turn. Well done to all the girls who race this scary race. Better luck next time.

A girl's best friend!

Sven sadly decided to skip the main race after qualifying really well, due to his arm being really swollen and sore after a few crashes the day before.ย The men raced an amazing race. Jerome is an animal. We cheered hard & ran alongside our mates to cheer them on up the hills. It was awesome. Well done to all the brave boys!

Cheering on Sunday was super exciting! Here I'm shouting at my good friend Jey to pedal faster dammit!

Will I be back? I swore never, but never is a long time...

Now it's time to rest up and recover from the past 3 weeks of adrenaline overdose and racing and get ready for the next month of racing and adventuring in Colorado & Canada.

Peace out, Anka xxx

Round 3 & other bike shenanigans at Les2Alps.

Round three of the Enduro World Series was held in the bizarre ski town/resort of Les 2 Alps, France. A visually spectacular place when you look at the mountains and surrounding scenery, but quite a strange 80's style architecture clad ski town with a million kids roaming about that get shipped out here to ski and snowboard camp for a summer filled glacier action. Soooo many amazing mountains, spectacular scenery.

The tracks here are very downhill bike oriented as it's situated in-between two really steep valleys, so I've never been a huge fan of this mountain for trail bike riding, because of all the brake bumps except for their two amazing tracks that they use for the Mountain of Hell race every year. Due to loads of snow, most of the upper, good trails were still closed to us for this race, so they had to make use of the two very steep slopes on either side of the valley. Nothing was marked out until Friday (I love that), then we had all day Saturday to practice and figure out the 4 different race tracks - which turned into a pretty epic day of riding bikes as most of us did all the tracks twice which ended up taking all day, resulting in a pretty battered body on Sunday morning for race day.

Beautiful single track trails makes for one happy girl.

More pretty mountains.

Stage one:

Long, pedally, fast, dusty, raw, brand new, steep pinches, many traverses, more pedaling, fresh grassy off camber, heater buses, fire road, bike park berms, a mother F*&$@r of a tar road & gravel climb that never ended, followed by more uphill traversing and finally a fast as all hell, straightline downhill down to the next villiage. Did I mention all the climbing? It was brutal. Noodle legs, arm pump, passing, shouting, frustration & elation. The amount of emotions that happen within those 15 or whatever the stage time was, is pretty unreal. This shit is so mental and if you know how to deal with that, then you'll do well at these races. I ended up in 9th place, felt surprisingly good on the climb, then got stuck trying to pass 3 girls on the narrow single-track descent. Frustrating. That's racing.

Steep, off camber, fresh tracks on number 1. Primo.

Stage Two:

This was a strange one. Flat out fire road sprint into a gnarly rock garden section and back onto another long ass fire road sprint, spin out & tuck section around to the front side of the mountain and then into some super narrow singletrack trails to the finish line. It seemed so much more pedaly during the race, but it was good, just couldn't get into this stage, it felt a bit disjointed to me. 9th place on this stage.

Steep, technical rock sections on track number 2.

Stage Three:

After a long break we headed up for race number three. The best description would be awkward. Everything about this track was just awkward. Fine to ride, but a bit strange to race. It would definitely have been beneficial to be able to do nose wheelies on this track. I fumbled out of the start gate, all the way to the finish line. Just making every mistake in the book. O well, I had to settle with an 11th place here. On to the next one, and my favourite, number 4.

Les2Alps racing.

Stage Four:

This was my favourite track from the start. It was full pinned high speed down the mountain, off camber, grassy knolls, scary fast blind rises, brake bumps galore and then into this narrow singletrack section that wound all the way down to the valley floor. It was a proper trail. Steep & tricky and I loved it. I guess it helps when you enjoy a track as I got a 7th place on that stage behind a few World Champs - so that made my day & I was a happy girl.

High speed grassy racing.

These days the level is so high, that when you nail one or two stages and are happy with them, then you've managed to do well and you should be stoked. There is no such thing as a perfect run, they just don't happen, there are way too many variables involved for that to be possible. Tracy managed to take the win again which was so exciting & Jerome took the men's win. I couldn't be happier for these guys as they are both truly amazing bike riders and genuinely ย passionate about riding their bikes and not just racing them. I managed to finish up in 9th place at the end of the day. Pretty happy with a top 10 these days, as the level out here is truly remarkable.

Happy happy birthday Jon! Fondue's & Raclette's are the best.

Cheers to another great weekend of racing & to everyone that managed to pull this off. It was different, not good or bad, just different which was great and it was hard, and that is how it should be and will hopefully remain to be. Next up - MegAvalanche & glaciers - ALARMA!!!!!!!!!

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I'm back in rural France at my sisters house now,ย knackered, battered & bruised after the Mega, but excitedย to see my dad, celebrate my sister's 40th birthday & to catch up with internet, life, laundry & loads of amazing vegetarian cooking from me mum (much needed after raclette & tartiflette overdose). Keep posted for some Mega updates coming soon!

peace out, Anka xxx

Out & about in-between races.

Our European migrations every year does involve a shit load of work, mostly at races & other events, with loads of driving, late night editing, lots of internet cafe time, laundry sessions, packing & re-packing, washing & sorting bikes & gear, getting the trusty (rusty) old van fixed and so on, but we do try to do something fun in-between the long drives from one country to the next and from event to event. These little side trips are usually the one's that we end up enjoying the most and that we end up sharing with our good friends. None of us really have much time at the races & events to actually catch up properly and hang out, everyone is so busy with their own thing, but when we do these little mini trips in-between, that is when we actually get to spend some quality time with our mates on the road & we get to play and ride bikes. The sign says it all.

