Sam Shaw departs for Europe after a New Zealand summer of enduro, XCO and wasp stings. Based in the French ski and mtb resort of Morzine, his dance card is crammed with another tilt at the EWS, the occasional hit of World Cup Cross Country - and artisan cheese. His stream-of-consciousness diaries and behind-the-racing ramblings commence with an EWS in Madeira and the wet and muddy 1st round of the World Cup XCO in Albstadt.
A wet day at the office in Albstadt. Photo: Balz Weber
Woke for a morning routine of pilates and a swim at lake Les Gets, took the rock for a walk from side to side (daily routine). Packed the Fiesta up with bikes and a couple of weeks worth of gear and headed for Canezai, Italy (currently based in Les Gets, France). Huge drive in a heat wave and no air conditioning. Had a compulsory glacial river dip before making it to our destination and hitting the hay.
Staying with team NZ Arapi, headed up the mountain with the squad. We ended up having a few altitude beers and getting lost a whole bunch before all splitting in different directions and somehow all making it home on different routes (nobody found a proper mountain bike trail). Team feeds before sleeps.
A NZ Apari team dinner.
First day of practice and the tracks are mint! Super long stages with primo dirt and a few rocks and roots aboot. Managed to blow a shock so spent the rest of the day doing admin. Dee cooked up a mean feed for tea (and cooked all our meals and lunch for the most of the next week! :)
Second day of practice, another couple of good tracks! Pretty similar to yesterdays description. Finished up and got everything ready for racing.
One dayer, with a nice relaxed start time at around 11am. Had some breakfast, put the gear on and headed to the venue to get things underway. Headed up to stage one via gondooola, stage one was around 10min of fast euro style trail. I got down without anything too outrageous happening, the rest of the stages were similar and I got down all of them in the same kind of fashion. Apart from the last stage having a wee tumble on an open ski run section. Headed out that evening for a celebratory dwink or four for p.69
The classic pack up and gap it. Headed to Lake Garda where Bubbles had booked the team a villa to celebrate Dee and Bubs birthdays. Too meke fooze ball was played.
Still at Lake Garda having a mid enduro break.
Finally dragged ourselves out of the villa at Lake Garda to head to Less Oress, France. Big drive back into the mountains and back into another nice mountain home for the week :).
Big fish with Chaz to the top of the hills, wee hike a bike and a swim in le lac. Out to dinner for Bubbles bday with a bunch of enduro mates.
Training day tahi, tracks are pretty enduro gnarly in places! Post practice dip in the lake and a wee fast-food stop to get the body feeling enduro. Big nap. Mexican night at the house with team enduro.
Practice day round two, managed to strike a pedal in a fast pace alpine section and enduro whacked my shoulder on a square edge of a rock. lay around for a bit before finding a truck down the mountain, got an enduro scan and got away with nothing broken ayoo. Took all the painkillers and went to bed.
Went and watched Bwooke race the EWS100 before gearing up. Attempted to race and got through every stage all goodies! headed straight to bed for some rest after that. Still can’t lift my arm very high after yesterdays flying sesh.
Got up and watched Bwookes race again before heading up the gondy, lucky a thunderstorm rolled in and cancelled the stage I got rolled on! Rode the whole day without having practiced any of the tracks and managed to do better than yesterday, it is a lot funner to race these things for the first time as well. Celebratory fireworks session, p 74.
Laps on laps of dirt merch mmmmm.
Morning ride up dark crystal and a few laps on the park for the shoot out don’t show up thing. then some more laps in the park.
Morning ride up dark crystal followed by the compulsory laps in the park.
Got a few stage recky in and managed to break my rear wheel.. Its been a whole year since I’ve smashed anything on the bike so guess it was coming! Practice on the the top of the world stage, hoooooge stage (from the very top of the world!!) some reason it didn’t take us down dirt merch, but that’s ok this one time. Celebrated Ol and Bracks 21st birthdays oufff.
Practice on the rest of the trails, got through all the stages (still on the broken wheel). Home to crack into the admin.
