Back to back EWS races have always been taxing, as you wrap up racing late Sunday afternoon, there is no time to just kick back, it’s usually a mad scramble to clean up and pack up – especially after the Spanish round. I had more mud and grit in my kit than you’ll find in an Egyptian backpacker’s. Double laundry sessions is what I busied myself with post race to get ready for a 10-hour drive to get to the final round of the series in Finale Ligure, Italy. The final race of the season! Wooohoooo!
This was the third time that we’ve wrapped up our season in Finale, but this year was to be a bit different. The weather gods had other plans for this usually calm seaside village. Of course upon arrival on Tuesday, the sun was out, it was warm, it was what we had come to expect from this laid-back beach town, which usually gives us our last little taste of “summer”. The forecast for the week had loads of weather warnings, including rain, thunder, high winds, flash floods and even a tornado warning! It was hard to believe as we sat lazing in the sun sipping cappuccino after cappuccino. With an event of this scale, the organizers need to make decisions ahead of time, to ensure safety, so at registration we were informed that our two-day practice was now going to be one day due to this front that was approaching us. This meant one hell of a big day on the bike to get through all of the six racetracks, with not much time to do any repeats.
We were all in the same boat (literally) with no stage riding on Friday, so it was straight into the race weekend and I felt pretty poorly prepared for some reason. I felt like I was just going through the motions, checking off the stages one by one, and wanting to get through the weekend. It was a combination of just being knackered from the previous weekend where we had a hell of a week – 8 hours of liaison & race time over the weekend and my race fire was flailing. Sadly, Stage 1, my favorite stage ended up being cancelled due to possible flash floods in the canyon, and we were going to start the day with probably the most physical, pedal-y, uphill stage that I’ve ever raced in any enduro race. Not ideal, but it ended up being my best stage after all. I had a very steady, average day on the bike, never really finding my flow, motivation, power or my speed, but it seemed like I wasn’t the only one. The general feeling amongst riders was very, what is the word…blah. I think we were all tired and ready for a break. In the end Finale got away quite lucky, with this tornado just barely affecting us, but lashing out on nearby Monaco and surrounding Cote d’Azur towns leaving a trail of devastation and a death toll of 17 people. A bike race becomes pretty insignificant after such sad news.
I always look for the positive in most situations, but I feel that the trails chosen for this round was not a great representation of what Finale has to offer and what it has become so famous for. The stoke level just wasn’t there and I wasn't alone in this feeling. I hope that for next year we can return to some of the classic Finale trails and that a little bit more effort can go into doing some trail maintenance before the race with a little less busy road riding during the liaisons. Sunday we pedaled for almost fifty kilometers, climbing almost 1500m, which I'm ok with and ready for but it would be nice to be rewarded with a bit more timed DH racing compared to the amount of in-stage pedaling we had on just two stages. Other than that, Finale is just a magical place and the perfect host town to give everyone a great send off. I’ve stocked up on my gluten for the next 6 months and eaten my body weight in Gelato. I love Italy; its food, people, culture and passion, and always look forward to getting back here for some sunshine and a re-charge between races.
Of course I would have loved to crack the top 10 again this season, but nonetheless, I’m very happy to have kept my 12th place overall amongst a boatload full of very fast, very talented ladies. The future of women’s enduro racing looks bright, and that makes me a very happy girl.
This season we had eight rounds in eight countries, two continents, three islands in two hemispheres – the Enduro World Series really does take us around the world, which is why I keep finding myself in the start gate each year. We’ve raced on roots, mud, dust, loam, wood, snow, ice and in rivers, so it was very fitting to end on the beach in Finale, to wash it all away in the Med while eating gelatos. Phew, I’m exhausted!
Thank you to everyone (you all know who you are), for all your support this summer and for all the laughs, suffering, sweating, scary, fun, sad, tired, exciting and wonderful moments and memories. You guys are the reason that I keep racing and coming back for more year after year. It was a great first year of being part of the Juliana-SRAM Pro team, and I’m looking forward to many more adventures with Sarah, Kelli, and the rest of the crazy crew that lives this crazy but amazing life.
Time to pack up everything here in France and make my way back home to New Zealand for a very jam-packed, exciting, adventure filled "off-season" on my bike.