In Spring one of the first places to truly open is Metabief. Located just inside France in the Jura mountains they do a great job of providing quick, lift assisted action. With only 400m of vert its surprisingly tough! Think more of a stepped profile with some seriously challenging trails that are made  much harder by limestone, roots and a clay-like substrate. One of the hardest palces to ride in the wet.

So with that and a forecast of heavy rain I went there. Nothing like forcing yourself to ride shit like this. Found more and more trails this time and was again left thinking how hard it was but ultimately great. Will return again to mash out run after run.

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Out of the habit of writing this.

So where are we? Ah…Spring/summer. Feels like I have been riding for months. Well thats cos I have. the winter of 2010/2011 must go down as a lean, lean year. Great early snow of Chrimbo then nothing. Surviving on that snow till Mid Feb was too much and the conditons allowed for the bike to come out.

As soon as that happens a part of me is lost. The training plus actual MTB riding conspired to make a motivating fire along with a Boot Camp in early March in Novato, California meant I was 100% biking come early Feb.

The said Boot Camp was something else. 6 days of Hard, Hard riding with a too bigger gear up steep hills with some fast MoFo’s (some of the fastest MoFo’s in the world) all means I am above and beyond last year by someway.

A new bike (Specialized S-Works Enduro) and a new outlook on some other details means I feel like I can be dangerous in my races. I have chosen not to race Early this year and spread the races out so it keeps my motivation up and I get to ride for pleasure.

June: All Mountain Series Hautes Voseges and Enduro Series Val D’Allos

July: Enduro Series Les Arcs and Valloire

September: All Mountain Series Portes Enduro Des Mercantour

October: Flims, MaxiAvalanche and SuperEnduro Finale Ligura

Training has changed this year. Last years work can now be built upon and focus on more specific items whilst also taking it a little less serious. A better balance.

Very Excited to see what happens. My competitors from Enduro Series etc have been racing for a month or so but I don’t mind. They can do what they want. Lets see how a 1olb weight loss from last year (bike plus me) effects my performance.

Haven’t got back into doing my blog. Lots has been happening. Back into training for the summer and have a good long list of Enduro events. This year they are spread out a lot more so less stress and less impact on normal life.

Skiing. Yes. Lots and lots and lots of Chrimas and New Year. Great christmas present of a foot of cold snow. Unfortunately we have been living of this for a while before a warming period and some more snow. Its been a lean Jan but is fairly standard. Cold weather means snow has stayed good and stable and if you like to walk you’ll still get the goods.

Biking: Yes. Been trying to get out a bit often with commutes and some bike rides. Its just great to be out and the highlight was a solo nightride at Branson with new light. Ace.

A load of photos

What a great weekend. Started a little cloudy then went bluebird. Win

Saturday: The main event

Holed up in the office I sent my hands around the internet looking for a new adventure. Target acquired. The Pointe Ronde sits above Martigny at 2700m and is a fairly well known popular tour as its 20 mins up the road.

The schedule looked to be quite big for this early in the year. A vertical mile of ascension with a possibility of a mellow ski down if conditions weren’t on or a more direct and steeper north facing bowl.

Well organised, Kate, Matt and I (and Pinto of course) set off at 10am with a  friendly group behind us. A gentle start up a meadow soon gave way to up and up at a solid gradient. Really “nice” gradient that shot us up 600m like THAT. Kapow. Exiting the woods we started to get some great views of Rhone Valley, Genepi, Aguilles Rouges and Mont D’Arpille. Stunning. A brief flat section before the steep face.

Matt’s splitboard didn’t really like this, Kate didn’t like me (I am a memeber of the SS so its fair enough) but we got to the col and had a STUNNING view, soup and bread. The world was better. Off we went up a really beautiful alpine area. Sun came out and smiles started.

The altimeter ticked over and over and we started getting some impressive views to the north bowl. We eventually hit the summit with some good airy exposure and it was all worth it. Looking down and across to Trient Glacier, Aguilles Tour, Chardonett etc, etc..aka Good Shit.

The Dynaclones (heart) set off and ventured into the North Bowl. We were thinking about not going in there but that settled it. Some cheese, sausage and wine were eaten and off we went. The top was just about stepping down as there were too many rocks but once in the bowl it was tip top and really not bad. It could have been horrendous but I enjoyed skiing the whole thing and boy did it go on and on and on.

A spot of bushwhacking and almost some river time we skied out. Tired and happy to be done. It was a big day for so early in the season. Chapeau to us.

