Thursday, July 31, 2008
The road gap still eludes me though.....maybe thats tomorrows first job
The drop a few weeks ago (from day 1 in fact) with Gaz stood atop it - its a big un
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Having enough of racing, since there is no room for cunning tricks and stunning stunts there, I figured that I better set myself a challenge (the fun box at ADH seemed to work well) – the challenge I chose was the road gap on the 4x track at 2Alpes. Gav had done this when he was here (in the MOH qualif no less!) – I wished I had done it then, someone to follow and gauge speed etc.
No great shakes, I reckon I can do it anyway (Its about 4m vertical and 6m horizontal if you hit it right)
So I hit the bike park after a run from the red egg (Le Diable) – looked at the road gap, rode up to it, but refused it. I reckon you need to hit it pretty fast, a little pop, and before you know it you’ve landed in the berm.
Anyhow, not to be disheartened, I figured I could build up by doing the ladder drops. There are 6 altogether, the little one is about 1 foot, the big one is 5.5m and well out of my league. So started on the 3rd one, done that before, no problem, and faced into the 4th one – the wooden bit is probably about 7ft high, and with the transition you probably drop somewhere in that region too. So, nerves high, trepidation and fear, I did it, my heart was in my mouth, but then the second attempt and it felt like nothing at all. Huh. Did it a few more times just to make sure. Went a little fast once or twice and landed well far down. No problem.
So now the nerves, trepidation and fear moved onto the next highest. The nerves have completely gone for the 4th now. Weird how that happens. Now exactly the same feeling I had not having done the 4th, I now have not having done the 5th. Sheesh.
Also great to get to 3200m and head down some of the MOH track, without a race in sight. There is also a new section of big tables cut into a steep slope that is much fun.
Monday, July 28, 2008
After seeing this sign, I thought I was in for a real treat. Onwards and still searching, sadly no cats could be found, just a couple of old dogs. Oh well.
Not sure of the GPS in shortest route mode, seems to want to take me via every farm track and driveway just to cut out a corner. At one point I arrived at a bridge that had been blocked off with large concrete blocks. On instructing the GPS of a blockage, it took me down a farm track for 3km, through a farm complete with angry dog, then back onto the original route, after a super tight turn. There were lots of signs on the mountain roads saying that vehicles longer than 6m could not get through. Adventure! Second col of the day was the ol’ favorite Col de Glandon. Heres Panzer II in the alps…. Back to 2Alpes via the supermarket in Bourg – glad to be home!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
My lift time was 9:10 – for a 10am start of the race. I was feeling pretty raced out from the qualifier, but the day was sunny and warm, so I got on with it.
I needed to fit a new brake lever, and whilst doing that I heard a strange noise from the rear wheel. Checking it out, it seemed that a spoke nipple had come loose, and these being EX823 UST rims, they have a little cup that the spoke nipple is glued (?) into. The noise seemed to be something rattling around in the rim. Anyhow, too late to fix it now, I reckon these rims are burly enough to survive a run with a missing spoke. Where I am going to get this fixed over here is another issue…..Up to the top at 3000m, I spotted Joe and Fergus and wished them well.
The start was delayed until 10:15am, then we were off! More bodies around than the qualify yesterday, so more queues at some points – most frustrating – however, given half a chance I was racing big style, again passing on the fireroad with the big drop. Over the little snow field and into the grassy\rocky section and other than hold ups due to numbers I was rocking! Into the bike park, over the 2 sets of small doubles (the number of riders I saw case these in race 2 is unbelievable) – then into the nice singletrack section, then the rocky footpath. I was running on empty by now, however rode the rocky bit better than yesterday – pretty much fell down the off camber chute and to the finish. Time was around 28mins, enough for 73rd place (out of around 110)
I really like the length of these races, although you are knackered at the end, its more bearable and slightly less enduro than the mega.
Fergus was rocking again, getting 3rd place in about 18 minutes. Amazing riding. Also Joe was 5th, and another UK rider Paul Aston in 7th. UK dominating.
