After what seems like an eternity (18 months to be precise) the Enduro World Series is back and the first race of 2021 is almost here!
With tensions still running high and global uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 Pandemic, Team riders Joe Nation and Leigh Johnson have been a little apprehensive, to say the least!
As all rounds of the 2021 Enduro Series are based in Europe (and the UK), New Zealand national Joe Nation decided to head over to Scotland to regroup before heading out to Italy for round one. It also meant he could catch up with his teammate Leigh Johnson for a pre-season bike shakedown, to fit some new kit to their Stamina 180’s and test out their 2021 Sweet Protection kit ahead of the races.
Meeting up in Innerleithen, a place widely recognized as one of the Enduro MTB Mecca’s of the UK, we managed to catch up with them both long enough to fire a few questions at them…
Last year was pretty crazy for everyone! Tell us a little bit about how it was for you? What did you do? What have you been up to?
Joe: Yes! 2020 was a pretty crazy year for everyone that’s for sure! With the uncertainty of the industry, there were a lot of cutbacks. I was still very motivated to train and race the EWS races which were still going ahead. Integrating my geotechnical work around my training was a good challenge. Finishing the season with a top 20 ranking certainly felt like a great achievement! The Stamina proved to be a super reliable bike!
Leigh: It was a strange year for sure! I think the strangest thing for me was that I completely missed out on any racing. Apart from that, it wasn’t too bad! The weather was amazing, and I could ride my bike from home in the sun every day. It was hard though riding solo all the time. I made sure to do some big rides because I knew I would be bored for the rest of the day if I didn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time riding a bike as last year though – which is obviously a good thing!
I bet you are both pretty fired up to get back on the race circuit! What have you done this Winter in preparation for this season?
Joe: I am really lucky to have been living in New Zealand which has been more or less Covid free over the past 8 months. With the extended off-season, I decided to take on a new challenge and work towards becoming the masters cross country national champion which couldn’t have gone better. From there I then returned my focus to enduro and as opposed to working largely on my physical prep as I have done in previous seasons, I instead focused largely on both riding technique and mental game. Definitely excited to see how the pace is!
Leigh: Again this was a strange winter, being in a lockdown with so much uncertainty with the upcoming season, but still wanting to be ready to race in case it happens. It was good though, probably the fastest winter I have had, mixing riding with some other big projects, felt like it flew by, and feeling ready to race now!
All the EWS rounds take place in Europe this year, what are your plans to get there? Are you teaming up with other riders on the circuit to get about?
Joe: The Europe-based season provides an awesome opportunity to get in a comfortable van and road trip around the circuit. Currently in Scotland lending a hand in preparing my girlfriend Katy’s van for just that. We plan to stay in booked accommodation for the race weeks but in between the races, the camper van keeps things really simple.
Leigh: Yeah so it’s pretty cool to only be racing in Europe this year, the Alps have got to be my favorite place to ride. My plan is to get a bed slid into the back of my van and hit the road for 4 weeks. Going back to basics this year and looking forward to it. There will be a few of us touring around the races in vans, so it should be a good time.
You guys are running Stamina 180’s again this season. Tell me a little bit about the spec you are running this year and the new Stamina Remastered frames
Joe: Stoked to spend another season racing the Stamina! After two years I certainly feel at home with the setup. No massive change for the season besides putting a Zeb up front for a bit of added stiffness. I’m still in the process of balancing the new fork with my RS Super Deluxe Ultimate on the rear. The early signs are exciting. Should be a bombproof setup for the big stages in the Alps.
Leigh: This is the 3rd year riding the Stamina for me. However, it is quite a bit different from the 1st generation stamina frame I rode in 2019. As it’s the remastered Stamina frame, I am now using the Raw Clear Electrophoretic coating, so the frame should be looking like new after the season. I have just fitted a set of RockShox Zeb up front to take the big hits in the alps. The rest of my setup is similar to what I have used in the past just because it has proven itself.
Just for Fun
What is your favorite trail or place to ride in the whole world?
Joe: Reschen Pass, Austria.
Leigh: It has to be somewhere in the french alps. I can’t pinpoint a specific trail but I am definitely in my happy place riding out there.
Would you rather; race a stage with a flat tire or race a stage with a blown-out fork?
Joe: Blown-out fork.
Leigh: Mmmm I think a flat rear tyre, as long as there is a Huck Norris fitted would not be a bad option!
Would you rather; ride uphill for eternity in the hardest gear on your cassette. Or ride downhill with no gears and only one brake
Joe: Uphill in the hardest gear, downhill wouldn’t be great fun on one brake.
Leigh: Definitely downhill with no gears and one brake!
What is the strangest urban myth you have ever heard about in Enduro or in general in the cycle industry?
Joe: The idea of long-travel bikes being poor climbers and sluggish descenders. With the right geometry and setup, this is definitely not the case!
Leigh: Ha that’s a hard one! I’m not one to listen to myths so I can’t actually think of one.
Joe is currently ranked 12th and Leigh finishing his 2019 EWS Season at 13th overall! The 2021 season is going to be a good one!
Leigh has just done his first race of 2021 (and first race since 2019!) and he only went and won it! Congratulations Leigh!
Keep up to date with Leigh and Joe’s race season via Instagram by liking and following their pages below.