Slideshow or pics at bottom

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Sunday: One run for the win

A lovely, easy morning lie in and breakfast. Gentle start up the lift and then headed to Gentianes. We met up with Paul ‘International man of Leisure’ and then Jerry, Anna etc…Beautiful winters day.

We sort of had plans for Catwalk or something but as soon as I saw Mont Fort it was mine. It didn’t take much to persuade Paul to accompany me. A liesurly skin up with plenty of time for chat, photos and telling idiots not to ski into crevasses we summited. Boom. Full on gale and -20 but lovely out of the wind. Perfect views from the cross and the back looks good to go.

We met a fellow skinner, Eric Le Dr. Good guy and we immediately got on. We skied the steeper face. Eric first,Paul and then me. Just as I went the sun caught a lovely, slight ridge. Beautifuly steep, amazing light and empty. A run that has given me a smug feeling and will keep me excited till the next time.

A full on yard sale on the way down the piste due to binding pop nearly ruined my day and somewhat agrivated the old shoulder but luckily nothing popped out.

Piccccies

Saturday

A friday night Xmas party meant we didn’t arrive in the mountains till late morning but my god they were pretty. Perfect weather, fresh snow and good buddies. Team Splitboarder arrived, faffed and off we went. The plan was to take Marlenaz by storm.

A skin track was already set so we followed that and it was nice and direct. Beautiful weather and views. Great to be out and enjoying it. Team Splitboarders hung with us the best they could but the extra heft and width slowed them down. Hung out on the summit, did a quick run on some beautiful fresh snow and took in the view.

Jason appeared first with somewhat of a pained look. A desperate plea for some sandwich and a sit down made him feel better. Miss Finland arrived and looked glad that it was over. Tea, boar sausage and we were ready to go.

The ski down was nice enough and the beer after was even better. A GREAT day even though nothing GREAT was undertaken.

Sunday

Weather came in and we headed off to Sex Carro for skin in woods and some fondue. Kate and I, Paul and Uncle Jerry. First issue was road closure so we parked in un finished tunnel and hiked like gringos up the Dorenaz DH course. Pretty physical but got us up quick enough.

Skins on and up, up and up on the consistent steep path. The higher we got the more we noticed a lack of snow due to wind. It had been ravaged. Anyhow…

In the cabin for fondue and wine. Thats what this trip was about! Fire started, heat created, cheese melted, wine had and full stomach achieved.  Looking outside a tempest had arrived. Perfect for the correct atmosphere!

Out into said tempest we went. A traverse, trail break kept us warm and we found the gully. It looked okish on one side but bare on the other. Oh well. Off we went. Was Sub Optimal but we got down and walked out full of the joys of life!

Snow and cold weather. Like.

Saturday reveals some fairly widespread snow all the way down to the resort. White, windy and cold at the top sends us to mid mountain. A fair amount of snow but still need to be pretty careful. Good to get the relaxed style going though. Kate and I decide to head up to Savoleyres to test her new skiis (Dynafit Stoke’s, FT 12’s and Dynafit Zzeus boots). I started the day like a keen, annoying little dog and continued that way with loads of energy. Kate did not.

I pretty much ran up from Carrefour to Namaste with a few waits for Kate. I realised that she wasn’t too keen on getting up there as quick as I was. I am always like this but I take the view in and wait till we get to the proper steeper bit with fresh snow. I have to break trail and that slows me down suitably.

Its very much winter with cold temps and a biting wind. Bootiful! Up on the ridge its windy as hell and Kate is getting ‘Bum Bite’. A quick, copnserted effort sees us at the top. I have desires to ski off the back and then back up but Kate doesn’t so we compromise and have sandwich and ski down the front.

Its pretty darn white and a bit worrying as there are lots of ditches but good turns were had. Some more lift runs and then home to prep for some ThanksGiving Turkey!

Sunday was forecast to be snowy and rubbish. It didn’t turn out that way. I wanted to do some laps in the lovely Vallon D’Arby and head into it as quickly as I could. Some excellent snow and plenty of people heading through to Col Des Mines and Ba Combe. None coming my way apart from the La Tzoumaz skinners who put the track up to the col for me 🙂

Up the ridge and first pretty terrible turns from me. Suffering from some beer fear combined with lone fear made me overly tentative but next run I found my feet. Really nice snow and great to be doing secret turns in a great place.

Kate came round to join me and the sun came out. Always better and more fun to be skiing with Kate.

