Enduro really has now found its place among the many disciplines of cycling, so much so that I was asked to go along to film a segment about enduro to feature on ITV4’s Cycle Show.
The Cycle Show is now onto its second series and is a show trying to feature as much about the world of cycling as possible. It’s no doubt more road focused than anything else, but in this series they have tried to showcase many of the other cycling disciplines out there and it was great to have the opportunity to help promote some mountain biking on the show.
Also between my recent races I took a trip down to the UK’s newest bike park in Wales, BikePark Wales. My sponsor Trek is one of the main supporters of the park so I was lucky enough to get invited to the pre-opening test weekend and take a look at the trails. In only a short six months it’s amazing to see how many different trails they have managed to create in a small area, catering for every type of rider. It’s so exciting to see projects like this happening all over the UK as it just shows what an exciting place the sport of cycling is in right now.
Dropping in: Italy
After just six days at home I then set off back out to Europe and fitted in a visit to another new biking location in Italy on my way to the sixth round of the Enduro World Series in Val d’Isere, France.
La Thuile, although French sounding is an Italian village located on the Petit St Bernard Pass and borders onto France. It’s a known winter holiday destination but as yet has not really been massively explored by bikers, although plenty of locals ride there. Enrico, the organiser of the Italian Superenduro series, invited a few of us over to take a look at the trails and help promote the resort in preparation for hosting a round of the EWS `next year. It was a beautiful little town, with natural unspoilt trails and views of Mont Blanc, glaciers and incredible waterfalls. I can’t wait to see the film we made from that trip; I have a feeling it will be a good one.
Enduro World Series Val d’Isere
From La Thuile it was only a short drive down into the valley and up to Val d’Isere. I had never raced in an enduro there before so didn’t really have an idea quite what to expect. Although I had raced the World Cup DH there last year and it was super steep, so I was expecting some tricky terrain!
Already early in the week people had been commenting on social media sites about the weather forecast for the weekend as it was not looking good, but you don’t expect the weather five days in advance to actually be accurate…. well at least in the UK we don’t ! But I have to say it was pretty spot-on. There is no practice at the French enduros until race day so all we could do on Friday was walk the trails, but with three massive, long stages on the map it was never going to be possible to walk them all. I decided to just walk the top half of stage 1 and then the bottom of stage 3. That was plenty as my gluets and calf muscles certainly knew about the two and a half hour mountain descent the next day.
Saturday morning was beautiful and for the start of stage 1 we had to hike up a super steep track to start at the same place as the Olympic DH ski course. It was quite an amazing view back down to the valley floor and just the perfect start to a tough two days of French enduro.
On stage 1 we had one practice run and then two race runs down, it was predominantly downhill with some nice open meadow style turns up top and then some tight, narrow traverses into some steeper tight trails to finish. It was around 10 mins long and a good start to the weekend. I had a safe and steady start to the race and took second place to Anne-Caroline Chausson, about nine seconds back. In my second run, I rode a lot better and took the stage win by two seconds.
We then headed back up to start our practice for stage 2, which was delayed a little and by that time the storm that had been forecast had come in. It was pretty cold, wet and windy by the time we had a practice run. The rain really set in then and the thunder and lightning too, so at that stage we had no idea if they could run the timed stages as the lifts would not run in the storm. We all sat out the weather and waited for confirmation from the organisers as to what the plan would be. At 4 pm they made a call and we were back up the lift and ready to race just once down stage 2. The thunder and lightning had stopped but the wind and fog was still there. By the start of the women’s race the fog was so thick that as I sprinted out of the start gate I couldn’t even see the first corner and having only ridden the trail once in the pouring rain, navigation was not easy. I took a wrong turn pretty early on as the course tape had been broken, and started heading down a well used bike park trail. I soon realised that I could see no course tape and I didn’t remember all those steep berms! I quickly stopped and turned around and then saw Cecile Ravanel, who had set off 20 seconds behind me, up above on the race course. I ran back up and could see the broken tape and rejoined the course. I eventually caught back up to Cecile and passed her before the finish, but unfortunately did not get back the 20 seconds I lost, so ended up taking second on the stage. I soon realised that I was not the only one to get lost as many of the girls’ field had been lost in the fog at some point, some just rejoining the trail later and a couple ending up back in town… Those were some of the toughest conditions I have ever raced in and I was happy to have salvaged my race and not lost too much time on the overall. Anne-Caro also took a wrong turn and lost more time than me ending up in third, which gave me the overnight lead.