Meet Enduro Rider Jamie Nicoll

by Guy Wynn-Williams

For a small (ish) country New Zealand has had more than its fair share of battlers that have, against the odds and on limited resources, prevailed on the world stage. Jamie Nicoll joins the fray with a story that is worthy of a Danny Boyle biopic. 2015 was Jamie's third season racing the Enduro World Series (EWS). In 2013 he podiumed at Crankworx in Whistler and won the Mountain of Hell in France. Fast forward to 2015 and Jamie repeated his Mountain of Hell win, and scored a respectable third in the Trans-Savoie. Plenty of A-listers had to be despatched in both events to score those results.

 

Jamie often drops into Ground Effect for some 'red chair' time. He and Laurence Mote (ex long time Ground Effect staffer) raced cross country together in their youth and have always stayed in touch. In mountain biking parlance, Enduro or more fully 'so Enduro', is a by-word for the latest and greatest. But Jamie's success is far from overnight. Famously he campaigned overseas last season as a privateer - sleeping under canvas and eating from a billy. Lucky he let the results do the talking, so he gained a full factory ride with the French team Polygon United Ride for 2014 and 2015. In 2016 Jamie is back to adventuring with his bike to exotic and remote destinations, and competing in just a handful of his favourite enduros, with the support of Ground Effect.

In 2010 Jamie suffered a tragic accident while building trails on a ravine in the far reaches of Patagonia. The jack hammer he was using exploded while investigating a fuel leak, leaving Jamie severely burnt, entangled in his safety ropes and dangling over the edge of the ravine. He was able to swing back to the ledge, and struggle to a nearby creek to bathe his burns. The water was freezing cold with snow melt, leaving him almost hypothermic. He and two work mates then ran three kilometres to a lake. A jet boat rushed them back to base camp. From there a military helicopter evacuated him to the nearest town of Coyhaique. Jamie suffered 3rd degree burns to 35% of his body. The medics figured he had only a one in ten chance of surviving.

Jamie was telling us that while at the 2014 EWS in Chile he flew back to the accident site to film some promotional footage for the team. No remorse, just delight at the tracks and landscape in that wild part of the world. Sadly the camera gear and memory cards were stolen shortly afterwards.

A painful and protracted recovery followed the accident with two months' hospital time in Chile. Then another ten months as an outpatient at Wellington's Hutt Hospital.

Buried in the pain and uncertainty, Jamie resolved to return to racing. His enduro successes barely two years later are all the more remarkable for what preceded them.

Jamie posts regularly on Instagram. We will also keep you up to date with his results on the Ground Effect Instagram and Facebook feeds.

 

APPENDIX
A (raw and real) transcript of Jamie's 2013 interview with Germany's Dirt Magazine.

Who is Jamie Nicoll?
I am an adventurer, I am someone who pushes things to see how far they will go. I love nature the mountains and wilderness. I enjoy good wholesome food, especially together with friends. I can be very focused and sometimes over focused. I have a quirky sense of humour, that is often missed by many people except myself! I’m a middle child who doesn’t care much for the restraints put in life, I’m always questioning the world and things around me.

I am a New Zealander and started competing in mountain biking at the age of 12 in cross country and downhill. Racing more and more until I was 18 with good results and an increasing interest from the bike industry. At that age I couldn’t see my life being solely mountain bike racing and I moved my focus to climbing some of New Zealand's highest mountains and spent the next 10 years adventuring, exploring and travelling overseas. After 2 years of working in the remote back country of NZ South Westland, I ended up on an international private mountain bike park building contract, until on one contract 3 years ago I suffered severe burns accident in the remote Patagonian mountains while abseiling and using a rock breaker which malfunctioned. It changed my life and many things dramatically. I had two years of rehabilitation and surgery and needed a lot of help and support from my partner Bridie and friends.

Can you/do you want to talk about your accident and how it effects your riding/racing? 
A lot of people think that I have developed determination through the adversity of my accident but I think it was my determination that helped me through the accident. The extreme focus of the rehabilitation was very intense and stressful and damn hard work. The riding was something I could do well when things were hard, it may have given me release from dealing with the rehabilitation. Dealing with the injury and all the things that were difficult day to day, I used a huge amount of focus and so needed somewhere new to redirect this focus once the majority of the rehabilitation fight was over and so riding and racing was where I put it.

What was your plan before the season?
Realising I was going to be a self funded privateer Enduro Racer, I planned on racing the Enduro World Series starting with Val d Allos (round 2) and finishing with round 5 Whistler - with the goal of being well in the top 10 after seeing what I had been able to do in the previous year in the French Cups, Mega Avalanche and Crank Worx Whistler. After Whistler I thought I really should carry on and invest in myself to finish the season in as best as possible position and so I carried on back to Europe to do rounds 6 and 7 as well as going to Euro Bike to talk to bike company’s and jumped on the Trans Provence at the last minute

Who supported you and how?
NZ Santa Cruz distributor Mike has always been really supportive and a great help with supplying me frames and many bits and pieces to put a bike together. I have had wonderful support from old time friends at Cactus Equipment a company who makes and keeps me stocked with their simple super durable ultimate explorer clothing and backpacks. Ground Effect, NZ made cycle clothing, keeps me warm and dry out on the trails. Both are NZ made brands which I am proud to wear and be supported by. And of course all the love, encouragement and support from friends and family at home and overseas. Fox, Sram and Mavic have been helping out more and more over the season with all their awesome gear.

