The E-EDR race season is in full swing with three rounds already done and dusted for the 2023 race season. The Yeti Shimano EP Racing team has been firing on all cylinders this season with Mick Hannah finding his flow and managing a 2nd place at the second round of the EDR-E World Cup series in Leogang-Salzburgerland.
To add to the success, the Yeti Shimano EP Racing team officially welcomed Ryan Gilchrist at the beginning of the 2023 season, taking the place of 2022 team rider, Keegan Wright. At just 21 years old, Ryan is already hitting the elite e-enduro scene hard with consistent top 10 finishes, and notably a 6th place overall finish and a stage win at the most recent round of the EDR-E World Cup in Val di Fassa Trentino. Ryan is already proving to be a new force on the EDR-E scene, and even validated his e-enduro success with a strong 6th place finish at the EDR World Cup in Maydena earlier this season.
We caught up with Ryan during this mid-season downtime for some Q&A to learn about how he is liking the new team and how he adapting to e-bike racing.
This is your first year racing E-bikes, how’s it been going, and why did you decide to make the switch to e-bike racing?
I was given a very unique opportunity to join the Yeti Shimano EP racing team for 2023 and I’ve really been enjoying the process of developing the motor and learning the new format. Dedicating myself fully to E-Bike racing has seen massive growth in all areas of my riding. My program has been really fun because not only do I get the full support of a pro racing season in Europe on E-bikes but I also get to race some other events around the world including Crankworx, Sea Otter and even some Regular EDR races in Australia. Its been a lot of fun and I’m super happy with my decision to join this team.
Overall, how do you think the first race block of racing has gone?
So far each race has improved one by one. There have been some things holding me back from getting the best result possible like crashes and minor mechanicals but this is all a part of racing and I am working towards getting the perfect formula to racing to the best of my ability.
What is your advice/suggestions to other racers who race enduro regarding the choice of racing e-bikes or regular bikes?
Racing E-bikes is has a lot in common with regular enduro but also has some key differences. The main takeaway for me is that the field may be smaller but the depth of talent in the top 10 is phenomenal, featuring some of the most decorated racers in history on the cutting edge of technology. The most fun bit has been getting to know my idols and becoming friends with the people I’m racing against. I never thought I’d be talking to these guys let alone cracking jokes with them at the top of the stages.
How has it been joining the Yeti Shimano EP Racing Team? Is the world-class support intimidating or does it feel natural to have so many people working on the team?
Working with Yeti and Shimano has been an eye-opening experience in seeing how far companies will go to develop their tech at the highest level. Being the test subject for such an advanced program is an honor and the professionalism of the 2 giants (Yeti and Shimano) is perfectly balanced with a fun family atmosphere that perfectly blends to make me feel at home and ready to perform at the highest level.
Being a young rider still learning your way into being a winning racer do you enjoy working on the development side of the e-bike or are you more concerned with trying to figure out how to go fast?
I believe developing the E-bike and going fast go hand in hand. I love working with the engineers and giving feedback to make the bike as fast as possible. Once the engineers have done their magic to make the machine as fast as possible, it's up to Mick and I to make the bike go even faster.
Your teammate Mick Hannah is literally one of the most experienced riders currently racing bikes today. How is it having Mick as a teammate? What is the dynamic between the two of you at the events?
Mick is the first proper teammate I’ve ever had and I’m confident I’ve gone straight to the best on the first go. We have become good friends and his mountain of knowledge combined with my fresh eyes work really well on the track to make each other go faster. I do feel like I’ve got an advantage having him as a teammate, not just having his knowledge of E-bikes to learn from but also how to navigate being a professional Mountain biker.
What do you think of the power stages?
I love them. They’re my favorite part of the races and they're where I perform the best. I’ve always loved tech climbs so doing it for a living is awesome.
With a pretty big break until the last two races, without giving away too much, what are some of the things you will be working on between now and then?
Shimano is always pushing the limits so In the mid-season we’ll be continuing our exciting work on making the fastest Ebike in the world. I’ll be training like crazy and going to Crankworx in Whistler.
What’s your advice based on your experience with riding the yeti e-bike to someone who is considering getting a new e-bike?
The Yeti 160E descends as well as the SB160 and is better in some spots. This bike kills the notion that E-Bikes are heavy and hard to handle. Its a win-win situation where you crush the climbs and dominate the descents.
