Melissa Newell’s 2019 EWS Season
CamelBak and Lezyne have proudly supported Melissa for some time. Here is her 2019 EWS story.
What a brutal season! 2018 saw me become the Master EWS World Champion with what seemed like a dream run upon reflection – 2019 was far from this!
A few stats:
- 7 out of 8 EWS races competed in, I finished every race (many don’t).
- I was the oldest elite women and tallest.
- I would have finished second in masters.
- 7 stitches, 1 dislocated thumb, 1 blown elbow bursar, a lot of crashes and lost skin (never to be found).
- 5 broken wheels, 16 tires died, 3 rotors, 8 sets of brake pads, 2 chains, 2 cassettes, 2 rear mechs, 3 saddles.
- 8 countries, over 100 hours of flying.
- 4 months on the road!
Round 1 – Rotorua, NZ – 19th +4:21:42 (32:08:94 wining time) 12.5% off the pace
Roto was the first race of the season and I was fizzing! Only a few hours of travel and plenty of support out on course. I had 3 crashes and was hoping for a top 15 finish and fell short by 1:20. All and all I was happy with how my first race went, I rode well and had a huge amount of fun amongst awesome people. One of the greatest aspects of EWS is catching up with fellow riders, managers and support staff. There was plenty of coffee dates and yarns. The previous race I had done in Roto was two years back and my very first EWS, a race I will never forget but wish I could, it was wet… really wet… like wet and muddy, like you could ride your bike muddy! this EWS was the total opposite, dry, fast and all the fun.
Round 2 – Derby, Tasmania – 22nd +3:44:53 (27:55:66) 11% off the pace
Derby is an amazing place in the middle of nowhere like a lot of the races we do. It has many large rock features and fast open following trail that really builds confidence in your riding. I had an amazing race in Derby the last time in I was there in 2017 where I finished 12th in the elite category. This time the competition was deeper strong and a lot more fierce! I had a huge amount of fun along with one major mishap resulting in 5 stitches in my shin, not ideal but I finished!
This was a two day race where we practiced and raced the first stage on the same day, a new format and one I didn’t really like, too much faff and down time between practice and racing. The second day was way better, the standard EWS format and great fun on offer and man did I embrace the day, even with a hole in my shin.
My crash was a situation where I simply got the time wrong in a fast rock section and went out the front door, I quickly got up and back on the bike knowing my shoulder was sore from taking the brunt of the hit, it wasn’t until I got to the bottom of the stage that I thought shivers my shin is sore… I pulled down my sock and well golly gosh I can see the bone! I pulled my sock back up and found some medics explaining to them that when I pull my sock down I will need a quick clean and something to knit it back together and covered so I could crack on… they looked at me bewildered and then I pulled my sock down and “OH!, yes that’s the bone” one of them said, they were so fast at getting me sorted and back on the bike to make the liaison. Post race I was able to get it stitched then and there, saving me a 2 hour drive to the hospital. CHUFFED!
Round 3 – Maderia, Portugal – didn’t attend due to financial restrictions.
Round 4 – Canazei, Italy – 36th +10:36:02 (40:56:04) 25% off the pace.
Yet again another amazing location high in the Dolomite mountains. Canazei was a race that I just simply felt flat, I couldn’t find my flow or fizz! I was having fun but was not riding fast, I was a bit like a fish on bicycle.
The night before the race I had no rear wheel to race on after breaking mine during training. I called in a favour from the TREK factory team which meant I had a rear wheel, due to the time restraints of getting the wheel set up and ready to roll I opted to not put my CUSHCORE in (tire insert to help prevent punchers) and this was a massive mistake! Stage 6 and the final stage I hit a hole at high speed and blow my tire off the rim! I was absolutely gutted but it is what it is and that’s racing! A very costly mistake on the longest stage of the day.
Yet again I was happy to actually finish and not finish last. Canazei is a race location that I can not wait to return to next and get some much desired redemption.
Round 5 – Les Orres, France – 32nd +8:56:99 (48:54:26) 18% off the pace
Les Orres was yet again another amazing destination with high speed, high risk alpine riding. Not only did I have a massive crash in practice but so did good friend and top elite rider Ella Connolly which saw her carted away in a helicopter after a suspected broken leg which turned out to be a broken elbow lol. This was one of those moments where I opted to stop practice and look after Ella, not that I don’t care about racing but at my age and having already achieved so much in my career as an athlete it was more important to me to stay and make sure she was ok… language barrier, Ella’s first major injury and the unknown of what might be.
By the time I had seen Ella on her way, the stage was closed for practice which meant ‘if’ I dropped down I could be disqualified by race organisers. Thank goodness logic prevailed and I was able to finished practice. The race was tough, fast high risk riding and with the state of my elbow I wasn’t able to push as hard as I would have liked, 2 days of practice and 2 days of racing had me feeling very battered.
I wanted a lot from this race after the previous race in Canazei and knowing I was capable of so much more. But wanting and getting are two very different things. In practice I knew I had to find my race pace and push hard for certain aspects. Unfortunately, I crashed hard, really hard bursting my bursar in my left elbow, initially I thought I had broken it as did those that witnessed the crash. Feck it hurt. But I wrapped it up and pulled up my socks and raced the best I could.
