Reigning Women's Off-Road Champion, Jemma Wilson, has been chasing her international dreams, and this year hit the Enduro World Championship circuit for the opening rounds of the Women's championship at Spain and Portugal. She'll be doing a three-part mini series on Transmoto.com.au over the next few months, documenting her European experiences. The 23-year-old will compete in Italy and France in June and October.
The Enduro World Championship is very different compared with any enduro event held in Australia. There are still timecards and special tests, and everyone's still racing because they love it and want to be the best, but an EWC round is on a completely different level. Trails are tougher, extreme tests are absolutely insane, time checks are tight, "houring out" is really "15-minuting out", set-ups are huge, spectators are crazy, riders' briefings are held in English and French, and there is a two-minute special test on Friday night (just because they can).
The most daunting test for me was the Super Test. Your bike is impounded on Friday, just like any other enduro event, but around 7pm riders are on the start line (time cards and all) to race a quick two-minute test. You've then got a 15-minute work period before your bike is impounded again. Depending on the promoter, there can be some really tough technical obstacles in the Super Test, but it's good for the spectators. And there are a lot of spectators!
If we're lucky, in Australia we get a couple of spectators here and there, but it's predominantly parents and other competitors that see us race. At an EWC round, spectators line the entire course from start to finish. In fact, spectators are not shy about grabbing you or your bikes and skull dragging you over and through hectic sections of the course - whether you want them too or not! And with spectators comes a plethora of makeshift stalls. In Portugal there were beer stands, cafes and a pig on the spit roasting away in the centre of the extreme test.
The most obvious difference is the involvement of so many different countries, cultures and languages. Meeting people in the pits is more complicated than at home. Even asking your team for a hammer is tricky and will amount in you receiving every other tool in the toolbox. I thought the Greek team I was pitted with was always arguing with each other because the language sounded so harsh. It wasn't until half way through my trip that I found out it was all peaches and roses with them. And I discovered being Australian in Europe was a huge benefit, as everyone seems to love helping an Aussie out.
Racing the EWC is a real eye opener. The Australian Four-Day Enduro (A4DE) is famous at the EWC for being a great event, and it is! We are very lucky to have the land to ride and race. However, I recommend that every person that is serious about enduro racing go over and race a couple of rounds of the EWC. It was the best two weeks of my life and I've learnt more than I did at six A4DE!
Thanks to everyone that helped me get there and to those who helped out when I was alone and lost while travelling.
See Part 2 of this exclusive three part series as we follow Wilson to Sweden to do further training before the start of the Italian EWC