Neil Races The Enduro World Series, Finale Ligure | Neil’s EWS Diary Ep. 5: The Big Race


– Okay, we’ve arrived. Finale Ligure. Time to unpack everything. Set off at about half four this morning, flew from Bristol to Nice. It’s only about an hour
and a half down the road. Nice to get back into sun. It’s been a little while
since it’s been here. But, time to build the bike,
get out for a little spin. Maybe get an ice cream. (energetic electronic music) So I’ve got my number plate, got my break bled by
the good folks at SRAM and just relaxing and having ice cream. It’s time to get ready
for the race tomorrow. Well, not a race tomorrow,
practice tomorrow. Yes, we’re ready to start practice. Practice at Finale is
split into two groups, ’cause there’s so many riders. So I’m in the B group, ’cause I’ve not raced for a long time. So actually, we’re
practicing Stage Four first, and then going to one, two, three. I’m going to film everything on my GoPro just so I can check it out tomorrow, I’ve got a day off before the race, so I’ll just look through it,
try and remember everything ’cause you only get one practice run. Actually, get a marker on your plate so everyone gets one run. All right, it’s hot, but check out this. What a nice place to come ride a bike. Feeling a bit nervous now,
but can’t wait to have a go. This is the men’s downhill,
which is really loose, super dry, bit like kitty litter. Let’s have a go. So, starting off on Men’s Downhill, which is notoriously,
actually loose at the top, and then actually quite
gnarly at the bottom. My race really didn’t feel that great, it felt like I was riding really rusty, making mistakes everywhere. And whilst I think my
experience helps quite a lot, sometimes it just really it gets to me ’cause I know where I’m
losing seconds all the time. So, a little second here, second there. You realize actually how slow I’m going to be at the weekend. A couple out with a really
awkward crash at the end, where I fell quite a way onto my back. I was actually really
thankful for my back protects that I don’t normally wear,
but you have to in Italy. That saved me, but I bashed my elbow, and actually rode out of
the bottom of Stage One feeling like I don’t
know how to ride a bike. Bit of a regroup, I had an orange juice, had an espresso, started
to get out of my slump, and realized actually how lucky I am to be out here riding my
bike for the fun of it. I’m not a racer anymore. It’s time to just appreciate the bike, appreciate the amazing trails we ride in. Actually pull my finger out
and have a proper go at this. Right now we’re at Stage
One, does that make sense? So, we did Stage Four now,
it’s Stage One, Two, Three. We can shuttle on practice day. We drove from the bottom of Four as far as we could on the road, and then it was still another
20 minutes, half an hour hike. Bit of a push, bit of a ride. Super hot today, 29 degrees. So surprisingly hot. From town on Sunday morning, we’ve got to ride all the way up to here. Although it’s the easiest Finale ever, it’s still going to be a big day out. So, now to actual Stage One
that’s going to be on Sunday, and surprisingly physical. Some really tight tree sections, and then some pretty punchy climbs, means that trail is
going to be a tricky one. And actually, for me, I’m
not feeling the fittest at the moment, so it’s just
time to get my head down and try to get through that
stage as fast as I can. (energetic electronic music) That was (bleep). – Pitchy section.? – It’s just surprisingly hard, with that layer of dust
on top and it’s tight. (energetic electronic music) Top of Stage Two, check that ridge. Two definite lines here. Inside looks pretty tough actually. Right, now time for Rocche Gianche and what a beautiful place to have a race. Check out that view. It was tainted a little bit by the fact you saw someone getting
carted off on a four by four, and then taken off in a
helicopter with injuries. And there really was a gnarly start, a couple of line options. But it’s real nice. I went for the easy option, just tried to get through there safe and as smooth as I can. (energetic electronic music) The bottom of Stage Two that’s a crazy mix of
just gnarly, more gnarly and then mellow, and then really physical, and then some really tight switchbacks, and more stuff I know finale for, like tight steep stuff. But it’s hard, time gaps
going to be big on that one. I’m definitely struggling a bit. But, amazing fun. Right now, we’re up to the
last stage of practice today. It’s actually Stage Three, because we did One first if you remember. It’s flipping hard work. It’s a big day out, 50 kilometers. We did a shuttle and a half as well. Sunday’s going to be really hard, but I guess it just proves
how good these bikes are. We’re riding big travel bikes
with lock cages and stuff. You just go miles on them. Check out the view again. Stage Three, and now you’re
heading back towards the sea. I felt like this is actually
more physical than it looked. My arms are starting to hurt,
and by this time in the day, I was definitely feeling it. Knowing on race day you’ve
got one more stage to do, actually was quite disheartening. I was definitely feeling a bit tired. But, I got to the end, and
there’s a couple of actually things that jumped out and
gave you a bit of a surprise, a couple of gnarly sections there. Just a reminder that
