Scottish enduro pinner Michael Clyne is aiming to take the 2019 Enduro World Series Masters championship off his own back.
Zermatt was a new addition to the Enduro World Series for 2019 and offered the Matterhorn as the perfect backdrop to every photo going. High altitude walkers’ paths mixed things up and harked back to the early days of the EWS which was physically and mentally punishing.
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.
The final round of the 2019 Enduro World Series took us to the spectacular town of Zermatt, in Switzerland, a place known for its deep valleys, extraordinarily expensive living and sublime riding of bikes down real mountains.
The Matterhorn peak sits at 14,692ft, and whilst not the highest peak in the area, sits so proudly above the meadows that no matter where you are in valley it’s there, staring menacingly down at you. Having the accolade of most photographed mountain in the world, didn’t stop me from taking scores of shots for my own collection.
Arriving in Zermatt is something of an epic journey in itself. Due to the no car rule in the main village, the easiest way for most is a flight to Geneva or Zurich and taking the train to the bottom of the valley and then a funicular up to the resort town, if the weather is in your favour you will be treated to beautiful views of lakes and astounding scenes of high peaks and ancient pastures.
The first few days were spent acclimatising to my choice of a smaller 650b rear wheel, the rocky “interpretive” trail style and high altitudes. Within 2 days I had racked up over 20,000ft of descending and a rear tyre slowly getting destroyed by the steep, hard terrain.
Practice day – This was a gargantuan affair with nearly 7 hours spent on the bike looking at lines and waiting for lifts back to the top for a day of over 15,000ft descending. I felt I got on really well with the trails, especially on stage 2 which ran its course down a valley next to a river in the trees. With line choices and roots a plenty this was probably the most fun track of the year for me.
Race day – The final leg in my epic journey across the globe had me equally filled with excitement and worry. The biggest hurdle for everyone was the huge risk of puncture or rear mech disaster, thanks to the millions of large and sharp rocks littering the course.
Stage 1 – This was an immensely physical stage. Starting off on a fairly technical man-made trail through a flat boulder field into a few minutes of single track and alpine road sprinting. The sprinting at this attitude of 8000ft felt more like a trudge and had me wishing I had stuck with the larger 29” rear wheel.
The second half dropped into some high speed alpine single track with some very naughty hairpin bends to remind you this was not going be plain sailing and glad I had the smaller wheel on the rear. Overjoyed I had not been overtaken, punctured or lost any parts of my bike at the bottom it was time to push on as a liaison times were far from generous.
Stage 2 – My favourite track of the week did not disappoint. Resulting in my best position of the race. I had my fair share of scares but got down unscathed and on a high that, yet again, I hadn’t been over taken.
Stage 3 –We were taken back up into the glacial territory underneath the Matterhorn itself. This track was astoundingly rocky and with many portions of the track taped super wide it was easy to find yourself 10 metres too far left or right of the fastest, smoothest lines. There were two pinch climbs in the track, which at 9500ft meant you had to get the entries super smooth or find yourself coming to a track stand with not enough oxygen in the blood to provide the power to get up them. Whilst I got my lines smooth, I seem to have forgotten how to change gear at the right moment and found myself floundering in a crunch of metal. Having to run up these 2 climbs unfortunately spelled the end of my runs without being overtaken.
Stage 4 – A huge liaison up to 10,500ft treated us to an awe inspiring view of the Matter Valley and a stage thankfully with very little sprinting. We were treated to tight, narrow and some very exposed alpine single track. Many of the terrifying hairpins had inside lines to chose from, of which I made good use.
I started to catch the rider in front of me much to my joy, but was short lived as I could also hear the whistles sounding the arrival of the rider behind me, Michael Broderick. Over excited I pushed on hard and tucked my front wheel in a sandy corner 5 turns from the finish. Untwisting the bars and riding the last few hundred metres in hilarious tripod mode saw me getting caught on the finish line.
Stage 5 – The Queen Stage saw us with the longest and hardest liaison of the week, involving a 700ft hike a bike. The start of the trail was again on exposed alpine single track with some extremely difficult hairpin bends littered with front wheel grabbing rocks. This led on to some very fast and wide open walking trails before arriving at the tree line for some wide open walkers trail filled with our Scottish favourite, the high water bar.
If you were at all tired, it made the bunny hopping every 10 metres quite the chore. Feeling really good when I reached the final section, a super smooth 1 kilometre pump track, I was given a good kick up the rear as my nemesis Michael Broderick yelled to over take me yet again. Letting him past I jumped on his tail and followed him to the bottom.
Arriving at the finish arena I found myself in 16th place. To be honest this blew my mind. I walked onto the stage to be asked how my day went. I was so distraught and confused by this position I very nearly just walked off stage without a word. I felt I had rode my best, with probably around 25 secs of mistakes in a 46 minutes race. How could I be so low down in the positions?
It seems everyone brought their “A” game. Realising that I was down in one piece, completed an Enduro World Series, finishing every race in the most incredible of locations with the most awesome people met, I picked up my dummy from the floor and told the world that my day went simply amazing and my year was the best year I’ve ever had in my life.
My overall position in the 2019 Enduro World Series in masters category was 6th place. It was not what I came out for. However it’s hardly to be sniffed at. The level of competition from around the globe is truly off the charts. Competing against local heroes, ex world cup DH pros, Olympic athletes and elite world champion team managers, I think I did pretty damn well. I did it with the help of my peers in Scotland. I did it with a huge grin on my face. I did it with determination. I did it my way. I can’t thank my sponsors and donors enough for believing in me and giving me the chance of a lifetime.
Thank you to Marin Bikes for providing me with the most fun and able bike I’ve ever ridden, to Sixth Element Wheels for the most bombproof rims on the market, to MSC Tyres for the fastest and confidence inspiring rubbers, to Shovelbike for the, literally, indestructible and most reliable chain device, to Reaper Accessories for the brilliant custom mudguards for each country of each round and to “6seven Factory Racing” for the awesome casual wear and words of encouragement.
A huge thank you to Flare Clothing Co., now sold on, but to the couple that began it off their own backs, Hannah and Ben. You guys were inspirational to me and gave me the motivation to do something awesome, thanks for your ride kit. I did the Enduro World Series dressed in style. I wish you the best in your new lives.
My final thanks goes to the all the friends, family and riding peers that believed enough to part with their money in my raffle fund, without your help none of this would have been possible. Please never forget you also helped Peter Lloyd regain some semblance of his old life with £1000 of your money donated to him to get an off-road wheelchair.
What if? It’s probably the biggest question in the world. Whatever you do folks, don’t let it go unanswered.