2016 saw Chris Hutchens take centre stage as Team Wideopenmag’s sole enduro rider, taking on the Scottish, British and World Enduro Series.
We sat down with Hutch to see what he made of his Scottish Enduro Series win, British Enduro Series 2nd place and some wild times at the EWS.
Photos courtesy of Trevor Worsey.
1. So that’s the 2016 season come to a close, how would you sum up your year?
It’s been a long season but a really consistent one for me racing wise. Living up to the mid pack Brit syndrome at EWS rounds but snuck in a few killer stages and rode well in Ireland. With so many events on in the UK these days it can be hard to juggle things, there’s countless events to fill the calendar and I did well to get to so many events. I had some good battle with UK riders on the race track which keeps things exciting. I’m still learning how to corner though!
2. This was your first year on Team Wideopenmag, what did you make of it? New bike, new team, new challenges?
It was great speaking with Jamie at the end of last season and agreeing to come on board with Wideopenmag. There’s a relaxed atmosphere but a lot of hard work goes on in the background. Ben Plenge at MTB Strength Factory has guided my training all year. It seems to have worked with racing going well and even winning an arm wrestle at the final Scottish Enduro of the year.
The Nukeproof Mega has been flawless all year and the guys over in Ireland have been super supportive as well. It’s been a challenge trying to keep up with any media input but I love that side and am excited to do more for the Mag. Keep your eyes peeled for some of my stuff soon!
My biggest challenge is always getting in enough riding time but Big Dave was always helping keep the bike going this year sending me plenty of parts when my bike was feeling sick!
3. How did you prepare for 2016 and was it any different to previous years?
I kick started my training at the end of November with Ben. You don’t really stop, there’s not much of an off-season. Maybe a few weeks, or a month, to eat and be merry but you’re straight on the bike having fun in the late Autumn weather. I probably spent less time on the road bike and more on the MTB bike at the start of the year, unlike previous years, which was mainly road. This consisted of sprints, more rest rides and longer efforts.
Consistency is really important, for any sport and I really committed to making every training session Ben put in for me. I’d really recommend checking him out over at MTB Strength Factory if you need to improve your fitness. I also worked with Morocco media to work on my riding position, line choice and a heap of other cool stuff using GPS and Video Analysis. We’ve looked at a few different things which I think could have a massive benefit to a lot of riders out there.
4. What have you learned this year that will make you a better racer in 2017?
Every year you learn a little bit more. More about yourself and more about how you ride. I’m good when it’s wet and technical. That comes from the Scottish Riding I’m used to. I struggle on dry, loose and fast trails so that’s something I need to work on. A good excuse for a training camp in Spain?!
I’ll be working a lot on my weaknesses over the winter and trying to keep up with the fast improving level of rider on the Enduro scene.
5. What was the highlight of your year?
Everything came together right at the end of the season for me. I had some great results throughout the year but my consistency paid off finishing 3rd Elite overall in the British Enduro Series at Innerleithen with a podium result on the day. The following weekend I then secured the Scottish Enduro Series Elite title at Ae forest narrowly missing out on a win in the final round.
I think the Scottish Series has a big reputation as being a premium series in the UK so it was fantastic to be able to juggle both series and pull off these results.
6. Any disasters?
Haha, well I couldn’t hold onto my bike at the La Thuile Enduro World Series. The tracks were brutal and I was pleased to finish a few stages. It was Brutal. Not a disaster but wow it was tough!
In Valberg I unfortunately dropped my chain near the top of the longest stage having to ride 13 minutes without being able to turn the cranks. I dropped a fair bit of time here which put me back in the overall for the weekend… I then crashed on a few stages so as far as EWS rounds go that was the disastrous one.
7. Any ridiculous stories from a season of whizzing off to races at home and abroad?
I’d arrange to meet a good friend, who will remain nameless, for a ride one weekend in Aberdeen. He was rushing after some family commitments and was running late to meet me. I chilled in the carpark at Scotly before he turned up. Mr D, as he’ll be named, started changing and saying that he was rushing to pack and ran through the list of kit he checked off; helmet, check; shoes, check. As he put his shoes on I looked around the van, then in the van for his bike. ‘Mr D, where’s your bike? D’oh! It was back at his house over 30 minutes drive away. Add the bike as part of those pre-ride checks!
8. What was your favourite race of the year and why?
My favourite race of the year was probably the Ard Rock Enduro in Yorkshire. My riding was pretty slow that weekend but the trails were unique and the atmosphere and festival feel was electric. I’d recommend getting an entry into these events when they open. They sell out in seconds but are fantastic weekends riding for any level of rider.
9. What are your plans for 2017?
I’m super excited for 2017 and I’m hoping to push my riding and results further. I took a pretty big decision at the end of Augusts to leave my job as a project engineer in the Oil industry to focus on mountain biking. I’m only young once so I thought as my results were starting to improve I needed to commit to riding for 2017. Wideopen is a fantastic platform for racing as well as media so here’s hoping everything comes together!
10. What are you most looking forward to next year?
My dream would be to get out to New Zealand for the EWS. I’ve always wanted to ride and race out there and it would then be a good opportunity to head to Aus to see family before the EWS in Tasmania. Tying in some articles with all of the Scottish lads who are out there would also be amazing. I’ll continue to support all the UK events and keep pushing MTB in the UK. I think it can really begin to gain traction in the mainstream media as more and more people take to the trails.
11. How will you celebrate the start of the off-season? Straight into training, mega party or get the loafers and the onesie on?
Right now I’m sitting in Belfast drinking a coffee and eyeing up a bit of cake. My mate Martin and I have been over shooting photos and putting together an article on the trail centres for MountainbikeNI. It’s been a blooming fantastic start to the off season and I’m excited to do more media trips and writing over the winter. I’m heading back to my parents for the weekend and won’t touch the bike and more than likely will have a bit of time catching up with friends who I’ve neglected seeing over the summer. Bike racing at the top level can get pretty unsociable but it’s worth the commitment and friends appreciate that … most of the time.
12. Any pleases and thank yous?
Firstly a massive thank you to the whole Wideopenmag team and to Jamie and Dave for making the team function so well throughout the year. It wouldn’t be possible without Dave who’s been a total legend all year. The team’s sponsors for kitting the team out with incredible kit and equipment and helping support the racing. Cyberhawk got behind me to help get to some of the events this year which was a massive help. Finally thanks to all the guys I travelled with this year and shared some fun times with. More of that next year!
Everyone at Wideopenmag would like to congratulate Hutch on a stellar year, we really couldn’t have asked for more.