After Costa Rica we flew up the western sea board to have a little ‘back to Kate’s roots’ trip. We hit up Seattle, sampling much food, Pikes Place, ferry trips and superb Happy Hour Apero. People are very friendly. Love it there.

We then rolled down the highway to Portland where Kate and Mom jumped on a boat to roll down the Columbia River to Ilwaco, I meanwhile,  would spend some time with my good man Michael Keep. A spot of hanging in uber cool Portland and then out to a place called Sandy Ridge for some tyre rolling. My head, legs and lungs seem to be on holiday so I was in the red the whole time but it was great fun and a great place. Lovely forest.

We then went to Hood River and basically drank a lot of coffee and enjoyed a very leisurely breakfast before heading out to hit the trails. There were many options but after all the travelling I just wanted minimal hassle so we went for local trails called Syncline. An stunning hillside which is cut open by this great big basalt columned canyon. The wind was as fierce as the singletrack climb was but it was A+ stunning with volcanoed back drops.

We hit up some lovely flowing singletrack that seemed to make the very most of the hill before climbing back up to drop into The Shit. Coyote Canyon must be an overused name for trails but this was sublime. Fearing Poison Oak we donned full length clothing and ripped our way down. So good and completely different to trails I normally ride. A very happy camper I was, we then had local beers and a burger made with peanut butter. Happiness complete!

An early morning drive from Hood River to Ilwaco and I was reunited with Kate. The constant Fog had descended but gave it an very atmospheric feel. A very true fisherman port on the edge of the Pacific, quite a place. We spent time with family, went to Cape Disappointment which was definitely not disappointing and I took a run through original old growth rain forest which blew my mind.

Having spent a year in Whistler I had forgotten just how stunning the Pacific Northwest is. I can’t wait to return.

A late post but better late than never. I’ll let the pics do most of the talking but Kate and I went to the PAcific side of Costa Rica in August 2011. We stayed in St Teressa nr Playa Hermosa and had a great time.

  • Surfing
  • Horse Riding
  • Monkey’s
  • Yoga
  • RELAXING
    We flew to San Jose then took a little plane over to the Peninsula. We experienced an Indian Summer and got great weather with huge storms at night. HUGE storms.
    Images:

It has been a long time indeed. Lots of things have changed.

Competitive racing has finished for me. I feel I got what I came for in the 2 years of training and competiting. It was fantastic but its a time to return to just riding, adventuring and exploring. With that I undertook, as is my norm, a slight obsession with building a local trail. Its something Phil and I have wanted to do for a longtime and now, it is done. We weren’t expecting to complete it before the winter came but with the very late winter and awesome Autumn we did. I enjoyed every moment of it and have to say that the first rides on it were very satisfying. Seeign other peoples reactions were almost better than my own.

Part of the reason I wanted to make my own trail is that I wanted something very exacting so that with my future of less riding I would know where I would go and what I would get. Less riding? Yes, Kate and I will be (fingers crossed) having a Little HS in March. Life change but for all the good things.

Anyhow, Winter eventually rocked up with a few little snowfalls before the big storms rolled in. Before the big storms I met up with a guy called Adam Craig (www.adamcraig.net). Its the ol’ American Switcheroo trick, they come over and somehow they end up on my doorstep (its a small world). Adam is one hell of an XC racer (US Nat Champ), kayaker, skier and general adventurer. We got on. I thought I’d show him my fav place of Sex Carro.

As is normal, the snow pretty much sucked (got blow somewhere else) but it was great to be up there, seeing the mountains and checking in at the hut. Doesn’t feel like a winter without it. I have to say I wasn’t really feeling skiing. A funky knee made me feel very defensive and what with my change in mindset (Clips to Flats on the bike) I decided I was going to snowboard again….

I’d thought about this while I was in Costa Rica surfing (post to come), I like boarding, I like the feeling and the approach. I also snowboarded on the last day of the winter last year and loved it. There is a certain playfulness about it.

