Monday, June 30, 2008

Passportes. Big Crashes and Physical, Moral and Mental Breakdown

Day 15 – Passportes. Big Crashes and Physical, Moral and Mental Breakdown

We got Craig from Geneva airport on Friday, faily uneventful other than the van went under the 2m signs with barely an inch to spare. Again, good job I got it lowered. Heres Craig assembling\fettling his bike (watch those torque settings cocker!) and Gaz drinking and applying a tubeless repair to his tyre, whilst drinking booze.

We rode all day Saturday, here are Craig and Gaz cooling down in the water butt on the way to Morzine, we went over to the Chatel bikepark and did a few blue runs. Good trails all round. The Passportes was on, and some of the lifts were busy, our first one held up for sometime by this tandem:

Wheres Gaz?

Subplot – Episode 7 - Daz and his Wheel
My turn for wheel\tyre hell, when I punctured (tubeless mind) in a very similar way to Gazs on Friday. Basically it looks like a snakebite with a hole in the tread area, and one near the bead. I persevered and managed to get it to seal after a few stops to put air back in. The rim (DT Swiss EX1750, basically a DT Swiss 5.1) was also dented, so possibility that these tales of 5.1s being made of fromage are true. Mavic for me from now on. The tyres in Gaz and my case are the 2.35 70a UST High Rollers, they are labelled as an XC tyre, so I guess the carcass of the tyre is thinner than the 2.5 ones. Won’t be using them again in the Alps anyhow.

Then the slog back to Morzine through the rooty muddy section I remember from last year. The fast red run down to Morzine was littered with folks doing the Passportes, and it was overtake mania, not to mention very dusty and dangerous at times due to not being able to see a thing doing 30mph or so (more of this later)
However, we have learned that the way Gaz gets to do this non-stop without a break is that he isn’t human at all, but in fact a T2000 android, Hunter model. He literally hunts down anyone in front of him, his passing moves are something to behold….
Craig got sunburnt, the weather was amazing again. I was annoyed because I had tried to clean my camelback bladder with minimal success, and then managed to loose the bite valve. I struggled all day with bottled water and Powerades, but its nowhere near as good as having it on tap. So, I walked down to Les Gets in the evening down the 4X track and managed to find a Camelbak Mule with a 3L reservoir for 60 Euros, which I purchased then headed to the Irish bar for a beer.

We set off at 7:30am to get registered for the Passportes. This was the maiden outing for my white-is-the-new-black bling-o-tronic outfit, as seen here, watch your eyes…..:

We blasted over to Morzine in double quick time, getting over there in about 33 minutes – 10 of which were spent on the Chavannes lift going up. As Craig said, we were like a pack of wolves hunting down poor slow passporte entrants, mostly scaring them to death I think.
There was then a bit of a queue at the Super Morzine lift, but once at the top of that we were away, only stopping just before the descent to Les Linderets to admire a particularly kamikaze fall by a rider just after the first drop in. We blasted along here, overtaking where we could, and sometimes possibly where we shouldn’t, but its so much fun. Not something I have quite got the hang of yet, but good practice for Mega.

Subplot – Episode 8 - Daz and his Wheel
Just entering Les Linderets, my wheel decided to loose all its air from the hole in the bead again. At least it didn’t blow out on a fast descent. Most of the wheel milk had gone by then, so not much chance of it re-sealing. So off to the lovely Mavic truck again, to use his compressor to finally fit downhill tube. Yes it’s the future folks, tubes all the way. I had to do all the work myself, I am sure if it was a Mavic rim the Mavic mechanic would have done it for me. Buy Mavic!

We had a round of beers here, as you do.

We also saw the oldest man on a bike, replete with neck brace – go baby! We got over to Chatel via some more quick riding in loose gravelly conditions, as ever a massive plume of dust following us. Heres Gaz and Craig enjoying a spiced sausage sandwich and a beer in Chatel:

Into Switzerland, the riding seems to be primarily on roads or tracks, no single track. So we are bombing as usual, with the usual suspects blocking our lines riding much slower. “Captain Croc” was one of these, he had a crocodile on his handlebars, a bright yellow goretex jacket on (it was probably 30 degrees), and one of those ridiculous Met Parachute helmets on. You know, one of those “might as well tape some lolly sticks onto my face for all the use this chin guard is” jobs. So hes passing us on the many road climbs, and we’re bombing him on the descents. At the next lift, we decided to try and get in front of us for some reason. Anyway he didn’t. But I think karma may have been watching, because just after the lift there are a couple of fences with little ladder things to ride over (they stop the livestock escaping) – I hit the second one at an angle and flew over the handle bars BANG! Winded. Ouch. Captain Croc passes us again.

