Round 1: Levens: snow everywhere, crashed a million times, terrible result.
Colomars (not part of the series): Pretty good results in the 1st and 2nd stage, then destroyed my drivetrain. Stupidly expensive to fix, and I ended up pretty much dead last.
Round 2: Sospel: Bike broke a few days before the race, attempted to ride, but ended up having to forfeit.
Time for some serious changes! Oh wait, the part that broke before the last race took over 3 weeks to arrive from the manufacturer... Going into this race, my training had been the odd trip to Nice and back on the "velo bleu" (i.e. horrible bike share thingies that rarely work), and the odd attempt at trail running... But only downhill, because uphill is tiring and stuff...
Before the race:
I got my bike running about 3 days before the race, and needed to do a bit of maintenance on it, mainly changing tyres. After an hour long struggle to fit a new tyre on the front as tubeless, I gave up and put a tube in (i.e. heavier and more likely to puncture). This also lead to me not bothering changing my rear tyre, which was very much slick. "Ah sure it'll be grand, so long as it doesnt rain"...
|Slick, not a mud tyre, barely an offroad tyre tbh.|
Rain, that is what I woke up to on race day. Brilliant! Drove off, wondering whether they would even run the race. Right up until I parked my car, the rain was pouring down. As I unpacked the bike though, there was only a slight drizzle. The race was being run in the hills behind Nice, so it should have had a fantastic view, but this is all you could see:
|Cote de Greyness|
So I started the pedal up after meeting up with Anthony. There was a lot of water on the roads, we were not sure what conditions the trails would be in. Once the road up met the track, we were greeted by a depressing scene: only about 10 people had gone down as the race had just started, yet already there was someone crashing, one girl abandoning as there was too much mud on her bike and one guy who had broken his derailleur, all about 1 minute from the start line. I was not feeling it. But onwards we went to the start.
|Too much mud for the front wheel to turn.|
|I know the feeling buddy, I recommend crying and writing a blog about it.|
I set off 30s ahead of Anthony, and Seb was off another 30s later, with only one thought in my head: "Do not let them catch up to you". After about 3 or 4 turns, all the crap from the previous races was forgotten and forgiven. It was simply the most fun I have had on a bike all year, two wheel drifting into all the muddy corners. Then came a steep section, followed by endless switchbacks to the finish line. I overtook two riders, and had a nearly perfect run. I ended up taking the 27th fastest time and putting a huge gap between me and Anthony and Seb.
The sun was peeking through the clouds at this stage, and the road back up was noticeably drier. This stage started the same as the first one, but veered off in a different direction during the steep part. As soon as I set off I noticed how much the track had dried, corners could be taken much faster with little to no sliding. I knew straight away that this meant the other two would be able to catch me if I didnt do a good run. The spectators were really encouraging on the hard parts of the track, and helped me keep the fingers off the brakes in order to try and look fast! It was a great stage, but I made a few mistakes, Anthony beat me by a second, but my overall position was still a strong 32nd for this stage.
|Pretty good view!|
By now the sun was beaming down, and the track was almost dry. Stage 3 was actually a repeat of stage 1, as the original trail they had planned to use was too boggy to race after to the rain. It was crazy how much faster the track was, compared to mere hours before. The steep chute which had claimed so many riders in the 1st stage was now barely a challenge. I got the top and middle of the track pretty well, but then my lack of training this month really showed. As I got into the tight rocky switchbacks, I was barely in control of the bike. I was having a lot of trouble holding on, and even came off once, but luckily landed on my feet. Most people went up to a minute faster in the dry than in the wet, I barely managed 20s. Anthony nearly caught up to me on this stage and made up a good chunk of the time I had taken from him on the 1st stage. I ended up 30th overall, while he took 32nd.
Big thanks to the organisers, especially the marshals who turned up on what could have been a horrible day. Great race, delighted to back up there at last after the last few months of bike trouble.
Best part of the day: my bike still worked afterwards...