How did you prepare for the EWS season?
I decided this season to hire a coach to try and give me a balance between effort and rest, feeling that the previous year I had over trained at times. This season I’ve been normally training 6 days a week with 3 days in a week doing intensive intervals. Through most of the lead up to the first EWS time I was also working a full time job.

What do you think about the different formats?
Typically or in a generalised picture you have the French style of mostly lift assisted ascents and very long 1000m plus descents. It's great having the long descents and I would not want to lose that but sometimes with the ski lifts you are more often waiting around at the top getting cold and nervous. Then the other typical style on the EWS is something like the Italian style of longer days riding to the top of all stages and shorter race stage descents, but I really value the time riding to the top feeling more relaxed because you can be talking away the time. You are also able to have more control for yourself about the amount of time you are waiting before your race start. There is also a lot of helping others and keeping together between stages. I feel Crankworx Whistler really nailed it on the head, they got the perfect mix between riding together with friends and competitors between stages and the use of the chair lifts for 2 of the 5 special stages to get up high to drop in on the Top of the World race stage or Kyhber pass.

The two styles that I particularly like include the one used this year at Val d’ Allos. You had an optional walking of the course on Friday and on Saturday. On Sunday you did a practice ride down the stage and returned straight after to the start of the stage for a race run.You then moved on to the next stage.

The other style I like is the type where you are given one or two training days depending on how easy the access to the race stages are. Depending on the terrain or the fact you need to ride up to the top dictates how much practice one can do due to time or energy. Generally I think it is good when there is less practice.

Is the world series what you expect?
It was mostly what I expected having the experience from racing in Europe and Canada the year before and being its first year in action. Sure there are some rules, systems and consistency needed in some areas to refine and develop the sport and series, but I feel that the team the World Enduro organising experts pulled together to make this all happen can be congratulated without doubt on the job they did - bring on next year!

Good things at the EWS: I like it that one can travel the world to race in so many different countries. After the effort and challenge of getting there, there are the same friends, faces and bike loving individuals you had just seen 2 days before, on the other side of the world all ready to go out and explore a new environment and landscape together.

Bad things at the EWS: Not a bad thing, but for me 6 months I feel is a long time between the 1st and last round of a 7 round series. Sure the challenge of staying strong fit and focused for that time all adds to the greatness of the EWS. But, still if you are not based in UK/ Europe and are therefore away from home, your partner, friends and family, making multiple long haul flights - then 6 months is a long time and something that makes it less accessible to people.

What were the highlights of the season?
Whistler Crankworx. Yes being on the podium in 3rd is something I’m very happy and proud of, especially as it came as a surprise. I was not keeping track of my stage results throughout the day. It's not just because of my result that Whistler was a highlight but the surrounding area has just such amazing terrain - the roots, the rocks, the slab rock, the shape of the land and the trees and forest stretching forever, the epic-ness. Its all there, you can’t help but come away a better rider and in awe of nature and bears!

How is it as a privateer to travel and race the world series?
To make the season achievable financially I have made savings with plenty of camping in my tent and cooking my meals on the camp stove. As the season has progressed and I’ve started to meet more people some things get easier like people sharing their van with you for transport and for sleeping, and some sharing space in there hotels. I don’t like feeling like I need people to help and that I’m not independent so it's always a balance. Many of the teams and mechanics have been happy to help me if I am in need of some assistance or just somewhere to hangout between stages. It seems a pretty good family out there and friendlier than some other race scenes it sounds.

What is the special thing for you with enduro?
I think it is the mixing of the solo rider and the group rider. It's like a racing version of heading out riding with your mates. It's where one mistake is not the end of your weekend's result. It's where you feel the explosive power and energy of all your hard hours of training. As I’m heading off from the start line as a solo racer with sometimes little or no knowledge of the stage ahead, I’m drawing on my time in the local area, the way the ground has felt under my bike, the typical style and lay of the land, the flow of the trail, all this while the stage is (well hopefully) flying by under your wheels. Then off you ride with a bunch of great people. Nothing is determined till the last stage is over, so don’t give up.

With who and where are you riding the most?
It’s a bit different coming from down under in NZ because I race the Northern hemisphere summer season and then head back to NZ to train and race in the summer there, so I spend a lot of time on my bike and luckily NZ has a lot of the top DH world cup riders. Our local races can be pretty well speced with world class athletes, so I think that all helps to keep your expectations of yourself high.

I’d still say I ride most in Nelson, New Zealand which is where I am generally based and mostly riding on my own! No, not really - but some of my good friends get sick of the fast pace going up the hills. I really like riding and doing my training with friends even if they are slower, as I think I could lose the reason and enjoyment of the sport if I was out there all the time on my own. I just make loops like a dog racing up the hill away from the group and then coming back down to meet them again. But yes in reality there are a lot of hours out there riding and training on your own in good and all the bad weather too.

New plans for next year?
My biggest plan is to be on a great team next season with good support, its exciting and I am still not sure who I will end up with at this stage, but I have talked to some fantastic teams and people in the process. I reckon on riding 650b. Also more DH training and focus on riding instead of trying to work a job and ride a job. And more time with my partner.

Alter/Age: 35
Wohnort/Hometown: Nelson New Zealand
Beruf /Job: Well mostly just an athlete now but I’m a 'jack of all trades master of none' sort of guy that ends up with all sorts of little practical jobs coming my way.