We just received these photos and videos from Dirt Norco Race Team rider Jonathan Duncan. It is a behind-the-scenes racer’s look at traveling through Europe from one World Cup event to another and how it is to have a “home” on wheels.
Words, photos and video by Jonathan Duncan
Life on the world cup circuit can be quite challenging, especially if you are running your own program. For riders, there is good reason for the frustration of a poor race run, or not qualifying. Most spectators don’t see the months put into training and organizing all of the logistics and equipment. They also miss the hours and days of travel the week before.
For the Dirt Norco Race Team it’s about loading up the bus and setting out across Europe. Rolling into Val Di Sol for round 2 of the World Cup Circuit, the first order of business was getting the pits set up which revolves around #buslife. Their vehicle is not only the core of the pit but it also serves as the accommodation, the restaurant, the media center, the mechanic shop and the evening pub. The next three days are consumed with course walks, practice and bike tuning followed by more practice and bike tuning. The hope is that when your time comes, all the hard work you have put in during the off-season and these crucial days prior pay off and you lay down a clean and fast run. In a game of fractions of a second, one bad bounce can end your weekend. Things didn’t go as planned in Italy but it is time to put that aside and do it all over again, this time in fort William. First though, the pit must be packed up, bikes cleaned and bus prepared for the road.
Ben Reid is insistent on doing all the driving between the races. While other riders have since flown home for a few days rest, the Dirt boys stay in the road, living in the bus as they drive across Europe. it doesn’t take long with all the confusing detours and foreign streets to get behind schedule. This means there isn’t time to “stop and enjoy the view”. You learn to adapt your life and your body to the road. “It’s a fine balance” says Dirt Norco rider Duncan Riffle “You need to stay hydrated, but without time for pit stops you can’t be the guy holding up the bus”
By the numbers we are one bus (#buslife), one driver (Ben Reid), two days, four dudes, five countries to cross, and we are six hours behind! It’s truly incredible to see what these athletes go through. We are all aware of the amazing talents they have on a bike. We cheer and watch in awe as they navigate the worlds hardest trails in any condition at top form. To see what they go through leading up to those finals, puts a whole new perspective on it. With fewer beds than passengers, we take turns getting a little sleep here and there as we make are way from Italy to Scotland. That is of course unless you are Ben. “If I’m alive, I’ll drive” and “I’m here to steer” are popular phrases that his co-pilots all know and understand.
Even the best laid plans can have setbacks and our trip was no different. We had hoped after a very full day of driving and a second full day on the horizon, that a good nights sleep at the ferry was in the cards. Unfortunately we arrived at 2:30am, to a very busy customs line and immigration office. Barely alive at this point I remember the customs agent holding the stamp above my passport, asking across to the agent holding Duncan Riffle’s passport and saying “You ok letting these guys in?” A pause, then the reply “Ya, I’m ok if you are ok” !Stamp! and we were in. The ferry across to England was at 4:30 for time for a quick nap.
Just after 6am Ben was back behind the wheel and we were on our way. We had all be pushed pretty hard the previous day and with supplies and energy low, a side of the road stop was required. I’m sure we all could have slept the entire day, but with a 10 hour drive still to go another quick nap was all we had time for. The drive North went well, back on Ben’s “local” roads we made good time and arrived into Fort William around 11pm. With much needed showers and laundry facilities we were finally able to crash for a few hours of well-needed rest.
No time to linger, there’s a long list to do. First up is to stock the bus. As it is the heart of the pit, it doesn’t move until after the event. So it needs to be stocked for all the riders and support staff for the next 4-5 days. This isn’t just the shopping, but also topping up the gas that runs the stove and fridge. Making sure the batteries are all charged and the water tank is topped up. Plus the old girl has to look her best, so a spot to wash her up is also required.
Then, like the well orchestrated team they are, the pit gets set up. The maps come out and pieces are assembled and in no time their cozy home is constructed. It’s been an absolutely pinned three days with everyone running on very little. Space is tight, good food is hard to come by, let alone time for a XC or training ride. These athletes have found their own ways to cope with life on the bus. Small little touches that remind them of being at home, or the cup of tea in the middle of a long day that just soothes the mind. And now where all I want to do is lay low and rest, these guys have to put it behind them and focus on the task at hand, concurring Fort William. You’d never need to ask any of them “Why do you do it?” as it’s so easy to see the passion they have. This is their life, it’s what drives them its what they live for. This #buslife