Little did Lil' Robbo know, that when he asked Team CRC Manager Nigel Page "What's an Enduro race like?" on a mate ride up in Scotland, he was going to end up taking to the EWS stages in Italy taking on what would be two of the biggest days riding of his life and ride some of the best trails he's ever ridden.
It's nothing like Delemere. Hailing from prime EWS training heartland, the mecca of Warrington, Lill Robbo has just qualified as a plumber (well done lad) and a character like you and I who just sends it with his mates at the weekend. His attitude to his riding is infectious and he's rocked to fame, fortune and MTB stardom as a lead character in some of Tommy C (Caldwell Visuals) edits. Always positive, give anything a go and in filming he's always putting his body on the line! One thing he's never really been is a racer, his racing CV is pretty light despite some glorious victories in a few mates racers. With only weeks to the start of the Enduro World Series season and Sam Hill and Kelan Grant sidelined, Lil Robbo got an offer from Nigel to be a super-sub on the 4 time World Championship winning team (no pressure lad). It also happened to be his first-ever "official race".
With cheap flights and a fresh bike bag, he was ready to take on the world. A lift to the airport, 1 plane, 2 of Italian trains and about 7 hours traveling, excitement was peaking and he was rolling into the hallowed halls of the Hotel to meet up with Nigel Page, Elliott Heap and fellow super-sub Ant Hale in the "home of Enduro" Finale Ligure. It's pretty much a dream location to ride your bike; loads of amazing trails finishing right on the beach, combined with the finest gelatos and pizza in the land, "Enduro life ain't so hard?". Having never been around the world of racing, he was making an impact in the pits, impressing "Mr Wheelie Wednesday" Wyn Masters with his back wheel skills. To Robbo, the first few days in of the EWS lark were pretty much MTB paradise. Then practise happened.
Round 2 of the shortened 2020 Enduro World Series was to be held a few KM down the road from the team hotel at a new venue for the EWS; Finale Pietra. For Robbo practise started off as amazing fun, shredding new trails with some of the worlds best riders, That was up until he ran out of water on the climb to stage 3. No water and his glorious locks holding in all of the 36-degree heat. Nothing a little lie down couldn't sort as well as "finding a magical green door in the side of the mountain" (in Lil' Robbo's words) save him before a trip to the shops to refuel on a tin of the red doctor (coke). Then on to tackle the rest of the monstrous 51km course. Practise complete, the mix of dread and excitement descended for what he had signed up. Race day and the main focus "not dying" and to make it round and have some fun. With stage 1 & 2 in the bag and this racing lark seeming going well, stage 3 struck. A dirty compression was catching a few riders out on the stage and in true Lil Robbo style, he just sent it. In return it sent him over the bars and down the Italian hillside. God only knows how he survived pretty unscathed, but in a sensible move he called it a day as he "didn’t feel right at all after that, hit my head pretty hard on the way down".
Welcome to the world of enduro Robbo. In a restaurant later that evening, sitting with the team it was time to celebrate! You could forgive Adrian Dally (who was on the table next to the team) for thinking Robbo had just won the EWS with the level of stoke that had befallen on him. The reason, his massive crash had made the official highlights real, the EWS Instagram and GMBN, victory for Lil' Robbo!
With Round 4 of the EWS was held just down the road from Pietra in Finale Ligure itself. A week of recovery (Beach (some savage sunburn), Pizza, Ice Cream and a few appointments with the red Doctor), it was time to do it all again. The main focus for the race again was to learn from the first race and try not to die (easier said than done for this energetic pup). Round 4 offered another massive day of racing (61km of riding and 1800m of elevation), so plan was to wind the throttle down, just ride for fun. however, the day was brutal. Stage one was tough, really tough. Contra to popular belief and his Adonis physic he's never proclaimed to be the fittest of athletes (the 30-second trails form back home are slightly different from the Italian mountains). As the longest stage of the day he made it through alright, just losing time due to a minor mechanical. Stage 2 was a favourite, with only one run through the stages in practice, it was one of the stages he actually felt he knew what was ahead, plus there was the carrot of going back to the pits and grab some food after. Heading up to stage 3 and made up that so far he had made it through half of the day without crashing, the end started to dawn on him! Nearly at the top of the climb though, that horrible feeling of energy starting to disappear and the horrible build-up of cramp started in his left leg. in Robbo's words "I thought it would go, but just after the start of the stage I dabbed my foot and it kicked back in really bad and I couldn't shake it off. At the end of the stage I had a little sit-down, but my leg to wouldn't stop twitching and I knew my day was done." Limping back the pits stoke was still high having had the opportunity to ride some unreal tracks and the chance to try an EWS, maybe he bit off a bit too much in an EWS for his first proper race, it was certainly an eye-opener, but all in all, it was an amazing experience for the lad and these opportunities don't come up every day. On reflection "The races are a bit tougher than I thought and maybe need to be a bit fitter if I do anything like this again. But it was easily the best trip of my life with the best people to do it with can’t thank Nige and team enough for help making it happen."
The Spirit of Enduro lives on in Robbo.
Photos: Kike Abelleria
You can follow Lil' Robbo at @Lil_o_Robbo Www.nukeproof.com #itsanattitude