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Enduro-packing the EDR - Round one, Maydena Tasmania

Mar 27, 2023 at 14:06
by Matthew Fairbrother  
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Well... I'm back for round two.

In 2022 I committed to racing all of the European EWS rounds, only thing is I was 17, from New Zealand, I was by myself, knew no one away from home, I had no experience out of the country, no vehicle and had only a few thousand dollars to last 6 months in Europe; but one thing you should know about me is I'm really stubborn and If I want something bad enough I'm going to do everything in my power to make that happen. With only the very loose plan of racing all of the Europe EWS rounds and hoping to hitch a ride in someones vehicle to all of the rounds, I thought in theory it should have been simple. I was far from right as I was left panicking the week of the first EWS in Tweed-Valley, Scotland with out any way of getting to Slovenia, I thought. I like to think I'm quite resourceful, and I believe there is always way to make something happen, in fact in this case it was so obvious. Then and there with only a couple days to plan I committed to riding the 1500km to EWS round 2 in Slovenia on my race bike fully self-supported. I set off only 1 hour after finishing 11th U21 in my first EWS race and then went on to finish 10th after the 1500km ride to EWS #2 in Slovenia.

2022 Season Recaps:
•Recap 1 Interview - 17 year old bike packs 250km a day to race the EWS
•Recap 2 Interview - 18 year old Matt Fairbrother rides 200km a day between EWS rounds North America update
•Recap 3 Interview - Bike-packing 340km a day to complete the EWS Series Part 3 - Saving the hardest for last


That's how it all started, but why am I here doing it all again? I feel as if I've been given a once in a life time opportunity, although completely unintentional it's not too often in this sport you find something unique that hasn't been fully explored. Although this has come with a slight change in goals I couldn't be more stoked about the direction I'm heading, and this year I've got so many rad brands who are helping me bring my vision to life. At my core I just like riding bikes, it's as simple as that, I'm still just as competitive, I want to win just as much as everyone else does. But for the time being I'm going to create the absolute most out of the opportunities ahead of me and try to share what makes bikes so damn good.

Enduro World Cup Round One: Maydena, Tasmania Vlog

Only two days before flying to Tasmania, I had a crash at the New Zealand National Enduro Champs that left me in a moon-boot with a suspected fractured first metatarsal and sesamoid. I couldn't believe what I'd just done, frustration set in but with two weeks till racing begun I had some hope. I flew in to Hobart, Tasmania with a plan A and a plan B. Plan A was the originally plan, race both the EDR rounds in Tasmania, plan B was to forget about racing and make the most by being in Tasmania and tour the Island via bike. After some moon-boot modifications I was ready, the 4 hour flight to Tasmania felt incredibly short relative to my last flight home from Europe. As the plane approached the landing it was apparent there were severe winds, I was either about to get really lucky, or very unlucky...

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As I built my bike up outside the airport, it was soon apparent that luck wasn't with me that day. The wind was coming straight at me, I was going so slow and with all the additional weight I could barely keep the bike in a straight. The pace was slow, really slow; I averaged 8km per hour that day. Every pedal stroke was hard, and equated to almost nothing in distance, frustration was building I was working so hard but yet not even moving. Additionally, passing plenty of roadkill put me in a scary place mentally, there was no verge on the side of the road, cars were flying past and every poor animal was an instant reminder of the uncontrollable danger that I was in. I felt very vulnerable. I eventually found a roadside gas station, It was great to escape the roadside and miserable weather outside for a few minutes. One thing to note, Australian gas stations are a large improvement over European gas stations. I treated myself to a selection of warm food and a coke to keep the morale up - I was stoked.

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At this point I was 3 hours and only 25km in, the weather was only getting worse and I made the realisation there was going to be no chance of making it to Maydena that night. I only had a few hours of daylight left so I booked a place at a campsite in a town, New Norfolk. The additional 30km there was nothing short of horrendous as the rain began to really hammer down. The 'safety squint' was in full effect as I was being blinded by water spray from my tires. All I could do was put my head down and just get on with it, after all at this point I didn't really have any other choice. I arrived at the New Norfolk campground and was greeted by the Camp Warden who was astonished to see I was riding in a moon-boot. It was great to have a warm shower that night and to be able to decompress after a really average day.

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I woke up at 5:30am to more rain and decided to delay my departure, It stopped raining at 8:30am so I then began the move to Maydena. With the wind slightly less present the motivation was much higher and I began to crank into last 60km to Maydena. As I travelled further I began to get engulfed by the dense jungle like forests of Tasmania. Not knowing what's sitting just around the corner is what I find most exciting about traveling to new places. I arrived in Maydena feeling much more drained then I'd have thought for that distance, although I'll put that to the previous day battling the wind. Now it was time to give my foot some rest before reassessing to decide whether I was going to go for Plan A or Plan B.



