Monday, July 30, 2007

MEGA Pictures and Videos...

Heres a pic from the qualifying, complete with free jersey (you had to wear it or you got a 3minute penalty):

And heres a shot from the main event:

Also, heres links to some helmet cam footage I took of the start: (17MB) and of the mass slide down the second steep snow slope: (10MB) - probably best to right click and save as.....

bye for now!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Megavalanche Route

you can see the glacier and snow if you select the satellite view....


I qualified in position 88 out of 164 riders in my wave, in 41min 12.88secs. That put me in the second wave of the Megavalanche (also know as the MEGAPROMO) on row Y (rows went upto Z4) against 400 other riders.... Super pleased with that....

So Megavalanche day dawned and we made our way to the lifts for 7:30am. It took a while to reach the top, and we were ready for action at 3300m at around 9:30am. The ladies went before us and 20minutes later off we went!
It was carnage from the start, my lack of snow riding skills meaning I was being overtaken, although I didn't crash and there were people going down all around me. The second snow slope I picked my bike up and slid down on my arse, as did lots of other people (great helmet cam footage of this)
So onto the rocks, and lots of traffic, most riders seemingly unable to ride the dop offs and causing queues (I was shouting "ride it, ride it!"), in my helmet cam footage you can hear my brakes squeal all the time as I am keeping my speed in check because of slower riders in front. The helmet cam footage comes to a sudden stop as I somehow manage to crash with a front wheel washout....
The next singletrack section was better, with the helicopter coming down real close and taking lots of shots (maybe I'll make it into Dirt magazine) - then onto a fast grassy section into ADH. Lots of people cheering, and we went through the bike park where I jumped onto the fun box and back off much to the crowds satisfaction!
The bottom half of the track I had not practiced (bad idea) - but there were lots of climbs, lots of singletrack, muddy river crossings, super fast forest descents, the tinyiest bridge over a ravine where I missed the bridge and had to bunny hop the ravine. At 1hr 18mins I had to stop on a push up some singketrack in the woods. I was feeling spent at this point.
I arrived in Allemont in around 1hr 35mins. The winning time was 48mins, and Mat got 14th place in the MEGAPROMO with 1hr 10mins (awesome riding Mat!)
Not sure of my position yet, but I guess somewhere around 230 out of 400.
Absolutley amazing trail to ride. It has every kind of surface you can imagine, climbs and huges descents, switchbacks, muddy sections, flat out forest sections, the trail has it all. It takes all your concentration and fitness to keep the bike going for over an hour over extremely hostile terrain.
You should try it :D
I'll be back next year....
Having a bath now I am goosed......

UPDATE: Results are now in, and the MEGAPROMO (megavalanche 2nd wave) and MEGAFFINITY (megavalanche 3rd wave) look to have been counted together, so I managed 346th position out of 611 in 1hr 37mins 24.920seconds

qualification results here
MEGAPROMO results here

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Megavalanche Qualifying, more busted bike parts

Yesterday arrived in ADH (Alpe d'Huez) at around 4pm to try the blue and dial the helmet cam in. After a couple of runs, my lefthand pedal started to sieze. So I took it down to the trade area and a nice man on the Magura stall used a deep 10mm socket to remove the axle (I didn't bring any deep sockets - oh the shame!) - Anyway the needle bearings next to the crank had completely failed on my Crank Brothers 50\50s. So time to bring out the old faithful DMR V12s (had them since my Kona Bear)

Onto qualifying, as mentioned I now had a helmet cam and camcorder setup hurray! for now anyway. So we got upto the start at around 8:40 (10am race start), no queues for the lift, in fact we were in the first telepherique to go up.
The atmosphere was good, the day was bright and clear. Nico lined up on the first row, I was directly behind him on the 3rd. And they were off! I had a crap start as usual, and probably 30 or 40 people passed me, through the big switchbacks then onto the rocks and the 2 snowfields. Unfortunatley, the camcorder must have got knocked as I kind of fell over in the first snow field, and it stopped recording boo! Anyway to the second snow field, and I noticed a few people taking a different line not touching the snow (always a good idea) The line was down a massive rock, very steep, so I did it. Then operated my hydraulic seatpost and started pedalling down thw first bit or fireroad, where I passed Nico. Yes its true. He had a puncture.
He passed me again probably 10 minutes later at an amazing speed.
Anyway to cut a long story short, I pedalled the climb and passed around 10 people, and even overtook a couple on the steep switchbacks (ah if only the camera had worked :(), nearly went over my bars in the woods (very very nearly and it would have been a steep landing) and finished the race in approx 41 minutes. I had previously only done around 80% of the course in that time, so I was fair motoring over my other practice runs. Nick finished a couple of places behind me, after 3 crashes, and Jason finished ahead in something around 39minutes. Well done all, it was a tough race.
Don't know if that is good enough to qualify for the 2nd wave for the main race, we find that out tonight at 6:30pm. It could be close, or I could be miles away. We'll see
Was a great race though - if I can improve my starts then that would certainly gain me a lot of positions.
We then had a spot of buffet lunch after a short trip up the hill in a big bus (Jason, Nicks and my bikes in the underbus storage lockers, everyone elses in a trailer) and then went back up the hill in a lift to catch Guys qualifying run. We had a most amusing time next to a large off camber rock "encouraging" riders, with shouts of "allez allez allez", "pedal pedal", "concentrate", "not down there! uphere!"
There was a French woman with a dog, to whom I cried "get that dog of the track, this isn't the Tour De France you know" - Jason had a lot of funnies, at one point a bloke in a cow costume (!) rode past to shouts of "Go Cow, Go Cow" and to the following riders, "The cows in front"
Guy came through and seemed to be having issues with his gears.
So I'll attempt to get some helmet cam footage of the race tomorrow, and I'll tape the knob that moved and spoiled todays filming up with gaffer tape.
A thoroughly enjoyable day :D
The google map thing of qualifying is here :

Friday, July 27, 2007

Injuries Update....

