3 days before we were due to head to TransSavoie, where I was planning to return to defend my win, I got an email from Tracy Moseley asking if I wanted to go to TransRezia also taking place that week.
TS was amazing, technical tracks and a great week with something crazy like 30,000m of descending. However I'm always to keen to ride a completely new area and event. TransRezia a new 6day enduro through the Dolomites, part of the Italian Alps, seemed the perfect excuse to visit. After last minute plan changing we made the 12hour+ drive over from the French Pyrenees.
Travelling through Switzerland we went over some stunning road passes. Looking back towards Davos.
Heading towards North eastern Italy, home of the Dolomites, the terrain became more rugged. Pinnacles of limestone and steep sided valleys it was hard to see where there would be rideable tracks!
DAY 1 Santa Caterina to Bormio
The first day was one of the best starting from Santa Caterina (at 1700m), a small ski village, we heading straight up a gondala gaining us another 1000m. The first stage was open alpine approx 10min stage with some flat rock sections to negotiate in trialsesque style. Each stage of the day featured some 'punchy' climbs. At altitude, HR was maxed out, these were killer! Photo Ross Bell
It wasn't just riders struggling with the climbs, this 1940's car was having a rest up the Gavia mountain pass where we made our way up to stage 2.
A beautiful linking stage to the start of 2. Photo Tracy Moseley
Focus at the start gate of stage 2
Not a bad place for a Lunch stop! Refugio Branca
The final stage of the day we rode to the base of the Forni glacier- the largest Glacier in Italy at 5km long. The descent from the base was as to be expected from a glacial moraine-rocky! A good challenge when racing blind! Photo Ross Bell
Day 2: Bormio to Arnoga
Day 2 began with a van shuttle to the top of the legendary Stelvio pass, we then continued climbing up on singletrack to 2800m.
More stunning views from the top
Dropping in to the first stage. Featuring high speed rocks, punctures were common place but fortunately my Hutchinson Squales handled it with ease.
A picturesque climb to lunch at an Alpine refuge before our next stage; a singletrack traverse dropping into high speed rock gardens- fun! Photo Ross Bell.
Final stage of the day- short and sweet- loamy turns in the woods. Photo Ross Bell.
TransBC - 6 days of gnar!
35 degrees and blue skies as we made our way from Vancouver towards the interior of British Columbia. This weather wouldn't last! Seems to be a theme at this years races!
Day 1: Vernon Megan Rose, the organiser, had dubbed this day the warm up and the least technical of the week. Stage one was straight into steep shoots, rocks and loam. This was a warmup?!
Day 1 was everything I love about BC riding. Properly technical terrain from Loam to rock rolls to dust. Any Enduro that includes a 21 minute stage of uninterrupted awesomeness gets me excited.
Day 2: Pendicton Penticton was rowdy! It's hard to describe just how good the tracks in Penticton were to race blind.
Stage one, dropping into the unknown, was littered with wet wooden bridges and ladders - somehow I managed to control my twitching fingers and stay off the brakes to survive the mossy rock slabs and loamy turns. Stage 2 started with exposure and ended with gas to flat shelved rock hucking. Stage 3, the longest of the day and most spectacular was all about eyes up and spot the ridable line through the moabesque rocky alpine. Flat out. For 10.5 minutes! My Gforms got a cheese grating as I low sided on a granite slab at one point.
4 more stages of Penticton goodness brought us to the finish after 5 hours and a day out on the bike that was up there with the best.
Day 3 Rossland All aboard the school bus for a 4hour drive to the trail head then an hour climb to the snowline!
To the alpine for big descents
Another 45min climb to descend a DH- straight down in about 3mins! STEEP!
Racing in style; hot tub finish to the day!
Day 4: Rossland Part Two
The first two stages of the day were relatively smooth with some flow for a change.
Getting air when racing blind is always a good adrenaline hit!
End of stage 3. At the start of each stage we had a brief description of the trail ahead, somehow the cards had got mixed up for the day, this one was described as a 'flow trail'- given the amount of bike carnage I think I can confirm it wasn't! Multiple punctures, a broken frame, crank and pedal. Luckily my bike came away unscathed. Again Hutchinson hardskins proving a great tire choice.
