Indian summer – adventure in the stunning Alps

Some times the places you get to, the things you experience and the people you meet through riding bikes can be incredible. Indian summer is in full swing in Switzerland and with race season over its time for some adventures. This ride was only 1 hour from Zürich, involved 1500m climbing plus 30 mins carrying bikes on our backs, an extended puncture/sunbathing break at 2000m, two incredible steep and technical descents, and finally a well earned beer.

Spent all of the next day dreaming of mountains!

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Enduro World Series – Finale Ligure, Italy

20141004_175215At the stage in the season I’ve learned to expect a challenge when turning up to an EWS race and Finale certainly didn’t disappoint. The format was a 95km loop with 2300m of climbing/descending, no uplifts and 6 timed stages. Luckily shuttles were allowed for the two days of practice, it was tiring enough riding just the descents so by the time race day came around everyone was feeling a bit daunted about the distance.


Day 1 – 4 Stages, 50km, lots of rocks 

The first day was definitely the more technical, beginning with stage one being one of the hardest to ride smoothly. There was nothing particularly scary but the trail was full of really tight, steep and rocky corners that were really hard to ride let alone race at high speed. It was a fun track though, some high speed sections through the trees full of rocky drops and layers of thick dust which had built up with hundreds of riders training on the course. I felt I rode ok, got cleanly down one tricky steep section where I’d headbutted a tree the day before and had plenty of ragged wheel drifting moments that I managed to hold on to. I messed up an easy corner though and lost a good 10 seconds getting going again.

Normally at the bottom of the stage there is time to exchange stories with other riders, have a drink or a bit to eat etc but this time we charged out of the stage gasping for breath and it was straight into a nasty hot hairpin road climb up to stage 2. I normally have no problem with transitions even when others struggle but this time I arrived with 7 minutes to spare, just time to catch my breath, change helmets, neck a gel. Stage 2 was more flowy, fast and rocky up the top with a couple of short climbs before dropping into some fun swoopy switchbacks.

From there it was another hot road climb followed by a technical singletrack up to stage 3, my favourite of the day. The start was fast, full of jumps and drops before the trail turned up with a short cyclocross style running section and a small amount of pedaling. After that it was extremely physical with nothing but rocks. Some tricky tight switchbacks, some big rock gardens and at the end a high speed blast down a very rough ancient cobbled path to the finish at an old farmhouse where the owner was busy decanting his wine and cutting the grass, ignoring the chaos that was going on around him.


The climb to stage 4 was a killer. Luckily i’d done it before so had an idea of how far I had to go but the time we had was very tight and the blazing sun made it even harder. I had to stop part of the way up as my legs started to cramp and once again had only a few minutes to recover at the top. This felt like marathon racing and enduro bikes are not made for that stuff!

I was somewhat apprehensive about stage 4, it began flowy, fast and fun before dropping into the loosest trail I’ve ever ridden. It was steep and full of lines, ruts and loose corners, which required full commitment and concentration to ride and got scarier the faster you went. The views of the sea were stunning but I hadn’t managed to ride the steep section in one go in practice and was hoping that adrenaline would get me down on the day. It did but only just! Halfway down the most sketchy part my legs started to cramp up and unable to control the bike properly I had to slow down. That was easier said than down, my arms where so tired I could barely hold the bars and arm pump made breaking painful. I started shouting at myself “look ahead, stay loose, ride it you bender” to try and stay focused. I was an absolute mess and the noisy supporters lining the track must have thought I was nuts but I got to the bottom in one piece and without any crashes. Delighted!


It wasn’t over though, there was a flat 10km pedal back into town. One the way the cramps came back and I literally couldn’t pedal, couldn’t get off the bike and was screaming with pain. I stopped to stretch it out but could only afford two minutes or I’d have missed the cut off time. I managed to get going and ride along screaming with pain and fighting tears as every so often my legs went into further spasms. I just made it back where there was finally chance to chat to the other girls and it turns out half of us were suffering similar problems. Hot weather, hard fast riding and not enough salts were the problem so I spent the evening necking electrolytes and eating bananas to try and recover for the next day.


Day 2 – 2 Stages, 45km, 20km/1200m wakeup climb

Today started with a 20km road climb with the poor enduro bikes protesting all the way up. Luckily the times were more generous today so there was time for a chat and a laugh on the way up and a break at the top where it was a lot cooler. Stage 5 was a short one full of wide open swoopy corners through the beach forest. Somehow my brain had forgotten about the many short leg snapping climbs in between though and there seemed to be a lack of connection between my brain which was saying go fast and my legs which refused to respond. The whole thing felt sluggish but it turned out to be one of my fastest stages.