The big storm: Tempest Joachim rolled through Europe and precipitated an awful lot of snow on the Alps. Infact, it was more in 3 days than the whole of last season! I luckily got to sample it when Christmas Break came around and I choose to do it on a board. Also, my buddy had let me borrow his Burton Fish after I spent a day in Deep Conditions in the trees. I can’t believe the difference. Its really like snowboarding should be.

I got a GoPro Hero 2 from Kate for Chrimbo so this was its first outing:

 

I short Christmas break in the UK brought us back for more snowtime. With Kate pregnant but still wanting to ski meant we needed to find quiet skins and skiing. Nice trips up to Savoleyres when it was shut and Bruson made for great outings. Its pretty cool to think LHS is getting his first outings already!

Kate wanted to goto the Grand St Bernard Monastry and a sunny day dawned. It was go. I dragged poor Menso up there with the promise of some powder turns. That place is windy indeed. We had mandatory wine, cheese and soup and then I forced him up another 300m of steep, sunny, hotness. He was loving it (possibly not). The ski down was absoulutely shit. Very, very funny as it was full on carton snow with huge wind blown ridges. Still, it was fun. Sort of.

Another big storm rolled into Verbier and closed the lifts down. I managed to drag Menso up to Ruinettes in a tempest. Again, he loved it (possibly not). We skied the trees with 20cms of the light and fluffy stuff on boiler plate base. It was scary fast. Again. Top notch fun.

The freezing level went up and up and the rain/snow came down. I hit up Bruson with the Frennette crew. I have to say it may have been one of the few times where it was a wrong call. 50cms of Elephant snot BUT it really was fun. A lot of people having issues with the depth and weight of the snow.  A early finish for NY.

A little vid of what it was like. The GoPro was covered with snot most of the time.


 

Jonas and I started a 1st of Jan tradition last year and thus continued but this time with Jerry. Early doors and a road trip to a lesser known and high resort in the Valais. The sun didn’t play ball for a while but we had great fun and stress free riding. Easy hikes and no ‘Helmeted’ freeriders to speak off meant we had our pick of the terrain. We were just about to head in for lunch when the sun came out and we spotted a line. The day just got better and better. A perfect amount of riding done before we headed back to Planet Verbier.

The video to go with


 

One last skin in yet anther snowstorm with Kate for a cheese based lunch brought our Christmas period to an end. It left me with the terrible Snow Addiction again. Luckily, as I write yet another storm is pounding the alps.

Val’ D’Allos. Probably one of my favourite places on earth. The 2011 Enduro Series came back round. This time I was running Lone Wolf but with minimal stress due to knowing what was coming. A brutal but beautiful 2 days of racing with 10,000, yes, Ten Thousand metres of descending.

Having had a virus for 2 days and feeling less than perfect, even considered not going, I was a little concerned about being upto the task in hand. I went for a little ride on Friday evening to see how I felt. I pretty much forgot about feeling crap as soon as I looked around me. There is something extremely special about the area. The mountains, the climate, the vegetation, the light. Its magic. Go there.

Tent setup, pasta consumed, to bed and a pretty rubbish sleep. Standard. Went for a comfort break at 3am and the clarity of the night sky was incredible. I could clearly see each constilation instead of just a bunch of stars..pretty but should have been sleeping! Waking up I popped my head out of tent to see the sun rising over the Mercantour and immediate heat. Make no mistake, we are in the South. Minimal flapping from me. I now know what needs to be done and the timing. For example, I don’t need to miss my morning coffee to jump in line for the lift. Oh no. Eat well, caffenate, prep and leave.

With that I jumped on lift without the massive delay of last year and took in the view. From minute number 1 I practised my French with a variety of guys. All very friendly and talkative. Some new comers, some old timers.

