Photos: Seb Schieck
The final round of this year’s Enduro World Series (EWS) came from Loudenvielle in France. With the Under 21 overall series title already wrapped up by Luke Meier-Smith the young Australian didn’t even need to race… so he didn’t! INTENSE Factory Racing’s Seth Sherlock was also in a similar position, but Seth is obviously just “mad for it” and took to the start line! Seth had already secured enough points to guarantee himself second overall, so he could have just chilled out… but why not race anyway?
Seth takes up the story of his weekend:
“My race got off to a disastrous start on the Pro Stage, and it was really all my fault. The organizers pushed practice on the Pro Stage to the day before due to the weather. Normally you pick up your timing chips at the bottom of your Pro Stage practice run. Instead, you were meant to go pick them up the morning of the Pro Stage at the bottom and then head up for your run, but I didn't read the email closely enough and honestly forgot all about the timing chips, so I just went right up to the top.
It was half an hour before my run when I remembered about the timing chips and figured out I had to pick them up back at the bottom, and the drive was about 15 minutes each way! We rallied there and back, making it to my start time with only a minute and 30 seconds to spare! I was still shaking with adrenaline dropping into my run, and sure enough, I ended up crashing twice. It was a really dumb mistake on my part, not reading my emails more carefully, but you live and learn.
Coming into the main race day I was motivated not to make any more dumb mistakes like that again. I was only 12 seconds back so I figured that with good riding I still had a shot at the win or at least a podium. The first stage of race day was a harsh warm-up. It had rained quite a bit overnight and conditions took a turn for the worse. I don't think anyone expected it to be as bad as it was, just making it down was a major struggle. I had another crash and numerous hang-ups which put me another 10 seconds off the lead.
No one knew what to expect with stage 3, it was more in the sun than stage 2, so I figured it would be a bit less muddy, but it was tough to say. Most of it was fairly grippy, and it ended up being one of my best stages of the day despite another pretty costly crash. This brought me back into the top 10 overall in the race, so things were looking up.
We had a short break to eat some food and clean off the bikes between 3 and 4, then it was up two lifts into the alpine for stage 4. It was freezing cold up there, and trying to keep my hands warm was a challenge. Stage 4 was an alpine flow trail that was a ton of fun, but the rain made it quite hard to judge and also slowed it down quite a bit, making it way more physical than I'd expected. Another solid result on that stage brought me up to fifth overall.
Stage 5 was a shorter, tighter, and more technical, with a couple of tricky off-camber traverses. I expected it to be quite slippery because it was in the trees but it was actually surprisingly good. Another strong result on this stage brought me into third, but the times were tight... first through to fourth were only separated by 5 seconds. It was all coming down to stage 6, a repeat of the Pro Stage from the day before.
After a quick pit stop and a long pedal, it was time to go. I was a bit nervous going in, knowing that if I rode well I had a shot at the win, and if I didn't I'd be off the podium. The stage was much slipperier than I'd expected. Not quite as bad as stage 2, but it was still pretty much full mud. I made it down cleanly, but rode it a bit too conservatively to take the win. It was just barely enough to slot me into second though. It ended up insanely close between Jack Piercey in third and me, with only 0.2 seconds between us after over 35 minutes of racing!
It was a pretty sloppy couple of days of riding on my part. I'm very happy with my riding but it sucks to think about what could have been if I hadn't had just one of those four crashes. It was still a huge improvement from the race at Crans Montana the week previously and a positive way to end the season. I'm very happy with second overall and excited for the step up to Elite next year. And I’m really looking forward to the Trophy of Nations this coming weekend (Oct 1-2). It should be a fun, laid-back race to end the season.”
At the start of the Enduro World Series season Seth was only going to “give it a go”, with his focus initially on the Downhill World Cup series. But as he got more into the groove of enduro racing, and the results started to come, he switched his focus. Whilst downhill is one run, all or nothing, enduro is more about pacing yourself, riding on the edge, but within your limits… it’s a marathon not a sprint. The format seemed to suit the young Canadian, and with the passing of every round his confidence.
In the Under 21 category it is only the rider’s top five results that are taken into account for the overall season standings. Seth’s two first places, in Whistler and Sugarloaf, and his three second places, in the Tweed Valley, Val Di Fassa and here in Loudenvielle, gave him a grand total of 1435 points, giving him second place overall. And credit where credit is due, the overall winner, Luke Meier-Smith, was a deserved champion. When he raced, he dominated. Five wins out of five meant that he could just kick back. Respect.
It’s one more final race for Seth this weekend at the Trophy of Nations team event in Finale Ligure (Italy). Will it be Seth and his Canadian team mates on the top step of the podium? We’ll have to wait and see.
And what of 2023? Seth moves up to the elite/senior ranks, so he’ll be racing against the big names of the sport. Where excited to see how he performs and how his career progresses. Bring… it… on.
Round 1 April 1-2 Derby, Tasmania, Australia
Round 2 June 3-4 Finale Ligure, Italy
Round 3 June 15-18 Leogang, Austria
Round 4 June 24-25 Val di Fassa, Italy
Round 5 Sept 1-3 Loudenvielle, France
Round 6 Sept 7-17 TBC (France)
Round 7 TBC Whistler, Canada
Seth races on our 170mm Tracer Enduro bike. Check it out.