Matt (pictured below) had a crash yesterday which I failed to mention (well he had 2, the first time he flew into me and headbutted my elbow!) and he looks like hes busted his shoulder, so will be missing out on the Megavalanche (lucky bugger!)
Take it easy Matt, hope your able to ride again soon.....

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Megavalanche Practice

Gave Matt and Rob a lift to Alpe d'Huez today to practice the Mega. Also met up with Mat, Matt, Jason, Nick and Guy. Top fun!
Don't be fooled by the fact that I have my thumb up in this picture. I think the altitude must have affected my brain. The start of Megavalanche is the most horrible thing you can do on a bike. Approx. 1.5 miles of slush, with loads of riders tracks in front of you. I must have fallen off 10-15times, at various speeds (mostly slow). I think Matts reaction in this photo is more appropriate (respect to Matt for coming 149th in the Mountain of Hell on a hire bike, and for riding the Mega on his hardtail - ave it!). So after an age of ploughing through the snow (most people fared little better this is the super steep start slope - no one is riding their bike correctly)

- Then its onto gnarly rocks, lots of drop offs, super narrow singletrack traversing even steeper rocky slopes. I was riding like a girl, smacking my pedals everywhere, just not feeling in control of the bike at all. When we eventually got to Alpe d'Huez, I was ready for chucking it all in. After some lunch (kindly provided by Rob) I remembered that I had messed around with my rear shock, in fact I'd lessened the preload (I have always thought the spring was too heavy for me and I wasn't getting full travel) - explaining why the bike felt alien and I was hitting the pedals all the time. So, a few turns of preload, and a few more for luck saw us heading up the lift to try Mats' recommended black route (8) down to Oz Station. Ah! this was more like it, still a little stiff and nervous but certainly improved. A great run this, a bit of everything, fireroad, steep switchbacks, rocky slab sections with drop offs, a rooty descent through trees, I can see why Mat likes this one so much. We stopped at one point to check a (I think Dutch) riders condition after a crash, he was OK, and then came a film crew to film Mick Hannah descend the route we just took. Mixing it with the stars!

Anyhow, confidence returning, we ascended from Oz upto the start of the Mega qualifying route. I have done this a few times now, so its starting to become do-able at speed, still not got a line sorted through the 2 snow fields early on, but ripped the rocky section, passing at least 10 riders with punctures (my tubeless rear holding out, probably put a new one on for qualifying). Finished with a blast down the blue and the ladder jump again (love that now)

Everyone came through unscathed, and Jason, Nick and Guy have VERY kindly offered me a bunk in their apartment for the nights before qualifying and before the race itself, to save me the 40-50minute drive from 2Alpes. Fantastic offer guys, which I will most certainly take you up on. Not be long now.....

Also bought a new rear rotor from the Hope guys (I had bent the other) - they let me have it for 100Euros (£67) they are £80 on chain reaction (they are the V2 vented ones - and you can tell by the way I haven't mentioned my brakes that they have been working flawlessly - most other folks have had a moan or two about brake fade...)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More practice, more friends, injuries and knackered tyres....

Went up to Alpe d'Huez again today, arrived at around 11am. Got a text from Graham saying he had a bad crash and I quote "handlebar into goolies" ouch! I think this was during the Sprint Avalanche.... Hes not sure about making the Mega qualifs now :( Get fit soon Graham.
Did most of the qualifying route again, and on the climb (yes CLIMB) into Oz en Oisans, I spotted a familiar face, couldn't place him however. Saw him again having lunch in Oz witha coulpe of friends, and they kindly invited me over. It so happens it was Jason, and I recognised him from a picture he posted to the "Megavalanche update" thread on The 2 friends were Guy and Nick (I hope I got that right!)
Anyway we had a great lunch, Jason had lots of tales of a broken hand and seperated shoulder last year, and Guy got worried (he was on a XC style Intense 5.5 - I reckon a top bike for the Mega if you can muscle it through the rough stuff, you'll get back in spades on the climbs) We then headed off to the top of the qualifying route. Here we have 2 snowfields to negotiate, I did the first OK, but snaked big time on the second. This is around 2600m, so the snow is slushy and has lots of tyre tracks in, very difficult to ride, for me anyway!
Onwards, I heard a crack from the direction of Guy, thought it was a flat. Anyhow it turned out to be the crank arm with the bolt in moving round on the splines - hopefully a mallet sorted this out on return to base. So 3 of us finished the top part of the qualifier. My rear tyres wrecked again, won't be surprised if I puncture again tomorrow (boo) - new tyre for qualifying methinks - bringing all these tyres is really paying off - this section is super rocky and they are sharp as anything, really difficult to ride smoothly. Finished off with the fast blue with the ladder bridge jump, no problem at all at speed now and arranged to meet tomorrow morning at 9am.

Tomorrow is sign on day for the Mega itself, I'll get my race number (71) and I'll be qualifying in the first wave at 10am on Saturday (numbers 1-200), with Nico Vouilloz himself having the number 1 plate. Watch out Nico! Nico is used to going fast, he was also the French Rally champion in 2006, and previously won the World Cup downhill series 10times. The man is literally a legend. He rides for Lapierre Bikes, and last year he won both Mountain of Hell and Megavalanche:
Should be interesting to see how many seconds pass before he disappears into the distance :D

When Telecabines go bad....