Back up again and the Splitboarder crew of Matt ‘the Hiker’ and Verra came over. It was to only be one run due to some skin glue issues. Matt wanted to maximise his exercise time and hiked out in groin deep snow, he really loved it!

A few flat light turns from the Mobile Phone Device thingy: Vid

Final run all the way to the resort was more than a bit good at the top, middle and not the bottom. Excellent!

First for a while, new snow and arrival of winter means I want to write drivel upon the web.

Sat: A Bromance tour with Matt up and over to Vicheres. High hope of a bit more snow was pretty much VERY optimistic. Good once we got to around 2000m and some wonderful turns were had on the way down with the Hounds of Baskerville. A mellow 750m up but a lot of traversing and trail breaking.

Sun: A lone tour upto Col De Mille from Bruson. Figuring its a bit flatter, grassier or something like that. The view from apartment looked like there was more snow…

A long, long 2.5 hr slog of very flat terrain plus trail breaking made it quite an effort. Not enough snow to go direct so I had to take the forest roads. I double checked myself about whether I wanted to go all the way to the col but I did, very much so.

The last 200m was delightfully steep kick turn territory and some much better snow depth. Sandwich outside cabin in biting cold winds taking in the view and then couldn’t help but to ski the little couloir. 25 turns of lovelyness into Flat as you like skiing. I am quite glad as there really was hardly any snow.

A good walk and fresh air. 850m up, sun, some wind and some turns. Wicked.

L’Hiver arrivè or something like that 🙂

Still resting my little fingers (well, thats my excuse) I took 2 windows of freetime this weekend to crack out a couple of rides on the road bike. I had been secretly hankering after this for ages and it just was perfect with 3 hrs to spare each day.

Saturday: Verbier – Mauvoisan Dam. A stunning valley stretches east. 20km ish and 1100m of climbing with 2 climbs, a lovely wide valley and simple peace and quiet. The weather was A grade and it really couldn’t have been any better. Popping into see Vanessa and Thibaut he left me with “if you can do it in an hour you’re fit”.

Swine.

Now…I still had to get back upto Verbier AND try and break the Verbier Peleton record of 36:45 (Neil) so I couldn’t do myself in too much but I pretty much went at a fair old pace. Its a great climb and JUST incredible to look around. A diversion up a hill water stop put me behind but still going well. The final part kicks up but ALL the time its difficult to really suffer as its just so beautiful.

Made it around 1hr 15min, ate stuff and high tailed it back so not to be late. Descent was rapid!

Hit round about at Chable and gunned it. I knew I didn’t have much and probably went too hard. Hot and hard work. Sweating in my eyes trying to keep composure. Just beneath Mediere I started coming apart. Little lightweight guy zipped past me, held his wheel for a few mins..struggling. Hurtsville. Just trying to maintain speed.

Enter lower slopes of verbier and another lightweight rider comes past. Looking fresh and Euro compared to my disheveled, sweating, gasping, pathetic corpse. Do my very best to go after Verbier Village…not much in there. Make it to Place Centrale in 37:30 and I am done…1700m up on all in the red. Youch.

Big night Sat

Sunday:

After ‘recovering’ I head off for a more chilled ride. Well same distance/elevation but not on the rivet like Saturday. I decide to do the La Valletes – Champex Lac climb which is pretty steep but pretty.

This one starts steepish and keeps going and stays steep and then steepens up a bit more. Hairpins stacked on top of each other at times. Just stunning. Climbing at 900m/h, in smallest gear and making a big effort to not go into red. Slip higher and higher into great forest. Nice little singletrack crosses road.

Higher up I get an incredible view up into Aiguille de Genepi. The NE couloir is a huge ski tick I want. Pretty excited to see it and also how to get into it.

On and on I ride. Gradient eases off, spanking new tarmac and constantly craning neck at the views. I eventually crest the col and roll into Champex after 58 mins for 830m climbed and a big smile. LOADS of people here. Have a sit down next to lake, eat a bar, refill water and off.

Its amazing how fast you can go on a bike down a road. Great views into other valleys and other trips. Head back to Chable and climb back to Verbier at same pace as rest of day. Not too fast, not too much pain, loads of sweat but no grimacing today. 43 mins and ok.

Get back to see Neil and Gareth just finished flogging themselves in Mano o Mano. Gareth learnt a few things about a Turbo Trainer!!

Gone are the days of just mountain biking for me….so much more to it all.

