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The 2014 Enduro World Series kicked off last weekend in Nevados De Chillian, Chile and Yeti racer Jared Graves got his season off to a solid start with a second place finish at the opening event. Read Yeti ambassador Joey Schusler's race report here

Words: Joey Schusler

What seemed like a long offseason has ended and a new season is underway. Training and preparation is done, and it is all happening! After a quick two-day team camp in Santa Cruz, California to set up the new bikes and get our suspension dialled in with Fox, we headed to Yeti's home of Golden, Colorado for a few days riding, going over the season ahead and discussing some new things on the horizon.

On Sunday morning the long travel to Chile began, just as another round of snow storms were coming into Colorado. It was the perfect time to get out of Colorado if you're a mountain biker (but good news for the skiers/snowboarders). We had a fairly standard 24 hours of mind numbing travel ahead of us, which gave us plenty of time to think about the season's expectations, plenty of "me" time so to speak. The only drama was Polar Bear's (Shauny) beloved toolbox was once again lost by the airline and causing a little stress on his part. To top it off, the airport in Santiago had no form of computer based lost baggage system. When you have language barriers and some Spanish scribbled on a piece of paper that is meant to be your baggage receipt, it's fair to say that some anxiety is imminent.

Once we got the to the venue, we had a few days to check out the area and get some small training sessions in to wake the body up from travel. We also had the opportunity to meet some of the locals, and it became immediately apparent how excited the Chilean mountain bike community was about this event. It's really cool to see how passionate they are about the sport. As for us, the whole team settled in and Team Manager Damion Smith started to get the feel of what enduro is all about. Damion slipped into the role as enduro spirit ambassador, Richie Rude was getting amped for his first EWS race, and Shauny got his toolbox back. It was time to start practice!

Practice:

The format in Chile was six race stages held over two days (Saturday/Sunday) with two days practice beforehand (Thursday/Friday). If you were lucky and hustled you could get two practice runs of every stage. We held to the plan and got two practice runs in on each stage, except for a mechanical issue for myself on Stage 5 that meant I would have to make due with one run of that stage.

Saturday

Stage 1:

Stage 1 was pretty much just a DH course. The top half was open with deep volcanic ash and it was easy to stick the front wheel into a soft patch and get ejected over the bars. The bottom half was more hard packed with tight berms and some small rock gardens. Race times were going to be tight. You weren't going to win the race on this stage, but you could easily make a mistake and cost yourself the overall. My plan was to ride steadily, get a solid start, and save energy for the later stages that would bring some time gaps. Everything went to plan, I made no mistakes and I rode at about 95% the whole way down to make sure I kept upright. I finished the stage 5th fastest with only 2 seconds separating the top 5.

Stage 2:

Stage 2 was the longest stage of the weekend and physically tough. It contained no climbing but mixed in a lot of pedalling out of turns to get up to speed. The stage was amazing with a mixture of fast and flowing to steep and technical. I knew this one would be a good stage for me. I didn't feel like I rode fantastically well, but kept good overall speed and paced it well. In the end I won the stage by 12 seconds, and jumped into the overall lead by 11.

Stage 3:

Stage 3 was another pure DH track. It was just deep sand up top and you had to lean back, pick a rut and ride it out. It was another stage where you could definitely lose a lot of time if you crashed or picked up a flat tire, which was super easy to do when you are plowing through rocks at 60km/h. I throttled back through the rocks because I didn't want to toss away a nice overall lead and pushed a little bit on the flowing bottom half where risks would come with minimal consequence. I finished the stage 3rd fastest while crowd favourite Cedric Gracia took the stage win. I was really happy with 3rd, considering the throttle was far from wide open and I had extended my overall lead by 1 more second over Jerome Clementz.

Sunday

Stage 4:

I was feeling a little nervous heading into day two with the overall lead. I spent the offseason with thoughts of winning on my mind and a strong desire to start the season with a win and maximum series points. Stage 4 was a favourite for most of the racers. It had to be ridden to really understand what it was all about, but imagine a three minute super tight bobsled run, bouncing from left to right through perfect natural berms every half a second. It was unlike anything I've ever ridden. Your reflexes had to be spot on and your full attention given, or you could guarantee you would be off the track cartwheeling before you know it. Riding it in practice was one thing, but trying to ride 100% in a race situation made everything come at you super-fast. At times my mind couldn't keep up and resulted in a few scrappy moments and near crashes. I was a little disappointed with my run and was 3rd fastest for the stage. Martin Maes rolled the dice the best and was fastest while Jerome took a few seconds out of me and was second fastest. But, I still controlled the overall with an 8 second lead.

Stage 5:

I knew that Stage 5 was going to be a tough one and should have been a stage to try and push out my lead. But my mechanical in practice meant that I would be riding the last 2/3 of the tight and technical stage blind. I really had no idea what was coming and as a result I had a moment with a tree and a small crash to avoid running down the side of an embankment. I knew I had lost some time, but was surprise I still came in 7th fastest for the stage. Jerome took back another 5 seconds and shrunk my overall lead to just 3 seconds going into the 6th and final stage. The pressure was building; the last stage was going to be good!

Stage 6:

Stage 6 was basically eight minutes straight down the side of a cliff and was super-fast and steep. The top of the course was well above tree line and the volcanic soil made it feel like you were riding on the moon, something you don't experience every day. The bottom half was steep loamy turns as you made your way back below the tree line. The track just got steeper and steeper and some arm pump was inevitable. I should have taken a lot more time to choose better lines in the top section. There were a few key sections that I covered far too much ground where I could see other riders' more direct lines. An extra ten minutes scoping out a few smarter lines would have made all the difference, but it's too late for that now. I lost 10 seconds to Jerome in the final stage, and with it the overall lead. The end result was 2nd overall for the weekend.

Second place overall is a tough pill to swallow after leading almost the entire race. But second place is still a good solid start to the season. I felt a little rusty having not raced against the clock for 6 months. I did dozens of timed runs at home, but it never replicates an actual race. I'm heading home for 4 weeks and getting some racing under my belt before Round 2 in Scotland. I'll be ready in Scotland! I'm pumped the season is underway and the first race is done!

26" isn't dead - Jared rode a standard 26" wheeled Yeti SB66C in chile which is the same as you can buy here 

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