Good weather in Val Thorens for a bike ride – folks started arriving for the Maxi – according to the website, only 140 or so had registered so far…..
I spotted a familiar van on the basketball court in Val Thorens – it was the guys camping on the car park near the lake in Les Gets. Anyway I got speaking to them, and did a bit of riding with them. Fergus and Joe were VERY difficult to keep up with. I found out why later. Anyway, after falling off 3 times trying to keep up and putting a nice hole in my knee, I went back to the hotel to lick my wounds. I managed one more run of the Maxi course top half – very rocky, some fireroads, one snow patch (!), then into grassy rocky switchbacks. Had a good run, clearing it where I had fallen off before.
My qualifying wave is at 2pm (along with Joe and Fergus) – there is a big storm forecast, hopefully we can get away before it comes…..
Turns out Joe and Fergus are top UK downhillers (actually Scottish), Joe currently sitting 4th in the National Mens Elite category, and Fergus 11th (in perspective, Dan Atherton is 5th and Marc Beaumont is 10th) – so no wonder I had trouble keeping up with them.
They were still undecided as to whether they should ride their “wee bikes” (140mm ish travel) or their full downhill rigs. Either way, they would be FAST! They would be lining up just behind me, but not for long I suspect….
Joe rides a pink bike. You’d have to be good to ride a pink bike. Joe is VERY good!
Race Face ON!
Watching the 1st wave, Remy Absalon was 5m ahead by the first rocky chute.
Remy leading the pack in the 1st qualifying wave
Remy Pins it
There was a bit of traffic at this point (100m from the start, after a small uphill) – so line choices were scoped. I intended to follow Remys line (the main line in fact)
As usual I was being slack and missed my call for the line, but I managed to squeeze into line 2 anyway – there was a full line 1 and 2, and some stragglers at the back. A total of 39 riders in this wave.
Anyway before I knew it, we were off. There was a big crash in front of me more or less straight from the start (I think at least 3 people went down), so I ended up off my line.
Not the best start for some....
No matter, in I dropped. Passed a guy riding gingerly between the big piles of snow on the first fireroad (there are one or two drops off, I just launched them). Rode the first sections pretty well, didn’t lose to many places, however entering the grassy\rocky section, there is a big rock with a wooden bridge over it, cleared that no problem, but came up against the guy in front and had to push a small section – someone came flying past here, then went straight over their bars –
ha! I thought, I wouldn’t lose a position after all – WRONG! I followed suit and went over my bars too – about 8 mins into the race at this point….
Anyhow, no damage done (apart from another bent brake lever, decided to leave it be this time and not risk snapping it off…oh and the helmet cam stopped recording too, oh and later I discovered that the screen on my GPS had been smashed into oblivion)
Onwards and downwards, the tricky section I crashed on yesterday seemed to pass quickly, then into the bike park, rolling the big double, but hitting the little ones – not much left in me at this point, then the nice singletrack section to the 2100m lift station. The rocky footpath was hell however, I fell over and had a dirt nap at one point through sheer exhaustion, did the off camber chute held it together well, and crossed the finish line. Fergus was on hand to offer a well deserved coke.
Winning time for my wave : 18:55, I was in 30th position in a time of 26:55 (exactly 8 mins slower!) – that puts me in Line E – next to the back row – just to show how the wave you are in can affect things, my time in wave 3 would have been good for 17th place, and Line C. It did start to rain on the 3rd wave however…..
Fergus came an awesome 2nd place – apparently in the lead most of the race, conceded when his mech twisted round. Joe came in 7th place, both good enough for the front row in the races tomorrow, and hopefully top 10 finishes! All on their "wee bikes" too.
A note about the race – great organization, good atmosphere, great track what more could you want? And there were only 115 men with finishing times in the qualifier (not sure where the DNFs get recorded…) – come on people, Fergus and Joe proved that UK downhillers could dominate these events – so lets get some bodies over here. I think there were 6 UK entrants.