Pretty patterns.

I am intrigued by all the shrines you come across on the rides in Europe.

Italian colours.

Tracks & trails.

I got to explore the Valley of the Sun in Italy while the DH World Cup action was going on a few weeks ago (pics above).

We got to go to one of our favourite places to ride, swim, eat way too much gelato & drink loads of red wine & lemoncello - Lake Garda in Italy. We had a big old crew this year which is always fun to do one of our all time favourite rides from Malcesine back to the lake. We also got to catch up with our good friends from California, Megan & Andy that just happened to be in Italy for work at the same time. Perfect!

High above Lake Garda, heading to the lake for lunch & a swim.

Exchanging bikes for scooters for some lake cruising with Rach.

Soaking up the sunshine.

Calm before the storm in Santa Barbara, exploring secret tracks with Victor & Sven.

Beautiful Torbole, Lago di Garda, Italy.

Sven & Andy lounging in the  lake.

Megan & I catching up on the last two years of life.

A big shuttling day from Col De Champs before the Val D Allos enduro race was pretty epic.

Another big shuttling day after the Val D Allos race was another pretty amazing day of riding before heading out of this beautiful valley.

Col D Allos for some apres race fun riding with friends.

Exploring the Val D Allos valleys & chapels.

After Val D Allos we made our way to the hidden gem of Moustiers St Marie tucked away in the Gorges Du Verdon for some swimming & kayaking adventures with Jon C & Christine and Tracy & James.

Our vanie, loaded up to the max, heading to the next destination (not all our shit though).

Moustiers St Marie, France

More shrines & holy stuff.

Plotting our next adventure with JC & Christine over croissants & coffee.

Cool restaurants.

Loving the food in France  - is it possible to overdose on chรจvre?

Lavender fields - we must be in Provence.

Moustiers St Marie.

Typical villiage signs.

The good life is a simple life.

In awe of the scenery we stumble upon. Checking out the gorges with JC & Christine.

It's summertime. Swimming, kayaking, beers & good times with JC, Christine, T-Mo, James & Sven.

Stunning turquoise waters of the Gorges Du Verdon - France's best kept secret.

Peaceful places. I love you Tar xx

There are a few (lots) places that I've always wanted to go to, that we just never end up getting to, so hopefully we'll be able to go on a few more mini trips this summer and experience some new countries, places, trails & cultures. Isn't that the whole reason we got into riding bikes in the first place?

Happy girl.

Anyhow, I'll keep you updated here on our mini adventures in-between all the important stuff.

peace out, Anka xxx

Riding bikes, van life & shit.

We just wrapped up the second round of the Enduro World Series race in Val D Allos, France this past weekend & what a great weekend of riding and racing it was. The setting was spectacular, surrounded by majestic mountains, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny little ski town and only two hours from bustling Nice. With the French format not allowing any practice before the race, we had plenty of time to explore some of the other tracks and trails in the area, which was good fun to go and ride bikes with your mates and not even bother to give the race a thought until race day, which I love.

We stayed in our van and created a nice pikey site with fellow van-ier (and photographer), Victor Lucas who took brewing up the morning coffee to a whole other level using his big track pump to get the frothy crema on the top of the brew, a sure way to get your morning started off on a good note.

The racing was absolutely amazing. The tracks were really fun, scenic, exposed, fast, sketchy, unpredictable, with shale rock, loamy dirt, dry loose bike park dirt, roots, rocks, cliffs, switchbacks, I mean, it had absolutely all the elements that a good trail needs to have to call it epic. They were super fun to ride, but to race, they were hard. Hard in a good way, as it should be. It tested your everything. On Saturday the tracks were a bit more DH oriented, but still quite pedaly if you wanted to do well, and on Sunday, they were still technical and tricky, but the pedaling sections were just too long for me to make use of my downhill skills to get a good result. I just didn't have the legs to stand up and sprint on all the traversing and uphill sections, but I still had a blast and loved the tracks. Proper enduro riding. Raw, unpredictable & hard. I just need to find my legs now :) We managed to descend 10 000 meters over the two days of racing, so I'd say you definitely get your money's worth at these events.ย Don't even get me started on the food station and how incredibly delicious it was. I have Haribo sweets stocked up for the rest of the summer!

I was happy with a 6th & a 7th place on two of the race runs, then a bit of bad luck on one of the runs cost me a lot of time, but it was the long pedaly one's on Sunday that killed me and put me into 11th place for the overall results.. All in all a magnificent weekend of racing. Hats off to all the girls that raced - 30 of us, which is pretty amazing to see a start list with so many girls ready to race. The level of the racing for the men & women was really high, everyone killed it & I look forward to this coming weekend to see how Les Deux Alpes will format their racing for the weekend, and hopefully I can have a good weekend and get into the top 10...but there are plenty of trails to go exploring this week and adventures to be had before the race, so I'll worry about that later.

One of my highlights this weekend was meeting up with my good old friend Sabrina Jonnier & catching up with her about life in general and just seeing her glow in the sunshine with her baby belly. I cannot wait to meet Stella soon!

Cheers to everyone for all their support & to Sven for the stunning photographs. It was such a treat to race and ride with all my new Sombrio kit - I LOVE all my new goodies, and they look good! THANK YOU!!!!!

Peace out, Anka xxx