Saturday: Is the day of DH orientated competition. Three different tracks done twice each. Almost the same as last year I didn’t need too much time to warm up. Was pretty pleased with my opening run. No errors, no real delays and solid. It always surprises me the level at these races and its got higher now that its officially the French National Series and everyone has been training! Most noticably Miss Anne Caro Chausson who posted 2 9th positions and an overall 13th for the day. Its incredible that she is challenging the big boys. I’d love for her to win a special!

I had 3 really good runs and 3 runs where I chose a bad time to depart and got held up. Every moment you pause, hesitate, mistime a corner, fall in a bush or get delayed by another rider you are going down the ranks. That instills a very high sense of tempo in everyone. Fast. Very Fast. There is a skill to over taking of riders…a quick shout as soon as you spot them, then more informing the closer you get and then a move or they let you pass. There is no time/energy for waiting and if you get the chance to get past them before a bottle neck you only have yourself to blame.

Anyhow, I finished up the day with my riding getting to a place that I was happy with. Think I pulled in a couple of 40 ish position runs which really makes me happy considering the level. I snuck into 59th position for Saturday which is great (although last year my goal was top 50 it wasn’t really acheivable, this year different story).

A great atmosphere, paella party and early night leads into Sunday. The Business end of things. Although the ‘Coupe De France’ is determined by the 2 different days and points awarded for that everyone is looking for the overall finish. Sunday is where the battle really happens with significantly more physical requirement and more and longer visits to the Pain Cave.

Last year it was super brutal with a horrible climb up a ridge but this year it seemed to have a better balance. Beginning of stage 3 from Staturday through beuatiful meadows and then spin off and climb upto last years ace course. A nasty little climb that was steep at first then slowly flattend out. If you gave too much, too early the longer flatter bit was horrendous but saying that you were so keen to get On The Gas and pass EVERYONE! Mwhuhuhuhuhu!

This then came in to the traversy tech singletracks that had 2 river crossing with steep banks to push out before the fun began again. First run this fun got more fun than I barginned for!!! Absolutely flying I somehow seemed to have LocationTravelled to Yorkshire in winter! A huge bog. I had the first 3-4 step drops before the inevitable happened. A full front wheel sucked into the mud and me catapulted through the air and other competitiors!! A soft anf gooey landing, rolling around, laughing and then eventually pulling bike out I got back on bike then slid to the bottom of bank. Covered in mud but all good.

Flat fireroad and back to the Gas Chamber. In the red and into singletrack which goes on and on and on till the end. I went to far into red and never recovered. Bit of a passenger on the bike, hands like claws and just wanting it to be done. Hardly able to hold onto the grips at 30mph is a bit worrysome!

Final sprint and done. Messy. Body a mess, cough racking my body and felt pretty bad. On the return I considered quitting but knew that the next one would be better, the first run is always the worst. A 20:35 sec run was tough, 2 more to go and I’ll get it around 19.

Run 2 was excellent and I felt on top of the world this time. Followed two guys down who held me up a little but was fun following, on the Elevator took them and powered through…some small errors here and there but good. 19:49. Better.

Last run on this special and I put it all out there. It was going so well, clear track and I properly owned every corner. Had a little Team Davros moment out in the meadows…A good lous shout of ‘EEEEEEEllllllssssss!!!’ is what happens when you high on EndoCrackain! Wooop. Elevator destroyed and then the last 3rd discarded with a disregard for safety. Just the steep last turns and I’d be home and dry…woops.

Front wheel tucked in on the 8th from last corner and over I went, missed tree, banged knee and at least 2 somersaults down the steep hillside before I came ro rest. Back up, on bike and get it finished. 30 odds secs lost and finished with a 19:41. Would I have got sub 19 mins? Who knows?

Very happy to have finished the 3 hard stages and with only one more to go I have to admit to wanting it to be over so I could start recovering..not the best mindset. Went up and waiting along time for the right time to go. Too much time spent mulling it all over and off I went. Didn’t start great and just as I got into it after the first quarter I heard that terrible sound.

