It's one of those worst case scenarios when it comes to EWS racing - especially if the race is going well: mechanical failure that would mean a five-minute replacement time penalty or pulling out of the race. Ruaridh Cunningham was on roll in Ainsa, taking ninth on stage one and sixth on stage two. Then disaster struck - a flat twenty seconds into stage three that almost cost him a DNF. With stage three being so short, RC kept riding to the finish and then attempted to fix the flat. The tire had rolled off the rim and had been caught in the rotor. The damage to the rim and tire meant that it would not hold air. With the help of fellow racers, RC put in a tube, installed the tire, and then zip-tied the tire in place. The tire held until about three-quarters of the way down stage four, then it rolled off with a bang at the finish. RC put the tire over his shoulder and pedaled back to the castle on the rim, thinking that this race had pretty much gone into the bin.
The rim was trashed by the time he got back, but team mechanic, Tyler West, wasn't sure the game was over just yet. Back at the house, he found an old rusty pair of snips for trimming horse hooves. They were rusty as hell and made him question whether or not he would need a tetanus shot when this was over. Then, he got to work. The snips were perfect for leveraging the crushed rim bead and pulling it back up and out. Next, all of the newly acquired sharp edges were filed down and the crack through the seam of the hoop had to be addressed. Tyler threaded a spoke through the inner spoke holes on either side of the crack and twisted it together (extra insurance if there was a failure).
Instead of the traditional Bontrager rim strip, three layers of rim tape were added and a Flat Tire Defender was installed. A wire bead G5 was put on the rim and 3/4 of a liter of sealant was injected and, finally, the tire was epoxied onto the rim. However, the tire wasn't holding air. It was getting late. The valve was removed from the FTD and a tube was then inserted with sealant inside the tire just in case. Besides, it seemed like it would be a good lubricant to protect the tube in the case of sudden harsh impacts. The tire was re-epoxied onto the rim and then the whole enchilada was inflated. Little sleep was had that night.
When Tyler came out in the morning to check the wheel, it was still holding air. Maximum air pressure was used to ensure the whole thing had a better chance of staying together. With the wheel back on the bike, tools were given to RC to ensure that he had what he needed if the proverbial doo-doo hit the fan. Honestly, if something went wrong, it was likely over at that point. But, it was up to RC to get down the hill over the course of three short stages with the wheel in one piece. The wheel wasn't easy to handle. The high pressure made it skip about over rough stuff instead of tracking like normal. Then, there was the weight of the thing - 7.83 pounds out back on a 29-inch wheel. It noticeably changed handling dynamics.
Ultimately, RC made it through the day on one piece. He even took 10th on stage seven. Not bad. Not bad at all. It's not easy keeping a bike together over seven rough EWS stages, especially when you are feeling good and pushing it a little. Things happen. In this case, out of the box thinking and ingenuity prevailed. After taking 194th on stage three, RC pulled it back to take 36th in a classic case of teamwork making it happen.