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Jared Graves – Enduro World Series #1

Yeti have just posted this brilliant excerpt from Jared Graves’ Diary leading up to the first ever round of the Enduro World Series in Punta Ala. Reading it made three things become very apparent to me; firstly that you’ve got to be insanely fit to win one of these races, secondly that your bike handling skills have to be second to none, and finally does the whole issue of ‘practice’ need sorting one way or the other asap? Anyway, enjoy…

Intro: Damion Smith

Jared Graves needs no introduction. He’s been at the top of the sport in several disciplines for over a decade (4x World Champion, multiple 4x World Cup overall championships, has hit the World Cup podium in DH, and was an Olympian in BMX). This season, he decided to turn his focus to Enduro.

Jared’s training is legendary, so there was no doubt he would commit 100% to becoming a great enduro racer. His first indication came at the Australian National Championships this year — he finished eight in the pro cross-country race and less than an hour after his race, qualified first in downhill and went on to place second in the finals.

Fast forward to the first race in the Enduro World Series in Punta Ala, Italy this weekend. There was endless debate about what type of rider would excel in the new format and the field was packed with the biggest name in our sport. The Yeti crew felt confident Jared would be in the hunt.

Here’s Jared’s diary during the week of training and racing…

Monday, May 15 – I arrived in Florence straight from Australia, collected the hire car then off to Punta Ala. For sure, it was a mission, finding my way out of the airport. Being solo with just a printed Google map and driving on the wrong side of the road was tough. CRAZY Italian drivers and no street signs made the trip an adventure. Eventually I just decided to wing it. I knew the venue was southwest, so that’s where I headed. My plan, surprisingly, worked out very well.

Once I arrived in Punta, I built my bike, got groceries, unpacked and then went out for an easy spin to check out stages 4 and 5. Stage 4 and 5 are definitely the more mellow trails, such good flow and just plain good fun! Grabbed dinner and headed off to bed ready to get some big days riding in over the next few days.

Tuesday, May 14th – Jet-lag is a killer sometimes, but I generally like it when I am wide awake at 5am and ready to get on with the day. By 6 am I was out on the trails. I had all the trails to myself, the sun was out and I was loving it. What a way to start the day.

I took a quick break and early lunch. Late morning, I decided it was time to check out the first three stages. This is where things got a little frustrating. After four hours out riding and about 4000 vertical meters climbing we had finally checked out the the first three stages. We then saw a bunch of riders shuttling with quads, moto’s, and trucks. They were doing four runs to our one and saving a load of energy.

To me this is not really in the ‘spirit of enduro’ that people keep talking about, but I guess as soon as you call something a World Series with a World Champion to be crowned, things change. I’ve trained way too hard to be at a major disadvantage, so I planned to shuttle as much as we could over the coming days.

Wednesday, May 15th – Again, I was up nice and early for another solo spin of stages four and five (which can’t be shuttled, at least not in any way that I know of). Another awesome morning, two runs on each and a good start to the day!

11 am and it was shuttle o’clock. We only had a hire car, which meant part shuttles, the rough roads wouldn’t allow the car all the way up top. But it was good to save the legs a bit and get in some more riding, even though there was still a lot of climbing involved.

This is where my preparation paid off. Some solid study on what the trails were like lead me to believe a more aggressive bike setup would be the way to go. I chose a Maxxis 2.5 EXO 3c Minion front and rear, tubeless of course! Added an extra 5 psi in the Fox 34′s and an extra 10 psi in the Float X CTD out back. I switched to a 50mm mm stem from the 70mm I was riding at home, and my bike felt right at home on the VERY rough and fast trails.

Stages 1,2, and 3 were to my liking – actually very similar to the trails that the SB66 was designed for, fast, rocky and unforgiving! Loving it!

This is where things get tricky… you need an easy 48 hrs leading up to the race to be fresh and ready to roll on race day, so squeezing in that last practice while freshening up proves to be a bit of a juggling act. Time management over the next few days is going to be very important!

