So I guess the first question is, who is Fergus Ryan? I am 25 years old and I am the marketing manager for MTB Beds. I have been racing since I was 16, starting in Downhill before turning my focus to enduro 2 years ago. I love all things two-wheeled and pushing my limits both physically and mentally when it comes to racing.
Last year was my first full year racing enduro and I competed in the all the EWS rounds in Europe. This was not only an eye-opening in terms of the level of racing but also just how fit you have to be to make it round these events. My results didn't live up to my expectations and I was plagued by mechanicals and punctures at the beginning of the season. This was not just bad luck but a lack of preparation and also learning that racing enduro has a very different approach than that of downhill. Towards the end of the season, my results starter to improved and I managed to crack the top 100, a goal of mine since the beginning of the year. With a good end to the season, I was fired up for 2019 and another big year on bikes.
2019 Stage 1 - Planning
As Ben Franklin said “ Failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” this couldn’t be truer when it comes to racing. The first job was to get in touch with my coach Ben Plenge at The Strength Factory. I joined Ben last year in January and haven’t looked back since. We got together a good plan for my rough training schedule and agreed that with work, Twice a week in the gym combined with some good weekends on the bike would get me ready to race. This sounds easy but trying to work this in and around work is never easy, I have always been an early riser so we settled on a 7 am start on Tuesdays and Thursdays, “that's not early” I hear you say. This would be right if it weren’t for me living in Bath and Ben being based on the opposite side of Bristol. What this means for me is a 5 am wake-up, get ready then first train to Bristol followed by a 20 minute pedal to the gym! To say the first few wake ups were tough would be an understatement but the routine quickly sets in and you just get it done.
Having set up our Training schedule, Ben and I discussed my goals and plans for the racing season. I planned to compete in all the EWS European stages once again and hopefully make it out to Whistler and America if funds allowed. I told him I wanted to be consistently in the top 100 EWS and break to the top 80 on some stages. Making sure your goals are attainable is a must to keep focus and drive throughout the season, too high and you will get complacent and too low and you won’t reach your true potential. This is something I learned whilst at Uni and has really stuck with me over the years. I also wanted to keep a finger on the UK racing scene and so entered the Ard Rock enduro, one of the most iconic UK racing events around.
2019 Stage 2 - Evaluation
For the second stage of what is the preparation and planning process was testing and my physical evaluation. This is a series of tests and movements designed to analyse both your current fitness level as well as any potential instabilities and niggles you might have picked up from the previous racing season. The first of these was to test my range of motion (ROM), for the most part, my flexibility was all good but my ankle flexion was shocking. This is something I think has developed after many years riding clips and not stretching before rides. A key to riding bikes well is staying in a stable position, being able to drop your heels allows you to stay centred on the bike.
Skills To Pay The Bills
At the end of the day, you can be as fit as you like but if your skills don’t match then you won’t be going very fast nor will your riding be any good. From the past few years of racing, I have learned that a key to developing good skills and thus good riding is bike time. This may sound obvious but practice really does make perfect. I like to mix up my riding through the offseason, pretty much anything on wheels and I will be doing it or giving it a go. A relatively new to me is skatepark riding, having spent much of my younger years riding dirt jumps and downhill the concept of concrete floors and solid wood scared me.
My first outing was to Rush Skate park, this is an incredible park and one that works well on the Dirt jump bike. Even the smallest ramps or drop in’s become scary but I think that it really helps to build balance and general bike handling ability. I am by no means a pro, in fact, I am far from it but dropping in and trying to learn new tricks is great fun and is a great way to use your time if the weather is minging outside.
Another slightly more obscure wheeled hobby I have taken up is Skateboarding. I know, it doesn’t have two wheels or a set of handlebars but it really is great for your balance and another great activity to do if you have a spare hour or even 30 mins. Just learning to skate up and over ramps builds up your pumping technique and offers another axis which you have to learn to balance. It is worth noting with this that there is a high-risk element and I have already fallen over many times, my advice is to take it very easy and not take any unnecessary risks, it is for fun after all.
Of course, the best skills training of all is riding a mountain bike, it doesn’t matter if its DH or enduro or even XC, keep it fun and always try new things and push our boundaries. I like to always try and look at the trails and find fun challenges to try and complete, this not only helps with carrying speed into the chosen sections but also gets you thinking outside the box when it comes to line choice, something that is essential at the EWS.