Expert Cycle’s Harry Byrne is gearing up for his biggest season to date with the Dubliner committing to the entire 2020 Enduro World Series.
Despite never having ventured outside of Europe before, the reigning Gravity Enduro Ireland champion is preparing to travel halfway around the world with his Expert Cycles‘ Yeti SB150 to take on the world’s best Under 21 enduro riders in South America.
In true privateer style, the 18-year-old has been working hard during this winter off-season to make an EWS season a reality.
While managing his first year of Marketing studies at TUD/DIT, he’s put together a programme that will see him take to the start line for the series opener in Colombia in March, with round two the following weekend in Chile.
Although only having three rounds of the EWS under his belt during 2018 and 2019, his most recent result of 13th at last year’s finale in Zermatt, Switzerland has provided extra motivation to ensure he’s firing on all cylinders when dropping into stage one in a little over two months time…
Harry, with the EWS opener in Colombia closing in, what’s your thoughts on racing somewhere like South America for the first time?
Harry Byrne: “I can’t wait for it and I’m counting down the days until we go. It’s going to be a big start to the year because I’ve never been outside of Europe before, so travelling to somewhere like South America to race is going to be insane. The trails look unreal and it’s going to be a great life experience as well.”
How important is it for you to be on the start line at round one?
“No matter how the year pans out, being at round one is key for sure. With back-to-back races in Colombia and Chile it’s a huge undertaking to get there. But if I skipped them and started the championship when it came back to Europe and had good results then I’d regret not going. It’s a world championship after all – the best in the world will be at round one.”
Racing as a privateer around the world naturally comes at a cost, how tough has it been to find the funding to race?
“It’s definitely not easy – especially committing to races in South America. I have been working part time over the winter to save money, but my parents are my main financial support for the season. It’s a big financial commitment to race the EWS as a privateer and I couldn’t do it without them. If anybody would like to come onboard and help out that would be fantastic too.”
Racing the Enduro World Series is no mean feat physically. The days are long and often at high altitude too – how is your winter training going?
“I’m trying to keep as busy as possible and build up my base level of fitness to an EWS standard. Thankfully my XC background stands to me, so I don’t mind the grind and I’ve been clocking in some big spins with Garreth Davis too. Mixing up cyclocross, road and XC spins along with gym work has me feeling good. It’s been tough juggling it with college studies, but DIT have been proper supportive too. I’m on their Elite sports scholarship programme and also have access to a personal trainer.”
What lessons have you learned from previously racing the EWS that you can apply to 2020?
“I’ve only done three rounds of the EWS rounds over the last couple of seasons as I have been in school. Last year I rode the final round in Zermatt, Switzerland and it was a huge learning curve being with top class riders. What I took away from the race was just how long a race weekend can be – it’s a big event for the legs. Racing wise I know I am inexperienced at that level, but I am keen to learn a lot this season and try to show what I know I’m capable of.”
As the penultimate round of the series, Whistler is easily one of the most anticipated – are you looking forward to racing at the mecca of MTB?
“Whistler is one of the top mountain biking destinations in the world, so I can’t wait to get to ride all the trails there and to experience the place. Everyone says it’s like the mecca for MTB. There’s a long going on during that round, so it’s definitely a bucket list trip for sure.”
The EWS at Whistler is also famous for its ‘top of the world’ stage, have you thought about how to prepare for a stage like that?
“Yeah, the ‘top of the world’ stage is famous for being 25-plus minutes long. We just don’t have anything like that here in Ireland, so it’s going to be something completely new for me. I don’t think you can really prepare for it, you’ve just got to go race it. Twenty-five minutes is a long time to be racing, but it’s going to be unreal and I can’t wait. I’ll be digging deep into my XC reserves on that one for sure!”
Although the 2020 EWS venues are mostly unknown for you, have you set any goals for the season?
“Zermatt was the final round of the 2019 series and although it was my only EWS last year I still managed to get inside the top-15 with 13th. I had some top-10 stage times with sixth on stage one, but then I was 20th on the final stage five too. For 2020 I want to improve on my result from Zermatt, but also be more consistent too.”
Closer to home and on our Irish trails, do you think you can retain your Gravity Enduro Ireland title?
“I’d love to win the Gravity Enduro series again. It’s hard to beat racing at home and it meant a lot to me and for Expert Cycles to win that title. I’ll be giving my best to make it happen again.”
Finally, what support have you got for 2020?
“Expert Cycles in Rathfarnham and Silverfish are my main sponsors for 2020. Together they’ve helped me so much with bikes and gear for the full season. I’m going to be on the Yeti SB150 again. I raced it in 2019 – it suits me and is what Richie Rude is winning on in the EWS, so it’s definitely the bike to be on. I’m also on the TUD/DIT Elite Sports Scholarship, which is a huge help. Of course my family for supporting me in what I’m doing – it’s a real privateer effort, but hopefully I can repay them with some world-class results.”
If you want to get in touch with Harry about his 2020 race season, contact him on 087 4700520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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