you can never feel safe. Trying to go fast, some
of the sections are easy, but there’s always something
that can catch you out. (energetic electronic music) So, Friday’s done and dusted. The only day of practice, do
one run on all the trails. Really, it’s just been
a big reminder for me how hard it is to win these races. I’ve never been at the pointy
end of one of these races, even back when I was
a full pro time racer. I think the best I did was
13th on day one in Scotland and finished 20th or something. And that was at my peak. So, it’s just crazy to
try to win these races. The amount of terrain you ride, amount of gnarly sections, where you’ve got to try
to be the fasted person. The amount of things that
could potentially go wrong, so many rocky horrible
things to puncture on. And actually, just a few times
today, I was really dabbing and getting off the
bike and trying to push and run through sections. There’s so many places
where you could lose time. To actually think about trying
to win one of these races, the amount of effort that goes into it. How much of an all around rider you’ve got to be is really hard. So tomorrow’s Saturday, it’s a day off. The race on Sunday. So tomorrow, I’m going
to cruise down to pits which is down on the beach front, have a few gelatos, rest the legs, check out a few pros’ bikes, hopefully get a few last minute tips from some of the top pro racers, but more importantly give my legs a rest ’cause Sunday is going
to be a big hard day. So Saturday was rest day. I shot a bit in the morning,
then spent the afternoon cleaning and really checking over my bike. Then it’s time to just
put on those EWS stickers. So part of the race really, is trying to keep your bike running. So you’ve got to run the
same rims, front end, and swing arm and fork on your bike. If for any reason, you break one of those, and have to go back to the
pits to get it replaced, then you’ll get a time penalty. Once my bike was sorted, I
then cruised down to pits, try to film a couple of pro bike checks, and actually get some last minute tips from some of the pros. (rock music) Just felt Samuel’s tires,
just for the squidge test. Think I need to go a bit harder. And a bit harder. Morning, how’re you doing? – Are you racing? – Yeah, I am, yeah. – Nice. – I’ve come to ask you some advice. – Oh, okay. – I’ve not raced for a while. Do you just go flat out, no pacing? – No you have to, you
have to pace yourself. ’cause you can’t fail. Towards the end – No right, okay. – If you fail, you just lose so much time. – Yeah, but there’s some gnarly stages. – Yeah but they’re not too long. – So it’s just four downhill races. – Yeah, we don’t have any
stages over five minutes. – Right, okay. – I don’t think. – Right, I’ve GoPro’d everything. Do you do the same? And you’ll watch them today,
and try to memorize bits. – Yeah, yeah, I watch them a few times. But it’s not necessary. I don’t– – You don’t want to stress too much. – think I benefit so much from watching. But some people do, so I guess. – But what I notice is you’ve
been racing downhill recently, to some great success,
you’ll know the track, like inch perfect, when
you’re racing downhill. – Yeah, that’s the main difference between Enduro and downhill. And that’s why fall
before racing downhill, you take too much risk
when you race downhill, but it’s actually the
opposite I think now. Because you’re going so fast on a track that you actually don’t know. It’s very different, but
I find it a bit risky now. Racing Enduro, ’cause
you’re going so fast, and sometimes you don’t
even know what’s coming. – All of a sudden, I’ve noticed on these, you’ll ride a bit of mellow trail, and there’ll be something really gnarly that will just jump up at you, and you’ve just got to remember
where those things are. Makes you a bit careful. – That’s what I mean, by
seeing yourself because (bleep) and you come to a different part and just make a mistake or crash. – All right, cheers dude. – Not a problem, have a good one tomorrow. – Have a good one. – All right, cheers mate. Finished it off with some food and just the one beer tonight, ’cause it’s race day tomorrow. Cruised home to just watch
my GoPro runs from earlier, trying to remember some of the lines, actually try to remember
some of the dodgier bits, so I don’t get caught out
tomorrow, on race day. – [Man] what we doing here, Neil. – Eating breakfast out. It’s still dark outside. – [Man] What’s the time? – 6:50. – [Man] It’s very early (laughs) – [Man] Are you nervous? – No. I eat breakfast every morning. (laughs) (man laughs) (electronic music) It’s now half seven. Just getting in the queue to roll offstage and then transition up to Stage One. Probably, I think it’s about
an hour and a half ride up to the start of Stage One. (electronic music) (bell clanging) (horn blaring) (biker shouting) All right, a surprisingly
clean run actually. A couple of really awkward
tight bits at the start there. Made me feel like it
wasn’t flowing very well. But then there’s two
nasty techy uphill bits that I nailed really well. Didn’t think I was gonna. Left thumb like a monkey on a machine gun. But twin lot was great, probably used it, I don’t know 10 times down there. Now I’m full lock out winching
my way up to Stage Two. It’s a pretty big transition,
