Monday, April 7, 2014

Enduro Sospel Rider

Huge race in Sospel out near the Italian border last sunday, with a ridiculous amount of climbing in between stages. Sospel is an amazing little village with small mountains (or big hills) all around with an incredible trail network for hikers and bikers alike.

It was a very weird day for me overall, as I spent the day racing a bunch of guys I hadn't heard of who had traveled down from a different region of France. In the first, massive stage (13km of road with 600m ascension to get to the start) 4 of these guys annihilated me, I simply couldn't keep up with them and had to pull over to let guys who started a minute behind me pass by. I wasn't feeling too fast, obviously, and it didnt help that as I crossed the finish line a friend told me my time was worse than my teammate's (incorrectly it later turned out). I couldnt keep up with these guys even on the last stage when one of them had his chain in his backpack... But then it turned out they were all just very fast guys and I was holding my own in the overall up in 28th!

Overall the race was perhaps too physical, or at least more time was required for the average rider to make it to their start times. A couple of my teammates and some big enough names in the local scene couldnt get to the second stage on time for their start, this meant the clock started as they were ascending up the road to the stage, leading to a bad result and a lot of racers giving up at that point.

This is a bit of a talking point at the moment, enduro is meant to be the people's race format, where you chat with your buddies on the climbs and have a laugh on the descents. But the organisers are pushing the limits each year, so on the one hand France remains well ahead of the curve with all the best athletes, but on the other the events get harder to enter, harder to finish and a lot less fun to do. Thankfully, the local races here are still a blast, but I am a bit worried about some national rounds I have signed up for later in the year.

On a positive note, this was my first race on a 29er, the Specialized Enduro. I may become one of those annoying 29er proponents, although it could just be that I bought a size L instead of M for once. All in all an excellent bike. If you are in the market for a new mountain bike, definitely try and test ride this one.

So a good day overall riding some amazing trails. Big winner of the day was Florian Nicolai who crushed all opposition as he has been doing all early season, here's hoping he carries the confidence into the world series and gets onto the podium as he surely has the skills. Check out this insane line choice on the last stage, as he cuts a corner by jumping it, passes 2 switchbacks with barely a wheel touching the ground, then gives a quick look back boast to the crowd: facebook link 

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