‘Pssst….pssst….psssst’

‘Fuck. Please seal, please, please, please’

Nope. Game over. I tried to limp down but no way. Oh well, its one of those things. I suppose I could have swapped out to a dual ply DH tyre for last run but I didn’t.

Was more than a bit pleased with the pain to be over and a really solid performance considering. After checking the results I was running 46th for the day before the puncture. THAT is a win.

Some post race analysis of times and percentage away from winners and 30th place positions revelas just how tight it is. I am not going to compare against winners (12 -18%) as thats not really a realistic goal but 30th position. On the Saturday I ranged from 13.8% behind to 5.48% slower than 30th. 5% is 40 secs…which over 400(guessing) turns/ corners over a 1000m descent equates to being 0.1 secs slower through each turn…not sure if that has any validity but this sport is about effiency and consitency whilst being fast.

Interestingly looking at Sunday we see me getting closer to 30th with a range of 2.6% and 6% slower BUT getting even further away from the Top Guns (21 – 19 – 21%). They really are Beasts of the highest order!  However, I can look back at last years results and really see some significant improvements. Last year I was 35 – 28 -24% slower than Fast Boys. So I can see I am massively faster and much more consitent from the getgo…

In the end of the day it doesn’t matter or change anything however to be able to see the cold hard facts that I was faster validates all the hard work and beer and food sacrifices. Of course it is ALL good because this racing lark is way more than the race.

Lets see what Les Arcs will bring.

Here is the video from the race: 26in.fr

Some little piccies too:

Viddy clicky

Its good AND I am in it gor about 2 x 2 secs.😉 Skip the French chat.

Shakey Cam

After an easy day on Thursday (Ascension) you would have thought I would have been well prepared. Maybe I should write myself a list of things I should always take to races…that would be clever rather than just wandering around picking things up and randomly throwing them in the car. I have a lot of tyres but for some reason I choose not to take them cos I ‘know’ what I need from my dark mancave 400km’s away from the race location. Luckily Mike Carr brought the world from Walsall and I was kept like a king (apart from a sleeping bag!!)

Did a little tour of the Voseges on the way to La Bresse, I see it as getting to know the area, you might see it as getting lost. Stunning area. Just made for riding ‘push bikes’ on. A feed, a beer, a chat about tyres and stuff, hiding from midges and the make shift sleeping bag was hit.

The weekend was scheduled to be pretty relaxed in terms of timing. Register in the morning, have coffee, chat, see whats what and then roll out of the start at 13:00 for our numbers (we were nicely riding together for the first day). Format is classic All Mountain:

Leave at given time, plenty of time to get to stage, walk first 300 yards and then queue up for start time then beast yourself. Repeat.  A fairly physical 1300m of climbing was advertised and combined with flat out racing that quickly sorts out those who pretend to bike and those who bike. Combined with some very warm and close conditons meant it was Sweatsville, Arizona.

Walking the first section I was very excited indeed. Chris and Mike had ridden this section the day before and said it was very, very good and FAST. Think dark forest, perfect trails with lots of Sandstone rocks for features, tight, twisty and just plain ace. Mike was 15 secs ahead of me and then a large minute gap to Chris so it really favoured me as it gave me a target (with a massive helmet!) and then a clean(ish) run. Mike is a great guy and  just popping his Euro Enduro Cherry and wouldn’t have any ego issues of letting me past.

Into the first section and gave it Full Gas and then into the single, a little tentative but then felt the flow immediately and just loving the track. Blind and as fast as possible. Rocky, slight exposure, twists, turns and really, really fast. Spinning out my 34 x 12 fast but on a singletrack a foot wide! Caught Mike and then just attacked and attacked and attacked. Into the final area and there are loads of people on the course shouting encouragement. LOVE IT!

Get to the bottom and I think the first thing I said after getting my breath is ‘I LOVE RACING!’ So good, you just can’t recreate race pace. Its intense and addictive.

