We’re back – racing! We planned to compete at the iXS Cup in Bad Tabarz with the best equipment and zero preparation. That’s until our plan went south due to race postponements, new jobs, unforeseen trips, and one or two too many beers. Here’s how we ended up in the last three places.

For our 10th anniversary of ENDURO, we didn’t just want to celebrate old times, but bring them back to life. Thus, at the start of the 2022 season, we founded an editorial downhill team – consisting of Robin, Ben, and Peter – and, as in good old MAG41 times, made for the start hut on the mountaintop. Kitted out with the best equipment – and a lot less preparation, as you can read in the first part of our story – the iXS Cup Bad Tabarz was just around the corner. Our goal? Experiences instead of results!

Things went wrong a lot sooner than expected…

After several months of procrastinating instead of preparing for the actual race, we had to accept the sobering news that the iXS Cup in Bad Tabarz would be postponed shortly before the event. There was increased risk of forest fires due to drought. Considering our packed editorial plan for 4 magazines, this meant that there was a 99 % chance that one of our team riders wouldn’t be able to make it. In this case, it hit our founder Robin, who would be in the USA looking at some cool new bikes and tech on the new race date.

Introducing: Plan B

There were just two left… However, there were many ways to still go racing. We could just compete as a team of two, for example. Another person from the editorial team could take Robin’s place, or we could just ask an acquaintance. But, as already mentioned, this was about experiences, not results. Since we prefer to share our experiences with you – our readers – the decision quickly became clear: we had to put out an official call for proposals, including an interview and unpleasant questions. However, the very short time window meant that doing so wouldn’t be easy, and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank the entire team of the iXS Cup as well as team sponsors Specialized, SRAM, Rapha, Troy Lee Designs and Oakley for their support. Without their help, none of this would have been possible and our new team rider would have had to race naked, without a bike – you rock!

Back to the unpleasant questions: after rummaging through over 200 (occasionally very amusing) applications from all over the world, answering countless emails and having conversations on the phone, we made a decision. Maxi – who we already got to know on our preparation camping trip – was the perfect match with his easy-going manner, lack of racing experience and 69 style points. So, our plan was back on track. Apart from the fact that Ben missed the first training day and thus also the track walk due to his new job. But with a clear home advantage and legend-status in Tabarz – his birthplace and our racing venue – that was more than fair.

Last but not least, we collected our favourite “training” device in its ENDURO regalia, the electric Porsche Taycan Cross Tourismo Turbo S, and took a low-altitude flight to Bad Tabarz. It’s race time, baby!

The status quo

spent half the summer on jump trails aboard his RAAW DH prototype.
His Trek Session 9 X01 is still covered in dirt from the Brandnertal
Has never ridden the Specialized Demo Race before his first training run.

Our support team:

Juli – our on-scene reporter and up and coming party photographer of Bad Tabarz
Mike – the only reasonable person on the team
Tommy – ENDURO tool wizard

Since the Porsche Taycan doesn’t sleep six very comfortably, and we had to rebook our originally reserved apartment due to the postponement of the race, we found accommodation in Eisenach, about 20 Porsche-minutes from Bad Tabarz. Fortunately, we also had a Sprinter, which we parked in the race pit in Bad Tabarz and served as our camp throughout the day.

What happens in Tabarz, stays in Tabarz

While some details will forever remain in the depths of the Thuringian Forest, we could hardly keep all our experiences to ourselves. Besides, we were off to a very promising start. Apart from Ben, everyone was motivated and on time for the track walk, and after just a few metres, we declared our first stunts and spotted potential racing lines. Only the pedal-intensive start and the almost infinite sprint to the finish would sour the mood somewhat.

For qualification day, our plan was simple: get to the finish line! It took Ben a proud 2.47 minutes, which prompted the commentator to regale the spectators with old stories from Ben’s youth. Although Peter’s lungs almost collapsed in the final sprint and Maxi had not yet found the right suspension setup in his qualifying run, they all crossed the finish line successfully. It is precisely this moment that marks our last activity in Bad Tabarz that went according to plan…

After getting rehydrated in the finish area, we heard rumours of a legendary outdoor pre-race pool party that night. It goes without saying that we didn’t have to think about it for very long. We zoomed back to Eisenach aboard our electronic steed, took a shower, swapped our Birkenstocks for dancing shoes, and wisely chose to take a taxi back to Bad Tabarz. Of course, the same thing happened that always happened at races in the past: the party became more important than the race, the beer tasted better and better and our will to turn up for practice at 8 o’clock dwindled. After everyone had properly whetted their whistles, and our team photographer, Juli, had photographed half the party crowd – everyone thought he was the official party photographer – and we were far into the early morning hours, it was time to go back to the racing pit. It was dead quiet. Of course, we didn’t want to be those people that get subjected to death stares the next morning, so we decided to call it quits. However, since the taxi driver refused to take Juli and Max with him, the two were left behind and slept on a friend’s couch in Bad Tabarz. After oversleeping and missing training the next morning, and resolving our logistical mess, it was time to prepare for the race.

The first run of the day: our race runs

What’s the most sensible thing we could do? A party train! None of us were in a state to complete a race run safely, and we didn’t want to create the kind of memories that remain in the form of scars. Since Ben had the slowest qualifying time in the team, he had to wait almost 10 minutes at the edge of the track before he was joined by Maxi and Peter, and the train got rolling along with the spectators at the edge of the track. Amidst loud cheers and whoops from the crowd, and a huge cloud of dust from the front man, we hustled down the valley towards the finish line of the iXS Cup Bad Tabarz. In summary: we weren’t exactly fast, but it was legendary and just an unforgettable time. It was a pain and injury-free weekend – apart from the head-splitting hangover – and a story that we still like to tell our friends with slight embarrassment, but with a big smile!

We definitely had a brilliant time, with experiences instead of results, creating memories that we can look back on with a little embarrassment but a big smile. While our race performance was rather modest – especially considering our equipment – we ultimately achieved our goal of making it back to the editorial office in one piece come Monday, ready for next time.

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Words: Peter Walker Photos: Mike Hunger, Julian Schwede, Thomas Weiß

About the author

Peter Walker

As editor-in-chief, Peter is as much a man of action as he is of words. This expert, screw-driver-flexing two wheeled-whizz has many envy-inducing characteristics, including a background in motocross, several EWS race plates to his name, and more than 150 recorded days at Whistler Bike Park. However complex the bike and however steep the trail, he’s probably already nailed it, twice. Oh, and he can do it all on skinny tyres too. When it comes to guiding consumers, Peter cut his teeth at Vancouver’s oldest bike shop and now puts pen to paper on the daily translating this know-how into our editorial plan. When not tearing up Stuttgart’s local trails while testing bikes, he loves nothing more than loading up his self-renovated VW T5 and hitting the road. The fact that he’s a trained paramedic gives his colleagues reassurance out on the trails. So far we haven’t had to call him by his alias ‘Sani Peter’, so here’s hoping he keeps it right side up for the rest of his time here!