Stage 4 knocked things up a level or 3! Starting on an awkward granite slab it was reminiscent of EWS Ireland. Other riders lining the track to try and workout the rideable line of which there seemed to be only 2 options. A few casualties were taken as wheels got stuck between the rocks sending riders over the bars. Once over this it was into an unrelenting 15minute stage- steep and techy with some Northshore and sections on the pedals to ensure you were thoroughly exhausted by the finish. I loved it and wanted to go up and ride it again!
Day 5: Nelson
This was my favourite day. It was wet, rooty and steep. Anymore technical and I'd have probably been off my bike but it was perfect!
Sometimes you can't believe what you've just ridden, Sarah Sturms face saying it all!
Coffee stop and a fire prior to the final stage of the day- 20mins of gnar descent with a 2min sprint up a fireroad half way through!
Day6 Nelson part two
Some more off roading in the school buses before swapping to the minibus to get as high as we could shuttle then 1hour 30min of climbing to the snowline again!
All the way to the snow for some more crazy steep techy riding
Camelbak TransBC stage essentials- coffee cup and beer tin. Nelson a great little town to finish in.
Stoked to take the overall win as well as every stage! Giving me nearly 20 minute lead over second place. Kiwi clean sweep across all 3 cats; Matt Patterson masters 40+, Jamie Nicoll open men. Check out our trophies- yes that's right, toilet roll holders!!
Transylvania Epic - Day 5
Another remote start on the final day took us out to Greenwood Furnace, an early iron ore mining location. The historic trails took in 4 enduro segments in a route that eventually finished back at camp some 6hrs later. Conditions started fast and greasy but in a repeat of the previous day the weather soon flooded the hardpack sections and liquefied the loam. Another solid day in the saddle and solid result at the end.
Dodging other riders walking down the shoots. Photo Firespirephotography
Enduro #1 was a standout stage in a day that delivered 3 of the best stages of the week. This rare section of steep gradient was proceeded by a world class stretch of unrelenting mossy rock riding. Photo Firespirephotography
Bigger speeds on stage #1 and sniper rocks have their consequences. Ed and I both sprinted out the stage on a rear flat. The Hutchinson tyres were awesome and only having one flat each the entire week was proof of this, for most people it was a daily occurence. Photo Firespirephotography
Ed has just noticed that the trails turns right through trees at the bottom of this fast shoot. #firespirephotography
The Enduro Overall 5 Day Winners by Category. #firespyphotography
Kudos to the organisers of a unique race here in Pennsylvania. I doubt it would be possible to find a another event that combines such diverse riders, equipment and terrain. I have relished the chance to push my bike and body so deep and i feel it can only help with building speed for the season ahead.
Garmin Stats Day 5
6hrs 21 total ride time
171 Max BPM
130 Av BPM
Overall Stats for the Week
22hrs 4min Actual Riding Time
Transylvania Epic- Day 4
A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER
Todays stage profile had the XC stage racers chomping at the bit, with the R.B Winter State Park, a 45min shuttle from camp, offering fast and comparatively smooth trail. A torrential downpour early on changed the conditions dramatically with the Enduro specialists at the back of the field floundering in the wake of the XC animals who unleashed their big engines on the drier fast rolling trail at the head of the race.
A drive through Amish country on the way out to R.B Winter State Park
Traditional farming methods and values
Before the rain came. Enduro #1 combined fully tapped singletrack with flat 50m rock gardens
2hrs in of what became 5.5 hrs. Flooded double track and shredded singletrack for the remainder of the day
131 Av BPM
163 Max BPM
Transylvania Epic Day 2
After putting the XC bike on the podium yesterday, and banking some serious suffering, I'm more than happy to switch focus to the enduro segments for Day 2
Day 1 stage race complete - its going to be all about the Enduro stages for day 2. Out comes the Auric with a fresh Hardskin tyre on the back.
Stunning forested ridge riding for mile after mile today. Tussey ridge was reminiscent of other vintage ridge trails back home in Nelson.
Thats Ed floundering in the background by the way lol
Stage 3 was a massive 10 minute run! Unfortunately the first 4 minutes were uphill lol. If this were EWS there would be a mutiny
Day 2 Enduro winners
And a fresh plate for tomorrows Enduro specific Day 3!! Big bikes are being prepared throughout the camp. 5 stages with neutralized liaisons between each - now that is more what I'm accustomed to.
