Hannah Bergemann’s First EWS

Words by Kona Supreme, Hannah Bergemann

I successfully finished my first EWS at Whistler last weekend. It was such a cool experience to ride and race with some of the world’s best in one of the best places!

Some highlights of the weekend started with practice on Friday and Saturday. I got to ride some amazing and classic Whistler trails in the bike park and in the valley with people from all over the world. Some rain on Saturday evening made for some tacky dirt and helped hold off the dust for the race.

Race day started with a pedal through the village over to the Blackcomb trails. I was nervous about making my start time and pedaled maybe a little too quickly up the steep road to Microclimate for stage 1. I rode conservatively on this stage with my nerves running pretty high, but rode clean and relatively smooth for such a technical trail.

Stage 2 brought us back up the road to Crazy Train, an even steeper, gnarlier version of stage 1, with more than a few big moves. I felt like I rode my best on this stage, passing a few people and riding clean on all the big features.

After pedaling around Lost Lake and getting stuck in a long line for the Creekside gondola, I rushed over to stage 3 and made my start time with a few minutes to spare. Stage 3 on Delayed Fuse was a bit of a contrast to the previous stages with some steep chutes and greasy roots. I made a few mistakes and ended the stage with a slightly crooked brake lever after a minor tumble in some wet roots.

After a short transfer, I started down stage 4. This stage had a bit more flow, a lot more pedaling than previous stages. I finished completely out of breath but had a clean run.

For the last stage, I took 3 different lifts and gondolas to get to the Top of the World. This stage started us across a suspension bridge hanging across two peaks. The final stage was expectedly brutal, descending 5500 feet from the Top of the World to the bottom of the bike park, and I was definitely low on steam at the end of the day. The top of the stage is basically a 3.5 mile long rock garden. After descending that, we still had to descend another 3000 feet all the way down the bike park (through some rather bump filled, dusty and blown out trails) to the base of the park where we started. When I finally finished the race, I had to peel my hands from the handlebars.

I ended up placing 25th overall, a solid midpack finish for my first EWS. My bike was running great all weekend despite taking some serious abuse on all the Whistler trails. Thanks to everyone for all the support this season!! Looking forward to trying some more big races next season!

Kona Riders Tackle Crankzilla at the Whistler Round of the EWS

The World Enduro Series rolled into Whistler for round six of the eight round series and its sole North American stop for 2018 and only its second dry race of the season! Four of the previous five rounds have been wet, muddy and miserable events, for this round it was the reverse, with BC in a bit of heatwave the was no moisture, mind you, the lack of moisture didn’t mean there was going to be anymore traction, the dust-covered roots and rocks proving just as treacherous as slimy Austrian roots. With Rhys Verner still out with a healing scaphoid, it was up to Kona Global Enduro Team Riders Alexander Kangas and Scott Countryman to represent and fly the Kona flag. Kona Supreme Hannah Bergemann had made the trip up from Bellingham and young 18-year-old Sunshine Coast enduro ripper Lucy Schiek was also in attendance.

Last year Alex’s Whistler EWS ended as quickly as it started, two minutes into stage one, a mechanical stopped him in his tracks and ruined all hopes of even finishing the stage. He was hoping for the exact opposite this year. His season leading up to the event has been his best EWS so far, despite a rough start and a DNF at the last round due to a mechanical, he was starting this event just outside of the top 30 pro men in 36th place.

Thursday and Friday were practice days and Alex decided that knocking off the 20+ minute Top of the World stage was a good place to start. Unlike last years raw TOTW stage, this year used a ton of bike park trails which meant for more holes and braking bumps but a little more flow. Saturday he hit up the remaining stages one through four, some which were located outside of the bike park. These were shorter more technical stages but according to Alex “It was clear that the final stage was still gonna have a huge impact in the overall result for race day.”

Race day for Alex was real mixed bag “After the climb up to stage one I just felt so fatigued, I had absolutely zero energy going up.” Turns out though, even with a crash on the stage, he did have something in the tank, finishing the opening stage in 26th place. Stage two started after the same steep fire road climb as stage one and his result on that was not quite as good, crossing the line a few places back in 34th due to a small crash.