Big long climb to 2nd Special. Looks ace, I don’t really want to know whats coming and just get on with it. This is the hard special with 2 longish climbs that is a place to leave it all (although you still have a long way to go). The trail is simply magical and I’m in the zone. Catch 3 other riders near the bottom. Around 7 minutes. Have to have a pretty good lie down at the bottom.

Another smallish climb and everyone can feel the pain after that effort. This next trail is 4mins ish and tech. Really tech but absoulutely great. Then some awkward twisting and turning through flatter forest is tricky to spot things early enough but just fantastic. Probably my ‘worst’ of the 4 specials time wise.

The final push. Literally. 350m of mostly deathmarch pushing really splits people and makes them suffer. I’m in my little zone of pleasure. Knowing this is the last special I push the pace to up my ante. No idea of whats ahead I sprint off and hit my balls for the 3rd time nose diving into a ditch! Oof.

This trail is something else. Probably the most tech trail I have ever raced on with some serious consequence. Some proper switchbacks and a rock section that a marshall tells me to slow down on. I ignore him as I am full of confidence and The Red Mist. Things to take away from this race. Listen to marshalls. I narrowly escape plunging off a cliff as I fully compress down a rock drop into a left hand corner with a drop straight ahead. THAT was close! Thank you Fox suspension and Tyre compounds for keeping me alive! Mike has a little off down there so it couldn’t have been as deathly as I make out but it felt like a big drop at the time.

Full of Adrenaline I pick rider after rider on the tech/physical traverse and feel I am coming to the end as I can hear a lot of cheering. Same finish as first stage and I have it. Wow. Done. What an amazing trail.

Finished with the day we opt out of shuttle back up and spin out the lactic for the 10k ride back up the hill and round the day out with 1500m of climbing and 38km of riding. I am over the moon with my performance, Mike survived his first Enduro day, Chris is a bit frustrated with being blocked and not being aggressive enough to get past but all in all it was A grade with a statement of  ‘this is the best yet’ from Chris.

Shower and then we head to the Pasta Party. Yes, included in the price of 40 euros for 2 days riding is goody bag, 4 lift ups (Sunday), uplift back from bottom and a proper good meal with dessert and a drink. All because the whole commune is behind the event. Excellent stuff.

We then check our times and placings. This is where the bottom of my world fell out. I made a couple of mistakes but nothing much and it is impossible to ride flawlessly for the whole time, I have trained for 6 months now and had a whole race season last year. I have a new light and awesome bike, I am the lighest I have ever been and I rode extremely well. Extremely well. Based on Enduro Series ranking which is a much more talent packed race I managed to break into top 50 last year. In this race I was looking at top 30 as a goal.

When I saw the position 53rd I was properly gutted and surprised. I just couldn’t believe it! I couldn’t have gone faster. The long and short of it is that it crushed my ego into a little pile of poo.

It felt like all of the training had been a waste, I’m just not good enough etc..etc…Its probably easy for someone to say ‘oh its your first race, let it go, doesn’t mean much etc’ but when I know in my heart that I rode to the way I want to ride and performed physically to the way I can its just crushing. Also the basic essence of why I race was not fufilled i.e. I want to do as well as I can in a sport I have reasonable skill and my ego has a certain level that it is expecting.

I still had an amazing day racing and riding new trails with old and new friends. I had to push out my chest and take it on the chin. Bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday was a more DH orientated day with lift assistance and some pretty hard riding. Especially after a heavy fall of rain in the night. Changed rear tyre and to battle I went. Early start and another hard tech trail. I didn’t ride as well as I did the day before and was a little tentative. Get through without crashing was my mindset. That mindset came from the night before. A defensive, hurt mindset. Its easy to see it in hindsight.I did try my very best and I had moments of real flow but overall I was not on my Saturday pace.

