While still just 17 years old, Matthew Fairbrother from New Zealand set off on the adventure of a lifetime, competing in the EWS, and riding between the stages. He carried all his gear between races, often riding through the night to get the distance covered in time. There were a few occasions along the way where he had to prove his parents knew what he was up to, and that he wasn’t a runaway. After a couple of rounds of racing, he caught the attention of sponsors and the public, with a crowd funder helping to get him across the Atlantic to compete in the North American races too. He’s been posting the complete season up on Instagram, so we’ve gathered it all here for you in one epic diary. Next time your teenager asks you for a lift into town, maybe you’ll show them this?
Whilst I’m currently broken, I figure this is a great time to look back on my trip and soak the experience up.
Only a week prior to the first EWS I was lucky enough to be invited on a trip into the Scottish Highlands for a feature in the @mbukmagazine .
Being the youngest by far amongst the group of 4 I’d only just met, about to take on a mountain no mountain bike had ever been up before, I wasn’t exactly feeling comfortable nor confident.
Although, I didn’t yet know this group couldn’t have been more supportive, and It wasn’t long until I somewhat felt confident in the most hostile environment I’d ever been in.
This is mountain biking in its essence, climbing a mountain just simply because it’s there.
This was truely something I’d never consider doing again, but that’s what makes it so unforgettable.
To sum it up in a few points – Making friends with a deer, coming across the remains of a WW2 Lancaster Bomber, facing life-threatening exposure, traversing the Black Carls, finishing with the most amazing ribbon of single-track I’ve ever come across and then being swept down with a toilet brush before we were allowed back into Gerry’s Hostel (A must visit for anyone in the area 😬).
What first had my legs feeling like jelly soon translated into the most joyful laughs and smiles as we concluded an epic day in the mountains.
It all kicked off in Tweed Valley 🏴 for the first EWS. With zero expectations of how I’d place, and with the liaisons filled planning and stressing for the first leg of my adventure, I couldn’t have been more stoked to see I was battling for a top 10 position after I checked the results mid-race.
Unfortunately on the last stage a rogue rock had flung up and took my derailleur out, I got bumped into 11th but I had much worse to worry about.
To make the Ferry across to Europe, I had no time to spare. I had to leave immediately.
I now had no way of pedalling and I didn’t have any bike-packing bags. I’d ordered a bunch of gear the week prior, but due to delays and Jubilee weekend they weren’t going to arrive till the morning.
Only 30 minutes after finishing, Ben from @deviatecycles came to my rescue with everything I needed. Absolute legend!
Whilst I scrambled around getting packed up the good bunch @srammtb had patched my bike up and I was ready to go.
I pedalled 80km that evening, the calmness of the countryside was soothing after the intensity of racing and stress of my problems
I crossed the border in to England at 11pm before finding a spot to rest at 1:30am.
With little time for sleep, I opted not to setup my shelter and to sleep in the open. Unknowingly, due to the darkness I’d slept next to a lake/marsh and was covered head to toe in midgey bites by morning.
Just as the light began to fade, I began to hallucinate.
After a 4 hour “sleep” I was back on the move, I had 7 hours to ride 80km before reaching the New Castle ferry, plenty of time as long as it all went to plan.
2 hours in I made my first restock of the trip at a lonely café in a small village, this would be the only time I’d manage to stop at a café whilst bike-packing for the whole 5 month trip.
2 hours later I was just outside of New Castle and came across a small village, I eyed up a soft patch of grass outside their Church and lay down for a 10 minute nap. It wasn’t long before an older man pulled up concerned by my zombie like state. He rushed back to his home and came back with 2 cokes and a 4 pack of Wispa bars to revive me. We chatted for a bit before saying bye, agreeing to keep in contact with each other as he felt invested in my journey. It wasn’t long before he asked for some “nice pics”.
An hour later I hit the hustle and bustle of New Castle quite a contrast to the quiet country side I’d just been through. Seeing multiple team vans was also a reassuring site.
I arrived at the ferry terminal with an hour and a half to spare only to be denied entry due to being under 18. After some persuading I was able to speak to the manager and was only then given the option for my parents to send through written permission saying they allow me to board along with a copy of their passport.
