Photo // Sven Martin

Josh Carlson – Mid season frothing

The halfway point of the season is usually a good spot. It allows you to take a breath, look back and reflect on how the first half of the year has gone and either keep building or restart and kick off the last half of the year fresh. For me, the halfway point gives me a chance to hit the reset button and put some solid work in before we kick off racing again in July.

My race season started off well and I came into it feeling strong and more prepared than ever. I had a solid start in Chile for Round 1 of the EWS and continued that solid feeling into Round 2 in Argentina. Unfortunately mistakes and a big ol’ crash in Argentina pushed me back down the order and left me wanting more, a lot more. The dust and trails of Cerro Catedral were out of control. Many of us had never raced anything like it. It was such a wicked experience in an amazing part of the world and looking back now, it’s an event that will never be forgotten and forever spoken about with a terrified smile.

Straight from the South American ‘gnar’ we headed to Sea Otter’s famous pedalfest where the racing was just as fierce and just as hard. What Sea Otter lacks in technical, gnarly trails, it makes up for with warp speed, pedaling and blind poison oak filled corners. Perfection and your anaerobic capacity is the key to success here and having the entire industry on hand to hear about your results is a pretty good motivator to get to that top step of the podium. I was stoked to grab a podium in both the Enduro and Downhill.

“Perfection and your anaerobic capacity is the key to success here and having the entire industry on hand to hear about your results is a pretty good motivator to get to that top step of the podium.”

Once Sea Otter had concluded, it was time to get back to Vancouver and prepare for Round 3 of the EWS in Ireland. One of my favourite stops from 2015, I was frothing to get back to the Wicklow mountain and see how much more crazy the Irish crowds could get. They didn’t disappoint! They turned out in droves and it was an incredible atmosphere come race day. As rainy and dreary as you would expect Ireland to be, we were greeted for the second year in a row with near perfect conditions. A bit of rain in the lead up to dampen all of the tracks and keep things spicy during practice and then crystal clear sunny skies for race day. This made every stage like hero dirt and allow every racer to leave it all out there.

My race unfortunately took a detour with a flat on stage 2 (Along with more than half of the top 20 men). I had a tube with me but for some bizarre reason it wouldn’t inflate. Sometimes, you can be perfectly prepared and then something random happens that can throw all of that out the window. After frantically trying to inflate it for about half an hour, I started running to stage 3 in the hope of not getting disqualified. In Ireland, we return to the pits after stage 4 for ‘lunch’ and are able to work on our bikes in our pit area. I knew if I could make it to lunch, I could get a fresh tyre and be back on track for the remaining 3 stages of the day.

I had to make it to the start of stage 3 within 30 minutes of my original start time otherwise I would be disqualified and have to call it a day. Three more flats later during the liaison and I had made it to the top of stage 3… with 4 minutes to spare! The Irish fans are awesome. They had heard that I was off the back and about 50 or so waited at the top of stage 3 to cheer me on. So rad!

I dropped in to Stage 3 excited to get my race back on track and less than a minute later ‘PSHSHSSHSHSH’. Flat again. I almost gave up at this point but I rode it out and finished the stage. At the bottom, I was faced with the same situation. Make stage 4 within 30 minutes of my original start time or I was disqualified. So I ripped the tyre and third dead tube (which had been given to me by fellow competitors) out and started riding up the liaison on the rim. I lined up for stage 4 with no rear tyre and about 6 minutes to spare and off I went. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I mean, It was still riding a mountain bike trail on a rim with no tyre but I managed to corner and get through the stage ok and proceed to pin it back to the pits in the hope of getting an entire new wheel so I could keep racing and finish the day.

Again, if I missed my roll out time after lunch I would be disqualified and my day would be over. No extra time allowance here! By this stage I was already penalized 5 minutes for missing my start time on stage 3, another 5 minutes for missing my stage 4 start time and 5 minutes for replacing a rear wheel. Not even close to being in the hunt anymore but there was still no need to give up. A race is a race and as long as I was physically able, I was determined to finish and give it everything I had.

So a fresh wheel, new tyre, 3 bottles of drink mix and some muesli bars in 6 minutes and I was back on time and on track. The mountain in Ireland has us ride up the same 30-45 minute climb in between each liaison. Pretty cool way for the spectators to see the riders a lot throughout the day and also allows the entire field to mingle throughout the days racing.

By the time I dropped into stage 5, 6 and 7, I was exhausted. The stress and pinning it for 3 hours with a flat tyre had taken its toll on my body and I was merely a passenger for the rest of the day. Regardless, I gave it everything I had and finished the day off into 183rd overall. I will happily take a 183rd overall as opposed to a DNF any day of the week. Sure, it would have saved me a bunch of effort and stress but a race is a race and I am paid to race my bike. Giving up is not an option.

I returned home to Vancouver, a little battered and disappointed after Ireland but refocused and looking forward to the first round of the North American Enduro Tour in Whistler. Frothing was an understatement for how excited I was to get back riding and racing in whistler.

The weather turned it on for us and Mother Nature had a good ol giggle dumping down a foot of snow and buckets of rain. Practice was a little spicy and wild in the wet, rooty steeps of Whistler but come race day it made for some wicked racing. My goal for Whistler race day was to put my demons to rest and put 4 solid stages on the board and enjoy riding my bike. Mission accomplished and that is exactly what I did. Racing as fast as you can is so addictive and there is no other feeling that can match it. I was stoked to come away with the win among some of the fastest riders in the Sea to Sky Corridor and North America.

So now it’s time to get back to work and start putting some hours back in the gym, on the moto and perfect my bumwhip in the Whistler bike park. Summer is here in the northern hemisphere and shredding bikes has never been more exciting.