With enduro now attracting all the big names and factory teams, the sport has matured from its grass roots into the glossy format now filling the magazines. With the backing of the industry money is being invested into kit and bikes, however if you scan through the top end of the results sheets there are still many riders, putting it all on the line at races, who still have to work to pay the bills. One part of the good times crew ‘The Dudes of Hazzard’, James Shirley has been racing hard all summer, while still finding ways to finance the enduro dream and battling poor seeding and mechanicals. Everyone who has seen Jamesy Boy ride knows that he is a rider who could scare the main players on a good day, but it is not always easy for a non pro rider. Check out Jamesy Boys summer of racing!
I love riding bikes. It’s well good. Most of my time is spent thinking about bikes or how to get better at riding them. Some people seem to assume that I’m a pro but I’m not. I just love riding bikes. I still have to do the boring things like figuring out where my next pay cheque will come from and helping my old man chasing cows round a field. I usually struggle along living life in my overdraft but I don’t care at the moment. I just love riding bikes. I’m also a competitive little sod which means I really like racing bikes too. It pushes me on to constantly improve and it motivates me to get out – even when the weather isn’t so favourable. Racing is a good excuse to go travelling too. It is, however, important not to take it too seriously because at the end of the day, it’s all about having fun. That’s why I think No Fuss events are so good…
The No Fuss Perthshire Highland Enduro was the first event for me after coming back from New Zealand. I should have been prime to race but unfortunately I hurt my back quite badly in an Easter Bunny related snowboarding accident on my return to the northern hemisphere. This No Fuss event was therefore the perfect one to ease myself back into bike mode. Despite a puncture on one of the stages, I managed to win two out of four which was good enough for second place overall behind fellow Orange rider Huw Oliver.
No fuss Highland Perthshire Enduro – On the way to Stage 4 victory
Not long after was the first Enduro World Series round in Punta Ala. There was a lot of hype about this event so I was excited to see what the commotion was about. Punta is a long way from home so I decided to fly out with the Peebles crew and stay with Trev Worsey from Summitdown Mountain Bike Guiding. He picked us up from the airport and looked after us really well. He ferried us about in the van (which was especially useful for getting to the prologue which was flipping miles away!) and gave us use of his tools, bike stand and track pump. Without his help I think we would have struggled. There is a saying that ‘Enduro is for everyone’ but that doesn’t mean to say it is actually fair for everyone. Despite a prologue stage on the Saturday night there was little to no seeding for anyone who wasn’t on the special list. This meant that many people were losing time trying to overtake and getting overtaken. Not only was I seeded number 255 but I was doubly diddled by a forty second time penalty. I rode a line that wasn’t taped so it should have been fair game. At most it would have only saved a quarter of a second anyway so it wasn’t a big deal. When I questioned the chief organiser about it, he said that he had spotted the same line and wasn’t sure if it would be allowed or not. Great stuff: not even he knew what was going on. In the end I finished 74th and left the event feeling flat and frustrated.
To lift my spirits, I had another No Fuss event to look forward to – the European Bluegrass Enduro Tour at Kinlochleven. I had a fun, relaxed weekend on some amazing trails where I finished 2nd place overall. Joe Barnes took the win and Liam Moynihan was 3rd to make it a Dudes 1-2-3. You can check out the action in video form using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qwdKhlEzbvg
The next big thing to keep stoke levels high was the arrival of my new (second hand) van – a 2007 long wheel base VW Crafter. It is massive. So big in fact that I had to do some extreme gardening to turn it around in the driveway. There is still some work to be done but it is now a house on wheels. All it needs now is some stickers. Suggestions are welcome…
The New Wagon
My original plan was complete all seven rounds of the Enduro World Series to get a series result. However, after my experience in Punta I realised that I would struggle to fly out to North America and compete against the big boys without spending a whole heap of cash. I therefore decided that I’d rather spend more time doing European based competitions in the van with my own set up of tools, spares and equipment.
Once the van was ready I set off to Val d’Allos for the next world enduro. This time, I really enjoyed the course but for the second time in a row they mucked up the seeding. The stages were about 15 minutes long and yet there were only 10 second intervals between riders. I must have overtaken about 60 people which was fun at the time but not so good when you consider that the top 60 competitors were riding down a clear track. Despite the moving obstacles I managed to come away with 49th position which was good enough to get me seeded for the next one.
Cutting through the traffic in Allos
One week later came round 3 of the series in Les Deux Alpes and it was finally time for me to try and prove myself. The course taping was a bit controversial but I managed to put together some clean runs on the first two stages. I made a couple mistakes in the afternoon but was pleased to finish 34th which is somewhere close to where I think I should be.
Sven Martin was also on hand to take some sick photos, one of his photo’s of was pretty cool. Good work Sven.
Sven’s photo from 2 Alpes
Straight after was the start of Mega week. The Mega is pretty much the must do event for all mountain bikers. It combines the best of high level competition with a relaxed ‘fun for everybody’ atmosphere – that is until race day when everyone starts bricking it as they look down the frozen glacier at 9am with crazy load Europop ringing through their ears! I got a good start in my qualification round to battle out the lead with Frank Parolin before getting punted off track by the big beast that is Richie Rude leaving me down in 3rd place.
I had another good start in the main race getting onto the traverse after the snow somewhere in the top 10 only to suffer from a front puncture which left me to finish a long long way off the lead. Gutted. Maybe next year…
Mega Start 2013
Once everything was packed up from the Mega, we set off to Cervinia in Italy for another mass start enduro race which was organised by the same people. The event was previously known as a Maxiavalanche but now a day’s it is called the Mega2RX. Practice took place all day Friday and Saturday morning with qualification runs on Saturday afternoon. I was gridded on the second row for my heat but managed to charge down the hill to beat Karim Amour into 1st place. This meant I would be at the front of the pack for both races on Sunday. Like in motocross, riders are awarded points for their finishing positions in each race and the rider with the most points wins. If there is a draw then the results from the second race take priority
The snow on Sunday morning was hard and fast and riders were reaching speeds in excess of 60mph. The organisers decided that because the snow was so fast that they would add a cheeky chicane to slow everybody down. I saw the turn well in advance but I didn’t realise that ‘chicane’ meant hairpin corner so I went straight on and got tangled up in the netting. Once I had eventually set myself free, I was well behind the front runners. Regardless, I pressed on to finish 6th. By the time we were ready for the second race, the sun had turned the snow to slush so the start was brought further down the hill. This time riders had to swap between running and tripodding through the white stuff before making it to the rocks. I had a better start this time but I can’t help but think I need a bit more practice at skiing with my bike. By the end of the second race I finished 5th which was good enough to put me in 6th position overall and 2nd place senior.
Cervinia – Chasing down Karim
After Cervinia it was home time and I arrived back a couple days before the No Fuss Macavalnche: Scotland’s equivalent to the Mega. It is such a fun event and yet somehow very few people turned up for it. If it happens again next year then make sure to get an entry. I had a fast start only to rub handlebars with Liam Moynihan in the first corner which put me off line and lost a couple of precious seconds. I caught him up through the wide open hillside of bog, rocks and heather and got him back at the start of the climb only to see him pull away again as we rode over the top of the crest. His horse legs proved to be too strong and I was happy to finish close behind in 2nd place with a healthy gap ahead of 3rd.
I’m based at home now for the next few weeks which will be nice. It’ll give me a chance to do some more work on the van and try to recoup some extra cash funds. I’ll no doubt be spending some time with the baeys too and we can start hatching plans for the next Dudeumentary. If you’ve not seen it already then check out the 2nd installment:
That’s all for now folks,
Words: James Shirley/Trev Worsey