MAXI – Race 2
I had pretty much decided that I would only do the first race the night before. To be quite honest – I have had enough of racing – I just want to bum around on my bike for a bit – no pressure. So my last race of the season was the MAXI Race 1.
However, Fergus pinned 3rd place again, Joe came 11th and Paul in 8th.
In the end, my 73rd place in the first race meant 102nd overall (out of 109) – I’ll take that – I am in one piece, my general tiredness was threatening a big crash. Also I am 190th in the Coupe D’Europe, out of 224 - 6th UK rider, result!
Will I be back? Well the next round of the Maxi starts at 4000m, just below the Matterhorn, nice altitude and would be my highest race, so very tempting. So next year – it may be the Maxi series for me (probably also Mountain of Hell) - heck I might be arsed to do both races :)
Heres what my legs look like after 3 racing weekends….(as if your interested....)
A big rock, a wallride, and a bit of the MAxi course in Val Thorens today
Now bring on chillin' on the bike and generally having fun riding fast and doing stunts for the next 5 weeks! Really looking forward to a week in Morzine with Tom and Jenny starting 7th August - might well go up early and hook up with Mike for some secret swiss trail action...
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Good weather in Val Thorens for a bike ride – folks started arriving for the Maxi – according to the website, only 140 or so had registered so far…..
I spotted a familiar van on the basketball court in Val Thorens – it was the guys camping on the car park near the lake in Les Gets. Anyway I got speaking to them, and did a bit of riding with them. Fergus and Joe were VERY difficult to keep up with. I found out why later. Anyway, after falling off 3 times trying to keep up and putting a nice hole in my knee, I went back to the hotel to lick my wounds. I managed one more run of the Maxi course top half – very rocky, some fireroads, one snow patch (!), then into grassy rocky switchbacks. Had a good run, clearing it where I had fallen off before.
My qualifying wave is at 2pm (along with Joe and Fergus) – there is a big storm forecast, hopefully we can get away before it comes…..
Turns out Joe and Fergus are top UK downhillers (actually Scottish), Joe currently sitting 4th in the National Mens Elite category, and Fergus 11th (in perspective, Dan Atherton is 5th and Marc Beaumont is 10th) – so no wonder I had trouble keeping up with them.
They were still undecided as to whether they should ride their “wee bikes” (140mm ish travel) or their full downhill rigs. Either way, they would be FAST! They would be lining up just behind me, but not for long I suspect….
Joe rides a pink bike. You’d have to be good to ride a pink bike. Joe is VERY good!
Race Face ON!
Watching the 1st wave, Remy Absalon was 5m ahead by the first rocky chute.
Remy leading the pack in the 1st qualifying wave
Remy Pins it
There was a bit of traffic at this point (100m from the start, after a small uphill) – so line choices were scoped. I intended to follow Remys line (the main line in fact)
As usual I was being slack and missed my call for the line, but I managed to squeeze into line 2 anyway – there was a full line 1 and 2, and some stragglers at the back. A total of 39 riders in this wave.
Anyway before I knew it, we were off. There was a big crash in front of me more or less straight from the start (I think at least 3 people went down), so I ended up off my line.
Not the best start for some....
No matter, in I dropped. Passed a guy riding gingerly between the big piles of snow on the first fireroad (there are one or two drops off, I just launched them). Rode the first sections pretty well, didn’t lose to many places, however entering the grassy\rocky section, there is a big rock with a wooden bridge over it, cleared that no problem, but came up against the guy in front and had to push a small section – someone came flying past here, then went straight over their bars –
ha! I thought, I wouldn’t lose a position after all – WRONG! I followed suit and went over my bars too – about 8 mins into the race at this point….
Anyhow, no damage done (apart from another bent brake lever, decided to leave it be this time and not risk snapping it off…oh and the helmet cam stopped recording too, oh and later I discovered that the screen on my GPS had been smashed into oblivion)
Onwards and downwards, the tricky section I crashed on yesterday seemed to pass quickly, then into the bike park, rolling the big double, but hitting the little ones – not much left in me at this point, then the nice singletrack section to the 2100m lift station. The rocky footpath was hell however, I fell over and had a dirt nap at one point through sheer exhaustion, did the off camber chute held it together well, and crossed the finish line. Fergus was on hand to offer a well deserved coke.
Winning time for my wave : 18:55, I was in 30th position in a time of 26:55 (exactly 8 mins slower!) – that puts me in Line E – next to the back row – just to show how the wave you are in can affect things, my time in wave 3 would have been good for 17th place, and Line C. It did start to rain on the 3rd wave however…..
Fergus came an awesome 2nd place – apparently in the lead most of the race, conceded when his mech twisted round. Joe came in 7th place, both good enough for the front row in the races tomorrow, and hopefully top 10 finishes! All on their "wee bikes" too.
A note about the race – great organization, good atmosphere, great track what more could you want? And there were only 115 men with finishing times in the qualifier (not sure where the DNFs get recorded…) – come on people, Fergus and Joe proved that UK downhillers could dominate these events – so lets get some bodies over here. I think there were 6 UK entrants.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The approach.... The take off...
Suffice to say I was laughing my head off everytime I landed - it was really a good time and got a level of mojo back.
I had also spotted another bit of the maxi route, nice singletrack, with a few wooden features, so rode that to the lift station.
Proper training tomorrow, I think the lift to 3000m and also the lift from the finish will be open so less chance of getting stuck. So far, there are only 146 entrants (my race number is 123) - so I think there will be only one wave for the main races on Sunday (there appear to be 2 races on Sunday for some reason, I guess because its a relatively short course, 15km, 1200m vertical drop)
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Having sorted a hotel out for my trip to Val Thorens (Bel Horizon, 50Euros\night, WiFi), I wanted to set off earlyish, get booked in etc. Whilst packing the car, a nice man who was scraping the wax from his skis kindly reminded me that it was Tour de France day – and the road to Bourg d’Oisans would be shut from 12. He also lent me his map book, in case I needed to divert – cheers matey! Anyhow, the TomTom was programmed to avoid motorways, so it took me via Allemont and the Col de Glandon – those of you watching the Tour on TV will notice they just came down there – so I was playing beat the tour – people and cars parked everywhere, on every available bit of verge – many many Gendarmes – in a word, carnage.
So I was blasting up this Col, overtaking slow people looking for somewhere to stop and watch the Tour come past. At the top, cars where parked everywhere, and I thought for a moment I might be stuck up there, all the traffic was coming up from the other side where I wanted to get down.
The right way to get to the top of a Col....
Now I am not saying I hate roadies, but I don’t see the point. “Oh but they ride bicycles” – well yes but they bear little resemblance to the bike I ride. Its like saying because you are a formula one driver, you have to be into rallying. Or stock car racing. Or because you are a drag racer, you dig on grasstrack racing. So for me, roadies can suck my shiny metal ass.
It did go through my mind to stop and wait with the masses and watch them go by, but then I realized I had better things to do, and even though I didn’t it seemed like a big old waste of time (the road was going to be shut from 12 – 5pm, so what time I would have been able to get away is anyones guess) - oh lets watch a thousand scrawny gits ride past real fast - yeah sounds great.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I needed to be on the lift to the top around 6:30am – I got up at 5am after a poor nights sleep (nerves, or not enough beer?) – grabbed some breakfast and put some new brake pads on the front of the bike (first descent should bed them in!) - I met Rohan and Gav at the lift. We grabbed a tea, and hit the lift. It was just coming light, and clouds were fast moving and building over the village. We got to 3200m and things didn’t look too bad – we got a coffee at the restaurant, and waited with all the other victims. Lots of snow seemed to have disappeared, and there was a large patch of black ice at the bottom of the glacier near the restaurant.
At the top, things were looking a little worse.