August rolls in and that equals the end. The end of racing for 2010 BUT what a finish. The scene for the final round of the Enduro Series was Valloire, France. Named ‘The High Race’ it did not disappoint. For some reason I was under the impression it was going to be an ‘easy’ race. I don’t know why. It wasn’t. It was probably the hardest of them all.

Same format as the others. Three tracks, 3 x 1 saturday morning, 1 x 2 in the afternoon and 4 x number 3 on sunday. One x number 2 Sat afternoon? What? You getting soft or what? Ahhh. Well. We’ll get to that.

Friday night I met up with the WTB boys who had been scoping the area for a couple of days. Immediately I was informed about the word gnarly. Sorry, Gnarly. They showed me some pics, vids and instilled a sense of respect. Tyre change for the morning as it was a fresh track. A fresh track means a taped track through the high alpine with virtually no singletrack in situ.

Saturday morning dawned perfect weather and up we went. The scenery round these parts is something else. Got to top, walked a small part of track and got nervous. I was pretty intimidated by the unknown and also standard race nerves. Off I went and a standard sub optimal first run. Not warmed up, WILD track and tentative = off the pace. 105th, its ok. i am used to it. Bit rattled BUT experience now helps me and I know I get stronger and stronger both in riding and physical output.

2nd Run. Bang. Thats what I’m talking about. Loving it more and a bit more dynamic but still not fluid. The bottom bike park stuff is beating my already beaten up hands. Have a little tumble trying to pass someone, quite amusing.

Run 3: Better but had some bouchon and had to force my way through. Glad to see the end of this track as the bike park part is just not my cup of tea but I knock of almost 2 mins from 17:02 on run 1 down to 15:09 on run 3.

The afternoon and only one run. This ‘only’ one run is from top to valley floor. A total of 1800m of descending and some solid pedaling to be done. I am feeling strong and warmed up now. A gel in and I’m off. First beginnings of track 1 but then a good pedal to hit the ridge. I’d put fast tyres for this and the difference is incredible. I take 10 riders on the first pedal..

Onto the ridge and skip past another group of 8 and I have an open section of some of the finest alpine singletrack. Supremly fast, open, a few rocks and constant small changes…into the trees for loamy, steep fun. Riders are clearly feeling the attrition from the morning and I skip past easily. People talk about ‘The Flow’ and I had it, incredible experience.

Into second traverse pedal, on the gas. I know I am only a 3rd into the stage but also know that I can afford to put everything I have into it. This is the time to attack. Traverse turns into nasty steep up, heart nearly comes out of mouth and then into tech traverse, flop along this for a minute and regain some coordination from my body. Down onto road and then THE TESTER. A gradual road climb that then goes onto a flat track alongside a water pipe. This is probably about 5-6 mins in total but is all about getting head down and ignoring the sirens screaming ‘STOP’! Its like a graveyard…people walking, broken bikes, broken people. I take strength from this and look to every single training session from Dec to now. I’m dribbling, spitting into full face helmet…Writing this I try to imagine the pain but I can’t…its been replaced in my memory as something not as bad as it was. My heart rate monitor tells a story of 7 minutes with my heart rate sitting above 193bpm and topping out at 197bpm. Thats painful.

Eventually I hit the final plunge into the valley. This plunge is 800m of vertical and semi paved, roman style. Its horrendously steep and never ending. Its so fast and so on the edge. My hands and forearms have gone through so much. At one point I couldn’t stop braking eve if I wanted too. They were locked on. I simply had to grit my teeth and get on with it. I let all the marshals know my pain by grunting and they responded with encouragement..I needed that.

Eventually it comes to an end. 36 minutes and 2 seconds of pain, suffering but ultimately an incredible sense of accomplishment. Its a scene of sorts at the bottom. I quickly roll down the road and get a lift back up with team WTB.

Jason had a puncture half way down scuppering his run but Mark Weir put in a stormer. Just 3 secs off Remy Absalon’s time of 30:29…3 secs over that distance is incredible! Pushing the boundaries. Without a huge off he would have won..A lot of respect from all the French riders  was duly given. Having been a bit downhearted about my position I was properly over the moon with making 58th on Saturday!

Sunday. Another perfect day in the mountains.  Format is simple. Four times 1 special stage. Tis is no ordinary stage though and is a true Alpine Enduro beast. Over 1000m of tough descending and some super solid pedaling meant it would be a hard day. 18-20 min runs on this beast.

