My long overdue European summer adventures update.
Posted on July 16, 2012
It has been another whirlwind summer over here in Europe, I can’t believe we have been here for 2 months already and have 3 more months to go before we get to go back to our much missed cottage in the woods of Nelson, NZ.
Sven has been off working nonstop at the various World Cup races, and I have been guiding guests from all over the world through the beautiful, big mountains of Provence (I know, hard to imagine that in Provence, but the mountains there are big, dramatic and out there, with not much lavender fields around). I have been helping Ash from Trans Provence with guiding these 7day trips and it has been magical. Hard work, but very rewarding to experience and share this adventure with other like-minded people. The trips would start near Gap and end roughly 300km later on the glitzy & glamorous, Ferrari & bikini clad beaches of Monaco. During one of the weeks all of our guests were from Czech, so communication was not easy, but we managed to figure it out, and it just proved to us that bikes and trails didn’t need a common language. We all experienced the same amazing feeling of shredding down unknown trails in the middle of nowhere. It was SUPER as the guys would express after every run. Perfect. It is amazing how well you get to know complete strangers over the span of 7 days, and it was usually quite sad when it was time to say good- bye at the Nice airport. Just one more reason why I LOVE to ride bikes, the amazing and varied group of people you end up meeting from all different walks of life.
You can get a look into one of our guided weeks that one of the guests made.
Apart from guiding, it was time to do some Enduro racing here in France. Enduro racing in France has been around forever and it is a hugely popular discipline with up to 400 entrants at most events – that is a huge amount of crazy fast Frenchies. First on the schedule was the first round of the French Enduro series in Samoens. These races are intense, you do between 8 – 10 races over the 2 days, and all the tracks are blind. Yes, you have no idea what you’re sprinting off into, but that is what makes it such a great event. You have to wear full body armor, fullface helmets & kneepads, and you don’t see any lycra anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, they are extremely physical, meaning you definitely have to be fit and strong and be able to ride uphill, but it is more downhill oriented, and you need to know how to ride technical, fast downhill tracks to do well here. The girls are fast. The field is big and the racing is close, with only seconds between people after two full days of racing. I ended up in 5th place at this first round, which I was very happy with. Conditions were very tricky with the sun shining, but the woods wet & slimy from weeks of rain. We sported full DH spikes on the front all weekend, which took a while to get used to again, and made the climbs feel even harder. Overall it was a great weekend and the fact that I had some friends from the UK & NZ over there made it even better.
The next race was the second round of the French Enduro series, this time at Val d’Allos and it was to be a special 10 year anniversary weekend where we were going to be descending 10 000 meters over the 2 days of racing. That meant 10 races over 2 days, with the races being between 10 – 25minutes each. It is more like marathon downhill racing, as there is no time to relax in between races, or to work on your bike, it is just go time the whole time. It is unreal how knackered you feel after doing a weekend like this. Again, all the races are blind, and you have no idea where you are trying to go to as fast as possible, so you are mentally pretty drained from trying to navigate the whole time. After this marathon event, I ended up in 6th place, missing the 5th spot by 10 seconds – so close after so many races, but that is how it goes. There are so many things that can happen and that does happen during 10 races – it is pretty impossible to have 10 perfect races, the riders all really respect each other and the level of the racing. Again it was fun to have Tracy Moseley & James out there and my friend Jamie from NZ to hang & ride with.
At this very moment I am sitting in the media center in Les 2 Alpes, getting ready to head up to the glacier this afternoon to go and practice my bike snow sledding maneuvers. We have been out here since Monday, as this is the first year that they have turned the Mountain of Hell race into a weeklong Crankworx festival – a “sister” event to the popular Crankworx Canada. The riding out here has been amazing. This place has big mountains, big views and a lot of descending. My bike has been getting all the love and much deserved attention from the SRAM guys after months of riding and abusing, so my beloved bike is happy yet again. Thanks guys!
Yesterday, I spent the morning with my crazy Italian friends photographer Matteo & and Lukka, the editor, shooting for their magazine 365 – it was so fun, they even got me onto some north shore stunts which I usually avoid like the plague – look forward to seeing the article when it comes out.
This weekend I have the Mountain of Hell race, similar to the Mega Avalanche race, but I guess I would explain it as a smaller, more disorganized event where no one really knows what is going on and nobody speaks English. It makes for a very exciting weekend of racing. We have a qualifying race on Saturday and then we have the actual race on Sunday where there is one mass start from the top of the glacier on a completely separate track – with all the men, so organized chaos I guess would be a good explanation for this event. What makes it even more exciting is that you never get to practice the main glacier start section or the last section to the finish line – as that is a highly illegal hiking trail that is always shut to bikers and only open on this day of the race. Nice. Of course you head into these events with all kinds of expectations and plans of doing well, but there are so many variables and things that can go haywire during these mass start events, that you really just have to go with an open mind and try to have fun with it. Ride the best that you can ride and hope that you won’t get taken out by some flailing weapons all around you.
If I survive this race on Sunday, we head across the valley for another week of riding and racing at Alpe d’Huez for the famous Mega Avalanche. The absolute grand-daddy of endurance racing. Last year I qualified 2nd behind Anne Caroline and was lying in 2nd during the main race, when I flatted, so I guess I have some unfinished business there which I’d like to finish off.
After these two crazy races I head over to Italy to defend my Enduro des Nations title which I won last year at the amazing resort of Alpi in Sauze d’ Oulx, then we head to Canada for the Crankworx festival & a wedding down Blue velvet – yes, a wedding train! Then back to Europe for more races & some training, then the grand finale race – the 7-day Trans Provence race in September, which I am soooo looking forward to.
This season I have been a very lucky girl to be sponsored by Sombrio clothing, and I have been absolutely loving their threads. They have hooked me up with such nice riding kits and the casual clothing is to die for too. It is such a nice feeling to be rocking a great brand and to be representing Sombrio in Europe.
Also, be sure to buy the latest issue of Dirt Magazine – The Adventure Issue, and also the new Spoke Magazine and have a wee look at the feature article that I wrote in there about riding the Heaphy Track in New Zealand, and how to tackle this 3 day overnight trip – Racks, Packs & Six Packs.
I am in the process of updating my blog, so check it out and have a look at the guided mountain bike trips & adventures that Sven & I will be offering out on the other side of the world, in stunning Nelson, New Zealand and join us for some sick riding. https://housemartin.wordpress.com/
To find out more about the Enduro Racing in France, see some of the links below and get your butts out here to experience raw racing & magnificent riding.
Mountain of Hell race report to follow next!