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:

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