Our Kiwi / English racer, Meggie Bichard is over enjoying a European summer, having just recently raced the EWS in Ireland. She is racing on board her new 29er, the Rakan, for Fuji Bikes she tells us all about the rocks and rain on the Emerald Isle.
A wee bit of a stressful week led into the EWS Emerald Enduro, my other half, Ed’s crash in Madeira had been diagnosed as a sprain with the advice to take it easy but ok to walk on it with no support or crutches. He promptly hit the gym and the pool to try and keep some condition. However he’d had no improvement over the week so I persuaded him to see a consultant – Well I booked him the appointment and drove him against his will! The consultant diagnosed torn ligaments between his tibia and fibula which would need strict immobilisation and possible surgery to heal. He put him into a moon boot and booked an MRI for the day before our departure for Ireland.
We headed to Ireland with the van fully loaded with enough bikes and equipment for the remaining 5 rounds of the season. Ireland would be a stepping stone on route to France.
We were met off the ferry by rolling fields of green and clear blue skies, unbelievably Ireland was having a heatwave, was EWS going to be dry and sunny for the third consecutive year?
After a couple of shakedown rides I had decided to give my new Fuji Rakan 29r its race debut in Ireland. A couple of back to back runs against the clock had been promising and I reckoned with some more setup and time on the bike it could become my weapon of choice.
For Day 1 of practice the tracks were in prime condition and so much fun, this 300m hill always punches above its weight in delivering quality singletrack.
I got back to the pits after practicing 4 great stages in beautiful sun. However Ed had just had news on his MRI- turns out his leg is broken- and he would require more x-rays to check for damage higher up before a plan was made on surgery. One ferry to France was cancelled and another back to Blighty booked with our spirits a little dampened.
As was the weather about to become….. wet….
So we had the fourth EWS in a row where the rain dramatically effected the trails. With 2 stages left to practice I opted to get stuck in and maximise afternoon recovery time.
Stage 6 ‘carnage corner’ was pretty intimidating in the slime. I had two goes at it and managed to get through cleanly so just hoped I could do the same for race day.
The rain held off for race day but there was plenty of moisture in the dirt which was spread across the rock and root.
On stage 1 I was struggling to hit the lines from practice as the ground was so unpredictable, polished roots pin balling me off line. Being a bit too cautious, I lost my speed entering steep switch backs into a chute and the bike slid out. There was no way to stand in the slime and I sent the Rakan on her way to the bottom without me. Unfortunately it then got tangled in the tape at the bottom! What a disaster, not an ideal start to the day!
Coming into Stage 2, I thought ok don’t be so cautious, let go of the brakes! Next crash came pretty soon as the bike just drifted out from under me! Hmm I was struggling to find the balance here!
Stage 3 started straight into a rock trials section, surrounded by crowds. The first feature an awkward step up that was hard in the dry but now had mud covering the rocks and a rutted run in. I managed to get through with just a quick dab.
I felt like I had found the balance on this stage, managing to keep it upright for the whole stage.
Stage 4 featuring greasy flat turns in the lower section rolled us into a brief lunch stop back at the pits. Time for a quick re lube and straightening of my levers and saddle before back out to Stage 5.
This had suffered badly with the mud. Cresting the top of the hill I was churning through 4” deep slurry, barely making headway, then into a gravity fed rock gully- the rocks were so slick that I felt lucky to keep it upright here. Ines Thoma had a nasty spill gauging her helmet on the rocks but bravely continuing on to finish the race.
I made it safely to the bottom with no crashes– just one more stage to go! Stage 6 dropped straight into probably the gnarliest section of the race, carnage corner! I got around the corner but then slid out and landed onto a conveniently placed mattress. Again I think it was a case of not committing as my eyes bulged at the new holes that had formed between the rocks. I should have just gone with it- lesson learnt!
I ended up in 14th place for the day, with super tight times between myself and back end of the top 10. I was happy enough with the results given how much time I spent on the floor. A bit more commitment needed, hopefully it will be there for the next one as I become more comfortable on the bike.