After another climb and hikeabike there was only stage 6 to go but it was a monster. Almost 20 minutes of absolute flat out trails that at times felt more like xc than enduro. The top section was open and fast and lower down became rocky at times but nowhere near as much as yesterday. It seemed as if the climbs had doubled in length since practice, after every fun section of descent there was an eyeballs out pedal before you dropped straight into more switchbacking corners that required full composure. Luckily my legs woke up a bit after the first stage and I rediscovered some xc style enjoyment of self punishment to get my best stage time. It was high 5s and whoops of delight all around at the bottom as everyone was visibly delighted to survive the weekend’s challenge and we blasted back to Finale for sea swimming, pasta and gelato.


Overall a brilliant experience and a challenge I’m happy to have got through in one piece, finishing 26th on the day and 27th in the EWS overall (results here). The trails were amazing fun and at times very difficult to race, the transition times on day one were a bit too much but I guess it is the World Series and the top riders have to be challenged. With hot sun, warm sea, good food and amazing coffee, Finale is the ultimate place for an end of season race.




Now time for a break, I don’t want to look at a bike for a while but motivation will be easy to find this winter – the next time the EWS is in Europe it will be in Ireland!!! wahoooo.

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Bluegrass Enduro – Guebwiller, France

Photo - Bilger Lionel Photographie The last of the French races in the Bluegrass series was in Guebwiller, a small village in Alsace just across the border from Switzerland. I did this one last year but the course was changed to include a monster 20 minute first stage. It was all racing blind, starting at 1300m on top of the Grand Ballon mountain and racing down to the village in the valley below.

It was freezing up top so getting warm for the first stage wasn’t easy and I struggled to get going. Early on I frustratingly got stuck behind 3 or 4 guys who stubbornly refused to let me past and lost a chunk of time. The trail was awesome though, lots of tight switchbacks, sharp rocks, roots and pine needles.Photo - Bilger Lionel Photographie

After that the 5-7 minute stages seemed short but no less fun. The trails were in incredible condition despite torrential rain the night before and even included patches of dust. Loamy corners, plenty of changes to pedal and lots of flow compared to the more technical previous rounds. The atmosphere was the usual Bluegrass style, laid back and friendly with plenty of chance to chat as you made your way around the course.

Guebwiller - racing in town

The last stage, a sub 2 minute sprint around the village square over obstacles like palettes of wood, a mini pond and see-saws was great fun before we could enjoy lunch, a cold beer and a live band. I finished 3rd on the day which put me in 2nd for the series overall. Happy out. Race report here and video here. Thanks to the organisers, a great series I can highly recommend, looking forward to next year already!


Thanks to Velo Elsener for some last minute bike tlc the day before, the Enduro 29er rode like a dream! Next stop EWS in Finale…


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Biivouac Enduro – Dust, Exposure and an Insider View of France

Photo from BiivouacAt the weekend I  was lucky to have the chance to step in as a last minute substitute to race the Biivouac Enduro for the BMC Enduro Team alongside Kerstin Kögler. The race took place in the Pays Diois area of the Rhone Alps with riders competing in teams of two for 3 days of blind racing. The area is really spectacular with biggish mountains,  dry dusty terrain and pretty French villages.

Day 1 – 5 stages, 45km, 1000m uphill, 2000m+ descent

Photo from Biivouac

The first day was a lot about finding how to ride best together as a team (and for me to get used to an unfamiliar bike!), Kerstin is quicker than me on the descents so took the lead and I did my best to stay off the brakes an hold her wheel. The first stage began on a spectacular ridge crossing and dropped through pine forest covered in loose, sketchy stones. The first few corners were extremely tight and without much of a warmup it was hard to get into race mode but things improved as we went down.Photo from Biivouac

Other stages blur together in my memory but there were quite a few pedaling sections, one in particular was a killer 2-3 minutes steep, loose singletrack with a big drop off the edge that left both of us gasping for breath but also gave us chance to put a good bit of time into the other women’s teams that were racing.  Most of the trails were more high speed than technical but the loose gravel and pine cones made it hard to judge how much speed you could get away with. Wheels sliding at high speeds on narrow trails with steep drops off the edge made for some sketchy moments.

