I needed to be on the lift to the top around 6:30am – I got up at 5am after a poor nights sleep (nerves, or not enough beer?) – grabbed some breakfast and put some new brake pads on the front of the bike (first descent should bed them in!) - I met Rohan and Gav at the lift. We grabbed a tea, and hit the lift. It was just coming light, and clouds were fast moving and building over the village. We got to 3200m and things didn’t look too bad – we got a coffee at the restaurant, and waited with all the other victims. Lots of snow seemed to have disappeared, and there was a large patch of black ice at the bottom of the glacier near the restaurant.
A Glacier yesterday - steep and icyOh deep joy! The final leg to 3400m is via funiculaire – we joined the queue, after riding down a very snowy, soft snow at that slope to the funiclaire station.
At the top, things were looking a little worse.
It was snowing intermittently, and visibility was minimal. We got lined up, and jumped up and down trying to keep warm. The start was delayed til 9:20ish, so everyone was pretty cold by that point. I was pretty convinced I did not want to crash on the snow and get even colder, so as “Highway to Hell” by AC\DC played and the hooter went, I took it easy off the line. Lots of people past me, only to crash and burn later on. I know from experience, that getting speed up on the glacier is fine, its slowing down that is the issue. The snow was softer than last year, so ruts had formed in, I got to the ica patch, and as everyone else skirted around it, I went through it in a straight line – no problems. The next section down to the funiculaire station then back out of a dip was slow, lots of pushing on the mushy snow. Up onto the fireroad, and finally a little speed picked up – across the moonscape scalped a few, tried to ride it all amongst people mostly pushing. Stopped for a moment to get my waterproof off, was getting hot by now. Rode up the first fireroad climb, seemed easier than the other day in practice, then sped across the gravelly fireroad and onto the plateau before the final snow section of the race (thank you) – it was around this point that the rain started, as well as thunder and lightning, miserable conditions. I fell off in the snow, but didn’t get too wet or cold – then onto the steep black section – rode this really well, as always in a race the sections seem shorter than when you practice. Another long fireroad climb, followed by the first of a few steep shale drops. Lots of people crashing, generally going too slow and losing it – I hammered down, tail-sliding everywhere, having some fun – however the constant rain was naffing me off, as well as the fact my glasses were steaming up – even without goggles. I had pretty much decided to abandon when I next saw a marshall. Across the fireroad and down another steep drop, then a fireroad climb. My darkest moment! Fortunately, no marshals so I continued down the black switchbacks. Again lots of slow people (must have lost lots of places on the start and when I took my jacket off) sliding everywhere – the helmet cam footage of this bears me out – every corner or drop there is someone on the floor, or sliding wildly until they hit something and fall off. Anyway made it down without any stress, now decided to finish the race, no matter what it brings. Fireroad then groomed track until the new section that replaced the double black this year. This is basically a narrow sheep track through a steep field, lots of switchbacks and drops, and very grassy. Suffice to say I needed some mud tyres on at this point. Its pretty steep, so two wheel slides were not uncommon. It was pretty funny, loads of people falling over and sliding around in the mud. One section through a berm was difficult enough to walk, in fact you had to go on your hands and knees it was that slippy! LOL. A French guy who was stuck there said “you wouldn’t believe it unless you had seen it” – this was really tricky to get through. My rear wheel wouldn’t go around at more than one point because of the mud. I came off a couple of times, no great shakes though – and managed to actually ride some of it.
Back into the bike park, then over to the Venosc descent. Now that’s a great descent – in the dry. In the wet, it felt pretty dangerous, although I got down in one piece passing a few more people, and would have passed 2 more but my options ran out at the end. Final time 1hr41mins.59secs, in 211th position.
White kit - DirtyThere were 300 starters, and the winning time was 43mins37secs (Greg Doucende) – really amazing considering the conditions. Rohan was 95th in 1hr10min19secs and Gav 110th in 1hr13mins27secs – top bombing guys! Especially as Gav had a massive stack and has busted a rib….
A great race – and the consensus of opinion is that this is harder than the Mega – especially this year. Roll on next year!
Nomad - very dirty