Seven weeks of building literally ended when I left for Finale Ligure. The night before the flight me and Gaz were up until midnight finishing the big 10ft Quarter in the field, then I was up again at 6.00am to paint it before I left, I had to paint it in my bare feet so I didn’t keep slipping down the ply. I finished the painting 30 mins before it was time to leave, threw some petrol on my hands and feet to clean off the paint, grabbed my bags and drove to the airport, still covered in green paint and slightly shocked that seven weeks of flat out work was over…back to Athlete mode.
Luckily I had a few days at Roc d’Azur, then two days testing with Fox for next season which gave me a little time to recover and get back a little energy before I arrived in Finale for the Superenduro race.
First thing I heard was that there was 520 entries, making it the biggest Stage race in Enduro so far. I had raced this event last year and so I knew what to expect, which made a huge difference, I was way more relaxed and knew exactly what was going on and where. The whole team had travelled back home after testing so I was out there alone but Jack from Canondale hooked me up with a mechanic he knew, a local guy called Matteo. This helped a lot – practise was made easier as he knew exactly where the stages where and how to shuttle them, he showed me the best places to eat, anything I needed he took care of. It’s amazing the difference all these small things make – add them all together and you get a result.
All weekend I had felt goodI’d spent the last few days testing and riding with Gee and Mark so I knew I was up to speed and was really surprised how strong I was feeling on the climbs.
Finale has five special stages. This year they were all pretty full on, mostly downhill but with a few steep, powerful climbs thrown in to catch you out.
Coming into race day I felt strong and knew that the win could be there. The previous year I had lost time on the first stage so I really wanted to get a strong run in straight off so everyone would be chasing time on the next four stages. At the bottom of the first run I knew I’d had a fast, solid run with no mistakes so all I had to do was to keep it up for another four stages!
On the 2nd stage Matteo stopped me on the climb and told me I was leading by 4.5 seconds– that boosted my confidence, I knew I was riding well and I knew the pace of the race. After that no times came through till the start of the final stage where Matteo told me I was about 40 seconds up. I knew from the previous year that the final stage was my strongest – I won that stage before – so I started to know that the win was there, all I had to do was to finish without something stupid happening! After the first two turns I couldn’t resist riding 100% so I won that too and I went over the finish line so happy. It’s kind of weird because when you finish it’s not actually at the finish of the race; even though you know you’ve won you’re celebrating only to yourself – it’s a kind of lonely victory – by the time you get back to the finish line you’ve gone past that first rush and come to terms with the fact that you’ve won already!
Not that I’d give it back…