The latest enduro road trip instalment from Dirt/Norco rider Greg Callaghan…
After a couple of weeks at home it was time to set off again on yet another roadtrip to some more races. Unfortunately for everyone involved, the trusty Transit wouldn’t make it along as it is no longer part of the family due to the van and it’s problems having been passed onto a new owner in order to generate some racing funds.
I headed off from Dublin Port with my bike and bags to get a ferry and a train to meet Mark Scott somewhere in Wales and head to Dyfi for round 4 of the UK Gravity Enduro series.
We were greeted at the race with your standard Welsh weather of rain and general gloominess. Saturday was pretty much non stop rain all day, making seeding a battle with vision and wind on the open grassy stage, everyone loves a bit of wet grass to ride on now and again though, it was like a downhill race from the 90’s. Thankfully the weather picked up for Sunday though to make for perfect conditions for racing with wet dirt and dry skies.
My day went well and I rode strong to win the first 3 of 4 stages to build up an 18 second lead over 2nd place which I was pretty stoked with when I found that out at the end of the day. Although my luck ran out on the way to the final stage when I snapped a chainring due to a loose chainring bolt forcing me to scoot and speed tuck my way down to finish the day. Not having any idea how I was doing at the time, I knew all I could do was try and ride as fast as I could in order to salvage a decent result. Which worked out pretty well and I only lost 25 seconds to the stage winner and dropped from 1st to 3rd place which wasn’t all that bad considering the circumstances. Although I didn’t get the result I was after or felt I deserved, it was still good to know that the speed and fitness were there heading into next week.
After the podium was done we loaded up the LOLbus with Al Stock and his kit and hit the road to France. After a long drive, the LOLbus arrived in Val d’Isere on Tuesday morning so we had a few days to chill out, catch up on our washing, do some riding in Tignes and enjoy the alpine sun! The town was pretty empty until Thursday but once the vans started rolling in the pikey camps soon got set up.
This one was a bit different to the other World Enduro rounds with it being the Enduro Des Nations which is essentially the World Champs of endure, with a twist. Each nation has a team of 3 riders and your combined times at the end of the weekend determine your result. Last year Team Ireland came 3rd in this so we were definitely after a few scalps this year with 2 new team members, Dan Wolfe, the enduro rookie and Gav Carroll, the loose cannon. We definitely had one of the stronger teams out there so if we could all manage to stay disaster free all weekend we should be in with a shout of a top 3.
The lads arrived on Thursday afternoon and Friday was trackwalk day, I say day because it literally was a whole day of walking. The stage we walked was a bit longer than anticipated so it turned into a marathon of a walk and was pretty tiring. Although it did still benefit us as we found a lot of good lines and had a good idea how to approach the weekend and how to set up our bikes for the terrain. The stages were pretty much completely fresh and natural so there wouldn’t be anyone using local knowledge to their advantage for this one which was good. It’s pretty hard to have a level playing field with the nature of enduro but the guys managed to do a good job this weekend.
Before we knew it it was 6:30 on Saturday morning and the alarms were going off to get out of bed and on the lift for 7:30! The top of stage 1 was up at the Olympic downhill skiing start hut and the view from up there was pretty epic. The hike a bike to get there was also pretty epic but not in a good sense!
The first two stages didn’t really go that well for me, I struggled with pacing myself over the long stages and made far too many mistakes. I had 2 crashes on stage 1 and one on stage 2 giving me 27th and 28th place for the two stages, which wasn’t too bad considering how much time I felt I could make up. Top 20 on the stages is really where I want to be and it is well within my reach at the moment, I just have to put the pieces together and do it, easier said than done though!
Stage 3 was a complete war zone, it was almost cancelled with the storm that came in and the heavy fog but after a long delay we got to go racing. Straight away I had two huge over the bars crashes due to not being able to see anything in the fog and pushing too hard on a section that needed to be ridden at a safe and smooth pace to get through it cleanly. The crashes I could deal with as everyone was going to make mistakes so I carried on trying to make the time back, unfortunately this only lasted a few turns before I came into a blind compression and heard a bang from the rear wheel, it was my tyre piercing on a sharp rock and that was that for me. I pulled over to fix it alongside Justin Leov who had just hit the same rock but it took me far too long to get going again between not being able to feel my hands in the cold and having issues with the co2 cannister. I lost 15 minutes, completely knocking me out of contention for any kind of decent result this weekend.
After this disaster I was in pretty much last place, and not one to give up and go home, I kept it going to finish out the weekend and make sure Ireland would atleast finish the Enduro Des Nations, as a lot of teams would have DNF’s. The Sunday’s stages are seeded from Saturday’s standings meaning that I was in the thick of the traffic and was going to have a hell of a day of block passes and carnage. It was going to be next to impossible to put in any competitive times with so many people infront of me to overtake so I just figured I would try overtaking as many people as possible and make the most of the days riding. With only 8 second gaps between each rider there was pretty much always a rider infront of me with a target on their back. After a pretty mellow first stage I counted 17 overtakes, hungry to break the 20 man mark on the second stage I went pretty hard and got to 21 overtakes after passing 2 guys right on the finish. Stoked! I ended the weekend in 111th position, far from what I came here for but I definitely learnt a lot and can take a lot away from the weekend. Team Ireland finished in 6th place, not what we wanted either but it’s still a result.
It was a shame to come all this way and miss an opportunity at a strong result and to prove myself at these races but that’s racing and mechanicals are unavoidable at times. I’ve had a good year so far so I suppose I was due some sort of disaster and I got two of them two weekends in a row, it can only go up from here. I guess it’s just more fuel in the fire to go away and come out swinging for the last round of the series in Finale Ligure in October. There is a big break between now and then so I’m currently spending some time in the Tweedvalley in Scotland getting some good riding and training in on some new trails before the final round of the Irish Gravity Enduro series in Djouce this weekend followed by a few more races in Ireland with the Bluegrass tour coming to Ballyhoura, Limerick in a couple of weeks and then the infamous Red Bull Foxhunt at the start of October on the newly opened Rostrevor trails.
It’s a bit weird because it feels like so much has happened this season and the first race in Punta Ala seems like years ago, but there is still so much more racing to come and the season is definitely not over yet. Hopefully we can make the last few races good ones and carry some good momentum into the winter and start looking forward to next season. With the World Series calendar being released in the last few days it looks like its set to be a hell of a season and a true WORLD series!