Friday practice was 2:30 – 7:30 or so we thought until after 2 runs of the qualifying track the lift closed. The race track would have to wait until tomorrow. We had mad rad fun on the quail track so didn’t mind too much when someone told us they had packed in 3 runs of each! After a pedally top section the quali track was a mix of natural rocky walking trail and quality man made sections including a corkscrew berm, generally it was quite rough and difficult to hold your speed. It was a good test for both rider and bike and basically a long downhill track.
Qualifying started at 1 on Saturday so we were up in time to scope out some sweet lines on the Race track and also some passing places just in case we found ourselves behind anyone like. The Race track started on the Plateau Rosa at 3500m and the piste was in perfect condition for 100mph speed tuck races.. After the longest piste I’ve seen at any MTB race the track dropped into the biggest rocks I’ve seen at any MTB race. If you had a wild imagination you could see a good line and if you were lucky you could stay on it but mostly you wondered if you had ventured off the track. I have never seen anything so wild on a racetrack and feel it is pushing the sport in the right direction to the max. The extreme endure track got a little faster as the rocks got smaller and after some trickley stream crossings there was a super fast moorland section with supernatural jumps and G outs that spat you to flat like a pea from a shooter. The last 5 minutes was ‘just your basic’ superfun supercross berms and jumps and finished with some flat out foot out off grass turns and cambers and kept in the supernatural scheme of things. We couldn’t wait to race it… Qualifying heats went well and we were all front row for the race tomorrow.
With the tracks being so rough a lot of riders had decided to use bigger bikes than the normal 160mm travel enduro steeds, some even opting for Downhill bikes. I stuck with my 160mm Kona Abracadabra as the magiclink gives a bottomless feel and I felt it would be more efficient than the bigger heavier bikes.
Sunday morning brought 100 kph winds and snow at base camp, temperatures at the top were reportedly -10. The Race track was cancelled and racing would be taking place on the 12 minute qualifying track, making for some intense racing and meaning a good start would be more critical than ever. Whilst the organisation were negotiating with the lift operators to run the lift in 100kph winds Me Joe and Liam found a basement and amused ourselves with a comedy slow motion running warm up/ dancing like Bez from the Happy Mondays. Either way; by the time we had taken our grid positions and had a look at the start of the track to decide where we would try and get blown towards by the wind we were ready to race. The gate dropped (the tape lifted) and the wind didn’t stop, I was a little slow off the start but I managed to stay out of trouble (there was a bit of carnage) at the 1st turn and worked my way through to 5th within 2 minutes, I followed Florian Golay for a little while but carried more speed out of a fast turn and passed him. I could see Brian Regnier up ahead and was drafting by halfway, he had a good pace and I set up to carry more speed on to the final straight… Lost the sprint by a metre to finish 4th but we were both stoked on being pumped with the close racing, Joe was 8th and Liam had seen some trouble and battled like a true kilt wearing ginger haired Whisky drinking Scotsman through to 21st. We kicked back with Ham, Cheese and Ice tea and concocted an evil plan for round 2…
The wind had died down quite a lot for the second race the sun was out and thankfully temperatures were plus 0. I got a good snap from the line and drifted nicely round the outside of turn 1 and quickly into 3rd. I insided Jordan Regnier to take 2nd place at the crest of a hill and into a steep turn, the same move on the same guy from the first race! The brothers Regnier are good racers none the less. I put in some strong pedal strokes to get on the back of Franck Parolin but he was very strong on the pedals himself and had a fast pace, In 2nd position I wasn’t about to do anything stupid so just tried to keep a good gap and keep the pressure on. Near the bottom I heard the clatter of chain on chainstay as Nicolas lou latched onto my back wheel… a lapse in concentration and I had missed the turn in to a major shortcut – did he know about it? Of cause he bloody did! Straight through and I had to settle for third… Joe Barnes was 5th on a bigger bike and felt it cost him on the start… Liam was 10th and after the 1st race was happy with a better race and a solid result.
2. Nicolas Lou
3. Alex Stock
5. Yoann Barelli