Marcus got stuck in the top Jandri lift in 2Alpes on Monday for 6hours in a massive wind. Heres a video of the horror:

(can't embed it coz this sites pants :))

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Kicking back, Mega lift pass, and Sprint Avalanche

Not been doing much for the last 2 days, taking it easy and trying to get my aching muscles and joints into better condition.
Went to Alpe d'Huez today, to pick up my weeks lift pass (part of the Megavalanche entry) and ride a couple of the trails. Did more or less all of the Mega qualiying route. Nice and muddy after the rain of the last few days.... ended up at Oz en Oisans, where the lift area was busy with hundreds of downhillers practicing for the Sprint Avalanche race tomorrow (Sprint Avalanches are normal 4-6minute downhill races, one racer at a time against the clock) - I entered this race, but the course is pretty gnarly (rode it last week) and I don't fancy breaking myself for Mega so I am giving it a miss. Picked up my race number as a memento tho :)
Also, whilst lying in this morning, my Speedball seatpost arrived and was rapidly fitted. Used it today - first thoughts? Crap clamp holding the seat. Lots of "play" in the saddle. However, come to an uphill, hit the lever on the bars and up she pops. So I rode all the uphills in the qualifying route, at one point passed lots of guys pushing - if I can do this in the race I think its my best bet for qualifying in the first or second waves (realistically, the second!)
Back to practice at Alpe d'Huez tomorrow
see ya! :D

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Mountain of Hell Finale

Firstly, I qualified 219th in the end (was 170th after the 3rd wave)

It poured down with rain all last evening, so thoughts of the Double Black in the wet kept me awake.

I got up at 5am this morning (orders were to be at the lift for 6am) - It was till dark, and very misty. Not a great prospect for a race from 3400m.

Got ready (wearing a water\windproof jacket to keep the cold at bay, was due to be -7 with wind chill at 3400m) and was down at the Tourism Office for 6ish. What a dreary sight, still dark, a few people milling about in the mist.

As the light came, so did the people, so I found out I was in line 11, and had to be at the lift at 6:30. Up we went, and what a sight as we rose above the mist - bright sunshine and lovely cold mountains...

At 3200m there is a restaurant where I took shelter from the terrible cold - and met up with Rohan an English guy I had spoken to at qualifiying yesterday. We asked each other what the f#*k we where doing up a massive mountain at 7am.

And so for the first bit of snow riding down to the funicular (underground train) that takes you upto the glacier at 3400m. The snow was surprisingly grippy, not slippy at all.

Even colder up there and we laid our bikes on the start line (11 in my case)Lots of dancing to keep warm, and a little AC\DC and we were off. The announcer said in French that there was some melted sections towards the bottom of the glacier and to brake before then because there was no grip after. I obviously took no notice of that. From the airhorn start, I pedalled like mad, and gained several places, actually clashed handle bars with someone at one point but we both stayed on. The sight of 400 bikers flying down a clean stretch of glacier was pretty amazing - I was going pretty quick, then people started to go down directly in front of me so I started to brake, which didn't do much. As I got closer to the melted section I realised I was going wayyyy to fast, so I think(!) I decided to lay the bike down rather than plough into the section with water and fallen riders in. So I crashed into the ice, and started to spin round, checked there was no-one going to hit me, and held onto the bike until it stopped. I got back on, only to realise my left hand (rear brake) was numb from the cold (I must have dragged it through the ice) and my levers where moved up into the wrong position. Anyway, across the snow again passed the funicular, and a little uphill where I stopped to correct my levers. I also checked my maximum speed at this point (probably 3 minutes after the start) and it was 46.8mph! So I crashed at nearly 47mph :D

To cut a long story short, my left hand was numb and I thought I had frostbite for half the race, so rear brake action was intermittant. The pain when my hand started warming up again was immense. Other people had this issue I think I saw at least 5 people at the side of the track clutching their hands. I continued on without stopping :D The climbs were painful, but I felt held up on most of the loose singletrack sections. Who knows without the crash?

The Double Black was fun, lots of sliding, and pile ups and avoiding fallen riders. The footpath to Venosc was insane, just lots of steps, wet slidey rocks and wet slidey drainage pipes.

Finished in the time of 1hr 10mins 23secs, in 214th position, out of 314 starters. I'll settle for that :D

(Mick Hannah, World Cup downhiller finished 19th in 47mins and the winning time was 39minutes 13seconds!!!!! shit thats fast - and this is cool, in 17th place, Bernard Millet, born 1958 i.e. 49yrs old, in 46mins 10seconds, he kicked the 24yr old professional rider Mick Hannahs arse!!!)

However, after the adrenalin wore off, I appear to have busted a finger, probably on the ice crash, I think I bent it backwards a fair way.

Rest day tomorrow, the lots of pain killers and onto Megavalanche Practice......and not to crash on the snow at 47mph :D

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Mountain of Hell Qualifier

Today was the day! Dawned very misty in 2Alpes, but bright. The sun was out as soon as you got above the village in the lift. I headed up early, my start time was 12:30pm, I was up there for 11ish.