Top of the world stage day. Managed to get my xc wheel onto the enduro bike.. very last minute stop at Shimano to get the correct rotor size setup (the one I had was barely contacting the pads. Had a wee spill on the stage, but had my best top section ever on this stage.. followed by my worst lower section.. ah well!
All the rest of the stages, and its raining! Pretty happy about that though, got to wear my Groundeffect wetsuit for the day (luckily it was also pretty cold). All the stages were slippery with many roots, apart from the rocks, they stayed grippy. I managed to get faster throughout the day while thinking I was going easier and just having fun riding the bike (this downhill side of racing I still haven’t figured out).As per usual we headed out for a celebratory post race/compulsory whistler outing, p.67.
Tried hitching a ride from Whistler to Bellingham. managed to catch a ride to Vancouver and got stuck with all the bikes in the city (missed all the buses and trains). Ended up renting a car and driving over the border with a stop at some burrito place, elyumo. Got to Skye and Johns house and hit the floor.
Got up and headed to Transition to meet lars (bars) with John Richardson and Alex Mcandrew (and the Wookes). Bars hooked us up with seltzers and breakfast buns and we hit the road in the Transition van headed for California.. 17hours later we arrived. Got educated on the way with 10hours of podcasts (Mike Tyson, Shrooms, and the FBI).
Woke up with at the NZ Arapi house for the week, Dee came all the way over from Wellington to look after the squad of kiddies. Slept the whole day, chur.
Track walk with Jesse, Rae, and John. Scoped out all the lines, heckled the media crew to crash, saw some rocks, found out I was broke. Chanui. Dee cooked us a mean feed and I hit the hay early.
Got some practice in, the tracks are as gnarly as they look! Dust and rocks and not much else. Lots of jank. Kinda liked them still and had a good day out.
More practice, stage four stands out for the year, with some super gnarly sections (one right at the top to start) (you may have seen videos of people getting recked from Northstar (this is the track (was my favourite track of the race))). Home for sleep. Since leaving home this is the most uninjured I’ve been hah. Raced two stages and didn’t feel fast, but the body was working better than usual!
Got the rest of the race done, managed to crash on stage 3, losing a lot of time. Started an internal race with Dave Mcmillin (we always seem to finish within a couple seconds of each other and often on the same second). The loser had to do a shoie.. Not surprisingly it came down to the last stage and I lost out by two seconds, ol mate did one as well for the good times. Celebratory stay at home and rest (I’m ppoped).
Big chill start to the day, headed to the lake for a shwim then found Skye, John, Marco, and Have for a shuttle ride and an evening shwim. Headed out for thai later on.
Got up early as for a big day of #oncoil filming, hoopoe day, all the pooped. pizza and bearsies for tea.
Made the drive back to Bellingham in the Transition van and got educated on “Heavens Gate” via 10hours of podcast chur to Skye for driving most of the way and Johnny doing the rest!
Stare clear of Bellingham riding... it's an average time!
Woke up in the clock tower, living the high life (update, am now in Czech Repuplic, more specifically – Nove Mesto na Morave, for the XCO world cup round two). Had a wee sleep in and a late start to the day. Got organised and headed to the course for practice, followed some signs for accreditation and got my team cred (not what I was intending to get), then was pointed in the right direction to get my race plate (what I actually wanted). Got to the venue and missed rego, aye (only because I was getting my team cred (which I didn’t need, at all). Borrowed a team plate and got out for 5 laps on course . Back home and out for dinner with Lukas (sky) Walker and Theresia Shwenk for dinner :))
Sam's Rapunzel-like accommodation
Sam's (current) car-life
Breakfast with Theresia and Lukas (also staying in the clock tower on the floor below). Then off to the course to register and get in them lappppsss. Did all those laaappppsss and went home and did nothing until dinner (XC is pretty exciting - actually enjoying resting though). Lapppsssss on the mind.
