The Josh Carlson Experience: EWS, Round 1, Rotorua

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Tipped in on stage 5 of the Rotorua EWS.

We’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective. So insider, in fact, that you’ll even be able to see what Josh’s heart is doing. For this unique series, we’ve teamed up with Today’s Plan, an Australian training tools provider, who work with Josh to analyse his training and monitor his performance. (Check out our first impressions of Today’s Plan here).

Through the year we’ll be bringing you a replay of Josh’s racing through rider telemetry; watch exactly what Josh puts his body through on each stage. Josh will also be providing us with some background about the racing, his bike setup, thoughts on his performance and more too.

Jump on board with Josh for stage 6 of the Rotorua EWS, straight down the Taniwha downhill track. Take a look at Josh’s ride data for this stage – it’s crazy to see how much time he spends in his VO2 and anaerobic heart rate zones. 

Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Rotorua. Use the menus on the right to switch between the various stages and to control playback speed. Keep an eye on his heart rate throughout – he might be primarily descending, but his efforts are through the roof.

Flow: So Josh, how was round 1?

JC: It was a pretty tough race, for sure. There were a lot of pieces of the puzzle to put together! Because a lot of the track was tight and rooty, you had to attack it, if you didn’t you were just bleeding time. There weren’t really any huge huck lines or areas where you could save a bunch of time, so it was all about attacking the entire course, and getting the little stuff right.

Flow: So did it lend itself to a particular style of racer?

JC: Yes and no. All the Frenchies with ninja skills did well, but then stages 6 and 7 were quite different. They were far more balls to the wall, they’re really downhill tracks – I mean, one stage was the previous National DH track, the other is the current National DH track. So it was no surprise to see World Cup downhillers take those stages out.

For me, this round really highlighted that a good Enduro racer has to be an real all-rounder, that your basic skills need to be solid. That’s what I kept coming back to, getting the basics right. That’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot be a one-dimensional rider. Look at Graves or Clementz – those guys are equally as good if it’s blasting down French walking tracks, open grass at full speed, or on the roots.

Flow: As an EWS round, was this race any more physically challenging than others?

JC: It wasn’t necessarily any more physically taxing, but it was still six and a half hours of ride time. Having said that, if stages 2 and 3 hadn’t been shortened it would have been really tight. The liaison stages were already pretty tight – I was getting to the start gate with about 10 minutes till my race run on each stage, which is really only just enough time to get focused, set your suspension or tyres pressures, get your goggles on, then it’s time to go.

But that’s really ideal, it’s what I aim for. If you’re there at the start for much longer than that, you can start to lose focus, get all distracted. That’s one of the real challenges of Enduro sometimes if you’re racing – it can feel too much like a ride with your mates, because you chat away on the climbs and then you have to be able to switch into race mode

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Steep and slippery. Success in these conditions is all about focus, says Josh.

Flow: Is there anything you like to do to help focus?

JC: I guess I just try to take myself away from others a little, focus on my breathing, try to visualise the track. Don’t let myself get distracted by little things.

Flow: Talking about visualising the course, you’re running a GoPro. How much do you use the footage to help learn the trails?

JC: I use it flat out And you really need to – if you’re not running a helmet cam, you’re going to be off the back, big time. Because with the way practice is set up, you really only get maybe two, tops three, runs down each stage. I’m using the GoPro 4 now, with the LCD screen, and I’ll even review the track in between runs during practice. At Rotorua, you had 50 minutes of racing to try and recall, so with just a couple of runs, that’s just about impossible without watching the footage.
Unfortunately at Rotorua there was a bit too much local knowledge about what tracks were going to be raced ahead of time, so while most people had just a couple of runs on each stage, a lot of locals had been practicing the stages flat out. That made having footage even more important.
Flow: You started last year off with a massive, massive crash in Chile. Were you thinking about that this year?

JC: I definitely was aware of it, for sure. Especially since the first stage we practiced had the most potential for carnage, it was fastest, straight into the downhill track. It was very easy to get carried away – new bike, sick track, new kit, heaps of people watching. That’s what happened last year! I jumped on and was like ‘man, I am going to kill it!’, next thing you’re crashing into the rocks going at one thousand! We saw that this year too, they sent like 20 people away in ambulances on that first day.

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A coil shock adds a little weight, but the traction is worth it for Carlso.

Flow: Did you toy with bike setup much for Rotorua?

JC: I changed tyre pressures quite a lot during the racing. On the rooty stages I was running 22psi up front, maybe 25 in the rear. Then for stages 6 and 7, where you’re really hitting stuff faster, I was back up to 25psi in the front and 28 rear. I also used a coil shock for this race too. I’ll be using a coil as my default setup this year, only running an air shock if the course doesn’t require as much traction or I need the lockout. The coil shock is just sick – the amount of traction is insane! A few other guys are running coils too. Cedric (Gracia) love his, so does my team mate Adam (Craig).

Flow: Thanks, Josh. Catch up with you after round 2 in Ireland!

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