WOW! After Day 1 of practice, things were obvious – this will be the hardest race of my life. On one hand, the timed Stages were lost in the NZ dense jungle, all made of super narrow off cambers with tight steep greasy switchbacks and slippery roots everywhere. And on the other hand, transitions were super long climbs. The first day of practice saw a lot of pro’s and non pro riders injuring themselves, showing the level of the challenge standing in front of me. So with the estimated riding time of 7.5 hrs on race day, my strategy become pretty simple - be conservative to cross the finish line. Even so, my racing buddies and I will ride 4 to 5 hours a day to link every practice track during 3 days. 3 days with big smiles on our faces, trying to survive with what mother nature will throw at us. Also 3 days at sharing an amazing experience with the best riders of the world - so friendly and accessible and so fast.
RACE DAY came and I’m not going to lie, I was nervous. Would I be able to make it? 7:32am I was starting a 7.5 hour ride, something I have never done before. Few minutes in, it was obvious that freshness was not on the menu. So I focused my attention to listen to my body, ‘keep things under control and not cross the red line’. I ticked the 75 minutes of climbing of Transition 1, with some margin. Then the craziness of Stage 1 did not disappoint. I managed to stay on the bike and scored 14thposition. Transition 2 was covered – but just on time. Transition times are allocated so rider’s fitness is a big part of the game. Seeing my margin melting, it doubled my attention to conserving my energy so that I will be able to make it.
Stages 2, 3, 4, 5 plus 6 hours of insane riding under the belt, for the first time I was thinking I had enough energy in the tank to finish this race. I opened the throttle a little more for stages 6 and 7 and got 11th and 12th position. The last minute in the race was pretty emotional as the crowd was cheering “Allez Seb” or “Allez la France”, or “Go Seb”. Amongst it I could also hear “Papa Papa”, my little man was so happy to see his father again.
I managed to get 16th overall in my category, out of 55. But far more important, I pushed my limits like I never did before and I raced at the highest level with legendary riders on a bike I created. It is my wildest dream come true.
Here are some photos captured of the atmosphere by Matt Wragg, official Enduro World Series Photographer
Video’s of the event can be found here:
Enduro World Series Results: