Like most ‘enthusiasts’ I have a collection – a collection of riding shirts given to me by Enduro World Champions. I’ve been fortunate to build up a pretty decent collection over the years. Sadly most don’t get to see the light of day, safely stored away in the depths of my garage.
Most of the shirts came to me dirty – some straight off the backs of newly crowned world champions. But others were sent to me weeks, sometimes months, after the series in question had drawn to a close.
All of the shirts mean a lot to me. Sadly, some now have very special meaning. Among my collection is a full set of Mika Ahola’s EWC winning jerseys – one for each of the five consecutive championships he won.
‘To my friend Jonty…’ reads the note written on the back of one of them. Until recently it was just another of my shirts. Now it’s the one I cherish the most.
The start of a new EWC season is a time of year I, like so many, look forward to with excitement and anticipation. But this year it’s not the same. As much as I’m excited to see what South America has to offer the Enduro World Championship, and seeing what riders take the all important early season advantage, the big kick-off is going to be tinged with very definite sadness.
Mika not being at the race isn’t what’ll make things tough in Chile. Knowing that Mika will never be at the races again is what’ll make it hard.
A rider that would always be brutally honest about how his pre-season training had, or hadn’t, gone, it’s catching up with riders like Mika that makes the first get together of the new season so enjoyable. I know I’m not alone in saying that Mika will be sorely, sorely missed.
Racing, as a part of the lives we live, goes on. And Chile and Argentina will unquestionably add a little extra flavour to the season’s first events. Much more than just a departure from the norm’, the events take the EWC well away from its regularly beaten tracks. No one knows exactly what to expect, which is exactly what’s making the build-up so exciting.
It goes without saying that both the Chilean and Argentinean events will be hugely important for those serious about championship winning successes. But the events themselves will be hugely important to the championship, too. Leaving the comfort and familiarity of Europe behind is something the EWC hasn’t done all that often.
Chile and Argentina offer all the ingredients for two great events – new and stimulating locations, enthusiastic local support (if the Dakar’s anything to go by), great weather and challenging terrain. So here’s to the start of another exciting Enduro World Championship season…