Just finished the first enduro race of the year out in l'Esterel, a small mountain range near Cannes, which ends abruptly into the sea. Early start to the day to get to Theoule-Sur-Mer on time for sign-on, but I was excited due to the absolutely stacked list of riders: World cup juniors and veterans, a female world champion and every single top enduro rider from the region were in attendance as part of the 250 entries.
The format was 1-man starts every 30s over 3 stages, with short climbs (~30mins) in between each stage, but a reasonably tight time allowance (50mins). At first, I was a bit annoyed at the 1-man starts as it meant a huge wait on the start line for high numbers, like myself with #160. However, the reason they had this system was that the riders took off for the first climb from the main square in front of everyone, and were introduced and questioned by one of the organisers "rugbyman". It ended up being a good fun, with a couple of people getting sent off to the sound a carefully selected music to maximise embarrassment.
|Nobodies talked about the spelling of their name and Irish beer|
So a quick pedal up a fire road to get to the top of the hill, where all 3 special stages began, reasonably close to each other. SS1 was the longest of the day taking about 5-6 minutes for an ok rider. It started at the very top of the hill, on a tight singletrack almost hidden in the pine trees. The first minute or two was spend dodging through narrow gaps between trees and on north shore ladder bridges. Then, a short yet punishing pedal up a slight uphill, across a fire road and into a long high-speed rocky section with some nice technical drops down slabs of rock.
The first section was so narrow that as I pedalled hard through a flat section, my left knee hit a small tree, which just bounced me sideways off track into a bush, losing a few seconds. The rocky section was more a case of courage than skill, sadly I was not doing well on either front, but came down clean.
|Good view on the way to SS1|
|Small step on the road crossing|
So happy enough with my first run, I pedalled up for SS2, with a mandatory pit stop to shove orange slices and chocolate in my face. SS2 was the shortest run of the day, and also the most technical and steep. A little bit of single track to get the speed up at the start. Then sand/dust switchbacks, followed by a very steep section down a rock formation and finally a flatter section with some interesting features: boulders and near vertical chutes.
I lost the front wheel on a dusty switchback... Actually let me rephrase that: I came into a switchback with a pretty good trajectory, when the corner just disintegrated into dust flowing down the side of the hill, taking my front wheel with it. Landed on my feet, running, but lost a few second walking back to get the bike. Also had trouble keeping my feet on the pedals in the steep section where I lost a bit more time and must have looked quite dodgy. Overall a good run though.
|SS2 start line|
|Always good views in this place|
|Good tracks too|
A quick hike-a-bike followed by a short pedal got me back to the top for the final run of the day. This was lauded as a new track purpose built for the event. It started with a sprint zigzagging a fire road, then plunged into a steep, dusty singletrack all the way down the hill to the edge of the village. This was the only stage with almost no rocks, so it was easier to take a few more risks, due to the hugely diminished penalty for failure. I got down at a pretty decent pace with no mistakes and not too much braking.
|A small rock step before entering the dust|
Ended back at the village square for the complementary pasta and cheese with Sebastien (thanks for the photos). I ended up 57th, which I am very happy with, despite being further back than the last few races, simply due to the incredible turn out. Local youngster Florian Nicolai came out on top, beating a host of big names, incredible.
Massive thanks to the organisers for the smooth running event and not so smooth tracks!
Videos of the trails available here: http://www.wix.com/theoulevtt/fr#!videos-speciales-2010
sound off button is at the bottom left ;)
sound off button is at the bottom left ;)
|Pretty much the only reason I come to these things|