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.

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