After the EWS in Chile, I spent a good month at home and, with solid training, prepared for the second stop in Scotland.
I have to admit that it was one of those races that I had been thinking about for a long time. The typical Scottish weather and the unfamiliar terrain made me a bit worried and so I had to prepare as best I could for all eventualities. Flying from Australia to Europe is always a big effort. It feels like an eternity and then through Great Britain - none of that made it any easier. But the trip was actually quite relaxed. Luckily the flights weren't fully booked so I was able to get some important hours of sleep.
We met the whole team in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon and drove together to Peebles, where we set up camp. We set up the bikes and, as always, set out to explore the area to get to know everything a little.
We had five busy days ahead of us and I was feeling pretty drained after the long flight. So the first thing to do was to overcome the jet lag and catch up on some sleep. Schaun, our mechanic, had the bikes ready to race, so that later we did a relaxed lap and rode our legs a little loosely.
Wednesday – Friday: Training
We had three days to train on the individual stages. That may sound like a lot, but with more than 100 kilometers in length and a total of eight stages, it took a lot of time to even look at everything. We wanted to do two practice runs on each stage, which we managed, but with more than thirteen hours in the saddle, mostly kicking up the mountains and pushing up the trails, it was difficult to be really fit and fresh for the upcoming race.
The trails were really a lot of fun, but I couldn't really play to my strengths here. The constantly changing weather also played into our hands, but after my last practice session on Friday I felt well prepared and was excited for the race.
Saturday – race day 1
The sun came out just in time for the race - the first time since we were there - and I headed to the first stage. The first curves of the stage should already show the basic tenor of the rest of the day. The bright sun, the first open 200 meters, was followed by a dense forest and it felt like someone had switched off the light. My eyes couldn't adjust to the new light conditions that quickly and I flew blindly straight into the next trees. Certainly not a good start to the race but I tried not to stress myself too much to avoid further mistakes. The sun turned the mud of the previous days into a tough, peanut butter-like mush that took all your speed away with every little mistake.
On stage one and two I really had problems finding my flow. Small mistakes between the many narrow trees cost me a lot of time in every corner. To make matters worse, my front tire rolled off the rim a bit in a corner and lost air. So I drove at the front with only half my actual tire pressure, which cost me a lot of time. It was one of those days when nothing just wanted to fit, one of those days when you want to pack everything up and just let it be. I've had days like this more than once in the last 17 years that I've been mountain biking, but never on a race day.
After the second stage we had a short break and I was really disappointed with how things were going up until then. I tried displacing everything and starting over. The restart button, please.
The third stage was arguably the longest stage of the race and had the most difficult and steepest sections of the whole day. I rode much better and cracked the top 10 despite making a pretty gross blunder.
Stage four should have followed the run, but for whatever reason the timing guys stopped me at the start. Three to four seconds after I was supposed to start, they said to me: "Oh yes, let's go." Normally not a problem as the timing with the transponders is fully electric, but this time there seemed to be problems and the timing was done manually. The time measurement started exactly at my start time and I lost the valuable seconds that I was delayed at the start. Even before I even turned a crank, the time was ticking...great. That was the icing on the cake of a terrible day.
Sunday – race day 2
The weather held and the track continued to dry out. Aside from my 30th place from the day before, I knew that the upcoming stages would suit me better. I was sure that if I rode like I normally do, I could make up some time and finish in the top 10.
To make a long day short, I did exactly what was needed and what I was hoping for. I didn't ride as confidently as usual, but with every stage I felt better and I gradually found my rhythm. The last stage suited me very well and I wanted to leave Scotland feeling good so I could go into the next race with confidence. Everything went according to plan and I set the best time on the stage, which enabled me to work my way up to ninth place and score important points for the overall standings. Definitely the best way to finish the race.
It was cool to see Richie slowly but surely gaining a foothold in Enduro racing. On the last day he finished in the top 10 on every stage and is on the right track to closing the gap to the top riders in the overall standings.
So the weekend was full of ups and downs but we were able to leave Scotland with a positive feeling. The conditions and the trails didn't suit me at all, but I know that the terrain in France for the next stop of the EWS is exactly mine and that I can get good results there. So I'm looking ahead and I'm excited for the race in Valloire.
Frame: Yeti SB66c Medium (yes, still 26 inches)
Fork: 2015 Fox Float 36, 75psi
Shock: Fox Float X, 175psi
Wheels: DT Swiss, 240s hubs, EX 471 rims
Tires: Front - Maxxis Shorty 2.3 EXO 3C Prototype 25psi
Rear – Maxxis Minion DHR2 3C EXO 28psi
Brakes: Shimano XTR, 180mm discs
Crank: Shimano XTR 170mm
Power meter: Stages XTR with Garmin Edge 500
Gears: Shimano XTR Shadow Plus
Pedals: Shimano XTR Trail
Chainring: Shimano Saint 36t
Chain guide: E13 TRS
Stem/Handlebar: Renthal FatBar Lite Carbon 740mm, Renthal Prototype Stem 60mm
Seat/Seatpost: WTB Devo Yeti Team Edition, Thomson Elite Dropper
Grips: ODI Troy Lee Designs
Headset: Chris King
Photos: Sebastian Schieck