Arriving in France ahead of the EWS we were hit with a ferocious heat wave with temps hitting 35+degrees. Training in the heat was hard going but I figured it would be good acclimatisation for EWS Millau. I should have known...
Day 1 of practice; mist and rain rolling in. Here setting up for the tried and tested 'Tripod'
We had 2 days of shuttled practice with only one run allowed on the majority of stages. This lead straight into 2 days of racing.
Clips from day 1 and day 2 of practice, the vultures love to circle at the edge of cliffs...maybe waiting for some mtber carrion!
The sun came out for parts, you can see the rock garden of stage 8 looking bone dry- it would be a different story come race day!
Day one of racing for me was a battle. I've never crashed so much in one race. Dropping into stage one the conditions had deteriorated and I didn't adapt fast enough. I went down hard early on in the stage, after which I struggled to find the flow. Not a good way to start and I came in with my worst stage finish of the weekend- 24th
We were then faced with hiking all the way up stage 4 on the liason to stage 2. No one knew this was on the cards as practice had been shuttled and the maps we had been given were vague. My calves and arms were burning as we struggled to push and carry bikes up 500m of vert. Time was ticking by and we were in danger of missing start times so I dug deep and burned some tokens sprinting the last 5 minutes. Having made the start time I was forced to wait as the organisers delayed the start to allow all those running behind to make the stage.
Stage 2 had a bit more open flow and a decent peddle half way through. I managed to stay on the bike, but felt a bit smashed from the 'liaison race' to the stage start. I ended up 17th. We were then faced with another hike a bike transition back to the top. I was struggling to stay positive as I pushed my bike all the way up again!
Stage 3 was getting the reputation for the hardest ever EWS stage! It was tough, I crashed 4 times stopping to push my brake lever back down into position. It was steep and guess what... super slick. However I actually found stage 4 the hardest. The tight "Frenchie turns" had me tri-podding or crashing and in one I snapped my brake lever.
A dash to pits was needed.
Thanks to the guys at Shimano for the quick lever replacement.
Just as we were waiting on the exposed tops to start stage 5 a storm rolled through for half of the ladies field. Battling head winds and lashing rain I was stoked to make it to the finish line for the day, 12th on stage and staying on my bike for a change through some near misses on the greasy clay.
Day 2 racing
Day 2; more rain overnight and rain on and off during the day meant battling a variety of slick to clogging mud.
Above; keeping it rolling on stage 6, flat no grip turns at the bottom of the stage.
Rocky hucks top of stage 6
Stage 7 Chute. The Excellent Hutchinson Toro 2.35 doing the business in the mud over rock.
Stage 7 was an intimidating one for me, called mini DH it was again a super steep but short stage. This steep chute dropping over slick rocks into a no catch rewarded the hecklers with plenty of carnage.
A long transfer to 8 with bikes coated in mud and clogging, we were trying to peddle 25kg+ machines. Twigs and puddle stops en route were used to lighten the load and keep them moving.
Stage 8; mid downpour. The limestone rock garden was a dicey affair, pin balling my way down.
Stage 9 was a repeat of day1 stage 5. Conditions were slightly drier.
Relief.... end of the race- still in one piece and no crashes for day 2. Kept it steady and finished the weekend 16th. Well done everyone racing and supporting this was another tough 4 days. Thanks to my family and Ed for keeping me going and my sponsors for top quality gear keeping me rolling.