Around this time we were gunning some more loose gravelly dusty roads, riding along side some MBR journo types. Anyway, Craigs pretty much writing for them by this point, and Hunter steps it up and goes bombing off, with Craig then me in tow. The MBR guys looking smooth as you like on his Intense 6.6. Things are getting scary fast on these loose roads, loads of flat corners and very steep drops. Suddenly, I can’t see a thing at all in front of me because of the plumes of dust, so I slam my brakes on and come to rest against the mountain side. Phew. So I roll down and see Gaz looking a little dazed, but no sign of Craig. Gaz hasn’t seen him pass. Only one possible result – hes flown down the side of the mountain! Keeerist, I thinks this is an airlift job. No way of surviving a fall down there. He could be in Champery by now. So we look a bit worried for a moment, shout for Craig a few times and I start up the banking to see if I can see any wreckage. I see Craig fettling his bike above me. Seems what happened is this:

  • Gaz goes too fast into this right-then-left bend
  • Gaz nearly loses it, feet everywhere
  • The ensuing dust cloud catches Craig unaware, who slams his brakes on and basically bounces off banking on the left
  • The banking launches him across the road and down the steep banking, his bike is cartwheeling over him. (This is probably the dust cloud that caused me to stop)
    Craig landed sat down about 5m down the banking, his bike further down against a tape fence
  • Only damage was a banana’d front wheel on Craigs bike. How on earth is was the only damage I will never know. The gods were smiling that day.

So the rest of the descent to Champery was slow for Craig on a very wobbly wheel, but I am bitten by the speed bug and am nailing it using all the road, probably doing around 40mph, when suddenly my bars get knocked by some idiot overtaking me, Arrrgggghhhh! The red mist descends, I pedal my arse off to catch him (and his mate with the white helmet) to give him a piece of my mind. Of course he is English – says “there was loads of room”, yeah, that’s why you hit my bars then, he acts all arrogant and I saw he should have shouted overtaking at that speed. Anyway, if you are reading this, mate, I expect karma to be knocking on your door sometime soon. Nuff said.

We are a bit dejected now, Craigs wheel and my incident with moronic riders, however our faith is soon restored buy the arrival of a wheel banging man.
Craig had gone to the Mavic truck in Champery to see if they could straighten his wheel. Mavic man say “non”. However a bloke comes over, grabs Craigs wheel and starts banging it frantically on the ground. A couple of bangs later, its nearly straight and ready for a final tweaking by the Mavic man. Who was this expect wheel true-er with nothing more than a hard surface and gravity – well it was the owner of Biketreks, Ambleside. So, thank very much, and people, next time your in Ambleside, buy lots of stuff off him. I am sure its all great quality, and very reasonably priced too…..

After a couple more lift rides, we are knackered and I suggest we roll back down the road from Avoriaz, rather than doing the pants section from Avoriaz to Morzine. All in agreement, we scoot back, overtaking a VW T5 on the switchbacks. Its amazing how far you can lean your bike on a flat corner on tarmac, with Super Tacky tyres.
We get back after 9hrs 40minutes. A long shift by anyones reckoning. How I managed that on my VP-Free last year I have no idea.
We are all physically and mentally spent. Here documents the fall of the White knight:

Also seems that the winding obtained on my crash was the result of a elbow\ribs interface, and now my ribs are sore. I don’t think they are broken though. A bit accident prone at the moment aren’t I????? Suunto training manager software says 4406 calories used….
And I don’t think my white outfit will ever be the same again! LOL! Rest day in store for me….
Top bombing all round, however, I think this may be the last Passportes for me, I would rather spend a day or two at the Chatel bike park.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Electro Shock Therapy

Day 11\12 – Arrive Les Gets\Electro Shock Therapy

Arrived in Les Gets yesterday. Another scortcher! Apartment is good, ground floor level, opens onto a nice grassy area near the start of the Les Gets 4X track. There is also a little skills area nearby, here is me trying out the seesaw, and Gaz scoping out the drop….
Had a few beers and watched “Run Fat Boy Run”. Mostly garbage.