so time to refill. Stick some of my, what are they called, Ice tight tabs or what? I’m sweating buckets. It’s only half nine. – Hey! – Stage Two started off
with a really intimidating, exposed peak, and then a ridge line with some really gnarly lines. And for the first time
in my racing career, I actually took the easy route, rather than trying to pick
the hardest, fastest line. I thought, it’s really not worth it. I’m just trying to get through this race. So I took the easier
line, swallowed my pride, and just tried to get through
that as fast as I could. Also, this was the
section, that in practice, we saw people get helicoptered off. I’d actually saw a couple of big crashes, when I was checking it out. It’s all about trying to
get through it unscathed, and actually then, trying to get through the rest of Stage Two. Again, I was trying to
do it as fast as I can, but it was still super paddly. There was one really
actually quite gnarly climb, where I was was doing all I could just to keep my pedals turning and actually trying to keep some speed. A couple of more gnarly
sections, and I was down into the lower woods, where
actually I started to feel a bit better on my bike and maybe try to make up some time on
some of the other races. Right, Two Stage done. Just going to transition
up to Stage Three, top of that ridge. Over there, riding down to
the coast, and up that hill To Stage Four, the last stage. We’ve gone all right
so far, fairly steady. No dramas, definitely not going to be pushing any of those top boys. That is for sure. Knew that already. But, it’s good. Love it. It was a big transfer over to Stage Three, but by now I was feeling much
more like my previous self. Like, I could actually
race a bike a little bit. I felt like I’d done the worst of it. Those first two stages were the ones I was slightly worried about. Stages Three and Four
were all about having fun. I actually felt like I was
going to push a bit harder. That actually did bite me a little bit, because the rider in front
of me went through the tapes and I didn’t remember the corner, and I went straight through again. So bit of a mistake, definitely
lost some time there. Jumped back on the bike
and actually a few more just massive corners, felt
like I was losing time again. There was one really nasty
right-hander with an uphill section out of it that was really hard to try through and pedal through, and I messed that up again. had to jump off the bike, run up that uphill climb and jump back on. Then I felt like it
got a little bit better but I was panting, I was getting tired. I still had one big stage left to go. Men’s downhill. So by this time of the day, I felt like I’d been
riding for a long time. We were on the bikes
at 7:40 in the morning, now it was almost two in the afternoon. So I knew that my fitness was probably going to start leaving me on this stage. So again, I tried to push
hard, really didn’t want to nail myself in the paddly top section. I tried to recover a
little bit in the middle, but it’s definitely hard going. It’s kind of loose men’s downhill, a bit like kitty litter, some of it. Some of it actually did flow quite well, but then you go over that last precipice, down towards the Med, and
it’s just super full on. Actually felt kind of all
right after I paced myself, and then I hit a big hole, you know when you’re feeling like you’ve got one of those
massive bench presses, and you’re just trying to
get back up onto the bike and then you hit another hole. Super rough, my lines
left me, and I just tried to ride down it as fast,
but as safe as I could. But, the crowd was pretty amazing. And it felt good to finish
a stage knowing that all I had to do now is roll
back into the stage get back into town, have a beer, and just think about what had been a pretty epic day on the bike. So, it’s the day after
the race Finale Ligure. Definitely feeling a little
bit jaded, a bit tired. Legs are surprisingly okay,
but it was a long day out. Started at half seven, left that stage. Finished about half two I think. Four intense stages. It was hard to just step back up and try a race, to be honest. Harder than I expected. Stages were mixed, so it
felt like I warmed up a bit, and then by the last stage I was so tired. Hit one of those holes,
you know get one of them 200 kilo bench presses, and it takes ages to get it back up on the bars. But loved it. What a great experience. Finished 125th which is very okay but I’m completely fine
with that, it’s cool. Just loved doing it. I really enjoy riding that bike. To think that Scott Ransom,
all I did, was change tires and put a Cooshco in the rear, ’cause I knew it was going
to be pretty punishing, especially when trying
to ride super tired. Loved it, I wouldn’t have
chosen any other bike. I think a 29er Enduro bike
for me, suits me great. Of course, people like Sam Woolley ride those really aggressive 27.5 wheels. But for me, I think I need
that extra bit of help from the 29ers. Well, it’s time to just
sit on the beach and relax. If you wanna see the build
up to this final video of me getting ready, click
over there for that one. And if you want to see that
first look at the Scott Ransom, click over there. Give thumbs up, if you
like watching me suffer, and try and race again,
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