It’s been over ten years since I’ve raced. I was sure my racing days were over. Yet there I was, blitzing through the Thai jungle at full race speed. Slipping, sliding, and pinging through rocks and roots on the quest for the perfect line. Crashing was inevitable, and no one was safe. I was passing one, two, three, racers per stage, all victims to the elements of racing.
I had never ridden in the mud, let alone race in it. Some stages left me just hanging on and begging to finish, all the while, a top ten finish was my goal, and there were times I wasn’t sure a finish was even feasible.
Small mistakes left me scratching my head and frustrated. But after 4 stages of brutal racing on day 1, I was over the moon to be sitting in seventh place against the fastest racers in Asia.
I used a few different tactics to help me throughout the International Chiang Mai Enduro. One, I practiced every stage two times on both practice days, and I filmed and narrated every stage on my go pro. I would go back to my hotel each night and review each stage, each turn, and each mistake in hopes of mitigating the risk of race speed. Being away from the race scene for so long, and never having raced an enduro before, I wanted any advantage I could get. I even turned down an amazing offer from two gorgeous Spanish girls in lieu of a full nights sleep alone.
Sunday was the final stage of racing, with the most demanding stages left. Stage 5 would prove to be the muddiest, rockiest, and root filled five minutes of riding in my life. I knew it wouldn’t be a strong stage for me, and I decided to start the stage with a nice long wheelie all to the delight of the racers and spectators sitting trackside. As the hoots and hollers faded away into the silence of the forest, I was greeted by the snaps and clicks of cameras, and I rewarded the photographers with some of the loosest, wildest racing I’ve ever done. I knew I would finish strong. My last tactic was conserving energy on the stages I wasn’t strong on, and hammering on the flat sections and climbs later in the day. This was a tactic that would prove successful.
Stage 8 was the last stage on sunday, and as soon as it had began, my race was over. I sprinted across the finish line, bike and body in one piece. My first Enduro was in the books. The event crew snipped my timing band off my top tube and it was officially in their hands now.
A full adrenaline dump had overtaken my body, and all the fellow riders I had started with had disappeared. Left to battle the mountain, and their demons on their own. I left to check out of my hotel and search for food. After, of course, stopping by seven eleven for a pineapple soda and some deep fried thai bananas.
One of the most fun parts of racing is the pure camaraderie between riders. The suffering between stages combined with the heat, humidity, and bike mechanical problems all create a bond that is second to none. After the race was over, and we were all left to lick our wounds, we took count of how we fared against the mountain. Forearms, and the backs of legs all bore the marks of pedals and rocks. All nursed back to reality with ample amounts of cold beer.
My first race as a professional was over, and walking away with a 6th place finish confirmed I was racing to my potential. I stuck it to 20 elite racers on a three year old bike that my buddy Alex called “clapped out” 1.5 years ago, and that no mechanic, other than myself, had ever touched. I was, and still am, ecstatic. And a quick email to a friend on Instagram affirmed another Enduro race would happen in Australia on the following Sunday on the Gold Coast. Another week, another continent, another race. All over again.
“Traveling is the only thing you can buy which will make you rich” a quote I was finding more and more true each day I’m away. Tonight I sit on the ninth floor of an apartment over looking the beach on Surfer’s Paradise. Blessed to be living on my own accord, and on a continent I’ve always wanted to be on. I lazily watch another meager film on television and smile, knowing, another race is coming this weekend. A chance to do it all over again.