So I’m at the EWS, Doc’s gone off up on foot with other photographers and I don’t do watching very well, it just makes me want to be racing. I´m getting a bit bored at the end of stage 1, where I bump into Matteo Nati, Factory GT team mechanic. Matteo’s sole responsibility at this round is Martin Maes, with Dan Atherton being unable to race with his damaged shoulder. Matteo and I get on well, so I decide to spend some time knocking about with him, to check out just how the whole factory Enduro team support works. He’s there waiting for Martin Maes, their junior super-fast rider to come down. So far Fabian Barel is leading the Pros and Martin is on course. He comes down, looking pretty damn composed for a rider just haven given it all at an EWS stage. Matteo has his phone, constantly updating the EWS site to check the standings, his face lights up, I don’t speak Italian, but when he frantically starts patting Martin’s back saying primo, primo, I kind of guess the outcome! This quiet unasuming lad, just turned 16, has just put 2 seconds into Barel, with the fastest time on stage 1, WOW!
Martin heads off for the nasty stage 2 climb, whilst I head back to the impressive looking GT truck, where we await Martin’s return. After stage 2 Martin’s bike gets the once over from Matteo, rear tyre is changed for a new one, after the report of a nasty bang on a rock, which may have damaged the original. Gears are tweaked, breaks checked and all bolts given a once-over. Tyre pressures on the proto Continental Mountain King stickier tyres are set down one psi for the next stage, going to 28 rear 27 front. Matteo is flat out getting the bike done in the short time slot available, he’s got a sweat on and naturally I just take the piss, telling him he needs to loose some belly! Martin heads off, after some transition change advice from Matteo, who just seems to know everything that is going on.
We’re off up to the end of stage 3, this is Matteo’s home town, so he knows all the little short cuts around this beautiful place, I’m in awe of him for having grown up in such a special place, that just seems to have it all. I shoot off up to watch some riders on the gnarly final part of the stage, the track winds down some real steep, rocky single-track and finishes in the street, after some ace looking sets of steps to the finish. During the wait we hear the news of stage 4 being cancelled, after a rider goes down hard and some un-permissioned track changing gets the feds upset, Italian politics! Martin comes in with dust in the wrong places, oh dear, he’d taken a big tumble and lost about 20 seconds, the lad’s so quiet I couldnt tell if he was pissed off or not, I guess he was, now he’s down to 4th overall, still amazing for his age, and obviously he’s blitzing the juniors.
Whilst up there I notice the other end of the rider support spectrum, with old friend James Richards riding in alone, offering moral support and info for his other half, Tracy Moseley, currently leading the women. James is full-on committed to supporting Tracy and does a great job of rider support. Talking of women, further down the field is Gabby Malloi, Matti’s girlfriend, with Matti now not needed for stage 4 he waits around to offer support for Gabby amongst other friends of his who come down, he is pleased of the cancellation as the presure’s off. On the drive back, Matteo tells me how he will do the general checks again on the bike, leave the tyres, but change cables, bleed brakes and strip bearings to keep the factory GT running smooth ready for day 2’s racing.
Good luck Martin, keep it lit!
Words Jim Buchanan. Pics Robin Schmitt, Jim Buchanan