Swapping van life for a full factory ride with Team CRC Mavic, National Enduro Champion Kelan Grant is embracing 2018 as a Pro rider in the Enduro World Series.
Three rounds in and he’s cracked the top 40 but knows that with a little more consistency a place inside the top 20 is definitely on the cards.
Feeling good after his victory at Mt Leinster’s Gravity Enduro Ireland Series, we caught up with Kelan to talk life on the world stage and how a switch back to familiar 29 inch wheels has helped him find his flow…
Kelan, congrats on the Gravity Enduro Ireland Series win, was it nice to get back home for some racing at Mt Leinster?
Kelan Grant: “From Saturday to Sunday I was buzzing off the whole weekend. I always enjoy racing the Gravity Enduro Series as there’s always a good vibe and the events are a blast. That’s my favourite kind of racing — hanging out with your mates spending the day riding and enjoying the weekend’s craic. I rode pretty well to be honest but I also had a few too many crashes, so I was surprised to come away with the win. I thought Killian would have got me due to my crash on stage one. It was one of those ones where you end up straightening everything out before getting going again, so I must have rode well for the rest of the day to hang on for the win.”
You got the hammer down on stages 2-3-4 and pulled the time back. Was that what made the difference, staying strong during the mid part of the day?
“After stage one’s crash I knew I needed to get the finger out. I knew I wasn’t leading and charged hard on stage two. I actually crashed again on stage three on the last corner, but it was a really good stage up until that point so luckily I was pulling time on the lads. Keeping strong midday must have made the difference.”
Now three rounds into your first full EWS season, how do you see your season to date?
“Overall I’m pleased but results wise I’m not fully content with things, but that’s probably the racer in me. I guess you’re never content until you’re right up there. I had some bother at the series opener in Chile with a puncture and stuff, plus it was also my first race of the year. In hindsight I regret dropping into stage one in Chile as my first race stage of 2018. A bit more seat time would have helped. I’m trying to work on being more consistent as the season progresses. I know the race pace is there, it’s just a matter of doing things right and making every stage count to get that overall result, which will come.”
With the level so high in the EWS does that make mistakes more punishable?
“That’s part of what I’m learning in the EWS. The level is literally world class, so if you’re even just a couple of seconds off on a stage then you could drop 30 places, it’s so close. With the level so tight and fast, it makes it more of a challenge.”
Did finishing 11th in Colombia’s Urban Stage catch you by surprise?
“I wasn’t expecting that, 11th was awesome and just a milli-second off the top five too. I literally wanted to get down in one piece and be ready for the next day. But people started pulling time and going for it, so I left the line going for it too. It was a crazy stage coming down the staircases like that. Actually, it reminded me of the EWS in Carrick where the stage was completely lined with people and the track opened out in front of you as the crowds parted — it was a great experience.”
What’s it like on a full factory team like Team Chain Reaction Cycles Mavic?
“It’s definitely different from my previous life of living out a van. I loved living out of a van, being on the road and hanging with the boys, but being a part of a team like CRC brings that stress-free life. Everything gets taken care of and you can focus so much more on your riding. Travel is much easier and during a race weekend everything is better organised. Uplifts are sorted, track maps got and a fully-prepped bike is waiting for you each morning to ride. Now that I have a taste of it I don’t want to let it go.”
After starting out on the Nukeproof Mega 275 you recently switched to a Mega 290, why’s that?
“For rounds one and two in Chile and Colombia I rode the Nukeproof Mega 650B carbon but I wasn’t 100 per cent settled on it. The previous two years I raced the alloy framed Mega with 29” wheels because I found at over six foot tall that extra bit of wheel base and reach helps me a lot. After Colombia the opportunity to jump back on the 290 came up and I feel a lot happier with it now. I don’t think a 29er is the new wheel size to solve everyone’s problems but definitely the bigger bike works for me.”
As reigning National Champion it’s been cool to see you ride with an Irish sleeve on your jersey. Did you feel it was important to do so?
“It’s been an honour to ride with the sleeve this year. I think it looks well on my jersey and wherever I go it’s always a talking point with people. It’s good for the sport in Ireland too as I ride with it all around the world. It shows there’s a big scene in Ireland and one we care about enough to stick a sleeve on and represent.”
The National Champs are around the corner, 16/17 June, will you defend your title at Three Rock?
“I want to but I’m not 100 per cent sure just yet as I’m doing the EWS, Crankworx and some testing just before it, so I’m not exactly sure if I’ll be home to race. But if I can make it back I will be there to try and retain the sleeve. It’s going to be a big ask to win it again, especially on Greg Callaghan’s back door but I want to give it a good go.”
Finally what’s your goals for rest of the year?
“We’ve got five EWS rounds left and I just want to show what I know I’m capable of. At the start of year my target was break inside the top 20 and that’s what I’ll keep working towards. I know the speed is there to do it, I just need to work on consistency. I’ll keep chipping away at things and get into that rythym of being able to nail stage after stage. I know once I do that the results with come too.”