Back at the course for more laps! Then hung around a bit to get some last minute fixer ups on the bike (thanks Shimano!!!) and to watch the U23 women’s race with Jessica Manchester from NZ competing - those girls are fast! Back home for some chill and getting everything sorted for tomorrows event. Cooked up some weird concoction while Thersesia cooked up something a bit more appetising. Hit the hay pretty early prepping for a big day tomorrow.
Pre race DYI velo lavage
Hugie sleep in, then up and into breakfast around 10am, a quick talk with Mum, a quick talk with Bwookiie, some other social media socialising, and then off to the event (arrived an hour before call up (1.20pm). Got a good warm up in plus a ride on some local trails, before heading to the box for line up. Again a pretty intense scene and even louder than last week in Albstadt - the crowd that comes out to Nove Mesto is outrageous. Lined up on the very back of the start grid (at least we are not boxed in back here) and green light for go. I held back for the first 500m just to avoid any potential crashes (throwback to last years hugie on the first corner) and from there put in the work to pass a very satisfying amount of people. About 3mins in, my legs decided that was enough work for the day and I literally dropped about forty places in ten secondi's, back to nearly last actually, just before we dropped into the single trail. The head was still there so I took a breather and had some banter with some of the other competition, turns out Sam Gaze had the same problem and we were both stuck in the bottle neck at the back having a wee chat. From there I just pushed as hard as the legs would allow for each lap and managed to keep improving my lap times each lap deeper. It helped having a lot of familiar faces on track cheering me on (so cool being on the other side of the world with so many mates). Unfortunately it needs to be good from the get go to make it through these races and I had a bit too much faff going on. Made it to four laps and a start loop (was feeling a wee bit more capable than this, but still got to push the body a lil bit). Finished the race up and had some yarns with the other blokes before a light spin and an imperial stout. Helped see the kiwi squad off and went back to the accom for some sleepies.
When the course looks flat, but isn't. Photo: Theresia Schwenk
Sam asking the last of his legs. Photo: Jessica Manchester
Woke up nice and early at 4am, jumped in the car and headed to Stuttgart to see my mate at Pinion for a catch up. Had many coffees before jumping back in the car enroute for Morzine. Made it back to Elena's at around 09.30pm. Huge day in the car. Rekt.
Earning the beersies
Pretty much up to sweet pudge all, letting the past couple of days catch up with me finally and caught up on a wee bit of rest (story of the week actually).
The Bwookiie arrives today (insert a really smiley emoji).
Brooke happy to be back for another Morzine-based summer (daisy chain: models own)
Chill day in Morzine, mostly with a hugie of a sleep in. Went for a short pedal up the valley to Le Lac and then up the side of the valley towards Morzine's 'Hunters Hut'. The tracks here are pretty scary on a hardtail, with le seat up, in the snow, (some of the roads are still fully snowed-over). Back home for more sleeps. [Filler: slept all of yesterday and only went for a short walk around Lac de Montriond (in between sleeping)]. I'm addicted to big sleep now #lovemysleep. Had leftovers for dinner and played Settlers of Catan with Elena, another win for me! Looking forward to Jamie (Nicoll's) arrival so I can school him at Catan (yes Jamie, this is a call out).
Lac de Montriond
Big sleep in as per usgee (short for usual, read it with a French accent), then headed oot the door for a few trails. Gaining confidence with this XC bike/Morzine combo - although this place is not made for XC bikes at all. A few efforts to open le lungies and back home to pack up and wait for UPS to deliver some POC helmets :) Waited like a kid at the window, got the gearsies and made tracks for Albstadt. [Filler: last night Anita Gerhig (crazy fast enduro rider) through her boyfriend Bas, found me a place to stay in Albstadt - his friend Tom's mother's house (aka my German Mum)]. I arrived at German Mum's house to a very warm welcome and met half the family and had a hugie of a dinner. Delighted to have found a German home-away-from-home!
