The 2nd round of the European Enduro Series was in Flims/Laax, a ski area in the Swiss Alps a couple of hours from Zürich. Practice on the course was on Friday but I had to work in the morning and only managed to ride half of the course before the prologue on Friday evening so had a lot of blind racing.
This was a short sub 2 minute sprint around the race centre which I rode blind but it seemed most people had practiced it (although you technically weren’t supposed to). A fast downhill fireroad pedal came into a tight gravelly corner, a short rooty singletrack, super tight switchback, short rocky rooty trail and then a flat out pedal through an underground carpark, short lung-busting uphill and a grassy drop to the finish with an awkward corner to catch you out at speed. Good fun, barely long enough to notice but practice would have been a big advantage!
Race Day – 5 Stages, 850m climbing, 1900m descent
After a short climb from the gondola the race started with a long, technical stage from high up the mountain. Full of big sharp rocky and tuffy grass there were line everywhere and it was really hard to see the best way to go through. In the middle section lot of really tight switchbacks required perfect line choice to get around and rain overnight had added an extra layer of grease making the trail tougher. I always seem to struggle to get into the flow starting the first trail cold had one crash trying to change line and generally felt I rode like a bag of potatoes down this.
Stage two was shorter, I rode most of it blind and still struggled to get into the flow. Lower down it was a mix of roots and rocks through the trees. Stage three was very short but awesome fun. I tried to force my head to get into gear before we set off but took it a bit too far, going into overdrive and riding like a hyperactive kid. A fast grassy section turned sharply into the woods and I got carried away totally overshooting the corner and getting tangled up in my bike. After that I calmed down and rode better as the trail was full of roots and fun loamy corners finishing on a short flat out sprint.
A longish climb took us up to stage four, a long man-made trail down to Flims town (the Runca Trail), which I rode half of blind. I’m not normally a fan of these trails but racing it flat out was fun, not so technical so you could almost switch off, get into the flow and ride flat out. The upper section has lot of bermy corners, tabletop jumps and pumping sections before coming into a loooong fast pedal across the grass. I whacked my saddle up and got on the pedals giving it all when suddenly out of nowhere there was a half meter drop that I nosed dived off and somehow just got enough weight behind the saddle to keep the bike upright but it was properly sketchy! the second half of the trail was down north-shore type wood at high speed which was kind of fun but a crash would have had high consequences. Good fun.
Stage 5 I hadn’t practiced at all but it was fairly short. A narrow rough grassy trail traversed along a ridgeline with a steep drop off one side. After that was a flat fireroad pedal, a fast downhill and some loose drifty corners down to the finish in the race village.
Overall a great race with a nice mixture of trails and a good format that meant stage start times were relaxed so you could ride around at your own pace with a group without stressing about being in a certain place at a certain time. I finished 12th, a bit disappointed to be honest (results). Arriving tired from a tough week at work and missing most of practice didn’t help but enough excuses, I need to sort my head out at the start of these races and get the balance right between being focused and being relaxed. It was nice to race with mates from Zürich close to home and fun meeting up again with Irish rider Michelle Muldoon who had a great ride to finish 8th.
Next up, EWS in La Thuile!