On the road with Greg Callaghan: Part 2 - Punta Ala
Dirt Norco rider Greg Callaghan brings us the second part of his blog.
Dirt Norco rider Greg Callaghan brings us the second part of his blog, this time he visits Metabief and the very first Enduro World Series at Punta Ala. Over to you Greg...
To pick up from where I left off, in Chamonix in France, we then drove a few hours North to our next race in Metabief where it was cold and rainy and nothing like what we were hoping for, after all we did come here to race in the sun!
The format for this one was in true French fashion and pretty different to most. There were 4 stages on Saturday, two of which you could practice, but they would then have sections changed for the race and then two blind stages. The weekend would then end with a pursuit stage on the Sunday where the leader goes first and gets chased by the pack with everyone starting in their current position in the rankings.
Of the two stages we could practice, one was pretty much a steep DH run with endless tight switchbacks and the other was fast and flowy with a fair bit of pedalling, a good mix of everything between the two.
Practice was in the mud, rain and cold which dampened the spirits of team Transit, but we soldiered on and got the job done. I nearly didn’t even bring a jacket on this trip, turns out it’s been the most used item of clothing I have with me. I’ll need to bring a higher grade adventure jacket for the next trip though, just in case the adventures get pretty intense. Scott Laughland has a good one.
Racing went fairly well for me, I had no major disasters and managed to get a 3rd place on stage 3, the DH one, just a few seconds back on Jerome Clementz in 2nd. I finished the day in 9th place in a stacked field so was delighted. For the Sunday the plan changed a bit due to snow at the top of the hill they cancelled the pursuit and just ran a repeat of stage 4, conditions were less than pleasant on the day and I held on to my 9th place to finish the weekend. To get in the top 10 amongst these boys, especially the French guys who have been racing blind for nearly 10 years was a big achievement for me so I was pretty happy with that.
A nice place to be coming into the first Enduro World Series next week. We hung around Metabief for a bit to get everything cleaned after the muddy weekend and trucked on down to Punta Ala to get practice going for the race next weekend. We set up in the campsite with the Brits on tour and entertainment for the week was provided by Sam Flanagan with his wonderful impressions of various people from the mountain bike world.
The stages here were fairly fast and technical with plenty of climbing to make your lungs want to fall out your back door. Stage 3 was a beauty with some flat out rough sections down rocky gullies where the big wheeled monster really came into its element.
The lap was due to be a huge one at 65km but they cancelled stage 2 due to weather conditions which made the day a lot more manageable for most with this one being the biggest of the transitions. I had also yet to practice stage 2 so it suited me nicely.
Saturday evening was the prologue where we raced through the streets of a local town in front of the crowds with the backdrop of the Mediterranean ocean. There was a cool vibe around for this and it was pretty sweet to get to race in front of a town full of people, on a pretty cool course too. 42nd for me in this was good enough as the main thing was not to have any mechanicals or crashes that will hold you back on Sunday in the main race.
After a long week of practicing it was pretty hard to get the race head on for Sunday which was a weird one. With these races being so relaxed it’s actually pretty easy to forget what you came for and to just enjoy the day rather than focus on the racing. I guess there’s a fine line between enjoying the weekend and actually getting the job done.
We got the show started early on Sunday morning and had a 90 minute transition to stage 1. Once there, Sam Flanners and I had a wander down into the start of Stage 1 to check it out where we saw Josh Bryceland have the funniest start to a race I’ve ever seen. After some swearing, putting his shoe back on and straightening his bars he was back on his way. Another high point of the day was Al Stock, the people’s champion, who rode most of stage 3 on his rim. Apparently he was the quickest out of anyone through the sketchy rock section and he managed to make 7 Italian spectators minds literally explode with how he came through the section with his tyre on his back.
Back to my race, I had a relatively good day. Stage 1 it took me a while to get into things and I didn’t quite pedal as hard as I could have up the big climb, once it got a bit rougher and technical I got my head into gear and got into the flow. Stage 3 went well and was great fun, hammering through those gullies at race pace is a pretty awesome feeling! On stage 4 I had a stupid over the bars moment that cost me a fair bit of time and gave me the red mist which made me pedal like I was late for mass! Stage 5 was steady with no issues really, just some small mistakes. Overall a pretty good day with no huge disasters compared to some. I’m just glad I’m not Gary Forrest who had an awful day of it, poor Gary! I managed to finish the day up in 37th which I was pretty stoked with considering this was pretty much the Olympics of mountain biking with the depth of riders in the field. Even in 37th there are still people around me who are World Champions or who can race for wins on their good days, so I was pretty happy to be up there.
I definitely feel that for the next one I should be getting myself well into the top 20 so I’m looking forward to getting home and working towards that. The year is only getting going and so much has already happened. Exciting times ahead!
Next up is Hamsterly for a round of the UK Gravity Enduro series and then back home for a few weeks and an Irish Gravity Enduro in my local riding spot before hitting the road once again. Keep ‘er between the ditches folks and see you trackside!