Out of bed at 11am (seriously milking this no work thing), downstairs and "Hallo", my German Mum has breakfast and lunch waiting for me (I'm in heaven). Polished off some ceral followed by eggs and bacon before heading out the door for a spin. Then off to the course to meet Sam Thompson who collected my number for me (rego was on Thursday... only two days late). Went for a cheeky three laps on the course to check it out. I raced XC many moons ago and funnily enough this course is exactly the same as 7 years ago, bar two new massive wooden structures. Back home for second lunch (thanks German Mum). Tom came back from the event (he is working as media for the World Cup), had a catch up and hit the hay in prep for a biggish day tomorrow.
Race day didn’t change much, still out of bed at 10 haha. "Hallo." It's German Mum and breakfast is huge again. Legend. Fuelled up and geared up (wearing Ground Effect Slim Jims and Model Tee for le race), I headed out to the course to watch the Women's Elite race. Sam Thompson helped out again - getting my transponder and offering to be my feeder (even though he was already feeding Ben Oliver and Cam Ivory (it's really hard to find a feeder on the other side of the world, and really important)).
Warmed up and headed to the start box to line up. It's a crazy scene. At the very back (where I am seeded) all you see is a bunch of bodies moving as a hundred bikers warm up on rollers. The rest of us just kind of sit around. The noise is intimidating and the guy on the mic is trying to amp up the crowd. Everyone is shaved like Dr Evil's cat from Austin Powers, and it's what I imagine race horses feel like. Very intense. Anyway, lucky that stuff does not faze me anymore.
Line up, a heavy downpour of rain, race start and we boosted down a straight road reaching nearly 50kph (I am at the very back). Two crashes on the first left hand corner (classic metal on metal sound) and in a few more turns we hit the first single trail. Everyone gets off to run (the bottle neck is hugie). This repeats at every corner for the first two laps. This is why it's so hard to avoid being lapped when starting out the back.
Cats and dogs don't stop the crowds at XCO World Cups. Photo: Tom Fritsch
After those first two laps I settle into catching riders, but due to some mud getting in the wrong places my gears get a bit indecisive. At the top of every climb they are stuck until I reach the bottom of a hill when they work again (this happened throughout my whole race). So, I would catch riders or work my way away from riders only to lose them or be caught again.
Sam takes the straight (enduro) line. Photos: Tom Fritsch
Type 2 fun gets turned up a notch. Photo: Balz Weber
I still managed to move up a few spots before being lapped out on lap four (plus the start loop). Just going to count that as five laps, hah. Pretty happy with that for a start. Keen as ever to make it from the back to qualify for the race next weekend in Nove Mesto (Czech-Rebublic). Warm down and a catch up with the kiwi crew, then back to catch up with Tom and German Mum with a huge meal prepared (can't fault her) before getting an early night… after some beersies.
Slept in until 11 this time (don’t know how this is happening as still going to bed early). Out for a spin in the rain to check out Albstadt properly, funky statues and all. On the road and headed to my German mate, Robert Schwenk's house at Friedchickenschaulsen (reads like that if you’re from NZ).
En route to Nove Mesto. Until then.
Single track on a knife edge. Photo: Sven Martin
Packed up everything I own into some boxes and bags, go for a ride, eat food, drop half the boxes and bags at Mum and Dads, the other half stays in the truck. Mum cooked me an omelet and we headed to the airport where the half boxes and bags were checked onto my flight, en route Geneva.
I have now successfully skate boarded through Auckland, Los Angeles, Heathrow, and Geneva airports. All my bags arrive and in tact from the long haul flight. Tick. I chucked everything into my rental SUV BMW (balling) and headed to Morzine (France) for the night. Caught up with the Munstermann (I think Jamie’s (Nicoll) nick name for Elena) before meeting up with Lisa Thompson to buy the vehicle of choice (after the much wanted but too expennie Fiat Panda) for this years transportation - a spiffy 2007 three door Ford Fiesta. Off to bed.
Not the Fiat Panda from the wish list, but maybe Ford Fiestas go faster?
