Johnathan (Johnny) Helly, recently found himself in the starting gate of his first ever U-21 Enduro World Series (EWS).
The 17-year-old Kamloops-bred rider was calm and collected in his first four EWS races, finishing the first half of the season 16th overall in the U-21 EWS standings.
“I was hoping with the first block of racing to go over [and] learn as much as I can,” said Helly.
The impressive ranking would not come easily considering Helly had to battle back after two separate mechanical issues including a broken brake in the second Val di Fassa race and a popped tire in the first stage of La Thuile.
“Going into the first corner I pulled [the brake] and I think one of the seals must’ve blown up. All the fluid came out and I lost my back brake,” recalled Helly.
To boot, the stage was very muddy, adding more drama to the race.
“I was sitting between my frame and my back wheel, using my ass as a brake. I had to keep pulling up my pants with one hand to keep my shorts from dragging off,” he explained with a chuckle.
The loss of his back brake unfortunately resulted in a last place finish at that stage, but Helly battled back in following Val di Fassa stages.
“The next stage I came in being as positive as I could. I was running pretty conservative, not trying to push too hard and crash, just make it through and have a clean race and I pushed back up to 17th.”
More conservative riding followed in La Thuile after Helly had to plug up a flat tire and make sure it didn’t cause him any more trouble.
The tactic would pay off.
“I got sixth and eighth place on the last two stages that day. I was pretty pumped.”
Looking to improve on his position, Helly rode with confidence.
“I know my speed’s there to be in the top 10, but I’ve got some more learning to do.”
Helly explained his riding style is fairly aggressive, making it difficult to maintain throughout the day, especially on tracks that are unfamiliar.
“It’s different from Canada. We’re racing down hiking trails over there [that have] jankey corners, no berms, lots of rocks and it’s pretty wet over there too.”
While the courses weren’t exactly what Helly is used to, he attributed training on the Sun Peaks Bike Park trails as part of his success.
“The trails are super sick [in Sun Peaks]. You can just beat yourself up, after a full day up there, you’re pretty cooked and [simultaneously] pretty stoked.” explained Helly. “It’s like one of the only bike parks where there’s more than like three downhill trails where you can really work on speed while you’re fatigued.”
Helly said his three favourite runs to train on (in no particular order) are: Sugar, Behind Bars and Gnar-Boom.
Before the latter half of the season begins in Loudenvielle, France, on Sept. 6, Helly will look to gather inspiration from fellow Kamloops-based mountain biking athlete Catharine Pendrel while she races in the Olympics, and sit down with her husband (and Helly’s coach) Keith Wilson to improve his strategies.
“I’m pretty happy with getting in the top 15 [in the last race], but I got 13 [in the race before], so I know I can do better.”
Helly also pointed out he wouldn’t be able to be where he is today without his sponsors.
“I would like to thank We are One Composites, Vittoria Tires, Troy Lee Designs and Spy Optics for all of their support.”
To keep up with the EWS, go to https://www.enduroworldseries.com.