Round number two of the Enduro World Series brought Josh Carlson a solid 14th place, a career second best for the Wollongong-raised Mad Rooter. We caught up with Josh as he rolled towards Belfast in the team van, en route to the Belfast ferry which would skim him across the waves to Scotland for his second EWS race in as many weeks. Despite the odours of his team mates, Josh's spirits were clearly high.
Throughout the 2015 Enduro World Series we’ll be bringing you an insider’s perspective of Josh’s performance. 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).
So Josh, a good weekend?
JC: Yep, although I’m a little disappointed and annoyed that I made some dumb mistakes, I’m stoked I managed to get back up there in the end. It was a pretty inconsistent day for me really – I was in 48th after stage 1 – so to end up with my best ever stage result (3rd in stage 7) and my second best placing overall was good.
What made stage 7 such a good result for you?
JC: I don’t know really, other than that I just really tried to stay calm and collected. I didn’t have any crazy lines, other than one huck up the top, so I guess I just have to put it down to the fact I kept it calm, and that I had a really good picture of the track in my head. Stage 7 was one that I’d walked during the week, so I felt that I knew it pretty well.
You don’t normally get a chance to walk the tracks, do you?
JC: It depends on when the course is marked and how early we get to town. It’s definitely an advantage if you do get a chance to walk them – by the time you get to practice, you already feel like you’ve done a handful of runs down it. But it’s sort of a catch 22; walking the tracks might give you a good picture of the them, but it takes a long time and can be really draining too.
Overall, I think walking them definitely helps. Especially at this race, the racing was so close that ever the tiniest error made a huge difference. Honestly, the time differences were hundredths of a second, it was like a full-on downhill race, or seven downhill races really.
How did your preparation compare for this round, versus that of Rotorua?
JC: I definitely came into this round feeling a lot better. Rotorua kept bringing up all kinds of flashbacks to last year, when I crashed out hard in round 1. I had a few crashes early in practice in Rotorua and it definitely was on my mind.
Did you change your bike setup much this time around?
JC: Yes and no – I didn’t make any changes during the race except for my tyre pressure on one stage, but I did change a bit in the lead up, as the tracks dried up getting closer to race day I put a Rock Razor tyre on out back, but the main change I made was with my fork. I actually took a volume spacers out of my fork and increased the pressure, on the suggestion of our team mechanics. We went from four tokens and 75psi, to two tokens with 85psi, and then made some low-speed compression adjustments. The front end grip went up like 100%, so this will definitely be my baseline setting from now on. We’re super lucky to have those guys in our corner – we can throw all our dumb ideas at them, they can tell us we’re dickheads and point us in the right direction!
The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in.
One slightly more, I guess, technical thing I wanted to ask you about is nutrition and looking after yourself across the whole week of practice and racing. How do you handle it?
JC: It’s a good question, because I don’t think a lot of people really consider how much of a factor it can be. I mean, over a couple of days of practice, you’ll do 11 0r 12 hours of riding, and then another six on race day, so how you eat and hydrate is a big deal.
And it’s cumulative too, one day will affect the next. I came to practice on Saturday, and within about 20 minutes of heading up the first climb I knew I was in calorie deficit from the day before, so I had to make sure I kept my intake up throughout the whole day. Because come race day, if you’re bonking, there’s no way you can focus. The demands of the racing are pretty unique – it’s like an all-day ride, but with half an hour’s worth of full-on, race pace sprint efforts thrown in – so you’ve got make sure you’re getting enough solid fuel in. I’ll try to have a few larger items, things like pizza even, and then gels and bars too. I make sure I avoid things that are going to send me way up, and then crashing back down again, you don’t want your energy levels to yo-yo. Ok, right at the end of the day before the final stage a sugar hit might get you across the line, but you don’t want that throughout the bulk of the day.
We read a lot about the great atmosphere out on track there. What was it like?
JC: The Irish were unreal, on some stages the track was lined from top to bottom. There was one wooded section that I came into and I thought the air was full of dust, but then I realised it was smoke from all the chainsaws that people were revving! Another section the crowd was so loud you heard them ages before you saw them – they were so loud for each rider you could use them to gauge how close you were to the rider in front or how close the rider behind was to you. And they were all dressed up, crocodile suits, oompa loompas, bananas, it was classic. It really felt like a World Cup race.
And was it a surprise to see Greg Callaghan take the win? Any home ground advantage here?
JC: Man, it was amazing to be part of it, having him win in front of a home crowd was incredible, the crowd just erupted! He had like 20 family members out on course, the atmosphere was insane! I don’t think saying it was a home ground advantage does him justice – even if you know the trails, it’ll only get you so far, you need to have all of the tools in the basket. And he sure as hell didn’t fluke the win – that’s the thing with Enduro, you cannot just have a freakish run or somehow fluke the win, you need to be consistent across an entire day of racing, not just a couple of minutes.
It’s great to see when a home town rider wins too, it does so much for the sport in the town, so many people will be pumped on mountain biking in Ireland now. Hopefully we get an EWS round in Australia one day too.
Take a closer look at Josh’s performance, stage by stage, in Ireland. 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.