My final trip to Europe has now been and gone and I can’t believe how fast the season has flown by. It’s been a busy one and probably the most tiring season of my entire career.
Time for a break – Bike Verbier coaching week and the Roc
Following the final UK Gravity Enduro at the beginning of September, multiple days of riding in challenging terrain had left me feeling exhausted and it wasn’t long before I got ill; the final sign that I needed to take a break and have a couple of weeks off my bike! Fortunately the timing was perfect as I had a break in the races. I still had some coaching commitment though, and so I flew out to Switzerland at the end of September for my second Girls Coaching Week in Verbier feeling ready to get back on the bike.
Out in the beautiful Verbier mountains
Coaching is something I would definitely like to do a little more of once my racing career is over but sadly I have just not had time to fit much in this year. It’s great that Lucy from Bike Verbier just books a date early in the year and I know I have to be there. This year we had nine willing ladies all keen to learn some new skills, ride some amazing terrain and meet new riding buddies. It was again a fantastic week. We were blessed with amazing weather and got to ride yet more great trails around Verbier and they all went home having ridden trails they would never have dreamt of at the start of the week.
Teaching the art of the wheelie
From Verbier I then drove down to the south of France to the annual bike festival, Roc D’Azur. The Roc is the European equivalent of California’s Sea Otter Festival, attracting well over 20,000 participants taking part in various races over the five days. Endura, my clothing sponsor, were supporting the event, so I spent some time signing autographs on the stand as well as racing the enduro and the women’s XC race. It was a good weekend to get back into racing and stretch my legs with a few big days of pedaling in readiness for the final Enduro World Series race.
Perfect finish – Finale Ligure Enduro World Series finals
Going into Finale was an exciting time as I had already guaranteed the World Series title and you would have thought that I would just have been happy to ride around and enjoy the final race, but for some reason I felt more motivated than ever to finish the year on a high!
Tracy racing to victory and the EWS series win in Finale Ligure, Italy.
Photo by Matteo Cappe/Superenduro
I started the year in Punta Ala choosing not to shuttle the trails during practice, it’s something I just did not associate with enduro as all the races in the UK you just pedal around the course for practice. I also felt that it ruined the atmosphere at the event; people were not out enjoying the location and riding around chatting during practice. Shuttling is something that has always been part of the Italian races and it wasn't possible for that to change this season. It would also be impossible for shuttling to be stopped in Finale as all the trails are scattered around the surrounding hills and therefore all linked by public roads.
However, I decided to stick to my feelings that an enduro race should be practiced by pedaling at events without ski lifts. To me shuttling is often not available for everyone, as not everyone has a hire car, someone to drive them around etc. I also feel that creating excess traffic in the beautiful areas we go to race is not a good advert for the ‘green’ sport of cycling. It’s not nice for the local people to have vans driving flat-out right past their front doors for days before the race. It’s also not good for the trails themselves, as when people use vehicles to shuttle they are able to get many more practice runs in on the trails and inevitably that amount of traffic over a short period of time often destroys the trail, so when we leave the venue after the race the locals have to ride our blown apart berms, holes and ruts or spend time and money repairing them. If people rode around to practice, the trails would get less traffic which would do less damage. I also feel that people do not have the opportunity to actually enjoy the environment they are in, interact with the locals and experience a little of the culture and way of life. I spent nine hours riding around the area over the two days of practice and saw so many birds, animals, beautiful gardens and trees! It also highlighted to me how important riding the liaison stages in practice is, as during the race people actually got lost trying to find the start of stages as they had just been in the back of a van during practice and had no bearings as to where the stages were!
Alas, I think my mindset is definitely in the minority as I only saw a handful of people out riding during practice. I did think that maybe my decision to ride the practice was a bad one as I set out for the first day of racing… I felt fine during the liaison, just steady away pedaling but as soon as I tried to sprint in Stage 1 I had instant lactic acid in my legs and they just felt so heavy! However, on that stage – tired legs aside – I rode the technical sections well and took an early lead in the race from Anne Caroline Chausson.
Tracy out and about in Finale Ligure.
Photo by Stefano Bertuccioli for Superenduro
Stage 2 was the hardest technical stage, with lots of blown-out corners and a technical rocky climb. I made one mistake taking a tight inside line and washed out my front wheel going straight over the bars. It was only a low-speed crash but put me off my rhythm for a while. I still managed second on the stage and only two seconds behind Anne so I was pleased with that.
After Stage 2 we headed back to the start/finish for 20 minutes to quickly eat some food, check the bike and then it was off again for a 50-minute climb up to Stage 3. This was a super fast and really narrow stage, with such a loose surface. It felt like I was riding on marbles. I didn’t feel as though I rode the stage very well as it had changed a lot since I practiced it early on the Thursday. Again I took second on the stage, but Anne had a great run to go 10 seconds quicker than me to leave her leading the race by five seconds after day one.
Fortunately my legs felt a lot better on Sunday and after a long (over an hour) ride up to Stage 5 I put together a good run on my favourite stage of the race and took back five seconds from Anne to leave us on the same time going in to the final stage! I am actually glad that I actually didn’t know the times before the final stage as it would have just added to the pressure! I just knew I had to ride as well as I could and I did that. No crash this time on Stage 6, and even with some confusion with the taping I managed to put together a good run and took the race win from Anne by 10 seconds.
Happy? Just a bit.
Riding back to the finish I still didn’t know the result and in the big picture it didn’t matter, but I did really want to win this race. To ride up onto the stage to the voice of race organiser Enrico Guala telling me I had not only won the series but also the final race was just an amazing feeling! It was more of a sense of relief that the pressure I put on my self was finally over.
Watch the Finale Ligure EWS highlights to see what and who Tracy was up against.
Reflecting on the season
2013 has been a season I will never forget. Taking the first ever Enduro World Series title and winning five of the seven races along the way is something I don’t think will ever happen again!
A massive thanks to everyone who has helped me this season, to all my sponsors and for the guys for setting up the Enduro World Series, it’s been an incredible journey and one which I truly believe is just the beginning of something huge.