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EDR Round one - Race Day
We were treated to almost perfect weather on race day, with a brisk start it soon turned into a warm but not too warm day. I had a roll-out time of 8:40am, a 6:30 am wake up meant I had plenty of time to eat breakfast, do some last minute bike preparation and warm-up before catching the shuttle to the top of Stage 1. I don't exactly know how I was feeling, there were so many unknowns. I knew the trails here suited me but I didn't know how my foot was going to hold up and with 6 brutal stages it was all to play for.

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Photo Credit: @piperalbrecht

•Stage One:
I had a 30 minute wait until my drop time, so plenty time was spent riding around in circles to try and keep myself warm. The morning dew had made the dirt up top perfect, but I knew there was a possibility the roots and rocks (which there are plenty of) could be slick. My mindset for this stage was to simply just get down to the bottom and see how I was feeling. We started on Gnar Yeah, one of the parks brutal double blacks. I cruised off the start and tried to find some flow, It took awhile but around half way down I find it, although by that point my arms were beginning to blow out and I was only just managing to hold on. An uphill sprint nearing the end of the stage was a relief to my forearms as I approached the last push to the finish. A 7th place (U21) for a conservative run was something I was pretty stoked with!

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Photo Credit: @piperalbrecht
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•Stage Two:
With some confidence that my foot wasn't going to be a problem I was ready to get into it. Stage Two isn't my best suited style of track, I usually struggle to rail bermed corners and with plenty of mid-stage pedalling I didn't have high hopes of a solid result. For some reason something clicked and I was getting all of my braking zones correct, my tyres were gripping and for once I felt in control. I didn't completely empty myself on the flat sections, I always made sure to save some energy in reserve for the downhill sections which seemed to work. I finished 2nd (U21), when I found out later on in the day I couldn't believe it, I thought I'd had a good run but didn't realise it had been that good.


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Photo Credit: @piperalbrecht


•Stage Three:
The crowds swarmed over to the top of Stage Three, the noise was insane, It was hard to stay composed with everything going on but nothing compares to riding through a swarm of hecklers. I was onto another good run, I'd found my flow, I felt like I was on the pace. Approaching the bottom climb, I swung wide on a corner and picked up a stick in my derailleur jockey wheel. As soon as I pedalled it crunched and I knew immediately what had happened. I coasted the remaining climb with the speed I had left and rolled down to the finish of the stage to finish in 13th (U21). Luckily after Stage Three we were allocated 20 minutes for tech assistance if we needed it, which I did. I rushed over to the Shimano tent who dropped everything they were doing to help me out. Within that 20 minutes they had sorted me out and I was ready to go.

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Photo Credit: @piperalbrecht
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•Stage Four:
I was amped to try and claw back some time on this stage, Stage 4 was the closest to a downhill track. The more you pushed the more you were rewarded. Only a couple corners in I was riding down a chute and dislodged a rock which followed me down the hill, I hit the corner at the bottom and then the rock ploughed straight into my derailleur breaking the cage. My chain was loose and soon got tangled and locked up my cranks in an up-down position. The rest of the stage was rowdy as I was slamming my foot into everything. I rolled into 18th (U21), only 10 seconds back from first. I couldn't believe I'd just received another dose of uncontrollable bad luck. At this point I was gutted, I knew I'd completely thrown away any chance at a decent result, although I didn't have any time to think too hard on it.


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Photo Credit: @piperalbrecht


•Stage Five:
Without enough time to properly sort out my mechanical my only option was to remove my chain and run up to the 5th stage. After about 45 minutes of running I made it to the top with only a couple minutes before I had to drop in. I was pushing hard and had a few moments where I almost couldn't keep it together, this stage was a tough one to do chainless as there were multiple tight flat corners you'd usually sprint out of and a had a climb at the end. I was fully embracing the scoot and crossed the line in 18th (U21). Despite slowing moving back in the rankings I was still sitting within the top 10 (21).
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Photo Credit: @piperalbrecht
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•Stage Six:
With some time before the last stage I managed to get my bike fixed in time. I knew to stay within the top 10 (U21) I was going to have to push hard. I was attacking but staying smooth, I'd made it about half way down the hill and could see the rider in front of me. I started to push harder until out of no where my back wheel locked up completely. With a quick assessment I made the decision that running down the hill would be the quickest way done the hill. I crossed the line 6 minutes behind in dead last.


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Photo Credit: @piperalbrecht


Although on paper this race was a disaster, there's still plenty of positives to take out of it. I was riding good, but I just need to hold everything together.
Good thing I've still got another chance next week in Derby, Tasmania.

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