Stage three was a favorite for most of the field during practice, Alex included. His race run reflected this with another top 30 stage finish, this time in 26th place. He was now sitting in 28th after the first three stages. With no energy left, the flattish and pedal heavy stage four really took its toll and it was here that he slipped out of the 30’s and finished in 40th. With just the monster stage five remaining he set off towards the very top of Whistler. The jugling act of finishing with your bike in one piece, and not making silly mistakes meant the Alex would ride the final stage conservatively. “I just went to slow on that one, tried to conserve my energy which had me settle for 43rd on that stage and 37th overall. It was not the best race for me but seeing that I didn’t even finish last year it was still OK”

Scott Countryman, much like Alex, has been having a great season, mixed in with a couple of results marred by mechanicals. Fresh off a solid 6th place at the Aspen Big Mountain Enduro just over a week ago, Scott, a Whistler virgin, made the trek up from his base in Arizona and got straight into it spending his first day in paradise sampling some of Whistler Valleys subline single track.

Day one of practice was a bit of a wake-up call, he’s not a fan of bike parks and after his amazing first day outside of the park, the lower half of stage one was a rude awakening. “The trails in the park were extremely rough and blown out. When it came time to practice the Top Of The World stage I was feeling a little better about things but was quickly put down in the dirt. Going pretty fast, I came over a blind rise and found myself on the bad line in a rocky left turn. No big deal, just a few scrapes and sore spots, but I couldn’t get back on my game after that.”

Day two of practice had him feeling much better about things. With the two first stages being outside the bike park and being more of the raw natural terrain Scott prefers. “They are still extremely rough but I found a little bit of flow on them.”

On race day Scott’s first stage was going great until a few turns from the finish, he found a wet boggy section and ended up on the ground. Unsure how the crash even happened he was shaken. The second stage was probably the hardest of the weekend for Scott and the one he the struggled most on. There were bomb holes and ruts covering the entire course; many of which were not there in practice. “It took everything I had to stay on my bike and I succumbed to the trail eventually, blowing off the trail in a rough rooty turn ending up tangled in my bike.”

“Things started to smooth out on the third and fourth stages and found a little bit of flow but still couldn’t get up to pace. The last stage was the mother of all stages; 11km and 1500m of descending. I needed to pace myself to make it down smooth and clean but I went a bit too far and finished with more energy than I should have. My bike rode perfectly all day but I couldn’t match its performance.”

Scott would finish the day in 69th position.

18-year-old Lucy Shieck is a Grassroots Kona racer based on BC’s Sunshine Coast, she has been having an awesome season locally with a bunch of podium finishes. Coming into this, her first ever EWS event, her goal was to have as much fun as possible, and it looks like she certainly did that! “I felt fast on the bike and by the time I made it to the bottom of stage five all I wanted to do was go up and race it again I had so much fun. I was super stoked to take second at my first ever EWS and to share it with two other Canadians made it even better. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me this season, it has been incredible!”

Whistler Opening Weekend

This past weekend was the big kickoff of bike park season with the opening of the Whistler Bike Park! Those of us at Kona USA and our Canadian offices are fortunate enough to live within just a short drive of the park, so it was a no-brainer for the dedicated downhillers to make their way through the throngs of traffic and people to sample a bit of some of the best trails on earth. However this year, the crowds and traffic were absent. Whistler’s new policy is to run the chairs until 8pm every single day. This helped keep the crowds at a manageable pace since people were able to space out their riding.

I arrived at 2pm on Friday and was still able to easily crack off double-digit laps on my favorite trails: Joyride, Schleyer, Clown Shoes, Detroit Rock City, and Lower Whistler Downhill (I have a thing for rock slabs.) The dirt throughout the weekend ran the gauntlet of conditions: dusty and dry on Friday, a river after the monsoon of Saturday, and perfectly tacky hero megarad (insert buzzword) dirt on Sunday.

If there’s one thing I took away from the weekend it’s that downhill is not dead! Dual crown forks were everywhere and Operators were happily flying over the A Line Tombstone jump and ripping around freshly sculpted Canadian Open berms. The park has undergone a few changes from last season including a revamped Longhorn trail, which is chock full of super flowy berms. More changes can be expected, including an additional jump line sure to get the Dirt Merchant/A Line crowd hyped up.

