Episode two of Billy Bolt’s exclusive blog on Enduro21 fresh from the opening rounds of the 2019 World Enduro Super Series at Extreme Lagares and Trèfle Lozérien. With barely a breath, Billy’s straight to Austria and ready for the Erzbergrodeo…
There’s no rest for us at the start of the WESS championship! From doing nothing to two rounds back-to-back and then one week off before we’re here, in Austria and getting set for my favourite event of the year, Erzbergrodeo.
I was really happy with the start to my year at Lagares. Obviously I was significantly under-prepared compared to last year physically, mentally and also with my bike but I was really happy with the final result.
I struggled a bit the first day to be honest on the EnduroCross course. I hadn’t done anything with anywhere near that intensity since I did my leg so it was a bit of a shock to the system.
I messed up a bit by not fully understanding the rules how to get to the final – basically I thought it was the best time from the two heats and didn’t realise it was just the second, semi-final so I ended up missing the final.
On the second day there I had a bit of a run-in with a spectator who was a bit too close to the track in the Porto Prologue. It cost us quite a bit of time and it shook me up a bit but I managed to get through to the final and then finish on the podium there which was a nice confidence booster.
“After the lack of preparation and fitness I was really happy to be back at the races and in the mix.”
On main race day at Lagares I think I set off fourth and I wanted to just stick with the front guys and that was my plan really. I never actually saw Mani (Lettenbichler) but I caught up with Jonny (Walker) and Taddy (Blazusiak) who’d set off in front of us.
I knew my fitness wasn’t anywhere near theirs so I wanted to stick with them as long as I could. It ended the first lap with me Wade (Young) and Graham (Jarvis) all together riding for second, third and fourth.
Honestly, I couldn’t quite believe that at the time because after half an hour in I was struggling and tired. My arms couldn't take it basically. I then lost Wade and Graham pretty early on the second lap and then Mario (Roman) passed us pretty early also.
It was actually a pretty lonely lap really after that. I rode the lap expecting all the time for someone to catch us from behind but I managed to stay in fifth and honestly I was over-the-moon about that. After the lack of preparation and fitness I was really happy to be back at the races and in the mix.
“Le Tref” was very quickly next up and it was pretty difficult for me coming so soon and needing so much walking the tests. My foot is probably as difficult walking as it is riding to be honest.
To go from Lagares which was a lot of walking before the race and then straight literally to France for a hell of a lot of walking it was a bit tough. Walking off cambers is a problem and actually, it sounds strange, but walking cambers backwards is easier on my ankle but that is obviously not ideal for looking where you want to be on a test and want to remember where you are going!
We flew Monday after Portugal then literally 7am Tuesday morning we started walking the 13 tests and we were already behind the riders who hadn’t raced Lagares. I was feeling pretty tired all that week and by Thursday I took the decision to not walk anymore. I said to myself and my team I’d rather be a bit fresher, rest and take the risk of not quite being 100% on a few of the tests than arrive at the race feeling tired and sore.
I was pretty happy with 15th overall. First day I was 12th or 13th I think and the same the second day. The main thing is I was happy with my riding, no crashes and some good test times.
The final day, with the reverse start order and the destroyed tests, definitely made the wheels fall off, or rather my head fell off and I struggled with that. I couldn’t get my head around the really slippery grass tests but somehow only managed to drop to 15th overall.
I couldn’t complain with things overall when you look at the big picture and what that meant to the WESS championship, but I was definitely very disappointed with the last day’s performance.
“There was no way I could sit back and watch the championship go away right from the start.”
My leg has pretty much healed by now so that is positive. The only thing with that is the leg muscle still needs building and is still a little bit weak. The foot though is slightly different and the nerve damage which affects movement and is obviously the biggest issue while I’m riding.
When it is on the peg and both feet are up it’s not too bad. Changing gear is still difficult because I sort of have to use my whole leg or my heel to change gear. Even when I change down I’m not certain my foot’s on the gear lever so I don’t press hard enough because I can’t feel if I’m touching it or not.
The main problem is if I put my foot down, take a dab, when I need to lift and move my foot again to keep balance, my foot just doesn’t lift off the ground because I can’t physically pick my toes up.
That means I lose balance and fall over or have to drop the bike so it’s not perfect. Once I’m riding I’m still at a pretty good level so it’s something I can work with and I am confident in how well I can ride.
As soon as I got back on a bike and felt confident with how I could ride there was no way I could sit back and watch the championship go away right from the start. I had no choice other than to go straight into racing and these two events. It’s definitely not ideal but racing and riding is only gonna help improve my fitness back to where it needs to be.
I still get to ride a motorbike everyday and it is still my job so there are definitely worse things I could be doing. I’m happy and not complaining.
“I think with it being the 25th year, Erzberg will be a tough one.”
Erzbergrodeo is here already and it doesn’t feel like much of a break really, just one weekend off!
I always look forward to Erzberg. It is my favourite race of the year. The whole week the atmosphere is amazing in the paddock and around the mountain it is incredible. The whole environment is what I love most about the world we are in and the motorbike community – it just sums it up perfectly.
I haven’t been training that much for it. I only spent one day on a bike in the week after Trefle. There’s only so much you can do in the week before a race, you’re not going to make too many improvements at that stage and it is important to be in good physical shape for Erzberg.
The main training for Erzberg is to concentrate on as big a set of rocks you can find to mimic Carl’s Dinner, practice some tight stuff in the woods, steep hills and also the fast fire roads. Cowm Leisure in the middle of the UK is my favourite place really, it’s as good a place as I’ve come across to practice and that’s where I’ve put in the time in the weeks leading up to Lagares.
Last year at Erzberg I’d say the race was 90% perfect. I got a reasonable start then me and Manni broke away from Jonny and Taddy and had quite a healthy lead until we got to Green Hell where I think we had about 10 minutes gap. I think everyone knows how it went a bit downhill from there!
It is so difficult to have a plan for this year coming in with the injury. I think with it being the 25th year it will be a tough one so you can’t really plan too much.
Obviously one thing is to try and get out the quarry at the start in as high a position as possible to keep out the dust or the mud and carnage. That’s the plan you start with and then re-assess after a few technical sections and see where you are and go from there.
I’ve never really been satisfied with any of my performances at Erzberg. I’ve learnt things a lot of lessons in the last few years – it has left us with a bitter-sweet taste that’s for sure. There are a lot of shoulda, woulda, coulda feelings so despite the circumstances it could be the year to put amends to those feelings and get the result.
I won’t walk the course as much as usual and only do what is super-necessary. The difficult sections towards the latter-half of the race matter and need looking at. The real difficult sections need a good line so it is important to know what’s what and have plans where you are going. Green Hell, Carl’s, Lazy Noon, Dynamite all those tough sections but I won’t be doing as much walking as usual.
Bring it on though. I’ll give it everything again. At the moment it is pretty wet so dust shouldn’t be an issue this year, but it is the same for everybody and you can never predict the Iron Giant!
Till the next time.Photo credit: Future7Media Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org