Find out how Nathan Watson is prepping for World Enduro Super Series glory
The British rider is raring to go for the new-for-2018 World Enduro Super Series, which brings the best off-road riders together in one championship.
In many ways, the WESS is the enduro series off-road racing has been crying out for: a hand-picked selection of the best hard enduro, classic enduro, cross-country and beach racing events from around the globe, with the cream of the current off-road crop set to compete at them. One unified championship, with the winner set to be the rider most able to adapt to different formats, different terrains and different bikes – basically, it's a hunt to find the world's best true all-round off-road racer.
The WESS has got off-road riders excited, even causing no less a rider than Taddy Blazusiak to put away his pipe and slippers, come out of retirement and sling his leg back over a KTM.
"When I first learned about the World Enduro Super Series, I knew I had to return," says Blazusiak. "This is the series I've been waiting for all of my career." Strong words.
One rider who's looking forward to testing his mettle against the world’s best is Nathan Watson. Following a successful transition from motocross to the Enduro World Championship in 2016, Watson will now be looking to broaden his riding skills even further, accepting the WESS challenge and, with it, preparing for his first ever hard enduro races.
RedBull.com spoke to the British rider to see how he's preparing for the World Enduro Super Series, and find out his feelings about the new unified championship.
First things first: do you think the WESS is a good idea in general?
Yeah, I think it's a great idea. I was doing the Enduro World Championship for the last two years and, to be honest, the championship's been struggling a little bit. They were losing riders, there weren't that many fans and it didn't really have a big following. I think something needed to change, and I think this idea is cool: to get one all-round guy who can do all these different types of enduro races. I think it will be interesting. Let's see how it goes.
How do you think you'll cope with the challenge of racing in all of these different formats?
To be honest, I don't really care what I'm going to race; I'm always going to race something and I'll always give 100 percent. I thought it was going to be a challenge to do these races, obviously, because I've never done a proper extreme race before so it's again something new to learn.
I moved to enduro from motocross, and I had to learn about that. I'd just got in the swing of things, and think that I could have maybe gone for a championship [in 2018], but now I'm going to change it up again. That's going to be tough, but hopefully I can stick at this and get good.
What event do you think's going to suit you best on the WESS calendar?
Definitely the sand race, Red Bull Knock Out. I've raced it the last two years and I've really enjoyed doing that race – it's one of my favourites. I always seem to go well there so that would probably suit me the best. Then the classic enduro races should obviously suit me, too.
And how about the Red Bull Hare Scramble. Are you looking forward to taking that on?
Yeah, definitely. I always watch it on the TV and it's a massive event, with a lot of spectators and a big party atmosphere so I'm looking forward to being a part of it. It's going to be tough to be really competitive straight away, because I have so much to learn, but I'll give it a good go.
And are you doing anything different with your training to prepare for it?
Yeah. Instead of having just one bike that I ride for the whole year, like I've done my whole career, now I'm going to have to have one bike to suit hard enduro races like the Red Bull Hare Scramble, and then a different bike for the beach race and another for the classic enduro rounds. It's going to be tough to get the bike training in at the right time and gel with all the bikes. Someone's going to have to really shine to come out on top.
Scroll down to see what bikes Nathan Watson will be riding at different WESS events.
Do you have any anxiety about the championship or any races you're worried about?
I definitely don't know what to expect from the hard enduros. I've never done one and I don't know how good those guys are. Obviously they've been doing it for years so they're going to be good, but I'm quite tall so I've got my stabilisers [laughs]. I ride a bit of trials as well, so I'm not too worried. As long as I do plenty of preparation, I should be fine.
Who do you think your key rivals are going to be in the WESS?
It's really hard to say, because obviously I've watched the hard enduro guys, but I've never seen them ride a modern enduro or motocross. I have seen Jonny Walker do the Weston Beach Race, and I've seen him on the motocross track, and he's a good all-round rider so he should be good. He's really good at the hard enduro as well so he's definitely going to be a big rival. After that, I don't know; we'll just have to see who comes out fighting and who's been working hard. It's going to be fun to ride against some new competitors that I've never raced against, like Taddy Blazusiak. It should be cool.
Is your aim to be fighting for the championship the first year?
Yes. We always go out there wanting to do well so I want to be competitive, not just making up the numbers. I'll train hard and do the best I can.
Nathan Watson reveals the arsenal of KTM bikes he'll be using for the World Enduro Super Series
As he mentions, Nathan Watson's used to spending a whole season riding just one bike. Now, though, he and his fellow WESS competitors will need to switch bikes throughout the year, depending on the type of event – meaning that his garage at home is going to be a sea of orange factory KTM machinery that would make any dirt bike fan drool.
"I'll have to ride a four-stroke for some races, then a two-stroke at others – completely different bikes," he says. "450, 300, 350; basically the whole KTM range!" Here's what Watson will be riding, and when.
Hard enduro – KTM 300 EXC TPI
Events: Extreme XL Lagares, Red Bull Hare Scramble, Red Bull Romaniacs, Red Bull 111 Megawatt
"Basically, any Hard Enduro will be on a 300cc two-stroke, I think. I'm not 100 percent sure, but that's the plan."
Classic enduro and cross-country – KTM 350 or 450 EXC-F
Events: Trèfle Lozérien AMV, Gotland Grand National
"I'm not sure which I'll choose yet, but any classic enduros will be on a 350cc or a 450cc four-stroke enduro bike."
Beach race – KTM 450 SX-F
Events: Red Bull Knock Out
"For the beach race, I'll be competing on a full motocross-spec 450cc four-stoke in order to have as much power as possible."