From Ryan Gardiner – After four months of living out of a personally converted E350 in the wild west town that is Oakland, California (more on that later), I saved up enough money to make a dream trip to Europe to race EWS #2 in Wicklow, Ireland and EWS #3 in Peebles, Scotland. Wanting to make the most of my trip across the pond, I decided that I should start off with a week of riding in Chamonix, France. Hearing that my first destination city of Geneva Switzerland was incredibly expensive (think 1,000 hotel rooms and 8 dollar bottled water) my original plan was to sleep in the airport like any self-respecting privateer. About an hour before my flight left CA I found out that the Geneva airport completely closes down at 12am, and overnight camping is frowned upon. Not discouraged, read “with no other option” I found a cozy spot beneath a stairwell to call my own for the night. I evaded security and the next morning it was off to Chamonix, and let me tell you, it blew my mind.

IMAG0090The town of Chamonix sits at about 3000ft and the tallest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc rises to over 15,000 ft right out the back door. It’s an incredible place with amazing riding. The mountains here are incredibly steep both uphill and down. There was awesome coffee, great food, and miles and miles of single track ranging from rocky, rooty, steeps to flowing, loamy, single track. It was a mixed blessing being in town in early spring. The uplifts, which bring skiers and mountain bikers to the top of each peak were not running so I had to pedal up myself. However, the trails were nearly vacant leaving me to explore everything the valley had to offer.

BikealpsThe next stop on my Euro tour was Ireland with a week to explore the island before the EWS kicked off in Wicklow town. I spent my first two nights in Dublin taking in the ancient history and of course the pub scene. The legend of Irish hospitality is alive and well and even a solo traveler such as myself was quickly surrounded by great company. Figuring I should give my liver a break and do some traveling in the country before the race, I decided to check out Bike Park Ireland which as it turns out is Kona Groove Approved!

The crew at the park have done an incredible job with the place. They really have everything you need, a bunch of fun trails, jumps, pump track, camping, a tasty and inexpensive café and most importantly the nicest crew of people you could ever hope to meet! If you are ever in Ireland, it’s worth a stop to check it out! The place is pure magic.

IMAG0302That’s the quick and dirty of my trip so far, great riding and even better people! It’s been an incredible journey so far and next weekend the battle will begin with EWS #2 Emerald Isle! Wish me luck, it’s going to get rowdy.