Spanish pro racer Iago Garay (Santa Cruz X SRAM Racing) has been on the EWS circuit since 2013. We caught up with Iago to find out how the sport has changed since then and how he manages to stay positive on even the toughest of days between the tapes.
EWS: You’ve raced the EWS since the very beginning of the discipline in 2013. What was it that drew you to the sport of enduro?
Iago Garay: I was a downhill racer at the time, but I had taken part in a number of ‘avalanche-style’ races which were done on normal trail bikes. So I guess you could say I’d been racing on enduro bikes before they were widely called that. When the EWS was announced, it felt like a very natural thing for me to try. I already had racing experience on my trail bike and I had a setup I was comfortable on.
I did one local enduro race, a Spanish cup, and then went straight into the deep end at the third-ever round of the EWS in Les Deux Alpes in 2013. There was a lot to take in and a lot to learn. I decided to give it another shot at round six of the year, in Whistler and had an amazing time.
EWS: At what point did you make the decision to pursue enduro over downhill? Was it a tough choice to make?
Iago Garay: At that point, I was placing roughly the same in both downhill world cups and EWS. I wanted to choose one discipline, to focus my training and commit to the full season. I didn’t really know what to do so I spoke to my sponsors, Santa Cruz Bicycles. They were really keen to get me out to all the EWS rounds, so I committed to enduro. I’ve raced every single EWS round since then.
EWS: How would you describe the progression of enduro since then, ten years ago?
Iago Garay: It’s been really cool to watch the sport grow from the inside. Enduro has become such an elite sport. The rules, the training, the bikes, the equipment… Everything has progressed so rapidly.
However, despite the growth of the sport and the increasing professionalism, the relationships between the racers haven’t changed. The spirit of just having a good time in the mountains is still there. Between the tapes, it’s go-time and everyone is competitive, but before and after everyone is cracking jokes, helping each other and sharing food and spares. That’s what makes it special. Even if it’s a really hard day of racing, it’s still cool to be out riding with your friends.
EWS: Have you had to adapt your skillset and training to match the progression of the sport?
Iago Garay: Back in the early days of the EWS, you just wanted to have a consistent day of racing. You didn’t want to be aggressive or risk too much as there were often multiple days of racing to survive. Nowadays, with mostly one-day races and shorter, more explosive courses, it’s a lot more intense.
EWS: If you could, would you make any changes to the current direction of the sport?
Iago Garay: That’s a tricky one. I miss the days when every race would be massively different to the next - as a rider who loves to explore the world and all the crazy new destinations we would go to, it kept it very exciting. So, to answer the question, maybe I would try to include some more new venues every year.
EWS: You seem to be a rider who’s always enjoying themselves at the races. What’s your key to keeping it fun at a race?
Iago Garay: Sometimes it’s tough to keep a positive attitude when you’re struggling at a race, but it only takes one funny joke or an amazing section of trail to get things back on track. I love riding my bike and I love riding in new places, so for me even being at a race is already a win.
EWS: Have you been able to bring that same mentality into the 2022 season? How have the races gone for you so far?
Iago Garay: Yeah! The first round in Scotland didn’t go great for me with some bad luck and a big crash, but I was loving the stages and the crowds so ended the day with a huge smile! I guess Ella’s win was a big part of that too… hahaha.
EWS: Next up we’re going to Whistler, which is a very familiar venue and one you’ve enjoyed in the past. What does it take to do well there?
Iago Garay: I love Whistler!! It is quite a different race from what we see in Europe. There is way more flow through the tracks, there isn’t that much hitting the brakes for tight switchbacks or flat corners. I would say the average speed of the tracks is higher so you need to be comfortable going really fast between trees. You also need to be able to read the terrain very well so you can find a smooth line where you can pump or get over the holes because the trails there are not smooth.
EWS: After Whistler, we have two brand-new stops in the northeast of the USA (Burke and Sugarloaf). Are you excited to race some fresh venues?
Iago Garay: As I have said before, what got me into EWS racing is all the fresh venues. I am super excited to check out the east coast of the USA and what these two new venues have in store for us. I feel it's going to be different to what we have raced in the past.
If you want to keep up-to-date with Iago as he travels the world to ride his bike then you can follow him on Instagram here.