Anyhow, 4 rows (ish) back (there were around 20 a row, I was number 76 in the wave) – I chose the proline from the start. I had already seen Rohan and Gav start, Gav was away like lightning and was in the top 6 into the 1st (hidden) snowfield.
Gav storming - Big Up!
I didn’t have a bad start, got across that snowfield, pedaled down the dusty fireroad, into the first steep-as-you-like shaley drop. Lots of people braking here, so I took the left line and took a few scalps, with a chant of “allez allez allez!” – again stuck in with the muppets, who clearly like pushing their bikes DOWNHILL rather than riding them, I nearly come a cropper off the fireroad up a slight incline into a queue “ALLEZ!” – more shocking riding down super steep carve-able shale – really enjoying this – and taking scalps all the way “tres bon” – cut a corner “whoops first potential 2 minute penalty – 2nd one and I am disqualified” – back on track, and pedaling past people – who though pedaling could be so much fun?
Down past Le Diable lift station, and onto rutted grassy singletrack – again all new since last year – now the ruts and braking bumps really seemed to take their toll here – on the way down to the super steep “double black” – dropping in, my arms are killing – probably 15 minutes into the race now – so struggling to exert enough force to brake, and with bodies strewn left, bodies strewn right, I am sent slightly off line and crash into a bend. Hot damn – people pass me. Brush down and off again, and literally off again as I wash out into a flat corner – not enough brake! Ouch my arms. Have a little dirt nap – check my makeup – what am I having for tea? Pull pads up – oh best get going again – people are passing again. Gasp. Negotiate the tricky corner before the shale descent with aplomb – back on it – think of having a rest before dropping in to this carve-able descent, keep yourself on track with little shale berms – no rest – no time! Drop in, carve past bodies, to slightly muddy stream crossing – again front wheel washout – getting used to this, 3rd off in as many minutes – splash! Arm into only wet part of course! Yowsers! No time for a dirt nap this time, crack on past more fallen comrades. Across a meadow – no time to admire the flowers – and drop into the bike park, down the 4x track. Not really enough energy for the jumps, but have a go anyway (“Gav is sure to have done the road gap” goes through my mind – he did BTW) – then a nice pedal along the yellow dirt road past the swimming lake – then a little climb upto the start of the descent to Mont-de-Lans. I had a chain off moment here last year, the chain went over the biggest gear at the back and got trapped behind the cassette and the spokes. Those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it – so I drop to granny ring, scalps in sight pushing up this bit – and the chain comes off – literally the same place as last year! Gutted, but inevitable. Bike upside down, chain back on, push up and drop in. On someones tail here down the switchbacks, they finally succumb, someone crashes in front of me and I ride past as they hold their crown jewels. I take one final scalp going past the lift station, then to cries of “go das” I try and jump the side of a berm into the finish – fail miserably and wobble across the finish line. Position – 231st out of 400 in 30:03. Winning time was around 19mins. That seemed so much meaner than last years qualifier. It was hard work for a full 30minutes. I am in row 14 out of 19 for the main race. I was in row 11 last year, but I can't remember how many rows there were (I should read my own blog)
Gav and Rohan did awesome, top 100, 24 and 25 minutes respectively! Row 7 and 8.
Main race tomorrow - after that beating, ot looking forward to getting up at 5:15am to get breakfast and get to the lift for my lines time of 6:30am - the race starts at 9am. We a get the telecabine to 3200m, then the funiclaire (underground raliway) to 3400m, on a glacier I crashed on at high speed last year. Yum yum!
Heres some pics of the last few days - thanks Gav, Joe and Rohan for some of these tops shots:
On the moonscape (I look superimposed on this picture - I assure you I am not)
Man at Mountain of Hell
Railing to Venosc
Steep shale chute
Das, Gav, Joe