Sunday, October 30, 2011

Epic saturday: L'Escarne/Coaraze

So a race blog is a great idea when there are races on... In winter though, not so much.

Anyway, just to keep in the habit of updating this thing, im throwing up a few pictures of the epic (32km, 1670m vertical) spin I was on the other day. Big thanks to Chris for his perfect guiding (this time :D!) and Jean.

Not enough pictures to tell the full story, but some nice shots of the biggest climb and one of the descent which was oh so worth it!

Two Frenchmen in the middle of nowhere, but where are they going?
To the Col de St Michel of course, you can see the trail in the top right corner. A push up for the Irish, but a pedal for the French...

Good view of where we came from, in fact we cycled up or down nearly every mountain in this picture, bar the ones in the distance of course!
The view from the other side of the mountain, with the first snow of the winter in the distance.
The best part of the day! Half way down the descent to the village of Coaraze, which leads directly into a second descent down the left flank of the village. By the way it's not perspective, Chris really is a giant.

The view from further down, Coaraze dead center, the descent goes from the top of the picture to the bottom, amazing spin, amazing day. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Le trefle Vesubien: Not a lucky shamrock

The last enduro race of the year was held in St Martin de Vesubie. It gets its name "Shamrock" from the trace of the three stages making up the main race. Oddly enough, the start and end locations of the race were very far apart. So I started off the day meeting up with Seb, so we could leave one car at the finish and drive up to the start. I should also point out I stole a few pictures from him for this entry, cheers! A lot of people turned up for this race, including junior world cup phenom Loic Bruni. Luckily, the race started at a ski resort so we got to use a chairlift at the start to cut out an uphill start!

Pretty much the best way to start any day's biking!

SS1 aka "Singletrack heaven": The first timed stage was a brilliant 14 minutes of singletrack. This was a fairly straightforward stage although there were a few problems due to poor marking resulting in a few riders taking a wrong turn and losing minutes (and thus the race) early on in the day. The only problem I had was that my arms were very sore from the speed and frequent braking over this relatively long stage.

Pictures never look as stepp as in real life,
you had to be there.

L2 aka "feel the burn": At the bottom we started the first climb of the day. I had been warned that this race was particularly tough physically, and it certainly was! The climb started off with a decent amount of trail pedaling, but was soon followed by the climb of death. It was like climbing the Devils Ladder, but with a bike, and bag full of gear, in between doing downhill races... Luckily we had time to spare and there was a great food stop up top.

SS2 aka "You will get lost": This stage started at the same point as the first, but headed in a different direction. On paper this had it all: Singletrack, alpine prairies, rocky chutes and finally a hilarious section racing through the streets of Venanson. I started off strong, overtaking a few riders early on. Unfortunately, in one of the prairies, there were no markings so I decided to keep going forward following tyre tracks in the grass. I eventually caught up to a guy in front of me who told me this was the wrong way, and then took a few minutes to push back up. I was pretty gutted as it meant waving goodbye to any kind of respectable result, especially as I got stuck behind all the riders that I had overtaken previously. When I finished the stage I found out a lot of competitors had made the same mistake due to poor course markings.

L3 aka "goodbye legs, talk to you next week": Heartbreakingly, we then cycled down a main road losing several hundred meters of altitude to get back to St Martin. This was particularly tough as we then had to carry the bikes up a never ending set of steps followed by a steep pedal for almost an hour. My legs were shattered.

SS3 aka "The Man Maker": This stage basically had 2 sections, first a 3 minute DH run, then an urban race. The DH section was up there as the steepest track I have ever ridden, I even overtook a few people that were carrying their bikes down. It had everything, jumps, drops, roots, inside lines on 1/2 the turns. Insane, but brilliant.

Then the urban section, the question was "do you like steps?". Jump down steps, climb up steps, turn on steps, come around a corner and freak out at the sight of steps. They even had a crazy part where you had to bunnyhop over a stream in the middle of the street! In fairness the atmosphere was brilliant with loads of villagers on their balconies cheering the riders on. (Video, minutes 1->2 and 6 onwards are well worth a look)

In case you can't see it, there is traffic as far as the eye can see!

In the end, It turns out that I beat Seb by 1 second on SS1 but he beat me by 2s on SS3! So even though I had never met him before and we were not in the same heat, it turned out we were battling for the same position and were posting identical times (except when I got lost on SS2). Nemesis found!
What was really impressive was the entire organisation of the event. While the enduro race was happening, they also ran an event for disabled people riding buggies, and brought in huge moveable climbing walls to teach kids on.

Crazy event of the day: getting stuck in a 2 mile traffic jam in the middle of nowhere in the mountains.

Funniest event of the day: When the organiser announced they had forgotten to get medals for the winners, and instead gave all podium riders "saucisson" i.e. sausages...

Seb's photos here