Woke nice and early on Thursday to get our lift passes and I was hoping to get back on the bike. I have brought only the Nomad to Les Gets to keep the van more empty. That didn’t seem to work, the van was still loaded.
Heres Gaz on our front lawn getting ready to shred: So we got our lift passes and went up the Chavannes express lift to do the downhill. Going up there you could see that whilst the track was dry, it was pretty rutted up.
Anyway had a run down. The brakes on the Nomad aren’t anyway near as good as the VP-Free. Need to put EBC brake pads in methinks…. Pretty badly rutted as we saw, still great to be back in the saddle.
Next time up the lift we decided to ride over to Morzine (via part of the Passportes route) – it was whilst doing this that I realised I had no fitness whatsoever. There is a little climb (admittedly it also killed me last year) on the way to Morzine (it has a great prize in the form of a water trough full of lovely pure cold mountain water) – I had to push, feeling completely trussed up in shoulder support and body armour. Gaz was riding in just a short sleeved shirt, shorts and leg armour…. We ended up picking up the bottom half of the Avalanche Cup track that runs down from the top of the Pleney lift in Morzine – I hadn’t really intended to do this, but we were there so what the hell! After not jumping the bridge at the end, I collapsed to have a Lucozade, when this geezer comes up and says “you know that fence is electrified don’t you” at which point I lent back, touched said electric fence, and got a shock right on crown of my head. I said “I do now” – to be fair, I think it was probably about time for electro shock therapy…

Met up with Gav and Paul whilst grabbing a burger and frites (food of champions) at the top of Pleney. Pauls got a new Yeti 575 with some serious bling going on – ride hard my friend!

Did the whole of the Avalanche Cup a couple of times, it’s a great track I have fond memories of (apart from breaking my collar bone there 3 years ago) – they have put even more jumps in it now, mostly ski jumps, theres a small double – of course the 10%er (this is a really steep section with netting at the bottom in case you don’t make the berm) is still there, first time I was dragging the brakes all the way, second time let it run, build up a head of steam and “whoosh” rail the berm at the bottom. Called it a day after some shots from the Avalanche Cup start: Rode back to Les Gets (all downhill) and had a bath – bliss! (only a small bath, but better than the shower only option in 2Alpes)
Here are Gazs first spy shots, of a wacky quad bike, high centre of gravity there boyo!

Forecast is now looking good until next Tuesday – happy days!

Oh yeah I bought a jacket in 2alpes just before we left its here, might just get some wear at the cold starts of Mega and Mountain of Hell, but otherwise firmly a winter jacket, here, displayed “Man at Evans cycles” style:
And also well done to Gaz for one again being the keeper of “Le Chat Sac” (the kitty in French!)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I am still here....

Sorry for no posts recently, really not been much to say. The resort is now back to being quite after the Mondial finished on Sunday.
Gaz is tired, and only managed half a day yesterday, was meant to get an 7:30am start this morning to hit the snow before it got soft, but that disappeared, hes just off now.

I have been doing 1hr regularly on my turbo, averaged 150bpm heart rate yesterday, so a good workout. Not quite the same as a ride down the mountain but there you go.

I am currently convinced my collar bone has not joined up, I am still in some pain when I try to lift a weight with straight arms over my head...... :(

Heard off Gav yesterday, he says Morzine is dusty and hot. Good for our arrival in Les Gets tomorrow.

Looks like the weather will be a touch cooler today, the sun is a bit hazy. Its a hard life :)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A living legend?

Day 7…(Saturday 21/6/2008) – In the Presence of Greatness…

A rest day for Gaz and I. Washing to do. Chicks to dig. 30degrees Celcius in the resort :)
So we are looking for bargains (this Yorkshire thing is rubbing off on me) and I spied an interesting looking bike on the Lapierre stand. Basically it was a silver version of their DH-230 frame. But with some differences:
Internal cable routing
BOS Idylle Fork
BOS Stoy (sex toy!) rear shock
Mavic XM819 rims
So you may have guessed by now, but this was Nico Vouilloz bike. The great man himself (10 times World Championship winner, Megavalanche 2006 winner) was stood close by giving an interview to a French bike magazine. He then led out a test ride for Lapierre, that would have been one cool ride to be on….
Also spotted this Marzocchi fork with a 15mm QR axle. This was on the Shimano stand, so that’s a full XT wheel with a 15mm hub. Exclusive. Right here. Course this is just a new standard dreamt up by the manufacturers to make jeyboys buy new forks and hubs.

Not hardcore enough for 20mm? Then you need 5 less. Definitely not freeride. This is slightly angry XC.

IMHO Rockshox maxle light on next years Revelations is the way to go, full 20mm, keep your existing wheels.
Also on the Shimano stand, a SC Bullit with full Saint groupset, including wheels. Yum Yum.