Woke up in the dark and checked my phone – 6.40am, sweet back to sleep. 5min later I hear “Saaam?” (a whisper that wants to wake you up) Elena is off to work and just making sure I am awake. I tell here I will get up at maybe 7.30 (haha anyone that suffers from jetlag knows that means 7.30pm) - she tell me it’s already 9am (my phone was still in the wrong timezone, rookie mistake). I get up quick as (was actually supposed to wake up at 7.30am), pick up some Maxxis tires and shiny new POC kit (for Bwookie), set up the XC bike and pedal up Joux de Plane, Avoriaz (to get that 1000m vert). Back at home I halve my gear again and pack back into a bike box and bag. A quick drive down the valley back to Geneva Airport for a flight to Madeira, Portugal. Dee (Clarke) picked me up at midnight, what a champ. Also managed to skate around two more airports.
A day spent sightseeing around Funchchall with Bubbles and Dee soaking up the markets and flower season.
Markets and flowers in Funchchall
Got on the bike to practice stage one, two, and three. Not too big a day on the bike, but some awesome trails. Stage one seems to be made from 100% dust and is going to be very hard to race. Two and three are made of rock so should stay consistent. Back home for a little bike prep and a little sleep.
The mullet gets the media squids attention. Photo: Boris Beyer
Practice for stage four, five, six, seven, and eight, a pretty chill day on the bike as we could shuttle to all of them (thanks Jesse Morrison!). A similar recipe to yesterday with a dust bowl of a trail for stage four and the rest being pretty good, bar stage seven which was also dusty and very susceptible to erosion. Finished up and chilled out before heading out for dinner with the BBCL Arapi squad :)).
Rarely spotted blue skies and dusty tracks at an EWS round. Photos: Sven Martin
Very late start for the usual EWS, my start stage one start time was around 1pm. Had a bit of a sleep in then got some last minute preparation done before heading out the door to event HQ (a 5min bike down the road). Then peddled up the first climb for stage one. Stage one was 8min minutes of loose orange dust. I dropped in and caught up to the guy in front about 1min into the stage. From here it felt impossible to pass as I couldn’t see anything and just followed him down to the stage end. Not the best start, but no crashies. Stage two was a real rim dinger, especially when my tyres are at 20psi. Got down the stage in more of a "I don’t want to die on these rocks" kind of mode (I think all the past crashes are getting to me, haha). Stage three, similar to stage two except a little more flow in places. Overall I didn’t ride my best, but happy to finish the day clean!! Straight to the bar for some beersies then home for a nap. P.69
It's hard not to get distracted by these views. Photo: Sven Martin
Earlier start today with a bus ride to the top of stage four. The Gowann girls (Bez Barona, Martha Gill (and Noga Korem)) played tunes and gave us an insightful tour of Madeira (I really need to take more photos). The bus ride was about an hour so the scene at the top was hilarious when everyone boosted off the bus to squat or join the great wall of guys pissing in plain site (we arrived at a grass field with no shelter and a whole bunch of riders who like to drink water). Stage one, a dust bowl! I started catching the rider in front again, but luckily it was windy and the visibility stayed clear! I rode very cautiously (again). Stage five and six were more similar to home with heaps of grip, minimal dust, and a couple berms. I kept the pace consistent and was riding a little quicker than the day before. A huge liaison to stage seven (20km) meant that stage was blown! Parts of the track wern't even there anymore so you literally had to go full enduro to get down comfortably. I managed to catch the rider in front again :)). Onto the the final stage eight which was the same as yesterdays stage three. I was nice and consistent down there to pull my position back up to 55th by the end of day two. Very happy considering how late I left it to come over to Europe. Keen to get the pace up and keep this no crashing thing happening (my body still aches from previous years). A wee after party and some sleep.
A flying finish at Madeira. Photo: Dave Trumpore/Pink Bike
True potato again, these enduros all reck me! Went for a swim and lunch with Jesse, Rae and their good friends from Canada. Did some sight seeing at the top of the island, followed by re riding stage six and one. I couldn’t even ride down one anymore. I don’t know if it was the trail conditions, or my hangover.