Did you make it to the park this weekend?

Sophie’s New Bike Day and First Trip to Whistler Bike Park!

At Kona, employees don’t have company cars, but they gave me a staff bike, which is more expensive than my car in France. Not too bad.

Photos and words by Sophie Bossier.

I’ve been an intern at Kona, in B.C., for two weeks now. In last week’s article I told you about the advantages of working in the bike industry. At Kona, in particular, I have the privilege to take any bike I want, when I want, for my weekend rides or as a commuter bike. But the bikes I really love are the downhill bikes.

As the opening weekend at the lift-accessed bike park in Whistler approached, Kona suggested I take a staff bike, which was thrilling for me. I could choose any one, and – of course – I chose an Operator, in my favorite color, which I will be able to bring back to France. After a few weeks’ riding I’ll do a brief review of my feelings and experiences with my Operator. Don’t hesitate to follow my futures articles if you have interest in this bike!

Whistler Mountain Bike Park is like Disneyland for riding enthusiasts. Everything is bigger, higher – more trails, more jumps, more thrills. The trails are considerably more maintained than our French ones, and it feels good to ride on smooth and well-shaped trails.

There are trails for every taste. For big jumps, speed, and big thrill enthusiasts, go ride and whip the A-Line. For girls like me, who are afraid of these crazy riders who do backflips and ride the A-Line without braking at all, Crank-It-Up is for you! Anyways, if you like rock gardens, roots, berms… you’ll find your paradise here.

And I’m not talking about the village, the center of Whistler. It’s so huge. Shops, everywhere. You have both stereotypes: the first one is the girl who loves shopping, and the second is the girl rider who always wants new bike gear. Now, imagine me in Whistler’s streets – for once, my boyfriend is not reluctant to accompany me on my shopping.

After a season in Whistler, I will have tried so many different kinds of trails that I will be able to ride everywhere – or at least, I hope. I have a real desire to improve my skills. And from my weekends in Whistler, my daily rides during the weekdays, and my work at Kona, I live bike, I think bike, I work bike, I dream bike. It’s crazy – and it’s a change compared to my weekly ride when I was in France. One thing is certain: when I return to France, nothing will ever be as it was.

My Work at Kona Bikes

In last week’s article I told you about my colleagues. I work closely with the marketing team. But what’s marketing, you may say? The marketing team here at Kona works on a wide variety of different projects. On the surface level, you would be able to see that they manage the Cog blog, where I am publishing my articles, as well as Kona’s global social media channels. They write and photograph and make videos throughout the year, and also do communication for employees, dealers, and customers. They answer all of your requests too. And many other things I will discover in the next few months.

On a daily basis, I help them on the social media and the blog. With my fran-glish, it’s a little bit complicated, but some of my posts are liked by more than 3,000 followers, it’s not too bad. I have fun playing with Kona’s Instagram: I can test and learn with an account followed by more than 80k followers. I enjoy that lot!

My Most Important Work

Then, the most important part of my work for these first weeks is to translate in its entirety the writing for the 2018 website into French. It’s super cool and one of the perks here is that I can have a look at all the new models for 2018, which makes me dream, sweet!

But don’t get me wrong, translation is not an easy job! Even if I’ve done a lot of translation in my studies at school, it’s always more difficult when it’s the reality, for a real website, and it’s complicated. For example, how do you translate singletrack, or shred, or flat mount into French? If you have an answer, I would be pleased to receive it, haha.

In English, one word can mean a lot of things. In French, we like to describe things precisely. For one word in English, you’ll have sometimes six or seven words in French. As a result, to maintain the same number of words in accord with the room dedicated for it on the website, you have to make some choice, or sometimes change the sentence completely to keep the main idea in a different sentence.

In a nutshell, you will understand the website, so enjoy it – maybe even be a bit indulgent. It will be nice that your 2018 Kona website will be translated into French and German and Spanish. You’ll be able to spend even more time on it to read the description of your favorites bikes, in your language.