Watched a couple of the other waves start, various degrees of carnage ensued....:D
Mick Hannah (Australian downhiller) was there, he led his wave out by some distance. Here he is storming:

So time for me to walk the 500m or so to the start line, where we where called by number and lined up. I was apprehensive at this point because I had not practiced the top section of the course. The start was a short straight, followed by a tight right hander, followed by a straight with a small snow field, then a tight left hander, then descending rapidly. The second corner had been pile up central in previous waves. So AC\DC came on the PA and an air horn blew and we where off. I tried to take a line cutting the first corner down a steep slope, so did everyone else it seems.
Lesson 1: Next time to avoid the pile up, take the full corner the long way.
I overtook a couple of people on the straight, then got caught in the pile up at the second corner. As you may be able to see on the pic above, the surface up here is lots of loose rocks, and the second corner was steepish covered with these rocks, so foot down and elbows out got me through. The next section was across huge rocks, with even huger drop offs in some places, risk taking was high so I dropped a couple times, others I saw people in front take the wrong line and overtook them hitting the correct line. After lots of switchbacks, we eventually hit the road. The field was pretty spread out already, and I pedalled like mad to catch the guy in front, which I did as he drifted wide on a corner (this section is fast, 35-40mph fast), pedalling to keep momentum for a short uphill, then into a descent across the side of the hill and into some woods (rated red) - I was right on someones tail, but no way to pass - probably lost a good few seconds here, and then mistake number 2, followed this guy off a drop off, where I went over my bars (and my GPS stopped at this point too) - got back on after sliding down the hill for a few seconds, no one around so no one passed me, and then lots of horrible braking bump infested berms - passed a few fallers, one bike on its back with a completely bent wheel....
Lesson 2: Don't follow, ride your own lines
Dropped into the time trail track, so we're at village level now - and a pedal along the path to the descent to Mont De Lans - over the hump back bridge which goes over the summer luge track. Around here I noticed the bike not handling correctly, I thought I had a puncture, but a quick look down and it looked ok. Pedalling up another small hill, I pushed my gear selector too far and the chain went between the cassette and spokes - Nightmare. Tried freeing the chain off with the bike up right, no joy, had to turn the bike over and yank the chain out. A couple of people passed me here boo! Pretty tired at this point, I am convinced that the earlier delay stuck behind a rider on the brakes the whole time fatigued my arms a lot. So down the Mont de Lans descent (red rated) and into the village for a finish. Nectarines and Apricots were handed out, as well as biscuits and orange and water.

Spoke to a few English guys I spotted (and some Irish).

So what time? My official time was 29minutes 11seconds (1421m descending). After 3 waves, I was 170th (i.e. 170 out of 300) which I was pretty pleased with for my first race. Not sure of the final placement after the 4th and final wave, but worst case would be 270th out of 400. I suspect more like 220-230th, just over half way :D
Without the crash and chain issue and flatish tyre, I reckon 27minutes was on the cards. To put that in perspective, the top guys (including Mick Hannah) finished in just over 20minutes.

My front tyre had lost a lot of air, hence the dodgy handling, so for the final tomorrow I'll stick another wheel on. Picked up another spare front tyre from a shop in 2Alpes (56 Euros!!!!)

So, tomorrow, 6am(!), on the lift to the glacier, then onto the funicular (underground train) to 3400m and some snow fun! Race starts at 9am (the snow will be icy still, so hopefully rideable)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Mountain of Hell Registration and Practice

Picked Matt and Graham from the bottom of the road to Alpe d'Huez - we had arranged they come over to check out 2Alpes, and give me a push on Mountain of Hell practice.

Registration was simple, a nice French lady kindly spoke to me in English, and I received my race number (260) and long sleeve t-shirt and a sticker and badge :D

So off to practice - the main idea was to master the black rated run called "Double Black" which I slid down sideways when I tried it on Wednesday.

First run was down good, only came off twice, managed to keep off the brakes a little.

We then went right upto the glacier, and followed the Mountain of Hell route down to the bike park. Here I am locked and loaded ready for the start:It includes all the black rated routes in 2Alpes :D but much of it isn't on marked trails at all. The top section is basically a random route across massive rocks, then onto shale and sheer faces covered in golf ball sized rocks. Theres also a couple of uphill sections, around 100m of climbing for the whole route. I will be pushing I expect, we'll see. Then of course the Double Black section, 3rd go at this and feeling better each time. Completed the route through the 4x track, and straight to Davids for a Croque Monsieur and a small can of Heineken.
Comedy moment of the trip so far:
Fat Downhiller : Do you speak English?
Me: We are English.
Fat Downhiller : Where do you go for good downhilling round here?
Me: up that big mountain there
Fat Downhiller : We went up there it was all fireroad
Me : Try the doublle black, thats good
Fat Downhiller : I don't like lose stuff, it moves under you. I like smooth berms and tabletops like you get in Morzine
Me : F#$£ off to Morzine then!! (I didn't say that actually, we sent then off to Alpe d'Huez)
Anyhow, dropped Matt and Graham off, and checked on my qualifying timeslot for tomorrow. I am in Vague 4 (wave 4) that sets off at 12:30pm, need to be up there at 11am. There are 100 riders per wave. No turning back now! Wish me luck :D

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Mountain of Hell begins.....tomorrow

Been a rest day today - for tomorrow brings the start of the Mountain of Hell weekend, with registration and practice all day.
Matt and Graham (met them in Alpe d'Huez) are coming over tomorrow morning to help out with practice. I need it!
Just watched the helmet cam footage of last years race, lots of people came off on the double black section, so that made me feel better, however the fact that the descent to Venosc isn't via the red track but by a footpath (you can see this path from the lift and it looks very steep - there are lots of steps in it, and with it being a footpath none of the corners are bermed) made me feel worse.
Anyhow the time is nigh - unfortunately sans helmet cam because the hard drive unit keeps making corrupt files, we guess because of the vibration.
I have a possible solution for the Megavalanche, however that relies on French eBay, so I am not holding my breath. Just means coming back next year to get the footage!!!
Bon Voyage!