Run1 was going really well and as normal I ride about 100 times better on day 2 of riding. Got a puncture but it sealed enough to get down. Gave it all I had to limit the damage to my time but probably lost a minute. Not the end of the world, quick tyre change and back up.

Run 2: Fantastic. Loving the course and loving the pedal. 2 mins up on first run as expected.

Run 3: Feeling good but rear brake goes so have less than optimal set up for what is a fast course. Little junior guy pops by me and I stick to his tail. Amazing rider for 14 (although gets time penalty for cheat lines!!). Power by him on pedal and finish strong (thankfully brake has returned for mental steep end).

Run 4. The final run. I’d bled my brakes but think the rear was still a bit funny. Thankfully front was super good. Tired. Really tired. Conserving energy on push up to the start.

A quiet place. Everyone is exhausted. Not much chat or banter. Sheltering from the sun we sit in silence summing up courage for the final run. I go.

I can feel I have no sprint left in me so I go for solid, consistent output. I won’t be able to hit max but I can still sit high up in the revs. Rear brake goes almost straight away but I know the course now and can take lines with more commitment. My hands are in tatters. My right wrist is in pain, my 2 little fingers have tendon injuries but what can I do…just go.

I have a complete, almost free run down. Really good, lacking the raw power, but fluid. I give it all through the last pedal, style it up over the last jump, jump into spectators corner and get caught behind a rider who is kickingup so much dust. Just hold on, stay on target.

And Finish. A mixture of relief and sadness fill me. Thats it. Done and I am well and truly done. Hands won’t grip much anymore.

The Enduro Series is over. All my focus, training and sacrifice has come to an end. A great feeling of success, the results don’t really matter as its more about personal challenge BUT I hit my target of top 50. That weekend I came 50th.

A true progression:

Metabief: 75th

Allos: 68th

Vars: 67th

Valloire: 50th

It was way, way harder and more competitive than I thought it would be, there are some amazing riders out there and fit to match. I have so many things to work on to improve and get better as a racer. Bring it on.

Everytime I do another Enduro Series I say…that is the best.

I find it hard to believe it can better than Vars. Scenery, friendliness, organisation, variety, trails..etc..etc.

After a terrible nights sleep e.g an hour of shivering I was not best prepared but Saturday was going to be a long day. First special at 8:30 with a total of 7 completed by 10:30pm in the dark! Something along the lines of 6000m of vert, 1 hr 40 mins racing time and 4000 calories used.

The format was fairly simple. 3 different stages. 1st one. Short track of 5k with 800m of vert. 11mins ish of flat out Twistathon. Incredible. 3 x that please. Check

2nd Special. Double length and more enduro style i.e. more pedallig but not too much. Very physical in lower section and super high speed grass section. Absolutely ace and pain cave visiting 15 mins.

Final stage of day. The twilight/Dark trail. 4k, 400m vert and a man made feel. 7 mins of flat out RADNESS! We all left in a mass line. I swear there were 15 riders i front of me and 15 behind. All hell bent on going as fast as possible. SO MUCH FUN but almost zero potential to pass.

Come 10pm its a different story. Its a bit of an arms race in terms of lighting tecnology and thankfully Phil from BikeVerbier lent me his almighty light. The racing was no slower and full on. I gave one french guy a lesson in reasons to not block me.

Pizza and BED! Oh that sleep was good.

Sunday. An easier schedule with just 3 special stages. However, this stage had it all. 99% singletrack, high ridgline rocky stuff, then in to a grassy meadow that criss crossed a river gully. SUBLIME stuff. Couple of little pedals with one that hurt before dropping you immediately into singletrack through trees. To die for. Hold on, off the brakes and try and spot the lines early. Hold on and give it everything to the end. 12 mins x 3 of pure exhilaration.

First 2 I went off with people of around my speed. Somethign amazing about that. Someone over takes you and you just stick on their wheel, follow them and then try and regain that position.

Final one I was pooped so decided to go at the back and run my own race. Was loving it, picking off people here and there. Then the Dorian  lad zipped past me and I tailed him to the end using his French lines and aiding him with my English pushyness for back markers…

All in. Done. Finished. A great Sunday that left enough energy to drive home.

Am literally clawing my way up positions. Managed 67th. Yes, ONE place higher than the last one in Allos. Although to be honest i think I rode worse and made more mistakes this time due to tiredness but made up positions due to race strategy. Hmmm. Goes to show.

Last race next weekend. Valloire, The High Race. Bring it.

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