The only problem with this was I had no wifi,data or calling and it was 2am in New Zealand.
I scrambled around the terminal searching for help, no one showed any interest. Just as I thinking I wouldn’t make it, I approached an older couple who were sitting in the very corner of the building. They had just come off of a cruise, had lost some luggage and had been waiting for over an hour for a staff member to get back to them. They showed me some sympathy and were glad to help me out. I made it on the Ferry with 15 minutes to spare. This was probably the most stressed I’ve ever been.
I was glad to have a proper bed on the over night ferry to Amsterdam, and I even splashed out and opted to eat at the on-board buffet. I stuffed my stomach up to the brim and filled my pockets with everything I could.
I almost immediately regretted that as I soon fell sea-sick and everything came back out. I’m not even sure if I actually slept that night at all.
It was a relief to step off the ferry into the Netherlands but stress levels were once again raised as I was interrogated by border patrol. After 10 minutes I was let through and the European leg had just begun.
In my tired state, riding on the opposite side of the road was challenging and soaked up all of my focus, I’d check at-least 5 times before crossing a road as I struggled to judge what direction the cars were coming from.
I’d made it into the city of Amsterdam where I’d first establish my hate for riding within cities. The amount of traffic, intersections and focus required to navigate safely filled me with frustration as I was beginning to fall behind schedule.
I made it through the city and was astonished with how cycling friendly the Netherlands is, I was also extremely appreciative of all the e-bikers. I thoroughly enjoying drafting behind them.
Mid-afternoon I was hit by a storm which lasted for 4 hours. If being soaking wet wasn’t making things miserable enough, my phone I was using for directions became unusable due to having a wet screen. I hunted out a fuel-station and managed to grab some toilet paper and reused a Haribo’s bag to keep my phone dry.
At around 10pm just as the light began to fade, I began to hallucinate. Being sleep deprived, dehydrated and stressed probably the main causes of this. I’ve experienced this a couple of times so it wasn’t exactly a shock to see shadows being manipulated into animals running along side of me.
I have limited memory but I remember getting hit by a bird which flew into my face, I have no memory of pain and I believe at the time I passed this off as an extension of the hallucinations. Everything was a blur at this point in time.
It was a few days later when I was going through my phone and came across a video from that night which proved I had indeed been hit by a bird. A memory which had completely disappeared until I saw that video.
After 275km of battling my mind and body I reached Cologne, Germany at 2am where’d I’d veer off the bike path and get some rest for the night.
I kept on hustling, eventually my mind going blank, which is my favourite state of mind.
Waking up to sun after yesterdays storm was a relief and with what felt like a solid sleep (5 hours) I was quite motivated to have a big stint on the pedals.
That motivation would be crushed only a few hours later as it began to rain off and on for 11 hours.
Once again I struggled with navigating as every time I needed to check directions I’d have to find shelter to keep my screen dry and then pack my phone safely in my reused Haribo’s packet to ensure it didn’t get flooded.
On top of that I was struggling with the route I had been following, multiple times I’d been led to the highway, being too unsafe I’d have to turn back, find shelter, pull out my phone and come up with another route losing precious time in the process. Motivation continued to plummet.
After 5 hours of battling the route I’d found a popular bike-packing route which would take me through to Frankfurt, I knew this was where I could start to make up some time.
I passed through many traditional villages, often paved with cobblestone. I actually ended up crashing twice on the slick wet stone. The frustration continued to build.
I arrived in Frankfurt at 1am, only completing 200km I was frustrated as I’d fallen behind my distance goal, but also stoked as that meant I had a bed for the night.
@texi5 had posted on his story letting his followers know my plan and my route, so many people had reached out to me offering support. This was when I first truely took grasp of how supportive the mtb community is. It was everyone’s messages support that kept me going.
That day was definitely the hardest of the trip.
I was stoked to wake up to a bag of pasta to say the least! After eating only food you can get from a gas station, the sight of “real” food had me drooling.
After a nights sleep in a proper bed, and with good weather on the doorstep I had no excuses to slack. I also had no option due to yesterday’s struggle pushing me behind schedule.
Only a couple hours in I’d probably face my hardest hurdle to deal with physically and mentally… my AXS derailleur had just died, and I’d forgot to pack my charger 😂. A mistake you only make once.