I bought the 7megapixel files from the photo guy in 2Alpes, heres one:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Megavalanche Race Number - Mountain of Hell update

My Mega race number is 71. Nico Vouillez is number 1 (he was the winner last year) - Not sure how the qualifying is run, but I could be up against Nico. Watch out Nico. Haha :D

The courses for the Mountain of Hell qualifying and race are now marked on the ground. The main race uses a black rated route called "Double Black" (see what they did there - on the 2Alpes VTT map - this route is listed as number 30 out of 31 in difficulty!). Never tried it before, did today. Came off four times. Super steep (steeper than the Sprint Avalanche track from yesterday) - brakes are pretty useless, you just end up sliding both wheels and losing control. Random large dropoffs litter the track. Saw a couple of guys who could actually ride do it, they made it look easy. I made it look shite!!! Anyway, I intend to practice this section - I figure if I can ride this then the rest will be easy. Or thats the plan.
I am sporting a nice yellow and red knee from where my knee pads slipped round as I went down for the last time. The good thing was I ended up taking a red route to get down to the bikepark - and found this easy, the other day i could hardly ride that. Steep learning curve here we come. What these trails are going to be like in a race situation with some crazy foreigner on your back wheel god knows!!!!

VTT is the French version of MTB it means "Vélo Tout Terrain" literally translated it means "Bicycle any ground"

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Megavalanche Qualifying Route, drops offs and Nico Vouilloz

Took a trip to Alpe d’huez today, with a plan to try the Mega qualifying track. Fortunately hooked up with a couple of guys from Southampton – Graham and Matt, Graham has done the mega before, so I figured I’d tag along, try and get some tips about the big race.
So I met the guys half way down the second half of the mega qualifying route. This consisted of a horrible fireroad climb (heres hoping my Speedball seatpost turns up), followed by the narrowest of single track cut into the side of a large hill, followed by lots of rooty switchbacks and then another climb then descent to the lift station.
We took the lift back up, and was convinced to try a black rated downhill – the route used for the Sprint Avalanche (a pure downhill race run in the middle of mega week).
Now that was interesting – Graham said it was steep, yes sure was, the track crossed huge rock faces, then into steep bermed very rocky corners. Altogether hard work, but great to get down in one piece. I think with another couple of goes I could ride 99% of it without a foot down. You really have to be committed and fast in your riding here, there is no real room for error.
So onto the Mega qualifying track top part. After a couple of large switchback corners, we were straight across a mixture of huge rocks and snow. I hit a snow field and the front wheel sunk, to throw me off and re-break my visor where I repaired it after a crash in Les Gets. Then the track picks up the red rated route down, and here we got our first look at Nico Vouillez riding with a couple of his lapierre teammates or mechanics or whatever. I am sure he appreciated the broken peak style I was rocking. The red route is a mass of rocks and drop offs, very sharp rocks too.
So much for tubeless, I had noticed over the last few days what I initially thought were oil spots on my rear tyre. They were in fact small holes that the sealant had seeped through and sealed. I should have seem this as a warning sign, as today the casing of the tyre ripped and the sealant wouldn’t seal it, did I mention how rocky this part was? After 10 minutes of trying to remove the tubeless valve and then fitting an innertube I was good to go again. If this happens again in the qualifier, or even worse the main race I am knackered from a time perspective. New tyres for each day methinks……
Finished off with a beer, and full of dutch courage went to blast down the short blue rated downhill track underneath the Troncon lift. The course is around a mile long, not technical at all, but lots of jumps and tabletops to launch off, as well as a couple of bridge style drops offs. I have had a problem with drop offs ever since I broke my collar bone in Morzine, but I knew if I could follow someone off I would be ok because I would know I was going fast enough (too slow and its nose dive and SHATTACK! time) - So we stopped at the bridge first time down, and scoped it, then I followed Matt down - woo hoo! did it no problem. So back upto the top, this time a full run including the bridge and no stops, I was smoking and did it in 2m30s, proper drifiting in some of the corners (mostly flat or very slight berms). Next run we stopped and took some photos (above and below). Once again Nico came down with a couple of others, unfortunatley he didn't jump the bridge, because Matt was just set up to get a photo of me and we would have had a top photo of him. Got his mate tho :D. Anyhow thanks to Matt and Graham, who I shall hopefully be riding again with next week doing more Mega practice.

Monday, July 16, 2007

a point of reference

I just realised, that "2000m of descending" doesn't really mean much, so, if you were wondering what the hell 2000m of descending means, well Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, is 1085m high.
Ben Nevis is 1344m, and Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England, a mere 977m.
So, 2000m of descending is like riding down Snowdon. Twice. In 40 minutes.
Do you see?

Back in the Saddle.....

Tried to get the Helmet cam going today, but each of the files created on the Archos recorder where corrupted (or so it said) - bah bloody technology! One would have been a belter, I was recording on the fast blue on the Pied Moutet side, and there were a group riders in front of me that I had to pass, the first 2 stopped, the 3rd held on, until the track splits and you can take a large tabletop or remain low, I took the table route and pedalled like mad to get past, however nearly lost it on the next jump as my foot slipped on the pedal. Great days!

So, went off to do the Glacier descent again, ended up going a different way on the top section, its not that well sign posted - at least for Mountain of Hell there will be several hundred riders to follow :D - descended all the way down to Venosc - so that made around 2000m of descending - it took 41minutes, max speed was 36.6mph and distance is 10.3 miles.
Average speed was 15mph, dropped slightly from last time, probably because of being lost, crashing once, and the final descent to Venosc is just plain evil. Huge bermed switchbacks one after the other (it drops 800m in 2 miles) with massive braking bumps coming into each one really pounds your body. Some of the berms have jumps coming into them, and I found myself jumping into the berm just to clear some of the braking bumps. Hands and arms are that mullered at the end youo can hardly brake.... :D

Would make good helmet cam action if I could only get it working! Maybe I need someone who knows something about computers.....
Finally, there is a photographer each day on the LeDiable descent, heres a couple of shots he got of me on Saturday, I am sure he won't mind me using these, I'll probably buy a copy anyway, they're good shots:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Who is that retard? - Pic Blanc at 3300m

Ha! a picture says a thousand words, and all one thousand of those words are "retard"!!!!