Round 6 – Whistler, Canada – 25th +9:17:84 (1:01:59:71) 14.5% off the pace
Whistler is the mecca of mountain biking, just by being in Whistler makes you a better rider! This place brings out the best in every rider and especially me. Big jumps, big drops and steep technical riding, add some rain and you have an epic environment to bring out the best in every riders skills.
I had a good race, a few too many crashes but all and all I felt good on the bike, my elbow was healing and head space was on point. My first crash of the day was a silly one, I took a moment to breathe and reset on mellow section and BOOM next second running up the track to pull my bike out of the bushes, no bueno.
One of my highlights from this race was the final stage, well when I say highlights I mean memorable moments. The course had been put on hold due to one of the masters men breaking his leg. Once we were able drop it was all go, this stage was so sick, so many features that could catch you out, wooden bridges, long and slicker then oil on a ice rink and one specific rock feature got the better of me, it was a right hand entry into a high set up left hand exit and well, I didn’t get quiet high enough but was full committed with my eye on the prize… now this is where shit started to go wrong, as I was exiting the left hander and my back wheel let go… no biggie, BUT on the outside of the corner was the guy with the broke leg, my back wheel went under the tape and absolutely nailed him, this was to be a full blown hit and run, he screamed! I said sorry, but I was in race mode… and quickly stomped a foot and cracked on. Not an ideal situation but it was what it was, I didn’t even see him till I heard him scream.
Round 7 – Northstar, USA – 30th +06:03:11 (30:37:62) 19% off the pace
After a 2-day drive from Whistler to Northstar I was feeling flat, tired and had picked up a head cold. Northstar was dumb… aka the ‘appliance store’ Altitude, dust, so much dust, and rocks = appliance store. Imagine you drop into a trail and some one has dropped a microwave on the track and you’re like aaaaaah??? and not just one, but many. Now add some toasters (2 slice and 4 slice), a fridge, a freezer, an oven and repeat… now I like rocks… they’re fun but these rocks were shit house… mostly due to the flat terrain. When you have gravity on your side rocks become easier because speed is your friend, but these rocks caught you, slowed you and well, sucked the life out of you like a hungry eat eater on an ant hill.
It’s not often I struggle this much with a course but it broke me mentally. I wanted to pull the pin, but for me it is never an option. I couldn’t breath due to my head cold and that combined with the dust had me flat as a pancake. Every time I got my heart rate up my head felt like if was going to explode. I persevered and made it through the day. Good friend Jenna Makgill wasn’t so lucky, she was having a blinder, sitting in 6th overall in her 2nd EWS she was on her way to a great result. But on stage 4 of 6 she hit a massive G out (hole) and broke her wrist. The craziest part of this story was that she didn’t crash, it was such a hard hit that the compression transferred up into her wrist and BOOM – broken wrist! So so brutal. But there was more brutal-ness (not a word) to come the next day. I helped drive Jenna back to Vancouver where she lives, a 16 hour drive, one hit! and straight to hospital. This just what you do as a kiwi and as a mate, much like Les Orres there is more to racing then just the race.
Round 8 – Zermatt, Switzerland – 24th +09:25:43 (43:56:57) 20% off the pace
Rocks, big rocks, little rocks, loose rocks and more rocks!! This was an amazing race! Altitude, views, snow, and the Matterhorn “Toblerone”. This course had some very intense pedals followed by fast knife edge line choices, meaning if you went off course the heli would be on its way. Now I know this probably seems a bit dramatic but no joke, there were some seriously scary sections which weren’t just limited to the stages but also the liaisons. Tight corners were the hardest part of this course, we were racing predominately on walking tracks where the corners are not meant for bikes and getting around these meant a foot out or even off the bike. I loved this race, every aspect, it was a fantastic way to finish the season. Mountains upon mountains, the highest point we raced at was 3600m, rocks for days and views to blow your mind.
The other mind blowing aspect that Zermatt had to offer was the price of things… jeepers! So, last race meant that everyone got pretty well lubricated and sent it to the little of the morning. The hangover the next day required some McDonalds to ease the self inflicted pain. My order was large big mac combo and 20 chicken nuggets, the excitement of this greasy fix had me feeling pretty bloody good about myself and then I saw the price… $62 NZD… lol! I needed it, I wanted it, and I paid it.
Later that day we had organised an EWS boys vs girls soccer match, and well what a laugh. We played for over 2 hours, hungover, lacking talent, and it was treated like a world cup final! More fun then you can throw a stick at. While ALN is the 3rd fastest women in the world her soccer skills were never found, but she was fierce. Cole Lucas was named “Break through” rider of the year by EWS but there was no way he was going to make a break through in this match, just seeing him make connection with the ball was a miracle! We all peaked out there on that day. We ran out of skill, talent and there were no contracts up for offer. Just a another feed of McDonald’s to top us off.
Lastly – THANK YOU! Seriously it takes a village to do what I do and without my supporters, I’d be nothing.
Banner Photo Credit: Jason Beachan 208 media