I had no other option but to ride the last 500km in a single gear, I didn’t even get the chance to select that gear.
With no other option but to forget about it, I kept on hustling, eventually my mind going blank which is my favourite state of mind. With a sense of auto-pilot kicked in, its always a good feeling to come back to and see how many ‘effortless’ km you’ve completed.
I’d reached the point where I needed to decide whether I’d make a big push to arrive to the Leogang World Cup before racing started, or show up late.
Coincidentally @wynmasters had just messaged me, checking in on where I was, and my plans. He ended up linking me with @larspamler who lived in Augsburg, with a bed for the night secured I’d made my decision.
I turned up to his door at 12:30am, quickly ate a meal of pasta he had prepped and was off to bed.
I was back out the door by 3:30am on route to Leogang, Austria.
After about 2 hours of sleep I’d leave Augsburg at 3:30am with the hopes of making it to Leogang before the World Cup racing started. I only had 260km until Leogang.
Usually I find when I start in the dark, as the sun rises, so does my mood and energy levels.
This wasn’t the case as I hit Munich in rush-hour morning traffic. Aggravated by riding through city’s in general, this really had me frustrated as my speed lowered and sapped all my energy from continuous stopping at intersections.
I’d passed through the city and took the dirt back-roads through a forest. The calmness was soothing and a river crossing made things exciting.
As I approached Austria I gained a glimpse of the mountains, slightly worried as the previous 1000km through the Netherlands and Germany had been relatively flat.
Almost immediately as I crossed the border into Austria a heavy downpour hit, luckily this time only lasting a few hours.
The meandering hills sapped everything I had left out of my legs, but Leogang was finally insight.
I instantly hunted out my friend from back home, @annabel.bligh. It was great to see someone I knew after all that suffering.
After all that effort the XC Short Track racing was hugely anticlimactic 😂.
@wynmasters supplied me dinner and the legend @bradshaw_tomnz organised accommodation which ended up being a bed within a horse stable😂, at that point I could have slept any where so I wasn’t bothered. I like to think the horses also enjoyed my company.
With the Leogang World Cup racing done and dusted it was time to head off. After a quick swim to cool down I was back pedalling through the alps with only 250km left until the EWS round 2 venue in Petzen/Jamnica.
With a quick nights stay In Schladming (thanks @lily.likes.tea!) along the way there was only one 1000m pass that stood in my way. After-that it was relatively all downhill and went without any problems.
After 1450km of riding I was pretty stoked to have finally made it!
Once again @bradshaw_tomnz helped me out with a bed for the night. It was finally time to rest up before EWS round two in Petzen/Jamnica.
EWS round #2 Petzen Jamnica
After @dobiept attended to my broken body, I was still fatigued but somewhat ready to race.
I struggled on the pro-stage, after about 75 hours of low intensity road riding I just couldn’t find the intensity or form needed to compete. I finished the pro-stage in 17th, something I was quite happy with considering.
On stage two my arms blew out on a drop, unable to muscle my way out of it, I turned straight into a bank probably saving myself from a even bigger crash, but I dislocated my pinky finger in the progress.
I finished the stage, got my finger in and and I luckily had some tape which I used to wrap around my fingers to provide it with more support.
Against the medics advice I kept on riding, albeit in a quite a lot of pain. On the last 1000m descent stage I had to stop twice to shake out my hand as the muscles began to cramp up.
I hadn’t checked the results all day and I was slightly disappointed to think I’d blown any chances of a decent result, but I ended up in 10th and couldn’t believe it.
The @srammtb mechanics also loaned me a cassette for the weekend as I’d just worn out my old one after being stuck in a single gear for 500km. They jokingly said I could keep it if I got a top 10, It was great to go back to them at the end and say it was now mine 😂
Immediately after finishing I was off to change my tyres and pack for the next race, only a week away in Canazei, Italy.
On the way out @wynmasters gave me the ‘Privateer of the week’ award, something I was incredibly stoked with and also very appreciative of everyone who contributed to it! That was the moral boost I needed to get to Italy for round #3
Petzen/Jamnica -> Canazei
@lucas_walch@email@example.com joined me for the relatively short 380km ride to EWS #3. With 4 of us and 4 days to arrive before practice, we decided to splash out on accomodation and split the ride over a few days.
