Mat and Zech Look Back On EWS Innerleithen
Posted on 6th October 2021 at 17:08
We’ve been following our supported riders Mat Wright (above, left) and Zech Walker in the build-up to their first Enduro World Series (EWS) race on the weekend at Innerleithen in Scotland. Now the adrenalin has dissipated and it’s all sunk in, we caught up with them both to see what they thought of it.
Mat finished in a brilliant 7th place out of 20 in the Masters category of the Pro race with a time of 28:30 over six stages. He gave us his thoughts…
I thought the whole weekend and event was fantastic. The weather on Saturday kind of kept the crowds away - I don’t blame them. But come Sunday, and with some sunshine about, the crowds came flooding. It was so cool to ride trails lined either side with spectators shouting at you, listening to the chainsaws rev up and the cow bells ringing away, and my mates shouting your name at you and to pedal like hell really did help.
The tracks are so good up there, Sally [Wright, wife and fellow ace enduro racer] and I whenever we are baby-free head up there to ride. The rain prior to the event made for some sloppy tracks in places but it was still great fun. It really is one of the best places to ride your bike in the UK.
I learnt a lot at this event…
1. Bike set-up is key; it can be the difference between a good and bad race.
2. To get good results you have to be pushing your limits and riding with confidence. A rear brake problem for myself and a silly crash on the easiest section of the whole course made me tense up and ride stiff, which is never good.
3. Get a good night’s sleep.
4. Make sure you have spares, normally wheels in my case. By having everything you need it can take any unnecessary stress away.
5. Relax and have fun. That’s why we are there in the first place.
Overall, the whole experience was brilliant, practising the tracks while the top men and women in the world are next to you is quite a surreal experience. They, too, are just normal people who love riding bikes and buzz off it. No egos at all.
I’m pleased with my result but know I can go a lot better. Maybe I should listen to myself more and relax.
Thanks to David and the Dalby Forest Cycle Hub team and hopefully I’ll get some more done next year.
Zech took 88th in the EWS100, an open event on the same course but over five stages, with a time of 27:26. He told us…
Being my first EWS event I was very nervous coming into it; nervous of what it would be like. However, once I got there I felt completely comfortable and decided from then on I would simply enjoy the ride!
I did have nerves coming into the event, in a big way, however having spoken to my coach the week before he explained to me that I could only control my own variables. I couldn’t control the weather, how anyone else rode, or the tracks we were racing, and having said that it eased my nerves and actually allowed me to enjoy it. I stuck to my processes, I achieved my goal, and I had fun riding my bike!
The trails we were racing I’ve ridden before, with it being In the famous Tweed Valley. The trails were a mix of the Innerleithen downhill tracks and the other side of the hill – the infamous Innerleithen golf club AKA “The Golfie” – so it’s hard not to enjoy the tight, steep, twisty trails. However, conditions were overall pretty horrific – sticky, gloopy mud. I was all over the place during practice, making just getting down hard work! Having said that, with the horrific rain Friday night, it turned the horrible sticky mud into a somewhat more grippy surface! When it comes to what I’ve raced before, it’s actually very similar to what you’d find at the national level, in terms of technical skill required. It’s more just the level of skill that’s required to ride at the speeds needed to be competitive.
If I’m honest I enjoyed every minute of it, from stepping out of my van into the pits to crossing the line on the last stage! However, I think the thing that tops it off more than anything else is the realisation of a dream – as corny as that sounds. I raced at the highest level you possibly can. Now all I can do is to improve on the result.
My original goal was to be within 40% of the winning overall time and to nail my race craft by stick to my processes and keeping a cool head! In regards to my actual results, I placed 88th out of 155 which doesn’t sound all too impressive. However, when I found out I was only 23% from the top spot I feel that I truly achieved my goal. I’m proud of how I rode, and I feel I’ve turned a corner. Thank you so much to David and the guys - I’m excited to get back in between the tapes next season!!
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