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The Hardest Races of My Life - looking back on the first two Enduro World Cups of 2024

The Hardest Races of My Life - looking back on the first two Enduro World Cups of 2024

From sun, ice cream, and sea to a completely new venue with wet trails. The first block of Enduro Racing 2024 had a lot to offer.

For those who don't know me: I'm Joni Heitmann, 19 years old and now in my second year as part of the RAAW Mountain Bikes family. Last year, I traveled to the World Cups in Europe with the RAAW BC.Bike Gravity Team. This year, there have been some major changes, but one thing has remained the same: I'm still riding the most durable bikes in the bike industry. Newly set up with new sponsors, but with the same goal: to inspire people for mountain biking and enduro racing.

Unfortunately, the off-season was plagued by illnesses, so I spent a lot of time in the wet German homeland. This meant heading to the first EDR World Cup in Finale Ligure with only semi-optimal preparation. I was both full of anticipation and a bit unsure if the training had been sufficient.

For anyone who has raced in Finale Ligure, they know that it usually means very long and exhausting days on the bike. This time was no different: the race involved nearly 1.800 meters of climbing and over 60 kilometers. The training day already showed that race day would be tough. Even the transfer times during training were tight. Typical stages like DH Men or Base Nato ensured that I ended the training day with great motivation for the race the next day.

Rollout was scheduled for 9:30 AM, and the focus was clear: give everything to finish in the top 30 in the world. After Stage 1, it became evident that the transfer times were so tightly timed that my pulse probably wouldn't drop below 160 the entire day.

The heat in Finale was brutal. The race was the most exhausting one I've ever ridden. At the start of Stage 5 DH Men, it was time to gather all my strength and give it my all. I was completely drained but overjoyed when I arrived at the Piazza after six hours on the bike. I was super stoked to find out that I had finished the first World Cup of the season in 27th position. The new RAAW Madonna V3 is now among the top 30 in the world.

Then it was time to quickly grab an ice cream and pack up, as the schedule was super tight before heading directly to Poland for Round 2. After a roughly 17-hour journey, we finally arrived in Poland, specifically in Bielsko Biala. New place, new tracks, crazy fans, and a weather change – Poland had all this to offer.

We had a packed day between arrival and training. Next, I had to assemble the bikes, get my start number, and ideally rest my legs for an hour to start training refreshed. Bielsko Biala showed its best side, with fine trails, lots of rocks, but relatively flat tracks where it was not easy to maintain momentum. After training, it was clear to all of us that we needed to push hard here. I could still feel the traveling on race day, but that didn't stop me from giving it my all again. However, the pouring rain on the transfer to Stage 3 mixed things up completely. A root took me off the bike on Stage 3, but I knew I still had two more stages where I wanted to give everything again. Stage 5, the so-called DH track in Poland, was packed with fans who helped me push to my limits. Exhausted but happy, I again finished in 27th place with two top-20 stages. I’m super happy with the results so far!

With a solid 3rd place in the U21 German Championships in Willingen, the first major racing block came to an end. Now it's time to take a breath and focus on the third World Cup of the season in Leogang.

Words: Joni Heitmann

Photos: Boris Beyer

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