This was the third year in a row that the best Enduro riders in the world headed to Wicklow for the EWS, and this time it served as the halfway point in the season. Sports Marketing Manager Allan Cooke whipped up a race report from the deep green and rocky riding of Ireland. Keep reading for the all the details.
As a mountain bike rider there is one thing that comes to mind when heading to a place like Ireland and that’s the wet conditions. The last two years were uncharacteristically dry and so we were all bracing ourselves for what could be yet another mud fest. The first day of practice was dry, fast and about 80 degrees but looking ahead at the forecast it was not going to last.
Rat was back to buzz tires and rock hop with the boys.
To the relief of the sunburnt locals when we got up on Saturday morning for practice it was the Ireland we had avoided in years past, cold and wet. Luckily there were only 2 stages left to practice, the riders set off in pouring rain looking forward to see how the Irish terrain and Carrick Mountain was going to hold up. The trails weren’t too bad on practice day, there was still pretty good grip and things were rolling fast. Everyone new that it would be a different story after 400 racers went down the six tracks, Sunday was going to be a battle. Iago Garay, Mark Scott, Josh Lewis, Josh Bryceland and joining the crew for the week Craig Evans were all ready and up for the challenge.
Don't like the weather? Just wait a minute.
On Sunday the weather forecast was partly cloudy and no rain however the damage was done by the inches of rain that fell the previous day. The first stage of the race was a new one with fresh cut sections through dense forest as well as some bit in the clear cut open areas of the hill, the track was nothing like it was in practice with all the lines blown out it was more a game of point and shoot. Everyone made it down stage one fairly unscathed, Iago got it the worst with a crash an three off track excursions. Not the way Iago wanted to start the day, 59th in stage one for Iago he was already playing catch up.
The course was full of rampy rollers and this one got alot of attention from the team.
After the dismal first stage Iago had to gather himself and focus on what was ahead rather than what was behind, its so common to let an early stage result get in your head and cause you to over ride leading to more mistakes, more bad results and so on. Iago being the strong headed smart rider he is just simply started over mentally on stage two, throught the day his results were getting better and better including his season best stage finish of 26th on both the fifth and sixth stages to end the day. Iago is capable of much more and we are all looking ahead to Millau to see if he can use these solid top 30 results as momentum for the rest of the season. In the end it was a hell of a comeback from 59th on stage one to 35th overall, that’s not east when every rider in the field are the best riders in the world.
Loosedog was his usual smiling self although he was taking it easy this race, he had fractured his T7 vertebra just 5 weeks earlier and wasn’t quite back up to race pace. He was using Ireland as training more than anything, not to mention he just loves to be on his bike racing with friends. Even with a flat on track Loose was buzzing just to be back on his bike feeding off the wild Irish crowd and all his friends.
Craig Evans joined the crew this week in Ireland, he is a rider that we sponsor through our UK distribution Jungle. Craig is a Lad to say the least, always positive, smiling and having a good time. If you are familiar with the 50/01 videos you will know who Craig is, his skills on the bike are more than mind blowing and it was awesome to have him along for this trip.
Craig was one of the few riders out there that were running flat pedals and after the rain that fell on Saturday it was actually not a bad choice for slipping, sliding and paddling through the muck on track. Craig had a good day on the bike with his stage results bouncing between his best of 30th on stage one and 53rd on stage three, he ended the day in 40th overall, very respectable finish for the Hope, Fox Shox, Jungle, Santa Cruz backed rider. Next time we will see Craig on an EWS track will be later in the season when we head to Whistler, Canada. We are looking forward to see him shred between the tape again.
Also joining us for the 4th stop of the EWS was none other than Josh “Ratboy” Bryceland, the energy that Rat brings to the team is undeniable. He is so stoked from the second he wakes up till its time for lights out, no track conditions, mechanical or anything can kill his vibe as long as riding bikes is on the schedule for the day. Some people are surprised when they hear that Rat is racing EWS with fitness being a big part of the practice and racing. Many times during practice Rat was the first to the top of the transition and first to the bottom of the track, there is no question that his love for being on his bike more than makes up for any lack of fitness and he is for sure a contender at any EWS.
Ratty was all smiles during the transitions and all business in the woods.
Rat started off the day good with a 21st on stage one, just as it looked like he was settling into the groove he suffered a flat on stage three landing him in 110th and killing his chances of a repeat top 10 finish that he had in Rotorua earlier in the season. Rat was able to put a tube in, pump the tire up to about 40psi and kill it the rest of the day with top 20-30th stage results. Looking back at the photos of Rat he was smiling in every shot, the vibe Rat puts out while on his bike is intoxicating to say the least. It just makes you want to get on your bike and ride anything and everything, its like being a kid again all over. It’s a special thing to be around and Rat, Craig, Loose, Iago and Mark all have it figured out.
Coming into this race Mark was loose and chill, not to mention his smile was getting bigger and bigger as more rain fell on Saturday. Hailing from Scotland rain is no bother for Mark in fact he feeds off of it, especially when other riders start to whine and complain.
Wicklow green on Wicklow green. The whole crew got freshly painted race bikes for this round.
With Mark sitting 7th in the overall EWS ranking he is one of the last riders to go down the hill, this also means that the track is at its worst on days like Sunday but he was able to stay consistent nearly all day with top 15 place results and his best stage result on stage three with a 6th. Heading into stage six, the final of the day Mark was just outside of the top ten in 11th for the day. Mark went all in trying to make something special happen and was on a flyer when he went a little too hard in the wrong spot and had a big crash, he was okay but the damage was done. The time he lost on the final stage of the day broke his consistency and landed him in 43rd on that stage costing him the chance of a top ten for the day, 16th wasn’t what he wanted but no too bad considering the crash he had. The positive of the race was leaving Ireland with his health and still being top ten in the World rankings.
With the close of the race in Ireland the season is half way over, Iago has had a slow start but with his comeback here things are looking up. Mark sits 8th in the overall rankings and with four more races to go anything is possible. The rest of the season will have more guests joining the crew, Ratboy, Loose and Craig will be joining us for more races as well as “The Nomads” Dylan Wolsky and Chris Johnston and Mitch Ropolato once we get to North America.
Nobody escaped without running the gauntlet. A rowdy crowd made this section like none other.