Probably the best thing about this was knowing I’d have a bed each night, and also being able to go into proper shops as there was always someone with the bikes. It was also great to have some company, it definitely made the days go quicker.
On day one we were scorched by the heat hitting 38 degrees at its peak. I was struggling, all my energy had been zapped.
It wasn’t long before we could hear thunder chasing us which soon turned in to a hail storm. It was crazy how quick things took a turn. We all got fairly battered but it was a good laugh once it had passed.
We finished off the day with Pizzas and a nights stay in ‘hotel pension’.
On day two we were welcomed into Italy by farmers spraying manure into their paddocks. The wind generously blew the manure mist straight into us, I don’t think any of us appreciated that.
I also had my first puncture of the trip which gave us a nice break before myself and @jankyeric raced each-other up a Col. we finished off the day navigating through fallen trees before Dan and Lucas powered us home.
On day 3 we had 2 Col’s that stood between us and Canazei, we also had some horrific rain which made things grim.
On the last climb myself and Eric once again raced each-other up the climb. Mid way up we saw a van pull over and a man jumped out and ran after us, I vividly remember us both panicking and putting in a sprint. Turns out he was only wanting to give us some energy gels 😂
After a huge road decent we had made it to Canazei, with one day to rest the legs!
EWS Round #3 Canazei
Inevitably this one was a battle. Once again I struggled to find any sort of intensity, and my body and mind were immensely fatigued. I was struggling to ride and struggling even more to concentrate.
Overnight rain made things slick, the technicality was increased, I was battling.
I had a fairly decent crash on stage two which made me reel things back a bit. I knew the fastest way for me to ride today was within my comfortable limits.
On the last stage I got a front puncture which led to me have a huge crash. Bashing myself up pretty good in the process and writing off my helmet. I cruised down getting passed by two riders in the progress.
I finished 24th slightly disappointed with my performance but glad I’d came out of the weekend fairly un-injured. After biking 1900km in the previous weeks I was glad to have finished the first block of racing!
Next up was a week in Morzine!
Such a wicked place with some amazing people! Thoroughly enjoyed my time here and was blown away with all the chairlifts you can access 🤯
Big appreciation to @stayhideout and the Pivot crew who hosted me for the week!
This one goes out as an appreciation post:
@deviatecycles have stood behind me the whole season, and did absolutely everything they could to help me succeed. After the first block of racing, they offered to pay for my flights to and from North America, along with setting up a go-fund-me page to try and provide me with some more comfort.
I was completed blown away and left speechless by the support I had received from the community. Before I knew it I was in Canada.
@deviatecycles and @srammtb even came together to create my dream build! I even got to build it up on my 18th birthday. I couldn’t have been more stoked!
A huge thanks to everyone who has contributed in any way, no matter how small or how big. Everything adds up and truely made this an experience of a life time!
And a huge thanks to (and their dogs) @bryan_menard and @mereditheades for hosting me!
Whistler! I’ve dreamt of coming here ever since I first started biking. It’s such an iconic place and it felt so surreal to actually be there!
I pretty much did laps from opening till close every day of leading up to the EWS the coming weekend. Once I again I cooked myself but it was great to be able to lap all day using a chairlift.
It was also a great opportunity to dial in the new bike and try a few stunts. A crash also left me with a very sore forearm which still hasn’t 100% came right.
I was amped to get into the next EWS round!
The first slide sums up my day…
I was pretty stoked for this one, I finished 6th on the 1st stage and 6th again on the 2nd stage but smashed my wheel hard mid-way down, and instantly lost all my air pressure. Thinking it was just the tyre I wasn’t too worried, but I ended up splitting the rim.
I was pretty devastated. I thought that was it, I was ready to call it a day. But I knew how privileged I was to be given the opportunity to race so I decided that wasn’t an option. I tried to hunt for a spare wheel and take the 5 minute penalty but I couldn’t find one. I ended up finding some glue, duct-tape and cable ties and did the best I could to strengthen it.
