| || |
When you come from the South of France, your first thoughts when you know you are heading to Scotland are mud, rain, green grass and mud. As we get closer to the departure date, a mixed feeling of anxiety and excitation was growing. After a first round in Chile with powerful results, we are all looking forward to the Scottish round. .
EWS Scotland Round 2: Inside the Rally Team
On Tuesday night, all the team has made it to Innerleithen by plane for the racers and by truck for our two mechanics, Lilian and Nico. On Wednesday, it is time for the first practices. We start by riding the day 1. This round is a rally and a hard one. The first day consists of 4 very challenging stages with steep and technical parts but also some long pedaling and flat sections. And on a raining day this is even worst… We are all excited and ready to smash these trails as we were pedaling up to the first stage. Stage one starts at the top of a mountain with a high speed section and no trees. You then enter the woods full gas and you’d better know what to expect! The dark!
As soon as you enter the forest, you can’t see anything the time your eyes adapt. If you don’t manage to adapt fast you are riding blind a slippery section with roots and mud. In the middle of this first stage there is a climb, a long climb, a very long climb! We expected a tough race, this is it! Stage 2 is a downhill with some of the steepest part we’ve ever seen on a EWS.
It is rocky and you’d better make no mistake. To go to stage 3, we cross the valley and go on the other side. It is a long way up but we have a sweet view on the Valley and its green fields. This stage is physical as we have to pedal on a flat section in the mud and straight a way we need to manage to ride another steep part that requires a decent amount of technical skills. We all agree on the fact that stage 4 is the best one of the day. It is smoother and you can get a good pace.
On Thursday, we practice the stages of Glentress above Peebles and still under the rain. The beginning of the stage one is a rocky trail with flat corners and as soon as you leave this part it is mud, mud, mud… Did I say it was muddy? I would like to thank my bike to bring me safe to the end of this trail, I was holding the bar, feet off the pedals and trying not to fall every seconds. Florian was riding down very comfortable and bumping to avoid every root. His wheels almost didn’t touch the ground all the way down. Stage 2 starts with a bike park, then we enter the forest and ride a muddy steep part as fun as it is challenging. Finally, we ride a long flat section where you need to keep pedaling until the finish line which is not close… Stage 3 is a pure downhill with a bit of bike park, slippery woods and some fun jumps. After practicing these trails we were already tired as we were heading to the last one of the day. The race will end in the same way it starts: pedal, pedal, pedal and as Florian would say, you’d rather have torn your cranks by the end of this stage.
On Friday it is the last time for practicing and eventually the sun came out. While the boys went practicing only a few stages, I have decided to rest and enjoy this sunny day on the amazing pit we had in Peebles. What’s cool with the format of this round is that everyone has the same opportunity to know the trails but with a minimum of 80km of practicing already in the legs the race will be tough. Saturday: First day of race
We all start form Peebles and head to Innerleithen. The time transfer is short and you’d better keep a good pace to make it on time. On the way to stage 1 you pass along the climb you’ll get to do... Scary! Flo was impressive and finishes 9. Jesse had more time to train after the Chilean round and completes this stage ranking 13rd. Alex is 15th and I am 12th. The second stage is the downhill and steep one. Jesse takes a strong 7th place, following by Flo 10th and Alex 26th. I feel more comfortable on this stage and grab the 5th place. Once the long transfer to go up to stage 3 is done, it is time to ride the other side of the valley. It is muddy and very sticky since the mud dried a little bit. Flo ranks 6th, Jesse 26 th and Alex 28th. I am 11th and can’t find the right pace on this pedaling trail. We make our way to the final stage of day with determination. It’s our favorite one! The results can just confirm this Flo is 3rd, Alex 5th. Jesse had a bad crash but still ranks 38th. I conclude my day with a 5th place.
After this first day what is sure is that our results are mixed. Flo has made his way to the top 10 ranking 7th, but he was not as comfortable as usually and had a hard time keeping his runs flow. Jesse had a strong day, he is 14th. Alex is 16th and was not really happy about that. He couldn’t find the right pace and made mistakes. I rank 7th with only great results on the downhill stages. After this 50km ride, our mechanics washed and checked our bikes for the next day.Sunday: Second day of race
Today is even tougher than yesterday with the most pedaling sections coming. Time for transfer is still short and once you live Peebles you need to keep a good rhythm up to the stage 1. Flo is having fun and feels better than yesterday, he is 2nd. Alex finds his marks and grabs the 6th place. Jesse ranks 17th and I am 7th. The second stage is a great mix with every kind of trails and terrain from steep to flat. Flo ranks 4, Alex 10th and Jesse 31st. I am 10th. The third stage is a pure downhill. Fun times of the day!
Alex is a reserved guy, never showing off who just rides his bike and enjoying it. He finishes 1st of this stage signing the scratch and letting his result make the noise. Flo is 3rd, Jesse 31st and I am 4th. Eventually, it is time for the last stage of the weekend and the most physical one. Flo pushes as hard as possible and ranks 8th, Alex 14th and Jesse 44th. I finish 11th and still out of the pace.
Thanks to his incredible second day Flo made his way to the top five and ranks 4th, which makes him rank 3rd overall of the EWS after this round. Alex couldn’t manage to make a top 10 but still finishes with a strong 11th place and rank 7th overall with the Chilean round. Jesse finishes 21st and had a better result than in Chile, which makes him rank 25th overall. I conclude my weekend ranking 9th and 6th overall.
We had a great weekend in Scotland. It was hard to adapt to these local conditions of racing and the race was though with a total of 87km and 3000m of ascent. The positive vibes among the team were our energy source for the weekend. We were all supporting each other and it made this round an amazing time. We would like to thank all our partners for making it happened, our mechanics that have done an amazing job and to all of you for the support through the weekend. See you in Valloire, à bientôt !
All photos by Matt Wragg