Thursday, May 16th – The predicted rains for today rolled in last night, which is giving me a bit of a forced rest. Sunny skies are predicted for the weekend so there isn’t much point going out and sliding around in the mud. I’m taking my first moments to myself since I’ve landed, getting on top of some emails, and letting the body recover a bit. Also, a perfect time to do some helmet cam footage study from the past two days riding to learn the tracks a bit better.

Friday, May 17 – More overnight rain, and very slippery conditions. I decided to just take it easy and check out how the tracks were changing and if they were getting cut up from the runs in the mud. The rain has totally transformed the tracks — they are full on World Cup DH status rough. The punchy climbs were boggy and slow, very physical now, but really enjoyed the riding today. Unfortunately, a couple bad line choices ended up in some mechanical issues which resulted in quite a stressful next 24 hours!

Saturday, May 18th – Sun’s out guns out! Bike was back to 100% perfect working order, and it was time to head off and do a final check of stage four and five. They were both drying nicely, especially stage five, which was top to bottom hero traction, such good fun! Focus of the day though was on recovery with 6000 ft of climbing over 62km in the dirt and mud to ride tomorrow, I needed to freshen up.

PM was the prologue which is a showcase for the spectators, done street race style, down through the streets of a nearly town. After washing my bike and making sure everything was 100%, I headed off for the prologue. Practice went until 5pm, but with me arriving at 4pm, and 500 riders to practice, I only got in one run. It’s gonna have to do…

Then the rain came down, just to make things more interesting! My plan was to just not crash, you don’t want to throw away the whole race in a 40 second stage when there’s going to be close to 30 minutes of timed race stages to come tomorrow. So I kept it simple, and casual, and just tried to make it down with myself and my bike in one piece. To my surprise I came in 8th fastest, pretty happy with that!

Ready for a big one tomorrow. Weatherman says its going to rain, which will make things interesting for sure, but I’m ready for whatever, can’t wait!

Sunday, May 19th, Race Day – Yep, there was overnight rain, but not as much as predicted – just enough to keep thing interesting.

The first two stages were long, rough, rocky, muddy, rooty, rough, physical, tiring and rough! The call “world cup DH on trail bikes…. with some pedaling” was being thrown around a lot! My plan was to stay smooth and carry overall speed from top to bottom. I knew stages four and five would be my strongest, so I had to be within striking distance in these stages.I was very happy when I found out I was in 3rd overall after the first two stages.

Stage three and four were less physical and technical, but more about flow and speed maintenance. I knew had to push hard to try and push my way up the order, but I pushed a little too hard on stage three. I found a tree with my shoulder, nothing major, but a few seconds gone. Still, I ended up 2nd fastest on the stage, which gave me a lot of confidence for the final stage.

I wasn’t really content to ride smooth and just make sure I got down safely. I really wanted a stage win! Stage four suited all my stregths the best, so it was now or never. My run was clean and fast, and to cut a long story short, I got my stage win. What a perfect way to end the day. I was two seconds off Jerome Clementz, who finished second, and fifteen seconds off Fabian Barel who took the win. But to stand on the podium with those guys was awesome!

Man I learnt a lot this week. It was very mentally and physically tough, 6-7 hours riding most days, and in the end, I got very limited shuttling. Enduro definitely combines the best of all forms of riding — you can’t have any weak points. The hype of this race was justified and I am looking forward to the next race.

Bike Set-up:
Yeti SB66c frame / medium
Fox RAD 34 and Float X 2014 fork and shock
Fox DOSS dropper post
DT Swiss EXC 1550 wheel set, ghetto/split tube tubeless
Maxxis 3C EXO Minion front and rear / 26psi front 29 psi rear.
Shimano XTR group, with Saint brake calipers
Renthal 740 wide fat bar lite and 50mm duo stem
Stages power meter

thats about it for now! cheers!

www.yeticycles.com

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