It was snowing intermittently, and visibility was minimal. We got lined up, and jumped up and down trying to keep warm. The start was delayed til 9:20ish, so everyone was pretty cold by that point. I was pretty convinced I did not want to crash on the snow and get even colder, so as “Highway to Hell” by AC\DC played and the hooter went, I took it easy off the line. Lots of people past me, only to crash and burn later on. I know from experience, that getting speed up on the glacier is fine, its slowing down that is the issue. The snow was softer than last year, so ruts had formed in, I got to the ica patch, and as everyone else skirted around it, I went through it in a straight line – no problems. The next section down to the funiculaire station then back out of a dip was slow, lots of pushing on the mushy snow. Up onto the fireroad, and finally a little speed picked up – across the moonscape scalped a few, tried to ride it all amongst people mostly pushing. Stopped for a moment to get my waterproof off, was getting hot by now. Rode up the first fireroad climb, seemed easier than the other day in practice, then sped across the gravelly fireroad and onto the plateau before the final snow section of the race (thank you) – it was around this point that the rain started, as well as thunder and lightning, miserable conditions. I fell off in the snow, but didn’t get too wet or cold – then onto the steep black section – rode this really well, as always in a race the sections seem shorter than when you practice. Another long fireroad climb, followed by the first of a few steep shale drops. Lots of people crashing, generally going too slow and losing it – I hammered down, tail-sliding everywhere, having some fun – however the constant rain was naffing me off, as well as the fact my glasses were steaming up – even without goggles. I had pretty much decided to abandon when I next saw a marshall. Across the fireroad and down another steep drop, then a fireroad climb. My darkest moment! Fortunately, no marshals so I continued down the black switchbacks. Again lots of slow people (must have lost lots of places on the start and when I took my jacket off) sliding everywhere – the helmet cam footage of this bears me out – every corner or drop there is someone on the floor, or sliding wildly until they hit something and fall off. Anyway made it down without any stress, now decided to finish the race, no matter what it brings. Fireroad then groomed track until the new section that replaced the double black this year. This is basically a narrow sheep track through a steep field, lots of switchbacks and drops, and very grassy. Suffice to say I needed some mud tyres on at this point. Its pretty steep, so two wheel slides were not uncommon. It was pretty funny, loads of people falling over and sliding around in the mud. One section through a berm was difficult enough to walk, in fact you had to go on your hands and knees it was that slippy! LOL. A French guy who was stuck there said “you wouldn’t believe it unless you had seen it” – this was really tricky to get through. My rear wheel wouldn’t go around at more than one point because of the mud. I came off a couple of times, no great shakes though – and managed to actually ride some of it.
Back into the bike park, then over to the Venosc descent. Now that’s a great descent – in the dry. In the wet, it felt pretty dangerous, although I got down in one piece passing a few more people, and would have passed 2 more but my options ran out at the end. Final time 1hr41mins.59secs, in 211th position.
A great race – and the consensus of opinion is that this is harder than the Mega – especially this year. Roll on next year!
Nomad - very dirty
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Anyhow, 4 rows (ish) back (there were around 20 a row, I was number 76 in the wave) – I chose the proline from the start. I had already seen Rohan and Gav start, Gav was away like lightning and was in the top 6 into the 1st (hidden) snowfield.
Gav storming - Big Up!
I didn’t have a bad start, got across that snowfield, pedaled down the dusty fireroad, into the first steep-as-you-like shaley drop. Lots of people braking here, so I took the left line and took a few scalps, with a chant of “allez allez allez!” – again stuck in with the muppets, who clearly like pushing their bikes DOWNHILL rather than riding them, I nearly come a cropper off the fireroad up a slight incline into a queue “ALLEZ!” – more shocking riding down super steep carve-able shale – really enjoying this – and taking scalps all the way “tres bon” – cut a corner “whoops first potential 2 minute penalty – 2nd one and I am disqualified” – back on track, and pedaling past people – who though pedaling could be so much fun?