Taken at the top of Pic Blanc, at 3300m, where the megavalanche starts. The start looks crazy, complete snow\slush fest, that starts off steep, and then continues to get steeper. With my subtle black line I indicate the start, that goes straight then a right hand bend where things get steeper. as shown here by this rather natty black arrow. Where the course goes from there is hard to tell.Guess I'll find out on Tuesday when I go over there for a day, this time with my bike.
Alped'Huez looks pretty good for trails, a nice blue rated one runs under the lift and too a little bike park with some wooden structures and a little cabin to drop off, so I'll start there, and move higher up the mountain as my eye gets in. A red I spotted looked pretty steep, there were strategically placed crash mats on some of the rocks, and I think that section may be on the Mega qualifying course - deep joy!!!
Weathers still great, 32ºC in the valley between 2Alpes and Alpe d'Huez, 22ºC in the resorts. mmmmmm.
And to end, another view from the top of Pic Blanc, the snow on the mountains in the distance is in fact the glacier at 2Alpes:

Sunday is rest day.....

No riding today, too hot for one thing, its a scortcher. Heres a picture of the bizarre climbing thing, taken from the apartment I am in ( People climb up and down this thing all day, including little kids.....
Off to Alpe D'Huez now, try and get to the top of the glacier, take a look at the start for Megavalanche, will bring pictures back....

Saturday, July 14, 2007

1461m of descent in 30minutes....

Phew, just got back from descending from the Glacier at 2Alpes, altitude 3200m.....

The top part has an optional red rated section called "canyon", and this takes you over some snow sections. Haha now that was amusing! My first attempt to ride on snow, albeit slightly soft snow ended in 2 spills as the front wheel snaked all over the place and dumped me off. At least it was a soft landing, I was laughing my head off!

The initial descent from the gondola goes down quickly, but there are a couple of sneaky climbs (32m in total), climbing at 3000m or so with full face helmet and low seat sure takes it out of you.

Half way down you pick up some other trails, including a road section that is strewn with golfball sized rocks - hold on tight and keep the bike pointed in the right direction. I hit 36.1mph there, and finished the whole descent in just short of 30minutes, giving an average speed of 17.6mph for the 8.77m miles and 1461m vertical descent. Not too shabby.

So that was pretty much the Mountain of Hell route, apart from that starts half way up the ski slope on the glacier, and adds a red section to the end of 2miles with an additional 827m of descending (down to a village called Venosc) just for extra pain.

Heres the graph from the GPS software (altitude in feet because it won't let you mix metric and imperial measurements - should be height in metres and speed in mph hey ho)

You can also see the action at motionbased here

By the end, my hands were completely numb, I had taken some Ibuprofen before hand to keep the hand pain at bay, so pain wasn't an issue, but numbness was :)

Lunch now then back out, perhaps to try that leg down to Venosc.

BTW forks not leaking anymore since yesterdays fettling :)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Mountain action and Forks in bits....

Hit the glacier side of 2Alpes today, 2000m of descending in a couple of hours, including a red rated run. Now my arms hurt. I think I will have arms like popeye by the end of this holiday :)

Did my bit for european relations as well, a French rider had a puncture in front of me, and he had spare tubes but no pump (!), fortunatley for him I had a pump on me, and I pumped his wheel up, which was a good workout at 2200m. On that note, I think I am becoming acclimatised to the elevation now, pushing the bike around seems a little easier, doesn't feel like an imminent asthma attack (not that I have asthma but I guess thats what it feels like) - In fact due to the fact the french are lazy, I missed the lift that closed at 12 by 5 minutes, and I had a 200m climb over 2km to push the bike up. What fun!!!! All good training I guess....

Also stripped the forks down as per previous post, and they were pretty mucky under the seals, so gave them a good clean and re-oiled and had a run down the green. Still a little oil around, but hopefully that is just float fluid from the seals. We'll see I guess, still got plenty of fork oil left, worst case I'll ask Tim Flooks to send some spare seals over. The job was pretty easy, only a 5mm allen key needed....

It just came apart in my hands guv:
Think I'll do the run from the glacier at 3200m tomorrow.....

Dusty Trails and busted Bikes

So, the less said about Mudtown the better - suffice to say I wasn't the only miserable British biker there at that time. Felt sorry for some of the guys who where only there for the weekend, and had to make the most of it. I just retired to my apartment and chilled (drunk beer, listened to music and read philip k. dick books). Lots of guys I spoke to where looking for a different resort for next year, Morzines lack of maintenance and high biker density putting people off.

The highlight for me was falling head first into a swamp on the Chavannes downhill in Les Gets and breaking the peak on my helmet - how I laughed :)

Anyhow, arrived in 2 alpes to glorious sunshine and dusty trails. Did the blue rated run on the Pied Moutet side (No.9) 4 times. A fabulous track, super smooth, a few jumps and steep drops but generally about speed (no rock gardens and no braking bumps either). Its 3.5km long and drops about 440m, fasted time was 6m:30s, average speed therefore ~32km/h or 20mph. Fastest I clocked was 31.9mph :) (just call me data) - on the fourth run I had a spill, one of the flat corners (i.e. not bermed) I hit a little too fast, was getting tired at this point, weight all wrong and the back end span round and I went down, all happened quite fast (GPS shows speed of 30mph at the time!!!) - no lasting injuries, my knee guards have a nasty gouge out of them and another jersey ripped.

