It has been freezing cold, snowing & raining outside (has been since we arrived), accompanied by a wind that just cuts right through any wind block jacket. Yes, it is summer in Europe & I’m pining to be back in the New Zealand winter…pretty crazy thought hey, but their daily temps have been blazing warm (a slight exaggeration), compared to the French temps over here.
I just got back to base camp (mom’s house) after guiding a 7 day mountain bike trip, dragging 12 guests up and over some big mountains in Provence, so I’ve been a bit out of touch with the happenings in the rest of the world and internet was pretty non existent in those parts of the mountains, so here is a wee update.
I feel like the past month or more has just been an absolute whirlwind, trying to get our lives in order for being away from home for the next 6 months. Not an easy feat to get everything organized and taken care of while still trying to keep normal jobs, training, learning about & paying US & NZ taxes, immigration, business licenses, safety plans, environmental impact plans, racing licenses and other normal day-to-day activities going. The stresses of getting bikes built up, shipped to different countries, collecting them during layovers, getting used to them at races – all these little things have just added up to be a wee bit overwhelming, but thanks to everyone who helped to make this process of yearly migration to the other side of the world a little bit easier. O, the dilemma’s of living this lifestyle – I wouldn’t change it for anything, but you definitely need the support from a good crew of peeps to pull this off J
The most exciting happening for me this season has got to be the launch of the new Santa Cruz Bicycles Women’s bike lineup; Juliana Bicycles! This is such exciting news for all the female shredders around the world & I feel really proud, excited & very honored to represent this new line as one of their ambassadors. Have a look at the range of new curves on offer. Powerful, Beautiful, Natural
A huge big thanks to the guys at Santa Cruz Bicycles for getting my beautiful “roarange” colored Juliana frames sent out to Jon Cancellier at SRAM in CO, who then built up my two new steeds for the season, after hours, over his weekend, and in-between traveling, then shipped them to Clay Porter in Ventura, CA who specially drove them down to LAX and dropped them off for us - curbside service during our short layover in Los Angeles. We quickly repacked them into our EVOC bike bags and checked them back in for our continuing flight over to Europe. Phew, we made it.
At home in Nelson we have Jodie taking care of all our admin & making sure we don’t get into trouble with the tax man (again) – Jodie you’re a legend! Derek is our landscape man & Trade me organizer and the rest of the crew will be visiting our cottage on the hill to make sure it is A OK throughout the winter. You guys all ROCK – thank you!
Back in France, we set off in our jam packed trusty old van for Punta Ala in Italy for the first round of the Enduro World Series, well, sort of. The van didn’t quite make it out of the driveway before we realized something major was broken. After a few hours of stressing, renting vans in French, unpacking, repacking & a trip to the local mechanic shop, we set off on the 11-hour drive to Italy.
Punta Ala, Italy was beautiful. Tuscany- by- the- sea. The forests were stunning & wild, growing right down onto the sandy beaches. The red dirt, green rolling hills, cork tree forests and the shimmering turquoise waters made for such a spectacular backdrop and venue for a race. The tracks were amazing, rough, rocky, long & dry – it was everything that I loved and I felt really confident on them. Practice was so RAD. I loved my new Juliana bikes and I felt so ready for this first round. I was ready to race after our first day of practice, but there was still a long week of training ahead of us. Way too much in my opinion and towards the end of the week, I was pretty over it. People were shuttling everywhere, including us, as if you didn’t, you were at a disadvantage, but it didn’t feel like the usual enduro’s. It felt rushed, stressed and destructive to the forest. I felt like we were invading the forest and drowning out the bird song with engine noise and fumes and stressed out drivers wheel spinning in the mud. I understand that this was the Italian way, but this past week was a bit too much. Too much practice, too many people trying to bend the rules towards their advantage, too many people not respecting the spirit of enduro or respecting the rules. Things like hidden food & water in the forests, not wearing required helmets or back plates etc, left me feeling a bit sour. Never the less, no point harping on silly things, just a tad sad that it was actually present.
I started off my race with two massive crashes, trying too hard & not being cautious enough in the slippery conditions. I was bummed, frazzled and sore and my goal was to just get through the day, to finish. I definitely felt the pressure of the whole week prior to the race. I felt the presence of all the big rigs parked everywhere, of all the mechanics milling about, rebuilding and servicing bikes and parts to death. It was serious no matter what anyone says. People were walking around with compression tights and socks and bottles filled with recovery juice. Everyone had names printed on their jerseys with masseuses and support crews scurralling about to support their riders. There were hoards of press & camera’s and flashes everywhere – even on the tracks. Interviews & photo shoots. It was a bit scary to me. It is great for the sport, and the development of the discipline, and I am truly excited about that, but I did miss the low-key vibe just a little bit. During the Trans Provence when you hammer your bike for 7 days, if you get to put chain lube on your bike & manage to have a shower before you pass out in your tent, then you’ve managed to do well.
The level of racing has skyrocketed and it seems like you’ll need to start wearing a heart rate monitor again if you want to be super competitive in this series and ditch the après ride beers & wine. Do I want to go down that route? Not too sure about that just yet. I think it was the French wine & cheese between stages that drew me to these fun events to begin with. Hopefully some of the riders also had a moment to appreciate the beautiful forests and scenery, to catch up with friends and to sample the local Tuscan wine.
Other than that, it was a magnificent event. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Enrico so happy, and to have a bike race end on the beach is just so rad. The EWS crew did an amazing job to get all of this organized in one off season. Bravo! Cheers to you guys. It was amazing to have so many World Champions in one place and all of them riding together. Pretty epic stuff to have been a part of. Hats off to all the girls who finished this tough day of racing, it was huge.
I cannot wait for the next EWS round; hopefully I got my crashes out of the way for now. Tomorrow I’m off to Scotland for some bike exploring & adventuring with the Santa Cruz crew, dinner & many pints at my favourite restaurant in the whole world: The Ben Nevis Inn (http://www.ben-nevis-inn.co.uk), and of course to catch some DH action at the first round of the World Cup in Fort William.