Down past Le Diable lift station, and onto rutted grassy singletrack – again all new since last year – now the ruts and braking bumps really seemed to take their toll here – on the way down to the super steep “double black” – dropping in, my arms are killing – probably 15 minutes into the race now – so struggling to exert enough force to brake, and with bodies strewn left, bodies strewn right, I am sent slightly off line and crash into a bend. Hot damn – people pass me. Brush down and off again, and literally off again as I wash out into a flat corner – not enough brake! Ouch my arms. Have a little dirt nap – check my makeup – what am I having for tea? Pull pads up – oh best get going again – people are passing again. Gasp. Negotiate the tricky corner before the shale descent with aplomb – back on it – think of having a rest before dropping in to this carve-able descent, keep yourself on track with little shale berms – no rest – no time! Drop in, carve past bodies, to slightly muddy stream crossing – again front wheel washout – getting used to this, 3rd off in as many minutes – splash! Arm into only wet part of course! Yowsers! No time for a dirt nap this time, crack on past more fallen comrades. Across a meadow – no time to admire the flowers – and drop into the bike park, down the 4x track. Not really enough energy for the jumps, but have a go anyway (“Gav is sure to have done the road gap” goes through my mind – he did BTW) – then a nice pedal along the yellow dirt road past the swimming lake – then a little climb upto the start of the descent to Mont-de-Lans. I had a chain off moment here last year, the chain went over the biggest gear at the back and got trapped behind the cassette and the spokes. Those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it – so I drop to granny ring, scalps in sight pushing up this bit – and the chain comes off – literally the same place as last year! Gutted, but inevitable. Bike upside down, chain back on, push up and drop in. On someones tail here down the switchbacks, they finally succumb, someone crashes in front of me and I ride past as they hold their crown jewels. I take one final scalp going past the lift station, then to cries of “go das” I try and jump the side of a berm into the finish – fail miserably and wobble across the finish line. Position – 231st out of 400 in 30:03. Winning time was around 19mins. That seemed so much meaner than last years qualifier. It was hard work for a full 30minutes. I am in row 14 out of 19 for the main race. I was in row 11 last year, but I can't remember how many rows there were (I should read my own blog)
Gav and Rohan did awesome, top 100, 24 and 25 minutes respectively! Row 7 and 8.
Main race tomorrow - after that beating, ot looking forward to getting up at 5:15am to get breakfast and get to the lift for my lines time of 6:30am - the race starts at 9am. We a get the telecabine to 3200m, then the funiclaire (underground raliway) to 3400m, on a glacier I crashed on at high speed last year. Yum yum!
Heres some pics of the last few days - thanks Gav, Joe and Rohan for some of these tops shots:
On the moonscape (I look superimposed on this picture - I assure you I am not)
Man at Mountain of Hell
Railing to Venosc
Steep shale chute
Das, Gav, Joe
Saturday, July 19, 2008
More practice on the MOH Qualif and Finale courses. The Qualif now includes the steep double black, whereas this treat was saved for the Finale last year. Instead the Finale now has what looks like a footpath, an overgrown footpath at that, in its place. Its super rutted and bumpy – I fell off twice. I also broke my rear brake lever. So I was stuck half way down. I managed to walk down to the closest red, where I rode it slowly with front brake only. The Hope guy is in town, and he didn’t have any of the short Moto V2 levers, so I had to resort to the original lever in my spares stash.
I also sprained my right wrist in one of the crashes, so that’s now strapped up – I brought some zinc oxide tape just for this job. I have also had some success with my helmet cam, some great fast sections following Gav, the master of the loose corner – hoping to get the whole of the Qualif and Finale on it too……
Also more pics to follow, when I get the pics from Rohan, Joe and Gavs cameras…
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Down the blue switchbacks, I encountered a rather large flock of sheep to ride through. Here on the way back on the lift (me not the sheep)
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
qualifier: in the woody switchbacks:mega: grassy descent near bike park: (pity they didn't get me jumping the fun box)
mega: after big push up, googles relegated to bars due to overheating: