Our tame racing correspondent Traharn Chidley reports on the Irish round of the EWS – From the inside!
It’s 3 AM, I’ve barely had three hours sleep, and my alarm is kicking off. I had a taster of the celebrity life, at the Women’s Sport Trust #BeAGameChanger awards in London, and now I’m jetting off to Ireland to compete in round three of the Enduro World Series at Wicklow.
“ah, you’re so laid back, the sheep count you.” – Dave ‘Bullet’
By midday, I’d been up for nine hours and finally met up with my brother, Joel, to start practice together. Stages 1-4 were open for practice on Friday, 5-7 on Saturday, and race day Sunday. Massively lacking sleep I tried to reserve as much energy to as possible, as did Joel. There was a long weekend ahead of us.
The sun beamed down, bringing out that Irish green we hear of, putting everyone in the legendary jolly Irish mood. In true Chidley style we just managed to practice all stages by the skin of our teeth. We were followed by the closing track marshal, Dave “Bullet”, on his trials bike and had a friendly chat with him; in his lovely, jolly Irish accent he said to Joel, “ah, what a gift to be riding with your sister, on such a beautiful day.”
We explained that we have a certain style, where we’re probably too laid back for most at race weekends, our friends do one or two runs with us, then usually peace out., which led him to his classic line; “ah, you’re so laid back, the sheep count you.”
My legs actually felt OK, I thought I’d be bonking with the amount of sleep I was running off, I did however feel very wobbly on the bike, but the legs were strong. There were certain tracks I was anxious about, as there was a lot of hype in the pits about the top of stages two, three and seven. Which meant a lot of the other tracks were a bit of a blur and I didn’t really remember them. After Friday’s practice I was relieved to be done and headed back to Hidden Valley camp site to finally catch up on some sleep.
Fun, flowy, fast; a great warm up getting you in the flow for the rest of the day, and a perfect one to calm the nervous before the top of stage 2.
Sat in the open looking all regal, right on top of the hill, with views for miles, where the skies blended into the ocean; which I totally missed until race day – I was rather spaced out and anxious on Friday. The top started on a pretty unforgiving rock garden. Actually, ‘rock garden’ sounds too tame – let’s call it a ‘gauntlet of rock’, packed with riders watching, scoping lines, gearing up to ride it. Everyone seemed to struggle, it was a trials riders dream. Annoyingly the longer I watched, the more anxious I got. I need a timer to tell me when to stop looking at something. I finally gave it a go. I was slow, but controlled and smooth. The next section was an awesome ride to the very bottom of the hill. It was a decent, physical, technical and long stage.
Come race day it was heaving with crowds! Hundreds of people dotted around catching a spot of the carnage. I was so worked up on the start I completely forgot to unlock my shock. I rode the entire top section on what felt like a hard-tail and I didn’t realise until I got to the bottom half of the track, where it actually suited it, so I left it locked out.
During practice this track threw me (literally over the bars a couple of times). My legs were fine, but I was wobbly running on reserved energy. Stage three was a track you could do with knowing from top to bottom. The top section was another burly gauntlet of rock, leading into a nicer flowing track, but if you didn’t know it, it was very easy to line yourself up wrong, making it pretty hard for yourself. Come race day, after practicing it once, I remembered the sections I needed to but forgot what I needed to remember. The result was messy, with my seat stuck up and poking out to the side.
From top to bottom was a pleasure and a bit of a breather and breath of fresh air after stages two and three. It flowed orgasmically through the trees, popping over roots, ruts and trenches and I couldn’t wait to race it. It turns out its way more fun to ride than race. As soon as you try racing it, a lot of its natural flow is lost. Corners became tighter and I found myself coming in too hot for many of them and lost too much speed. I probably should’ve just cruised it like I had in practice, but it was still fun, and a good pause in the race for a spot of lunch.
Every rider had to check in to the pits for “lunch”, whether that finally meant you had time to pop to the loo, or fix a mechanical or, like a small percentage, actually have lunch. You get about 20 minutes before you have to head back out again.
During practice I remember there wasn’t anything too daunting on this stage but I was so anxious after hearing the whispers about stage six and seven that I retained zero information from riding five. But of course, it was flowy, fun, fast and poppy.
At this point, we’d climbed up that hill a total of 14 times, and all I could think about was how we only had to do it one more time. It also helped that stage six was my ‘pot of gold’ – such a fun, fast track. It is actually the old National DH track and you can see why – flat out with nice jumps, drops, rock gardens, tight trees, it has it all and helped me tap into the reserves, re-firing the cylinders.
High fives were flying around at the top of the final stage of the weekend. Emotions were leaking out of the bag knowing we were so close to finishing. After pushing through those climbs and physical stages together, Ireland rang the bell for the ‘Spirit of Enduro’ louder than ever. At this point though I could feel my body shutting down but we had 1 more stage and probably the most technical and physical stage of them all. With the women heading out before the pro men, we always had huge crowds, which was great, but on stage seven they were all crammed in on ‘carnage corner’. I managed this fine during practice of course, but come race time I was fading and was just hoping I had the strength to hold myself up.
Once ‘Carnage Corner’ was dealt with, it’s wasn’t quite over. I’d forgotten how long the stage was and it seemed to go on forever but I kept pushing knowing that finish line was in sight. When I crossed the line and saw my Dad and brother, Emotions took over. I was stoked to have completed the Irish round of the Enduro World Series.
When it was all over I waited for my friend and race day motivator, Fay Jordon, to cross the line. We hugged it out and headed to the finishing field together. With plenty of room for improvement I was hugely pleased to have managed to finish 16th overall. Fay also finished in the top 20 with 19th. Unfortunately, Joel had a mechanical forcing him to miss stages three and four, but although he was out of the game he fixed his bike and completed the final three stages with a huge smile on his face.
Tracy Moseley absolutely smashed it, as she does. Although officially “retired” she doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Richie Rude punctured on stage two putting him 23 seconds back, but somehow he clawed his way back and finished 3rd, just four seconds down. Downhill legend, Sam Hill, put on an impressive show finishing 2nd three seconds back from local hero Greg Callaghan. The locals thought it was a once in a life time chance that he won last year but he did it again, and I am not surprised;
I have never seen anything like it – hundreds of people being supportive throughout the day with everyone cheering you on, even on the climbs. “Keep her lit” and “fair play” were constant ‘pick-me-ups’ shouted by the Irish crowds as I passed them. They came in every size and age and they got me up those climbs and through the tough sections of every stage. Many other races tend to have crowds build where they know you’re going to fail, and are waiting for it, but in Ireland you could feel the crowd just wanted you to do well. They were dressed as leprechauns, cave men, wearing beer hats or simply coloured head to toe in white, green and orange while triggering their party poppers – they were amazing. It was an incredible event that I’m so proud to have been a part of.
Well done to all the riders, and thank you to all the spectators and marshals.
“Keep her lit”
Words Traharn Chidley
Pictures Mike Hopkins
- 1st – Greg Callaghan – 25.51.19
- 2nd – Sam Hill – 25.54.55
- 3rd – Richie Rude – 25.55.82
- 1st – Tracy Moseley – 29.21.96
- 2nd – Cecile Ravanel – 30.01.88
- 3rd – Isabeau Courdurier – 30.05.26