Scottish enduro pinner Michael Clyne is aiming to take the 2019 Enduro World Series Masters championship off his own back.
Crankworx Whistler and the Canadian Open Enduro would push riders’ abilities to hold on as the mostly lift-assisted race would focus very much on the descending portion of enduro.
Racing a full Enduro World Series as a privateer is mostly unheard of, let alone going for the biggest scalp of them all, the championship overall.
That is exactly what Michael Clyne aims to do, and he’s going to be checking in to let us know how he’s getting on throughout the year.
Whistler, what a place. If you are a mountain biker then you must try to get here once in your life. The level of trail building here is on another planet.
My accommodation was arranged via a mate of mate of a mate. And had me acting as the guard dog, sleeping in a garage. It’s awesome.
Day 1 was spent building my bike up, going swimming in a lake off a raft pontoon and stretching my legs on a local trail off Blackcomb mountain. Day 2 was spent fixing several issues with the bike caused by the flight over I think and then a wee spin on the Lost Lake XC routes. Day 3 was spent climbing 4500 feet in one go to ride the spectacular “Lord of the Squirrels” trail, swimming in a glacial lake at 6000 feet and being eaten by mosquitos.
Day 4 ( practice day 1). The trails were so long that it became silly to session stuff as there wasn’t time in the day or enough space in my head to store the information. Day 5 (practice day 2) was a real struggle for me as my hands were starting to blister from the 20,000ft of descending in 5 days.
Day 6 (race day 1) only one stage. Top of the World, 5000ft, 24mins at race pace. I started off relaxed to save my arms, but being seeded 3rd meant I had the 2 pro riders, Cedric Ravanel and Karim Amour chasing me down. I fully expected to be overtaken by both, but was utterly gobsmacked how early on the trail it happened, so I upped my pace to try keep up with Cedric, which in hindsight wasn’t clever, as at the 12 minute mark my arms started to seize up, by the 19min mark I was done. I was forced to crawl the last part from the “Angry Pirate” trail to the bottom at a beginners’ pace. Finishing a disappointing 17th place.
Day 7 (race day 2) it rained all night which I felt was a blessing as there would be more than a few riders struggling in the mud and grease. Stage 2 was steep and technical natural 6 minute trail. I held off Cedric Ravanel until a minute from the bottom, coming home in 10th.
Stage 3 was a loose and rocky with some brutal punchy climbs. I held off Cedric again until the last minute. Things improving with a 9th on that stage.
Stage 4 was back in the bike park with some natural trails in the mix. Us masters riders used our brains and found an open door in a nearby ski clubhouse and waited out the 30 minute gap in the warmth, microwaving our gloves to dry them off. Somebody also managed to set fire to their gloves.
The 10 foot visibility on this stage made speed judgement and route finding an adrenaline-fuelled affair. I got overtaken again by Cedric about midway, and trying to keep up with him only resulted in a puncture. My MSC tyre insert let me carry on and finished with a 12th.
On Stage 5, I had to rush to put a tube in the tyre and pedal 1200ft to the top to make my start time. I did with 3 mins to spare. This stage was my best stage. It was a 100% natural, mud-infested mess of a trail. Like home from home. It was the only trail I never got caught by Cedric on. I dare say if I wasn’t knackered from my efforts to get there in time, and not stopped mid trail to switch my suspension back on. I would have been 4th or possibly even 2nd/3rd on this stage. A proud 6th was my placing though.
Stage 6 was the final dance into the Whistler finish arena back on the bike park trails that I seem to suck so bad at. I got caught again by Cedric about midway, and again tried to stick with him. And again I punctured with 5 minutes of the stage left. However with only a tube in and no protective insert things became ludicrous as I basically couldn’t maintain any traction on the completely flat tyre.
I kept riding though and careened across the finish line on my bare Sixth Element carbon rim, tyre and tube ripped off and flailing about behind me, much to the delight of the crowds. 22nd for the stage and 14th overall.
Looking back, it was my worst ever race this season. Even if there were no disasters, I was truly outgunned in the “balls of steel” game on the bike park tracks.
However, it’s been the best race yet for other reasons, I met so many cool people on track, so many stories, so many scares. I’ve never laughed so much on a race weekend. Truly awesome times were had.
Something I’ve noticed though is the stages are now becoming more like full on DH tracks and away from what I would call enduro tracks. With cardio fitness becoming less relevant. The next round in Northstar has 6 stages… only one of which we will cycle up to and its a short climb too. Is this “enduro” or “multi track DH” racing? Not sure, but its a hell of a fun.
I head into the next round still in 4th place overall. Stay tuned folks.