SHE’S GOT FIGHT
Anyone who was there will agree, the women’s race that afternoon was the most electrifying of the whole event. That simply doesn't happen in womens’ enduro, there’s never the white heat – but with Emma in full attack the crowd were treated to a real roller coaster ride.
It helped, contradictorily, that she fluffed her start.
“My first thoughts going around the first corner were o-oh I’ve not started well, I’m going to have to catch up now, this is it, I can’t restart I’ve got to pick them off. I hadn’t been expecting to do a start like that. It’s something I’ve got to learn. First start I’d got a holeshot. But for that second race I think nerves did it for me, I was quite wound up, nerves wise. Maybe there was a bit of adrenaline too, they go together.”
Her fight back took the crowd’s hearts for one hell of a ride. Emma might be a trials rider but she’s got ‘racer’ right through her. She attacked the course, she attacked the other riders, leaving nothing on the table, it was total commitment. It was breathtaking to watch. Clearly this is what women can do when they have the strength and mindset Emma brought. Emma was quite forthright about where that fight came from.
“When you’re at the top of a sport you have some kind of a motivation and I’ve got that, if you want something you can’t just sit back. So I am naturally quite aggressive, I’ve got strength too. For a girl I’m strong.”
Her commitment involved risks and she was taking a few each lap, not all of them paid off and time and again she crashed to earth.
“Out there I had to take calculated risks. You don’t want to hurt yourself, I can’t count the amount of people who rang me up and said ‘don’t hurt yourself’ before I did this. But it’s difficult not to, you’ve just got to try and not put yourself into situations which are dangerous.”
And so the laps counted down and despite her crashes Emma was picking herself up, unfazed and her energies seemingly undiminished, and going again. When she caught sight of her nemesis, Laia, it was almost as if Emma hit overdrive, attacking even harder. Of all the places she could have attacked Emma picked the toughest, the Matrix. Jumping feet up from log to log she drew alongside Laia at the last log, maybe got half a bike ahead before her Sherco slid out from under her dumping her unceremoniously on the ground, her bike on top of her.
The crowd’s cheers had grown louder and louder as she’d closed on Laia turning euphoric as she overtook – everyone on their feet – then turned to that totally unconscious ‘ooooh’ as she fell.
“Before that race I didn’t think I’d hear the crowd’s cheers, but I did and they were replicating exactly what my heart was doing. When they were screaming my heart was racing.”
Incredibly Emma came back again, catching Laia another lap later just before a tractor tyre obstacle. For both the way was blocked by two fallen riders. When finally a lane was cleared Emma sportingly gave Laia first go. When Laia struggled Emma jumped up too, but with the Spaniard blocking her way she fell backwards. It was one tactical error too many. Laia got going again and Emma had to untangle her mess before having another go only to tangle with yet another rider.
“You do lose a lot of energy when you have to pick the bike up and start it again. Mentally it was frustrating, too, but I thought I’ll keep battling. It was only after that last crash on the tyres with about a lap and half left that I knew I wouldn’t catch her. By then we’d all bunched up behind the crashed rider and Jane (Daniels) had caught me. My own lead was gone on everyone else so I had to be careful from that point on not to make any mistakes. What I’ve got to learn as well is that it’s a race and not to respect anybody, because they don’t respect you. It’s a bit different in trials. I’ve never thought that before, but if someone is in your way you can soon have them down on the floor!”
Jane Daniels, probably a bit fresher for not having crashed so often, actually passed Emma in the last half lap, but Emma – probably with nothing left in the tank – still found something to fight back with and found her way back into second within ten yards of the finish. Emma was exhausted. The crowd were exhausted.
“I was pleased with second, but a little bit gutted at the same time because I was so close. If someone had offered me second beforehand I’d have snapped their hand off! But when you’re in that race situation and its so close and it so easily could have been a win – well, then again it could have been a fifth...!”