Garmin Stats Day 2
Total Riding Time 4:20 hrs
1250m climb and descent
169 BPM Max HR
135 BPM Average HR
Garmin Estimated Recovery Time 47.5 Hours
5 Enduro segments today laced the Rothrock State Forest located 20min from camp. The majority of climbing was on the now familiar leaf covered rock and root singletrack under the deciduous tree canopy, with the descents increasing in technical challenge as the day wore on.
The entire hill appears to be made up of smashed rock. Some loose, some embedded, some hidden by the leaf litter (A E Landes credit)
The day essentially started and finished outside a diner in State College which meant minimal delay for post race refuel!
Ed felt obliged to sample a Cheese Steak - the Philli signature dish
Thats a big day ahead right there on that map
Elite Women Enduro podium
Masters Enduro Podium. Ed is aiming to get on terms with the other enduro specialists for the overall enduro standings at the end of the week
Transylvania Epic Day 1
What is the TS Epic?
A 5 day Stage race through the rock infested forests of back country Pennsylvania
160 Miles of forest road and raw singletrack
6000 Metres of climb and descent
21 Enduro timed stages throughout the week
Multiple bikes and swaps allowed throughout the week
No shuttles, no uplifts
A selection of Fuji weaponry for the most diverse xc stage race (with enduro) out there
I went for this one for day 1. The diametric opposite of my regular enduro rig this thing is both so fast and so sketchy. My body has rarely felt so abused!
Not a baggy short or backpack in sight (gulp) Photocredit TSE media team FireSpirePhotography
A rare stretch of buff singletrack through the beautiful Pennsylvania forests Photocredit TSE media team FireSpirePhotography
Post race + not many minutes: assume the position. Ice for my poor abused wrist and a handy concrete block for draining my acid filled legs. I laid here for some considerable time!
Getting loose on the hardtail paid off. Fastest Overall Enduro Female Day 1!
AND, 3rd place General Classification overall women!
Garmin Stats Day 1
173 Max BPM
151 Average BPM
Garmin est Recovery time 67hrs!!!!!!!
Mud and Glory
Rd 5 of the Welsh Gravity Enduro Series saw a return to a venue I last visited for student XC champs in 2006. My memories are patchy at best and consist mostly of gas bottles exploding on bonfires and ford transits drifting between tents in the early hours of the morning.
Three fun stages with a 5hr window for unlimited runs made the best of the modest venue (Photo Doc Ward)
This time the visit will be memorable for its simple successful format, trails that punched above their weight and above all, the conditions. As in wet. A trail surface resembling slurry freshly pumped over the roots and, for one stage, a fresh coating of hail.
The Before and After Shots;
Polished and fettled Fuji Auric and a freshly bleached race jersey (Photo Ed Kerly)
5 hours later. Eastridge dirt has well and truly enveloped bike and rider (Photo Ed Kerly)
With no hose on-site I used a screwdriver to scrape the mud from my legs (Photo Ed Kerly)
Fuji Mechanic Ed Kerly described the conditions as ‘flingy’ (photo Meg Bichard)
A sunny start and end to the day in picturesque Shropshire (Photo Ed Kerly)
Back to Racing!
Classic British conditions at a classic British venue –Dyfi Wales (photo Ed Kerly)
It’s been nearly 6months since I broke both arms crashing my bike into a tree while play riding on my local Nelson trails. My right required surgery, placing two plates to hold together the many fragments of the shattered radius and ulna. After 6weeks completely off the bike I was able to start ‘nana’ riding but I couldn’t risk falling off! It was a bit of a rollercoaster recovery as seems to be the way when coming back from injury-two steps forward one step back! It wasn’t until 4months after the crash that I felt comfortable enough to do any ‘real’ riding. Luckily since then progress has been more rapid. It’s taking a while for my confidence to return and I’m still wary of those trees!
As I was getting ready to try my hand at some racing again the NZ race season had drawn to a close so I decided to head to Europe a month ahead of hitting EWS #3 Wicklow. Unfortunately luck was not on my side again and upon arriving in the UK I was off my bike for another 2 weeks with some kind of virus (probably from over 30hours in the germ tubes otherwise known as planes!).
