It’s a big weekend for 16-year-old Drew Armstrong’s young MTB career as he makes his Enduro World Series debut at round five in Italy. Building towards the world stage during 2018, the Mech Monkey rider has carded some notable results on the domestic scene, all while balancing his GCSE studies at school.
A highlight no doubt was claiming the Ulster Junior Enduro title at Rostrevor a few weeks ago, along with almost landing the overall win at the Gravity Enduro in Ticknock plus plucking a stage win from EWS regulars Kelan Grant and Killian Callaghan at Mt Leinster.
Regularly showing speed beyond his years, the teenager is now ready to see where he stacks up among the fastest Juniors in the World. With three EWS rounds planned for 2018 — Italy, Spain and Italy — we caught up with Drew to chat all things EWS and winning that Ulster title…
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Drew, your EWS debut is just around the corner, are you feeling up for it in Italy?
Drew Armstrong: “Round five’s La Thuile in Italy will be my EWS debut and I can’t wait. It’s going to be unbelievable and a lot to adjust too. My goal is to treat it as a learning curve and enjoy it all. I’m young, I’m still only 16 years old, so if anything I just want to see what it’s all about and what I need to do to step up to that level with the aim of hopefully doing more races in 2019.”
Renowned for big days of riding at the EWS, will it be tough to piece together a complete weekend?
“I’m a little nervous about the big days and milage ahead — especially altitude. We just don’t have anything like that at home, so you could struggle for air on the climbs. But I’m looking forward to the challenge and excited to give it a go — it’ll be a cool experience.”
The speed is definitely there having taken a stage win from guys like Kelan Grant and Killian Callaghan earlier this year at Mt. Leinster. Does that help with the confidence side of things?
“Yeah, it’s a big confidence boost to run with those guys, but you must also remember that Irish stages aren’t as long as what’s on the world series and so the times will always be closer. But of course it’s always nice to be up there and beating some of the top guys in the world — it’s good for the confidence. I’ve also got a lot of pointers from Kelan too. I’ve been out for spins with him and he’s been helping me get a handle on things for the EWS, which is awesome.”
Of course as the new 2018 Ulster Junior Enduro Champion it’s a great way to kickstart the second half of the year?
“It’s definitely nice to have that in the bag again. I came into Rostrevor hoping for a title and I was pretty happy to win the Ulster Junior title. It was a little bittersweet because Jack Devlin put 30 seconds into me to win our Under 21 class and also the overall Ulster title, but I’m happy with how I rode. He was just ‘on it’ and I’ll take it on the chin.”
Conditions were pretty exceptional at Rostrevor, hot and dry, which I’m sure bodes well for Italy?
“I hope so. The weather was hot, which made the steep climbs tougher but it was all good training for Italy. You were gasping up the climbs and then looking for some shade at the top to flake out in for five minutes before hitting the stages. It definitely wasn’t like usual Irish conditions.”
Finally, given that it was also an exam year for you are you surprised by your form this year?
“I was at the beginning of the year with it being my GCSE year at school too because I haven’t been able to do as much training as I would have liked to. So it’s kind of been a big surprise to me that I’m still competitive and up at the sharp end of the results. Overall I’m happy enough with where I’m at but now that my exams are out of the way I can get get my head down, train a bit harder and hopefully improve my results further.”
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Enduro World Series Info
Round five’s Enduro World Series takes place in La Thuile, Italy this weekend, July 21/22. Riders have got six big stages split over two days. Total length is 67 kilometres with a massive 6000m ascending matched with a colossal 6000m of descending – aka the fun stuff.