The rim ended up holding together for the last 3 stages, although it wouldn’t hold air, I had to ride the last 3 stages and liaisons with a flat tyre. I’ll never not run @cushcore after this as I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to finish at all without it, it’s honesty what got me through the day.
I crossed the line of the final stage super relieved that my wheel was still relatively circle, and glad that I was able to finish.
I then got told I finished in 10th and couldn’t believe it. I was stoked, blown-out and left slightly disappointed by “what it could have been,” but once again I had worse to worry about.
I had to find a new wheel urgently as I had to ride to Vancouver and catch a flight the next day to the East coast.
I owe a huge thanks to @mopscycle who without a second thought offered up her spare wheel, and everyone else who got me through the day. I couldn’t have finished the race without all the other racers supporting me and without everyone who helped fix my bike afterwards. It was really a team effort!
With 11 hours to ride 150km from Whistler to Vancouver I knew I had a relatively chill day on the saddle.
Except it was far from chill, at-least 90% was on the highway. Something I’m not particularly comfortable with and something I always try to avoid, but unfortunately this was the only option.
I spent the whole day hugging as far right of the road as I could, my neck hurt from continuously looking over my shoulder and I feared every-time I could hear a large truck coming from behind me in the distance. Constantly having to focus on my surroundings mentally drained me.
I stopped at Wendy’s in Squamish to refuel and continued on my way, the views along the sea-to-sky highway were amazing and at times distracted me from the suffering.
I’d made it to the outskirts of Vancouver and had pre-organised to collect a bike box from @steedcycles. I arrived there, picked up the box and put Vancouver airport into my phone….. turns out I had 30km left to ride, a lot further than I had thought.
I did the only thing that made sense in my opinion and folded up the box and created straps with my spare inner tube and duct-tape. It worked great but started to cut through the skin on my shoulders not long in.
It was also rush hour in Vancouver, being twice as wide then normal I had a few close calls with fences and posts. That 30km was brutal.
I made it to Vancouver and was stoked it had all gone to plan until it hadn’t… I’d forgot to pack a 8mm hex key to remove my pedals. I desperately started messaging everyone I knew who was in the area. @daniel_self came to my rescue, I was good to go!
With a late night flight I’d arrive in Montreal in the morning for another day on the pedals.
I jumped out of my bivvy to see a black bear helping itself to the bag of chips I’d left on my handlebars
Straight off the plane, with no sleep, the goal was to make it from Montreal, Canada to the USA border before dark.
Montreal was quite nice to bike through, I rode along a canel for a couple hours before breaking through the city and then on to a bike path along the highway for another couple of hours.
A building created out of a cluster of cubes left me pondering about what the purpose of it was for the rest of the day.
The cycle path led me into a bridge which just simply wasn’t there, which then left me with the option back tracking 12km and finding another route or get my feet wet and cross the river.
The frustration of turning back on myself was just too high, and with having just completed a river crossing course within the previous year I felt confident enough to tackle it.
I chucked my bike on my shoulders and slowly made my way through, it wasn’t much of a challenge and I’m glad I committed to that choice.
I was beginning to near the USA border and decided to call things a day 5km from it. Knowing the possible challenges the border crossing may present I opted for nights sleep and a more reasonable hour of day.
I was in a remote area so I just decided I’d veer off the road into the surrounding forest and set up camp. Although a relatively short day I was drained and needed a good sleep.
At about 3:30am I was abruptly woken to the sound of food wrappers. Without any thought I jumped out of my bivvy to see a black bear helping itself to the bag of chips I’d left on my handlebars that I’d been saving for breakfast the next morning.
I screamed at it and jumped up, it scattered away, seemingly just as scared as I was.
After that encounter there was no way I’d be getting back to sleep so I got up and made my way to the USA border.
I got interrogated for 3 hours, USA border patrol were convinced I would be making an income during my stay and I had no way to show any bank statements as I had no data or wifi. They asked if I had any cash, to which I said yes and pulled out about $10 worth of change which left them quite unimpressed.
They started to question me more about the bike races I would be attending and one of the officers perked up and started to tell me about how he was also a keen mountain biker, in fact he had just bought a new fat tyred, full suspension e-bike. I gave him my full attention and we chatted about his bike for 5 minutes and I was let through. Seemed like they just wanted a chat 🤷♂️
The rest of the commute to Burke went to plan, I was pretty excited to get some sleep!