Great to get on the (small) box alongside these shredders. (photo Ed Kerly)
So my first race back was a week out from EWS and a bit of a dive in at the deep end – The British Enduro Series at Dyfi. Although most of the UK was forecast to have a heat wave West Wales managed to provide its more typical weather. Of the 6 stages only one was a bike park built to endure the Welsh winter, the rest being a mud and root fest and two big days of 30miles and 1400m of climbing!
Some riders were bemoaning the conditions but I was absolutely loving them! Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t easy I had a fair few offs as I tried to remember how to ride mud. I was happy my body held up and to come away with a 4th place against some quality British girls.
Strapping on an EWS plate always feels good. Perhaps a little more trepidation than normal this time around. (photo Ed Kerly)
So second race back and to EWS in Ireland! Although I’d ridden at Wicklow last year and loved it I was still pretty nervous in the lead up. A few runs had some very tricky sections and Ireland always draws large crowds which can be pretty intimidating when you’re dropping in! I was a little paranoid about breaking myself again! In practice I had a few moments of ‘why am I doing this?!’ When you’re on the top of the techy rock sections with heaps of other riders doing the same, looking down trying to decipher the best line and just hoping you can make it to the bottom in one piece!
Ready to roll raceday morning. 7 spectator lined stages ahead mixing heathland tops with raw forest floor trails. (photo Matt Wragg)
However come race day the atmosphere was amazing, I was excited to get out there! The crowds came in droves- the Irish know how to spectate in style- fancy dress, cowbells, horns and chainsaws! There was a friendly group of girls racing and we had a lot of fun!
I’m really happy with a top 10 finish, I didn’t expect it. I still have a lot of work to do on my confidence, fitness and strength so it’s a great confidence boost.
All time conditions (photo Ed Kerly)
The drop in to stage 3 through a cacophony of noise (photo Matt Wragg)
A bit of built feature fun to mix up the raw techy nature of the trails here in the Wicklow hills (photo Matt Wragg)
#fillthehill – and they certainly did. Threading the needle on stage 7 as the terrain steepened and the hecklers gathered. (photo Ed Kerly)
I’ll now be targeting the major multiday enduros with my first being Trans-Slyvania in the U.S. in two weeks’ time. I’m looking forward to my ‘series’ of week long races – Trans Savoie, French Alps; TransBC, Canada and TransCascadia in Oregon! I love the big days out exploring a new area, racing blind, meeting new people and seeing old friends. For me they are the ultimate enduro!
Road to Recovery
It's been a bit of a tough off season for me. Less than 3 weeks back in the country and just back on the bike after some time off. Bang, two broken arms after hitting a tree at high speed.
My right arm took the brunt of the impact, shattering the radius and ulna and displacing it so far that the bone punctured the skin.
I knew it was bad as soon as I'd done it, looking down at my deformed arm, in a lot of pain, I just wanted to get out and under an anaesthetic as soon as possible! After walking out of the track with the help of fellow mountain bikers it was a long and painful 5 hour wait before surgery. Despite obviously been in shock I wasn't put onto Intravenous fluids, instead I was given occasional doses of morphine. The morphine didn't seem to control the pain so I was given a big bolus of ketamine. This was probably one of my most scariest moments, it sent me into a dysphoric reaction which felt like I was leaving my body!
In surgery they placed two plates and put a cast on both arms. I spent most of the next week in hospital. I recovered well initially although I didn't have normal sensation in my right hand due to nerve damage. I then had a reaction to one of the many drugs I was given making me feel nauseous for 2 days. My IV catheters kept blocking and in the end they couldn't get any veins to give me fluids. The nurses were absolutely lovely but I wanted to get out of there so badly. I made myself drink a small amount every 2 hours- all I could manage without vomiting - despite anti emetics. Thankfully it worked and I persuaded them to let me go home!
It's been a roller coaster of a recovery since then. Initially 6 weeks off the bike but that didn't stop me getting on the turbo trainer and going to the gym. I'm so lucky to have such a great support network here in Nelson. Check out my video by Stuff.co.nz showing me now back on the bike and what I've been up to in my recovery time.
Enduro racer, adventurer, locum veterinary surgeon, cow and cat lover