I also got this shot of Pic Blanc, this is where the Megavalanche starts from. I have circled (badly) the lift at the top (3300m high) that is pretty much the start of the race. Hopefully, it then continues down the other side of the mountain, as the side that faces 2Alpes is nearly vertical:

One final thing before I head off to get my 6 day lift pass - I noticed oil coming from the seal at the top of the left leg of my Totem forks yesterday after the runs down the blue. Arrrggghhh I cried, thoughts of having to get a new pair sent over passed through my mind, I really don't want to use the Enduro now the VP-Free just rides so well and the forks are awesome. Anyway, a quick phone call to Tim Flooks - master of all things Mountain bike suspension put my mind at rest - apparently the seals on the Totem aren't too great, they get bunged up with mud (Morzine mud in my case) and dust, causing them to bulge and then leak. Tim said don't worry about it short term, but you may want to remove the fork lower legs and clean the seals up, then replace the oil.

The only problem, says I, is that I don't have the correct weight oil (15wt), only some Fox Float, and some Fox Suspension fluid. No problem says Tim, mix them 50\50 and put 20ml in each leg, job done! So a job for later is to do that (removing the lowers is easy, just remove the allen bolts from the bottom of each leg (ones also the rebound adjuster) and drain the oil. Then tap gently and slide them off, holding them upside down so that any muck near the seals falls out rather than back into the leg) - Big thanks to Tim for the info - check him out for your shock servicing needs at
DIY fork servicing here we come....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Where you bin?

I been stuck in mud-town as Morzine is now called. Rained solid since the last post boo
Still, back in 2alpes now, fabulous weather and great fast dusty trails. Will post again soon, must eat.....

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Morzine in the mud!

Hi! Found a free Internet connection at the pub owned by the guy who manages the apartments, so here I am....
Been a fantastic day in Morzine today, woke up to this view from my apartment:So off I went in search of a free lift pass, and a trip upto the Pre La Joux (or Chatel) bike park. Soon discovered that all the rain they have had here this last week plus the number or riders around has turned most of the trails into a thick brown soup (I was here last Sunday for the Passportes and there was only a couple of muddy sections then) - Still time to get the mudslide down vertical downhill trails head on..... First run was a nightmare - it was very slippery. However on the second run, got the hang of it a little, more tails slides than I know what to do with - but most of all FUN stuff. Heres the bike after a couple of runs:

....and it got progressively worse - twigs and stones were put to good use trying to remove some of the cack, but it stuck like sh*t to a blanket, becoming harder than the welds that hold the bike together once dried....

Still, ended up nailing some of the runs, the slidey mud and no mud tyres did make for some interesting moments :D and managed 3000m of downhill, half of the Passportes....

Heres a few shots from the top lift of the bike park mmmm nice alpine sunshine :)

Finished the ride with a blast down the road from Avoriaz to Morzine - couldn't face more mud!!! Managed 38mph according to the GPS.

Things learned today : you don't really need a back brake, it just messes things up on mud. Finally learned to brake with front brake only, lots of weight over the back obviously, but this is a very effective braking method. On steep downhills, the last thing you need is your back wheel locking up, because things start going sideways from then. Front brake all the way! In fact I rode from Avoriaz to Morzine round many switchbacks using the front brake only.... Maybe these dirt jump types are right (or is it only a back brake they use? Can't remember drinking mutzig now)

Mutzig - 7% and the only blonde I am getting tonight :D

anyhow - took me 2 hours to clean the bike, had to remove the crank, there was no way the front mech would shift into the small ring, in fact you couldn't see the small ring anymore... that mud dries like steel - at least it was sunny and warm for the event.

Forecast - more rain. Hey its just like England - only no work, good beer on tap and great riding only a lift away.....

The good news is that 2Alpes and Alpe d'Huez are much more rocky and higher than here, so that rain will probably fall as snow - bring on the Megavalanche!!!!!!!

oh christ

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Lyon and bye for now....

Took a trip to Lyon today to take Marcus to his CCNP exam (unfortunately he failed - boo)
Saw this cylindrical building:

and this field of sunflowers on the way back:

Also had a Subway - however the metric system has demoted "foot long" to a mere "30 centimetres" - still had a BMT though, with everything on as it was easiest :D

Anyhow, off to Morzine for 6 nights tomorrow morning - hey I may actually get out on the bike whilst I am there ;) - However lack of Internet access may make this my last post for a few days, unless I can find an Internet Cafe or something.....

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

First Ride in 2alpes

Spent an hour or so at the bike park this morning, and whilst the top lifts where shrouded in cloud, there was a break or two, so I thought a trip up the mountain was in order to do Le Diable (a blue rated 800m descent from 2400m)..... after sorting a lift pass, got up there into the clouds and made the run.
Very slippy, not really muddy but a slippery surface to the trail. Saw a marmotte run across the trail at one point, good to see the local wildlife enhoying itself. Anyhow it took 17mins to descent the 800m, not sure of the length of the trail as I didn't have the GPS on (will do next time)
Second run, about halfway up the lift it started snowing! So as I descended this turned to rain, and I didn't have any tear offs on my googles, so had to stop every few minutes to wipe them, not that it made much difference as I was actually in a cloud at this point. Great to fly into a berm knowing that on the other side of it is a sheer 2000m drop, only you can't tell because its just more cloud (!) The trail seemed to get even more slippery, I guess with the fresh rain on it, and one or two sketchy moments with the back wheel washing out and sliding all over the place going into berms (the berms with a 2000m sheer drop on the other side) - sure focuses the mind....
Hosed the bike down at the lift station, and headed back to the apartment for a brew and some lunch

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mountain of Hell Update and early rider shot discovered

I think I am finally regsitered for Mountain of Hell 2007. Went down to the tourist information in 2alpes, and tried to find out if I was already registered (bearing in mind I had done it by email and also by sending my brother in with a completed form) - however they were unable to tell me, the main message coming through was that if I hadn't crossed their sweaty French palms with silver then my name was not down. So I filled in another registration form (inscription in French) and went back with 55Euros, and handed in my doctors note (they took the original, but I retained a photocopy) and they also photocopied my BCF racing licence.