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The result of little sleep over the last week definitely showed as I started crashing on almost every stage and I definitely was starting to get frustrated . That mixed in with the stages being largely flat I didn’t have much to give.
I blew my legs and the rest of my body to pieces but managed to finish in 16th, which I was quite happy about considering how hard I’d been battling.
With only 250km to Sugarloaf for the next round I’d be able to have a proper nights sleep before setting off the next morning.
The shortest commute of the season but probably the most eventful.
Right from the start I was being directed down unmaintained dirt backroads. Not much of a problem but it made kms hard and slow but I was fine with it and with no data or wifi to change my route I had to stick with it.
Things took a turn for the worst when the dirt road i was following suddenly ended, but continued on the map. With no other way of working out directions I had to commit to the route which resulted in 3 and a half hours of bushbashing, which with a fully loaded 30kg bike was not fun.
With the remainder of the km being on the highway I was left riding in the soft sand on the side of the ride and again with a sore neck from continuously looking over my shoulders.
Nearing Sugarloaf I rode over some wet paint that road workers just ahead of me had painted. With paint all over my tyres and being spread all over the road one worker in particular wasn’t happy and got in his truck and forced me off the road. I went into a near by park to wait until he had gone, and in the mean time walked into a pair of Canadian geese which attacked me. I couldn’t believe it 😂.
I managed to arrive in Sugarloaf minutes before a storm came in. I’m sure this will probably be the most eventful and frustrating 200km I’ll ever do.
Sugarloaf EWS 🇺🇸
With a relatively short commute and a couple days of rest I was feeling good on the bike and was stoked to finish of the NA block of racing on a high.
With a 7th place on the Pro-stage to start the weekend I really wanted to push it and see what I was capable of. But simple mistakes led to having big crashes. On the second to last stage I had the biggest crash of my life, getting bucked over the bars and coming short on a double, body slamming myself into the ground. I was somehow okay and managed to finish off the day in 11th. Although everything didn’t go to plan I learnt a heck of a lot through it all.
Since this was the last race of the North American block, I still had a 300km pedal back to Montreal Airport.
I didn’t pack any slick tyres for this block of races due to flight baggage restrictions so I came up with the genius idea that I’d slice the knobs off my dh tyres.
Great idea in theory but I slipped with the knife and sliced a vein in my hand.
I can’t thank the Canyon-Pirelli team enough who found me outside their door on the ground very disoriented and also for patching me up. Also a big thanks to @ciaransullivan_ and the Devinci team who let me hitch a ride with them to Montreal.
My situation would have been a lot worse without there help!
That was really the lowest low of the trip.
Straight off the plane and into the alps with a good crew all apart of the @deviatecycles family. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Many days of riding and few missions thrown in for good measure.
The most notable being the Aiguille de la Grande Sassiére. A 3750m peak standing on the border between France and Italy. This truely took me out of my comfort zone but was truely one of the best days I’ve had on a bike! And after I got over the exposure the descent was sublime 👌
Good trails, good crew, good times. Doesn’t get much better than that!
In the same duration of being awake I raced an EWS and pedalled 400km across Switzerland and France.
Crans Montana EWS
I really struggled with this one, with a good break in between races I gave myself no excuses for not being to perform to my full potential. Turns out the fatigue was still lingering.
I crashed before even making it to the first stage in practice and instantly lost all of my confidence.
I managed to build it back up in time for Sunday’s stages but despite not feeling any slower than usual, my times were consistently behind where I thought they should have been. I finished slightly disappointed but really didn’t have any time to worry about that.
I was straight into changing tyres in preparation for the 1000km commute to Loudenvielle.
My head instantly became my first enemy and I struggled to fight against it.
Before the Elite riders had even begun the last stage I’d set off to ride the 1000km to Loudenvielle, France. I had no time to waste, the turn around for the next race was tight.
This ended up being the largest and hardest day I’ve had on a bike.
In the same duration of being awake I raced an EWS and pedalled 400km across Switzerland and France.
It’s always a huge uncertainty after racing an EWS knowing how my legs will feel, unfortunately this time round my legs were zapped. With a large headwind and the Alps battling against me I definitely wasn’t having a good time.
Nearing midnight I made the decision to commit to riding through the night as the temperature was due to drop to -2. I knew this would be the best decision as I didn’t have any time to waste on poor sleep.
I also hadn’t prepared for temperatures this cold and was left freezing. I pulled out a pocket knife and cut arm and leg wholes in my sleeping bag so I could stay warm, probably one of my greatest ideas I’ve had. It kept me warm, very warm, although my toes and fingers quickly become frozen, I only regained the feeling of them the next day.
Just before sunrise I ran out of food and water, something which is hugely detrimental in any endurance activity, the following hours were a huge fight of mental strength. The only thing that kept me going was not giving myself the option to give up and my stubbornness to stick with it.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to see a gas station after bonking that hard.
I have no memory of the rest of that day, only a few videos and photos of the scenery. I assume it was mostly trouble free.
With 36 hours awake and a big shift on the pedals I was lucky enough to have earned myself 6 hours of sleep.
After a quick sleep on the side of the road I was straight back into it, I’d told myself I wasn’t allowed to stop until I had ridden continuously for 24 hours as the turn around was so tight.
My body really didn’t want to start back up after the prior day’s effort, it took everything I had to pull myself together to get back onto the bike.
The heat was fierce and I began to really struggle to keep up with hydration, that mixed with scarce shops to restock made things extremely desperate.
In the end I went 7 hours without food and 4 and half hours without water. I thought I was done. I was moving at a crawl and didn’t see any way to pull myself out of the hole I’d created. Getting a stick stuck through my wheel was my breaking point, I had a sulk, let out all the emotions, pulled myself together and got back on with the job.
Soon after this was when the sights of all the road kill really started to get to my head. It was an active reminder of how vulnerable I was, and really started to make me question why I’d even attempted this in the first place. I’ve never questioned myself so hard.
Riding through the night had never been so difficult. Usually I’d zone out and before knowing it, it would be day again . But this time my thoughts were fully present. I’ve never felt loneliness like this before, it’s truly a scary feeling. With only a small torch lighting my way, surrounded by darkness, not knowing where I am in the world, being by myself and so vulnerable to everything made me feel insanely scared. My head instantly became my first enemy and I struggled to fight against it.
In the end I ticked off 428km across France.
With the previous days 400km, it meant I only had 200km left until Loudenvielle.
The final leg of the journey…
Only 200km through a few mountains until it was all over.
My body had nothing left to give after the two previous 400km rides but I’d gotten to the point where my mind was numb and I had no emotion to give. I was stuck in an autonomous state, just spinning my pedals round in circles without any thought . Quite a surreal feeling really.
A pizza shop in the middle of nowhere saved me from going without food for a few hours, I also bought all of their Orangina cans to keep me hydrated and fuelled. I was stoked.
The last thing that stood before me and Loudenville was a 1000+ meter climb; The absolute last thing I could have wished for.
I arrived in Loudenvielle 2 minutes past the @world_enduro registration deadline, luckily they hadn’t packed up just yet!
And that was it 1000km over 3 days on my @deviatecycles Claymore. Probably the toughest few days of my life. I was truely broken at times, but somehow the highs you experience throughout journeys like this truely make the pain almost forgettable, although I’m still not sure if I’d actually recommend it to anyone🤷♂️.
Loudenvielle 🇫🇷- The final EWS of the year.
Honestly quite a bittersweet finish. After riding 1000km in only a few days my body was barely functioning, yet alone being in a state to race. I was practically riding with my eyes shut and lacked any decision making skills. With the precise riding required for the slick conditions, I was often found rolling down banks 🤷♂️.
I got bumped out of the top 10 overall for the season, but ended up finishing ranked 13th U21 for the 2022 season. Something I’m pretty stoked about considering it was only my first year as a junior.
That concludes my recaps for the 2022 season. I’m super excited for 2023 and can’t wait to share my plans with everyone soon!
What an incredible season! Some great results too – which leaves us wondering how Matthew might be able to perform if he’d actually had a decent night’s sleep, rested legs, and a balanced meal containing all the essential food groups? We’ll be watching!
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