It's been a long time since I have had a proper adventure worth actually blogging about, so here goes: Enduro des Terres Noires 2014.
"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail", with that in mind I cleaned up my Kangoo and set a course North-West for Digne-les-Bains as the sun set on friday.
Got to Digne quite late, so stopped off for some all important pre-race food, then set up my accomodation. It had been a good year since I slept in the back of the Kangoo, which meant I had forgotten just how crap it really is in there! The fact that everyone else seemed to have real camper vans only made things worse!
RACE DAY 1: SATURDAY
Grabbed my race plate (#100), then drove up to the start about 10km outside of town, in the very picturesque little village of Les Dourbes. Organisation was great, croissants and coffee on demand as you waited for your start, as the big guns set off. Speaking of which there were quite a few including Nico Quere and Florian Golay from Switzerland.
Just the transfer to get to the start of stage 1 was epic, including the "black earth" we had come specifically to ride on. The first stage itself, was superb, nice and twisty singletrack down through a steep forest.
The transfer back up the hill was again incredible, with some cliff side trails weaving around a canyon, try and spot the bikers in the pictures below! A hard enough hike on foot, but worth it! The second stage was once again superb, dodging trees through a forest until we got to a black earth section, pretty much looks like you are riding on the moon, but feels like you are in a bobsleigh!
The third transfer was long. Pretty, not too hard, but long! By the time we made it all the way to the top, a lot of which on foot, they had delayed the starts, presumably due to the effort required to reach the summit! This meant I had a bit of time to look at the start of the stage. Lucky I did because it was a monster! I watched the top 40 guys go through, a good 10 crashed, while another 10 just jumped off their bikes and ran through a steep off camber section. Of the guys who made it through, very few made it smoothly! These were all full-pro riders or at least riders on fully sponsored teams, so I knew I was going to be jumping off and carrying like a scrub also! After the initial insanity, the stage was fairly standard, just very long and steep towards the end. The overall pain in my hands from holding on for so long got pretty unbearable and took away a lot of pleasure from the race.
So we got back to Digne, but there was one more racing stage to get up to, they had pushed the times back again to give us a little more time to get up to the start. This was needed as the push up was absolutely brutal, a good hour and a half of hiking and pedalling with a ton of gear on the back. Luckily, as we ascended in the sun on one side of the hill, it was pouring down on the other, very happy to dodge the storm literally minutes and hundreds of metres aways!
I got to the start of the stage a good 15 minutes before my start was due, but because of the storm they were letting riders set off whenever they wanted, for some reason the marshal decided i was late and needed to set off straight away, after I had barely caught my breath. So I set off, down stage 4 which was uite simply insane, steep switchbacks overlooking high drops, you did not want to go wrong here! After a few minutes of this insanity, we got into the woods for a really nice section. Unfortunately, I heard someone behind me, and when I turned to see how far he was I clipped a tree with a left hand which sent me flying off the bike and losing a lot of time!
So after a 10am start the day was finally over at around 6pm! Honestly I was a bit frustrated at how technical the course had been towards the end of the day, we were not allowed to practice the stages, so throwing into such steep and narrow tracks was a bit dodgy in my opinion.
|Notice how you can not see the foreground for long, that's a good indication of how steep SP4 was!|
RACE DAY 2: SUNDAY
Stage 5: Grassy turns followed by black earth spines: Spines
Unique, never ridden anything like it. Superb stage, but unluckily got caught up behind the guy in front of me, who wouldnt, and then couldnt let me pass for quite a while.
A full black earth stage, probably the best of the weekend even tho it was very hard to navigate without any practice. A lot of very steep drops, right from the start, then fast natural jumps, drops, berms... Everything really, amazing! Caught the guy in front again and crashed right after wards when my right hand clipped a small tree... Must try narrower handlebars!
Another picturesque transfer up to the last stage, there was a quite a long delay before the start, but at least we got to to see the top guys go through. Winner of the day O. Giordanengo in particular passed through one section at absolutely ludicrous speed. A world apart from what I could manage! The stage was much closer to what I am used to riding, not too steep, quite fast, a lot of recovery sections to catch your breath back! Great end to a great weekend!