Ride and develop
It is the last race of the 2017 Enduro World Series (EWS). Hundreds of racers measure themselves over the course of 100 km in two days - 7 stages with 3,100 meters of climbing and 4,000 meters of descending. Ergon industrial designer, Chris Vollmer, is one of them and contests his first EWS race in Finale Ligure, Italy.
The mind wanders off, back to Koblenz, my workplace at Ergon. The current saddle project just won’t leave my head. Will the prototype mounted on my bike meet its requirements? But even before the image in my head can be focused on, the starting command sounds and I find myself on the first stage of the Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure.
„The first day was a mix of MacGyver and Cool Runnings“
My opponent won’t let me pass, what now?
I ignore the brakes and make up 10 places on the Karma Trail (about 8.6km / 1.200Hm). In 11th place, however, the man in front of me uses as much trail as possible. Passing is almost impossible. Instead, I decide to eat the dust of my competitor for a few minutes. During this senseless fight for position we both fall and my bike comes out damaged: One of my pedals is badly bent and the front tire has lost a lot of air. However, all is not lost. The newly redesigned GE1 Evo saved my office hands on the long first stage with the new, even grippier surface texture and softer compound. Thanks to the CO2 cartridge, the air pressure in the front tire is quickly restored.
Chaos, stress and an empty hydration bladder
Due to the chaos of the fall and the resulting mechanical issues, I miss the transfer to the second stage (700 Meters up). The stress level spikes! The hydration bladder in my BE1 backpack, due to the long journey to Stage 1, is almost empty and on top of that, I lost my water bottle during the fall. With rolled eyes, all I can think is, “Successful start to my first EWS". Thanks to the kindness of a fellow competitor, I will not "die of thirst" and drink a little water before the next stage.
The pedal, however, doesn’t make it.
The "bent pedal" turns out to be non-repairable, making the drama almost perfect. Nevertheless, despite two steep climbs and a loose pedal, I manage to pass five more riders before the end of the stage and with the crossing of the finish line; the pedal finally falls out of the crank. The fortunately quite flat - albeit long – connector segment makes it possible to ride the bike for a while with one working pedal. Arriving 20 minutes late and quite exhausted, the third stage begins.
For this stage, I tentatively rigged the pedal with cable ties, as a kind of footrest in the crank, in order to be able to ride at least standing up. Although my pedal doesn’t arrive at the stage finish, my bike and I do. And that's the main thing, because now the bike is allowed to be serviced with a new crank mounted. The five-minute time penalty is part of the rules for a repair, but now I can start again on the second day. Crucial is the support provided by the Canyon Factory Racing Team, who were at my side throughout the weekend and made my finish possible.
„You have to be able to rely 100% on your equipment.“
The real reward is the collected experiences
Day two begins with little auspiciousness - but more spectacular, because a heavy fall brings me to my limits, and thoughts of giving up float through my mind. My backpack with integrated back protector prevents a premature retirement from the race and protects me from the worst. From here, "Damage Control" is the motto for the last stage. After arriving at the end and having completed all stages, the end result of my first EWS didn’t seem as important.
The real reward for the effort is the accumulated experiences, which I will not forget so quickly. Product development works best when you get involved in the action and experience the hardships yourself. Only under real racing conditions is every detail crystal clear.
Back in Koblenz, my experiences and memories aren’t quickly forgotten. Once again, my thoughts wander off - back to Finale Ligure and the racing scene. The memories fly past my inner eye and bring up a smile in my face. I hear someone say my name and switch back to the Ergon Saddle Meeting, where my experiences recounted.
„At the End: The result is not satisfying. But I am proud of the journey to the finish.“