Lots of dirt jump action and also a round of the Coupe de Monde 4x championship. These guys showing how to ride the 2alpes 4x track, clearing the road gap and triple jumps with ease. Subplot – Episode 5 - Gaz and his Wheel
Gaz got the parts for his sick wheel (thanks Craig)
Gaz took the wheel to the Mavic stand
The mavic man said the axle was snapped, and the bearings were seized and would he mind paying 15euros for a bearing.
Gaz and I became mavic employees as loads of French folks seemed to now think we worked for mavic just because we were hanging around in the welcome shade of the mavic stand.
The mavic man fitted a new axle, bearing and trued the wheel.
Total cost = 15euros.
Take that Hope!

Subplot – Episode 6 - Gaz and his Wheel
Gaz was carrying the wheel around after it being fixed, and went to MarcheU for some ham and cheese.
Gaz left the wheel at the checkout and set off back to the apartment.
Gaz panicked and ran back, and retrieved the wheel
I hope that brings to an end the tale of Gaz and his wheel….

Here is Gazs latest look, in a “Kenny” helmet. Loving that "French" style.

Chicks dig scars….

Day 6…(Friday 20/6/2008) – Chicks dig scars….

Gazs finishing position was 68th in the Free trial out of 120 or so. The winning time was 2hrs 15mins. This is completely unbelievable (the guy was riding a Lapierre Zesty), Gazs time was 4hrs 25mins.
Gaz completed the Biker Croute on Friday – another gorgeous day.
I stopped in and did 1hr on the Turbo trainer whilst watching Thor Wixoms
“Statement” – a real retro video. I am not bitter though, oh no.

Later we me a couple of guys, known as “dickie” – I think that was the collective term for both of them. Not sure if it was “a dickie” or “a pair of dickies” but still – Dickie told me a great saying, unfortunately I was too drunk to remember it all, I know that “broken bones heal” and “Chicks dig scars” were two of the lines. Still its now my new motto. That I can’t remember.

Now to the real meat of this story – The Session88 has arrived. In unrideable form (a sticker on the downtuibe proclaims “Caution: Do not ride – Prototype Brakes”) – however it does look like a proper machine, in both DH and FR form (Black with Fox40s is the DH, Silver with Totems is FR). Heres some shots, the detail from the paint work to the Avid Elixir brakes, all new Saint stuff, an awesome looking bike. If it rides anyway near as good as it looks, it will be a killer. Can't take a front mech though.
Anyone want a used VP-Free frame? Now end of line classic VPP bike? 8.5 inches of travel? You know you want to…. Also spotted, this ratty split bus. Cool.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Proper Mountain Biking

Day 5…(Thursday 19/6/2008) – Lets race up and down some mountains….

A great day in the mountains dawned once more. Today, it’s “La Mavic Free Trail” – a 57km race starting from the glacier at 3200m (Mountain of Hell starts at 3400m). Just the one uplift (to 3200m) on this one, followed by 3377m descending and 1438m of ascent. Yes that’s right – ASCENT.
I went up to the Glacier to get some footage of the start, as well as Gaz, Elsa and Steveo were also racing. This was their first trip upto 3200m – the thing that struck me was the huge amount of snow. Basically, the entire run from 3200m to the next lift station at 2600m was snow! At this point I was glad I wasn’t racing, because I would have ended up falling off way too much. Heres the racers after exiting the top lift…

Heres the first few racers lining up at the start..

The start was fun, lots of people sliding and falling, although some folks appeared to have a good technique.
I then made my way down, hoping to get some shots at various points, I think most of the video will be pants. Then the Jandri Express I lift was stopped and I couldn’t get back to the resort – so I took the Jandri 2 (which is a telepherique type of lift, basically 2 big cabins, rather than a telecabine which is lots of little cabins) – I ended up at around 2100m at the top of a big climb (in fact the big climb I had to push up last year due to a lift closing at lunch time) – I saw the eventual winner get to this point in around 40minutes, Gaz arrived in about 1hr 10mins. Here he is out of the saddle up a tough little climb….
I then went down the Village telesiege (sit on bench type exposed lift), never been on this one, ends up at Les Deux Alpes 1850m, so a bit of a stroll back to 1600m where the main village is, but great views of the resort from the lift…
Now for a scout around the exhibitors tents. There are lots of them; it’s a pretty good setup. Unfortunately, no session 88 yet, although the trek man said it might be here “for viewing only” in the next few days. However, you can test loads of different bikes, theres the Trek Remedy, Specialized Pitch and Demo 7, Cannondales new Moto, all sorts of good stuff. The Hope guys are here, along with their dinky bike…