I had to ask for a receipt, because once they had the money they were happy enough to call it a done deal.

Hopefully when I turn up to register on Friday 20th June it will all go smoothly (I doubt that)
Also, check this photo, recently unearthed showing early signs of bike skills (thats the saddle between my legs btw) - That budgie went on to be thrown down many a hill, sometimes with 3 people on, 2 on the seat and 1 on the handle bars. There also seems to be only a front brake, can't remember if the rear brake worked by pedalling backwards or not, maybe it just didn't have one..........

French Zombie Bimbo Magazine

Look what I found in the local shop, a magazine called "Guts". I incorrectly assumed this was a totty-turned-zombie publication.

However, in much the same way as the UK magazine "Nuts" does not contain any reference to macadamia or cashew, this particular tome contains no Guts whatsoever, well not unless you count Pamela Anderson wrestling with a fat woman with a pigs mask on....
One for the trading standards methinks.....

Monday, July 02, 2007

Arrival in 2Alpes

So, tired and aching, I set off from Morgins to 2 Alpes, following the TomTom blindly.... and with a blocked road somewhere near Morzine (I think) with a massive diversion via Thonon and close to Geneva, not to mention a missed turn on the autoroute that meant paying a 1.70 toll twice, and a trip through the centre of Grenoble, I arrive in 2 Alpes 4 1/2hrs later. (check the route graphically here:
Greeted by a my brother Marcus and a brew, I unload the car, which seems now to contain a whole bike teams equipment:

A day or twos rest is in order now - some nice food and a chill for a couple of days. Off to Lyon on thursday to take Marcus for his Cisco exam, and then back to Morzine (to use those free lift pass vouchers - thanks again Glen, Ian, Dan, And and Gary) on Friday. May get a day riding in 2 Alpes on Wednesday - see what the weather does......

Passportes Du Soleil 2007

So the day started early, 8am start from Chatel. Met with the Bad Brains boys (Glen, Ant, Dan, Ian and Gary) at their apartment, then straight to the Super Chatel lift for the first leg over to Morgins. The guys had been riding for 2 days solid, so I figured I may be able to keep up with them on the Vp-Free (big rig as it became dubbed). Great first section, what alpine riding is all about, skijumps, doubles, berms and lots of grinning!

Which stopped as soon as we came to the first of 315m of climbing, a small section of road to Morgins. Ah now I doubt a heavy bike and full face helmet is such a great idea. No matter, still over 5500m of descending to go..... onwards to Morgins, then Champoussin;

between Champoussin and Les Crosets, we have the first incident of the day, Glen snaps his mech hanger under mysterious circumstances which may or may not have had something to do with some riders stopped on the trail...
Here is Ian and Glen making fire - sorry thats trying to remove the broken hanger from the mech. This never happened, so 30minutes later Glen became Chainless boy No.1. (more of chainless boy later...). This small hiatus allowed us to get our breath back, and get some pics:

and so it continued, to Les Crosets and then Champery, from there onto a belting fast descent for lunch in Les Linderets jumping or manualing drainage ditches all the way down, avoiding riders became as much of a sport as riding the trail. A sneaky beer with lunch for some too.....and Glen gets the Mavic guys to help recover his mech... Some mention of the weather by persons who shall remain nameless (!) as there was a possibility of a storm sometime in the afternoon. Regardless, we continued onto Morzine and then Les Gets, where a tannoy announced a dirt jump competition, and a puncture for Glen. Fairly tired at this point, just over half way around (!) Up the Chavannes lift then down to Morzine, including a horrible climb, or in my case push. Plain sailing now up the Super Morzine lift and Zore telesiege for a good descent back to Les Linderets - pushing on now as the clouds had started to gather.....I somehow (because of riding slowly) lost the guys on the way into Les Linderets, and in a state of confusion got the next lift upto the Chatel Bike park - while they had a beer in Les Linderets. However, this was good, I got chance for protein bar and a few moments of reflection on the ride so far.

Only one more lift to make from here, then a big descent to Chatel. In steps Chainless Boy no. 2, as Gary rips his rear mech of on the Chatel loop called "Panaoramic". Still Gary rode like a demon with no chain, only being held back on the uphills.

So final descent into Chatel, I was running on empty - I was a passenger I admit, and whose that on a storming run? Its Ian, ripping not at all like a man on the last run of a 3 day session in the alps. I managed to keep it all together, to meet Ian by an electricty sub-station(!) absolutley buzzing with his best run of the weekend - gowan lad!

As we arrived in Chatel, the heavens opened, and a well needed beer was consumed.

Big respect goes to Ant for riding the whole thing on his Inbred - and to everyone for giving me their free lift pass vouchers - cheers guys - a great day.

So, it took us 9hrs 20mins (moving time of 6hrs 14mins - 3hrs stood or sat around!) - and we managed 6154m of descending (just double checked my data and it says 20191ft or 6154m), and covered 61miles (this including the lift journeys)

My maximum speed was 37.2mph (best ever)

Take a look via motionbased and google maps at the whole thing here as recorded by my GPS: