Even though we’re now into the second season, there are times when the Enduro World Series (EWS) feels like a completely new experience. This was our first big race without Fabien. Still wrapped up in a back brace in Nice, Fab had his fingers crossed for us over the weekend and is raring to get back on the bike.
A brand new destination for the EWS also added to the excitement, especially racing in the homeland of Top Chief Joe Barnes. Anyone who has ever competed in front of a home crowd has experienced that extra hit of adrenaline you get. Joe was no exception. Having grown up on Scottish trails, Joe knew exactly what lay in store and was unsurprisingly one of the bookies’ favourites for the podium before the race.
Armed with thick jackets, heaters and every waterproof clothing product going, we were slightly disappointed when the weather didn’t play ball. Despite Thursday practice being a total wash out, the sun shone down for the rest of the weekend to the surprise of pretty much everyone. Thursday’s mud bath gave way to mostly dry trails for the start of the race, so all that was left to contend with were tons of roots, tight tree-lined trails and mad steep sections. Add to that over 100 km of racing and 3000 metres of altitude gain over two days, EWS Round 2 was anything but a walk in the park.
Homeboy Joe just missed out on the top step after the first day, lying in second place overnight with the top riders mixed up all over the place in the rankings. It was impossible to pick out any of the big favourites. Ludo was also one of the riders to have a patchy first day and found himself down in the middle of the pack.
Ines after suffering through Day 1:
“It’s brutal, especially the long pedal sections. You’re totally spent and then after that you’ve got massive drops with trees everywhere to duck through while avoiding all the roots – it completely finished me off!”
With just a few hours to recover overnight, the second day kicked off with an 8.30 start and headed straight for the famous Glentress Trail Centre. Ines was able to defend her 5th place on the flatter, pedal-intensive stages. Unfortunately, Ludo was never really able to find his rhythm in the deep dark woods and ended up back in 34th.
Wearing number 10 but with a less than ideal start position because of seeding after Round 1 in Chile, the stage was set for the final day showdown between Joe and Nico Lau. The sounds of battle echoed around the Scottish hills as Joe turned himself inside out for every second available. Spurred on by a home crowd and the local racers, the timings at the end showed third place for the Top Chief, and with it a historic first ever podium for a British male in the Enduro World Series!
Joe on going in to Day 2:
“Starting the second day my body felt quite tired after the first day, but I came down and I hit just one left-hand corner – just got it perfect. It’s moments like that when you think – “Oh yeah, there you go! That’s what you gotta do!” I was really pleased just for that one moment, but then I set the pace for the whole day. So, I was really happy about that.”
The EWS organisers got it spot on again when choosing a new location, just like in Chile. Scotland is a stunning country and makes a fantastic addition to the racing calendar. Friendly locals, a mad riding scene, cool trails and even nice weather made it an awesome experience for everyone.
Joe after the race:
“It was so good to have all the Scots out cheering and it really felt like a home race. I’m really happy with 3rd place.”
Looking back at a race that definitely raised the bar in terms of difficulty, there are still a few tweaks to be made here and there to get right to the top of the leader board… Bring on Round 3!
Stay tuned for a special edition of the Strive Diaries coming your way in mid-June!