And my first spyshot – the new Saint shadow rear mech. Check the gold link. Blingtastic! This could be the reason to switch back to Shimano…hmmmm…what you think Craig? There is loads going on, trails bike displays, and also some changes to the bike park for the Dirt Jump comp, heres the somewhat large drop in, not all the guys liked the look of this, but this guy did - nice style. I unfortunately missed Gaz cross the finish line, but here is Steveo and Elsa. Elsa finished 5th woman a well worthy finish by anyones reckoning. Well done Elsa. Top 5 in Megavalanche would be nice too, if you can oblige please ;) By all accounts the route was a real killer, so well done to all who finished. I suspect I would have chucked my bike off a cliff when I got to that big climb I pushed up last year ;)We then had some free food (pasta!) and some free Vin Rouge (yay!). We watched the prize giving, and had a couple of beers. Caught up with Si in the Secret finally, and got the number for free wifi internet access.

I have decided to stay off the bike until Les Gets now (next Wednesday) – so Gaz will be doing Biker Croute (42km lift assisted, 4940m descent) on Friday and the FreeRaid (54km lift assisted, 6225m descent) on Sunday.
I am knackered even thinking about that much bike riding. Actually very jealous, lots more snow riding practice....

And finally, heres Gaz modelling the Giro Remedy helmet. Good colour cooridination here, I think we can all learn something from Gazs' effortless style and finesse... Did someone mention LEGO?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lets get Started...

Day 3…(Tuesday 17/6/2008)
Nowt much happened. It was cloudy and it rained some. Gaz went riding.

Subplot – Episode 4 – Snakey “Flames” Blakey
Gaz decided to dry his admittedly wet elbow guards on one of the heaters. You k now the sort that says “don’t dry stuff on here”
He melted a hole in them.

Got a pizza from Le Take Away (yes that’s its real name) – was OK! This isn’t the most exciting blog is it? Also got some 9% Leffe. Was also OK.

Day 4…(Wednesday 18/6/2008) or Summer comes to 2Alpes
Now this is more like it. Dawned bright and clear. Much warmer too – forecast is for dry and bright and increasing temperatures. Which is good, might melt some of the snow that is currently down to 2600m or so. This is the view from the balcony of our apartment (cheers to my brother Marcus and Caroline for letting us use it!)

The trucks have started to arrive for the Mondial du VTT. Top marks to SRAM for being the first with their tent set up – closely followed by Commencal.
Trek are coming too, hoping to get a viewing of the Session 88, hey might even get to sit on it. The stuff of dreams! Come on Trek, get your tent set up. I shall be lurking around the stalls with my camera ready to bring you any kit exclusives that may happen. Or any top pom-pom girls draped all over the shiny mountain bike apparatus. I am your man at Mondial.

Went for my lift pass today – the full season job – valid til 30th August. It cost 265Euro, or about £205. Which considering day tickets are 19Euro (£15) isn’t bad. It also gives full access to Alpe d’Huez, as well as the swimming pool and ice rink at 2Alpes. On that note, watch this space for a Gaz “Dancing on Ice” Blake exclusive.

Armed with lift pass and it being a great day, I thought I should really throw a leg over the bike. So went to do the Vallee Blanche Green (hardcore! I hear you say) – on arrival a the lift, who do I spy but Gaz, his 2 French friends and Steveo and Elsa. Apparently it was the French guys who recognised me (even though they have never seen me before) because of the Nomad – Gaz didn’t notice me! I shall get their names, but something like Nicola and Leanne or something. One of them had a white Nomad with the same bling-o-tronic wheels as me, cue lots of “you have nice bike meester” comments, followed by a conversation where neither party understood anything the other said. For a moment I thought I was back at work….
Heres Gaz on the lift….

And an obligatory shot of Pic Blanc (Megavalanche starts from the top of here at 3300m, if you look closely you will see the lift perched at a crazy angle on the middle peak – also note, lots of lovely snow)

Anyhow, the ‘ol shoulder held up, still no strength to pick the bike up, but manoeuvring it around seems ok. Might even have a go at the blue (woah there) in the next day or 2.
Went back to the apartment and did 40mins on the turbo (watched Plush 2 – great to see Peaty on the old Orange, and Rennie was on an Iron Horse I think riding for Mad Catz at the time?), and the relevant physio exercises. Hoping to keep that up, ideally could do with lugging the trainer up to 3200m for some proper altitude training! Now theres an idea….

Oh nearly forgot Gaz “Sassoon” Blake did me a lovely Mohican the other day… tis….looks good from the back, not so good from the front because I massacred it before Vidal got his hands on it….8)