Allan Cooke, our spare parts mule, Sports Marketing Manager, and one-man sandwich assembly line, sent this dispatch from the most recent Enduro World Series race. What looked to be an exciting, dry, dusty track quickly became technical and sloppy. Read on for the full story.
The second of 8 EWS stops in 2017 took place over the weekend in Derby, Tasmania. Derby’s a small, unassuming town not unlike Downieville, CA—a town nearly forgotten about when the tin mining and forestry industries dried up in the ‘50s. In the last 3 years, though, it’s been revived by a government-funded, mountain bike-specific trail project. Now buzzing with shuttle outfits, bike shops, and cafes, it’s a mountain biking paradise. No one could have guessed the amazing race the rural Tasmanian town would produce, but as soon as the riders took to the trails everyone knew that this place was special.
Practice went really well for Mark Scott, Iago Garay, and Josh Lewis. The Santa Cruz x SRAM Team is at the end of a long road trip, which started after the NZ Enduro, on to EWS Rotorua, and through Crankworx NZ. We were all feeling a bit tired, but energy and spirits were instantly lifted once we hit the trails. The network and variety of the Blue Derby trail system is nothing short of spectacular and needs to be on every rider’s bucket list—no joke. After perfect weather over the two days of practice, the forecast for race day made it apparent that it was going to be three wet races in a row for the team.
The forecast was predicting over an inch of rain to fall during the one-day, seven-stage race, which turned out to be a conservative prediction as there were torrential downpours for about 75% of the day.
Josh Lewis was first on track; Josh was all smiles as he set off for a five-hour, 43km day on the bike. Watching “Loosedog” race is in stark contrast to most of his competitors. Even though he’s competing at the highest level on the world stage, he always has the time to high five and chat with fans, tire bonk trees, and trick jumps while on the clock. Its not that Josh doesn’t care about placing well at these events, he just has to have a good time on the bike no matter what place he gets. Josh finished a respectable 50th overall, and his best stage was the extremely technical fourth stage. Stage four was very raw—the majority of the stage was made up of large rock sections that were claiming riders and wheels alike, and caused numerous flats. In typical “Loose” style he was flat out, nose-bonking, and hollering the whole way down the track. It’s no surprise he’s one of the fan favorites at any race, no matter where we are in the world—they definitely broke the mold when he was made.
Iago Garay was the second Santa Cruz x Sram Rider to head out of the festival village on Sunday morning, and by the time Iago rolled out, the rain had started to fall, but his spirits were high. Most of the Blue Derby trails are made up of decomposed granite, so there was a chance some things could actually get better with some rain—‘some’ rain wasn’t what mother nature had planned for the day, though. Iago had a pretty clean track for stage one, but after that it was a bit of a survival mission. Iago and all the riders were having trouble braking once the rain started in heavy—the fine, gritty top layer of the trails was causing brakes to work at 50% power at best. When Iago came in for service after stage 3 he said, “It was raining so hard I had my eyes closed squeezing the brakes as hard as I could for half the stage, it was so scary but so fun at the same time.” Iago laughed off what a lot riders would have shut it down at, put on a fresh kit, ate a sandwich, and headed out for the final 4 stages with a smile in the pouring rain. After battling the conditions all day, Iago would end up 41st overall, with his best stage being the final stage, where he placed 22nd.Getting his best result on the final stage suggests his fitness is where it needs to be, and Iago is motivated to find some more speed and form in the rest of the races this season.
Mark Scott rolled out on with his confidence high. When the skies open up there’s always a little smirk on Mark’s face—mud and rain put a damper on other riders but Mark excels in bad conditions. Coming from Scotland he has no choice but to ride on days that keep many riders inside catching up on internet rumors. Similar to Rotorua, deteriorating tracks would play a part for almost all the top-30 riders. At tenth overall in the series, the track had over 300 riders race before Mark got his turn, and when the conditions are as bad as they were in Tasmania it’s a struggle just to get down some of the track, let alone compete with some of the early times set by the competition. Mark would also have complete rear brake failure after the fourth stage—the fine, gritty, decomposed granite eating the pads away completely. Mark and the team were not the only ones to be caught out on brakes, and we’ll take this as a learning experience and do better next time.
Mark’s day was saved by fellow competitor, Jack Moir, who happened to have a spare set of pads on him, and he gave them to Mark so he could finish the final two stages with a working rear brake. Huge shout out to Jack for helping Mark out! Mark came in at the end of the day to finish 19th, and he sits 11th in the overall series standings. That’s not a bad place to be—he’s less than 100 points out of the top five with six races to go. A breakout race is coming for Mark and I guarantee it will be sooner than later. When Mark came into the pit after the race he said, “I haven’t felt like that in a long time, I couldn’t see, had no brakes, and was flying down the track. It was scary for sure. I thought the end result was going to be a lot worse, stoked to make it out alive, I had a blast on the bike today despite the conditions and mechanical, that’s racing though. On to the next one.”