However, the trails. Oh man. Loved them! 1st special was just incredible. Loam, rocks, steep, slippery then a balls out 1 min plus pedal along a lake and into flatter but equally tech and rocky sinlgle. Oof. Tough at 9 in the morning. 7 mins ish

2nd Special had smallest amount of ‘just’ pedalling and was hard. It was nice to  see the little bits of pedalling to breathe and be relieved that you are still on the bike! Lower sectionwas pretty nuts and then a final taped out course across piste to finish. 6-7 mins

First 2 were ok. No real issues but nothing special either, the second time was better but overdid pedalling and crashed in rocks due to inability to coordinate. Last run was good enough and was very happy to be finished in one peice.

Chris was storming his last 2 runs which I was really happy about as he’d suffered with a lack of aggresion before. Mike survived and did really well. Props to you Mike!

Beers, food and hanging out enjoying the atmosphere and catching up with new and old friends (The OTT’s and Jasper the Belgium).

Post Op: Chris and I had worked out that something was afoot in the timing as the guy who started 45 secs ahead of him and he was catching every run and sometimes passing (if he could get past) had a better time than Chris. Hold on…Wrong. Looking at the times bearing in mind on a couple of stages I was then only 5-10 secs behind Chris (45 secs in front)  but my official time was 9 secs difference from Chris. No complaining or hassling but an error was made. I am now shopping for a DMC Lap timer as I can only guess at what my true time was. Dissapointed but also vindicated. I know that I hit the top 20 on Saturday and there is an awful lot of good things to be taken away from the weekend for me personally.

Apart from these issues it really was the most incredible race, in an incredible area, beautifully organsised, huge friendliness from the locals and non locals. Loved every second of it. Bring on Val D’Allos!

Race season is starting.

Weekend will be the Enduro des Hautes Voseges and looks to be a fantastic course ran out of la Bresse. 1300m up by legs, heart and lungs on Saturday with 1500m drop of racing with 4 varied stages. This will be a good day.

Sunday will be 2 stages done twice and using the lift to get most of the way up, pedal to start, race down, pedal back up then race down (repeat). Stages look a little longer on this day.

Some heavy precipitation has been falling across Switzerland (some as Snow) but it looks to be warming up for weekend. Should be perfect conditions for riding. Mr Christopher ‘Deadley’ Headley is coming over to bring on the Brummie Pain. Oh the excitement!

Metabief, Montreux, McPuppy, Monday, Mechanical assistance, Mud (bit of), Mighty Fine Singletrack, Millions of Metres Descended.

To remind me that I am not Andy Shlek, Contador or even a half good roadie SO that when I attack one of the steeper climbs in and around the Alps I should do it in the manner to which I can successfully complete and not suffer, drool and nearly implode.

First time up Mt Saleve outside Geneva and I requested the steep way. Turns out that the steep way is steeper and longer than I imagined. I thought it might be 20 mins ish even though Jerry had said 40 mins. Not entirely sure why I blocked that figure out. I think it was my ego ear muffs.

I started off feeling pretty good. PRETTY DARN GOOD actually. Round the first corner I spotted my first victim. The power increased. Victim eaten. And repeat with the steady stream of evening cyclists. With this came the ramping of the gradient. The 10plus is a nice gradient I find. Really rewarding.

Then the switchbacks started. Steep as and then steeper after. 12/13%. Up, up and up. Was flying and liking it but knew I was over doing it. A few more switchbacks, victims and eventually I had become the victim.

Well into the red zone and starting to really suffer. Mixing standing up with trying to turn those pedals faster to keep on top of the gear but I was failing. I was slowing and no wonder as I had been climbing at a silly pace (1200m an hr I am guessing). I also noticed a softening of my front tyre through my haze.

I looked for more gears more than a couple of times. Passing another rider I realized the previous cocky rider that took the corners at their steepest was now a disgusting, non classy rider drooling, and pedalling like a bobbing baboon.

I consider stopping as my heart was trying to rip itself from my chest, my windpipe was on fire and I felt terrible but that Ego thing kept me going. The gradient eventually eased and I struggled on and eventually got to the col.

I’ll learn to check the profile AND the height next time but it was ace in a very sick, pain locker/cave/dungeon.  I’ll break it next time:)

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