Hey again everybody. It seems like just last week that I was writing my last blog from the final EWS of 2014 in Finale Ligure. Being crowned World Champion in Finale Ligure was one of the best days of my life. Fast-forward 6 months and things have just gotten better! That is, until a couple of weeks ago.
After Finale, it was time to take a little break. Between a busy preseason training regimen and a heavy race schedule, I had mentally and physically fried myself a bit in 2014. As a result, I took 6 weeks off the bike and only did a couple very casual rides with friends. I used the time to get on top of some projects at home…getting the garage dialed in like I've always wanted with everything organized and in its place, and cleaning up the yard at home by gutting and creating a few new gardens. It was definitely a very different period of time compared to my usual day-to-day life. But, it was one that I really enjoyed!
On December 1st, it was time to slowly start building the training plan and get my basic fitness back up with some regular riding. With the first EWS of 2015 in late March, I set my preseason prep/plan and got after it. My training was full on by the time the New Year rolled around.
My teammate, Richie Rude, flew over and has been living with me since early January. It’s been awesome, and we definitely feed off each other a bit and push each other to go fast. Without getting into too much of the boring stuff, I had built a very specific training program leading into the beginning of the season. I really wanted to race the XC national series again, while doing a few smaller DH races to stay sharp (like I did in 2014
). But I felt that my prep last year kind of backfired with too many XC and road miles leaving me more like a diesel, and short of my usual punch on the power climbs that are in enduro stages. So, I scrapped the XC races, and focused on enduro races and some national DH races to prepare for the 2015 season.
By the beginning of February, my fitness and confidence on the bike was building. There was still plenty of room for improvement, but I was very happy with where I was. My first enduro race for the year (RockShox Enduro at Mt Buller
) confirmed that my form was coming around. It was a fairly short race with just 20 minutes of total stage race time, but I was happy to take the win by a minute ahead of a stacked field that included Jerome Clementz, Richie, Troy Brosnan, Sam Hill and a few other big guns.
We came over to Rotorua for a week to race the 2W Enduro on trails similar to what would be used at EWS Round 1. We really enjoyed the riding over here, seemingly riding a different trail almost every run. It was a great opportunity to ride a ton of different trails and just have some very long days out on the bike. We got a couple runs of each racecourse and I was happy with taking a 2nd place behind Wyn Masters. I felt like I was racing blind a lot of the time and certainly didn’t have lines dialed in. I was just taking the stages as they came to me and trying to go as fast as possible. A great week!
I then had a couple DH races at home in Toowoomba; the Oceania DH champs and a national DH round within three days (on the same track
). I was a bit disappointed with 3rd at Oceania champs (behind Richie and Connor Fearon
), but I got the win back at the national round against those guys two days later.
My confidence kept growing with Round 2 of the national Enduro Series on March 8th. I took the win by a minute ahead of Richie in another short 20-minute race. Everything was coming together, and I can honestly say that my confidence on the bike was at an all time high. I was loving my training, loving racing, feeling like I could do almost anything I wanted on my bike. I was feeling READY!
Watching Richie’s rate of improvement over the last 10 weeks has been awesome, too. He's been putting in the work and I've been pumped at his dedication. I’ve been excited to see how the start of his season would go.
Then it all went pear shaped. On Thursday the 12th of March, I made one small mistake on a corner I have ridden 500 times. I clipped a large tree and copped a direct impact with my neck and chest that flung me over and I landed heavily on my opposite shoulder. The result being some time in the hospital to discover both shoulders were separated and muscle tearing/damage/hematoma in my back. X-rays revealed that I somehow had no broken bones, but the shoulders would take some time to heal. I was absolutely gutted! After months of training and feeling like I had nailed my preseason prep, I was now at risk of not being able to start Round 1 of the 2015 EWS series.
We kept this information on the low-down and flew to Rotorua as planned on the 17th of March. I had my first ride on the dirt since my crash on the 18th, but my back was quite painful and very limiting. Things were improving each day and I was staying positive and hopeful that I would be able to race. Even if I wasn't 100%, I could still get some points and make the best of a bad situation. Unfortunately, as the start of practice got closer, it became more and more clear to me that racing wasn't going to be possible. I could not even pull my front wheel off the ground and certainly couldn't bunny hop. Right before bed on the night prior to practice beginning, I made the call to not race, as there were sections of many of the race stages where I knew I simply wouldn't even be able to ride.
The next few days were spent resting. I decided to take a few days off riding and just let the body try to recover while I re-evaluated my plan for the remaining seven rounds of the EWS series.
Race day came around and it was awesome to see Richie in high spirits. He seemed very happy and has been riding with a confidence that I haven't seen in him before. Unfortunately, his day was plagued with a few solid crashes in the slippery trail conditions. While he had a few very good stages, some others didn’t go as well. In the end, he finished in 12th place and solidified a good start to his season. This result certainly doesn't reflect where his season is headed; he's ready to uncork some podiums for sure!
As I type this, I am scheduled to see more doctors at home and do whatever it takes to recover as soon as possible. I still need to get some additional scans done to show the extent of the injury and get a better idea of what my recovery will look like. I’m feeling pretty confident that things will be good for Round 2 in Ireland in May.
For now, I have no issues riding the road bike and basic XC, and can keep on top of fitness until I can push 100% again. Until then though, it’s frustrating times for sure! One thing is for certain, being a spectator and watching racing is by far the best way to get the motivation sky high again. I will be sure to keep everyone informed of my progress and I want to say a huge thanks for all the support that I've received so far...it's been awesome!Words
: Jared GravesPhotos:
/ @foxracingshox / @shimano
/ @davetrump / @EnduroWorldSeries