Do you want to encourage people to race e-bikes?
E-bikes are an amazing tool for getting more time riding the bike. I can confirm that it’s very possible to get a workout in that is just as good as a regular bike but instead of getting to the top of the hill once, you get there five times. Racing is just the same. You get more time descending and the added bonus of power stages in the truest test of bike handling. If you get the chance, Give it a go.
What is like to have Shimano engineers and the MTB product manager at every event?
Having the engineers and managers from Shimano at all the races sounds scary on paper but once I got to know them, I realized they're super cool, passionate people who are as dedicated to winning as I am. I really enjoy spending time with the team at team dinners and in the pits and it's super special to work with the geniuses from Japan who make Shimano possible.
What’s your highlight and lowlight so far during the EDR-E season?
The highlight of the season so far was crushing the power stages in Finale. It was my first time ever racing a power stage so I was really nervous and had no idea how I would go. I was 0.8 seconds off winning both power stages so I’m hoping I can put together a perfect run and get a win this year.
haven't Had many Lowlights but my crash in Val Di Fassa on the first stage was quite frustrating and cost a lot of time. But that Lowlight fueled the fire to kill the next 2 stages so there are positives to be found everywhere.
Mick Hannah is the local legend on the Yeti Shimano EP Racing team, and since this is his second year with the team and on the EDR-E World Cup Circuit, we also caught up with Mick to get some insight on how things have progressed since the start of the program.
What are a few of the big differences with this new season compared to last year?
It’s actually blown my mind to see how much progress we’ve achieved in the bike in the last year. Coming into this project I wasn’t sure how much difference could be made “just” in the firmware, but it’s been huge. I’ve had to learn to think way outside the box when requesting characteristics from the drive unit and auto shift. We’re getting to a place where the drive unit and Di2 are very good at supporting us at the World Cup level of riding.
How has it been having a new teammate on the roster?
Ryan has been an incredibly valuable addition to the project. He’s motivated and very analytical which is a huge help for me in the R&D process. We’re able to bounce ideas off each other and really help lift each other to a higher level.
You had your best overall finish in Leogang a few weeks ago, how did that all come together for you?
After the Finale race I had a good training week and started to feel my energy coming back. I also tried some different things with bike setup. I am also still learning how to race enduro. I made some changes which I think helped quite a lot. There were some parts of the course that suited my style, but I also had good results on stages that I expected to have a harder time with based on my history so that was encouraging.
What did you learn from a challenging 3rd round in Canazei?
In Canazei I really tried to implement the things I’d learned from Leogang. I was feeling great on the bike and fairly good physically. I just made 2 simple mistakes that ended up being very costly. I’m really happy with how I rode overall even though it’s so disappointing to have a bad race. Again, I had some better results on stages that would usually be a weakness for me so I’m feeling very encouraged going into this next 2 months of training before the last 2 rounds.
What is your advice to others that are interested in racing e-bikes?
Do it! It’s been such a fun experience for me to learn how to race a new sport with a new type of bike. The e-bike adds a lot of really interesting elements to the racing!
What are some of the things regarding your bike set up that has surprised you?
It surprised me to see how much we could get out of the drive unit with rider feedback and the engineering team modifying the firmware. I now know we have a strong and reliable drive unit that is also tuned to perform at a very competitive level.
What power assist settings are you using while racing and on liaisons?
We have fine tune mode which means we are able to choose up to 15 power assist settings. I personally have mine setup with 6 assist modes. 3 for race stages and 3 for liaisons. I liaise in 2 or 3 most of the time. 3 is a little higher power so if I have plenty of battery to play with I’ll use 3 and if I’m running low on battery I will go to 1. So far I only use 6 in any timed stage. Climbing or enduro style. 4 and 5 just have the edge taken off a little in case there’s ever a scenario where that’s needed.
With a pretty big break until the last two races, what are some of the things you will be working on between now and then?
There are a few things I’ll be working on physically to prepare for the end of the season. I am feeling confident so I want to continue to push into that. As far as the bike goes we are always pushing for improvement and we will be testing a few of the new ideas we learned over the last 5 weeks.
Stay tuned as the Yeti Shimano EP racing team hits the final few rounds of the EDR-E.