We finished directly in the campsite where beer, drinks and snacks awaited with the sun setting over the mountains. The atmosphere was great, very friendly and fun with everyone staying together in tents provided and pitched by the organisers. Later in the evening a 3 course meal of local food was served in a big marquee with more chance to chat with other riders. Although most other riders were French, there was a good variety of Nationalities including English, Belgium, Dutch, Swiss and German. There was everyone from EWS race winners to hard partying social guys (turns out people from the French speaking part of Switzerland are mad party animals, very different to the German part!)

Day 2 – 5 stages, 1600m climbing, 2600m descent

After a shuttle and a nice warmup climb stage 1 started on top of a mountain with stunning views across the area and over to the Alps. We started on a flat out pedal across the grass before quickly dropping into a narrow singletrack that was often slightly overgrown and exposed making it difficult to read what was coming up and to keep Kerstin in my sights.

Photo from Biivouac

The terrain was slightly different to day 1, less loose stones but more bigger rocks making things more physical and fun. Lunch was served under the trees in the square of a pretty village fueling us for pedally transitions and flat out fast descents. There were no apparent time limits for the climbs allowing plenty of time to chill out and chat to other riders. There weren’t many people who could speak English but somehow we managed to communicate and have some good laughs on the way.

Day 3 – 3 stages

The bus took us out the other side of town to a new area where we had a 40 minute climb up onto a moorland type ridgeline with an incredible view of the surroundings and down onto the stage so that you could watch the first riders flying down at crazy speeds. The first section was flat out across the grass with no real defined trail, before we turned sharply into a rocky singletrack. I had to fight with my brain to stay off the brakes and stick to Kerstin as we hit things at a blistering pace. As we dropped through the woods the trail started to swoop down with loads of foot out flat out dusty switchbacks. 900m descent didn’t feel long enough. Awesome.


The next 2 stages were also big ones involving some hike-a-bike transitions and beautiful trails through vinyards, sleepy villages and baron mountains full of strong smelling wild herbs. There were a couple of properly sketchy sections where a landsclide had washed the mountain away and we had to traverse across a ledge holding a rope for support in one hand and carrying the bike in the other – good adventure! The terrain on the stages themselves was slightly more rocky higher up and as we got down into the valley it was more pinecones and drifty corners.

The race finished back in the village of Die were lunch was served under the trees in a leafy walled garden before the podium presentation. We took the win in the women’s category, the perfect way to round off an amazing few days. The team of two format was really great, to chase someone else down trails is always good fun and working together made added a new dimension to the racing. More photos and full results over on Enduro Tribe.

Photo from Biivouac

A massive thanks to everyone involved with the BMC team for giving me the chance to race, it was an amazing experience and I definitely have the Enduro stage race bug, 3 days wasn’t long enough. The BMC Trailfox was great to ride, super stable at high speed, very solid but also nimble feeling and the benefit of having someone else prepare and maintain it during racing cannot be underestimated. Thanks to Kerstin for the great teamwork and patience!

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Alpine Summer

Summer in Switzerland this year has been the wettest since weather recording began so when there is a good day you have to make the most of it. But when it’s good its pretty damn good!

That was Davos in Graubunden. There are no bad trails (except the one man-made one which filters the goobers), the only problem is a day is too short even after 6000m descending!

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Gravity Enduro – Djouce, Ireland

Pro Women podium - photo Keith WallaceThis year’s Irish Enduro National Championships took place in one of my favourite places to ride in the world and was well timed with a Swiss bank holiday so perfect for a trip back. Djouce woods  just outside Dublin, is an absolute singletrack paradise with the occasional stunning view of Powerscourt waterfall, the Wicklow mountains and the sea. Niall and the crew put on a great show with the course taking in all of the best trails that I haven’t ridden for 2 years as well as some brilliant new stuff.

For weeks prior to the race the sun has been beaming in Ireland and on Thursday and Friday I had a great time after escaping wet Switzerland to ride some uncharacteristic dust (too much so, a mad thursday night adventure left my legs still tired on race day!). The dust didn’t last long and two months worth of rain fell on Saturday and Sunday making the tracks unrecognisable with any carefully chosen lines turning into sloppy thick mud. Deadly!

Sunday Race Day – 6 Stages, 30km, 1000m descent

Photo credit: Action Pictures IrelandThe stages were relatively short (4-6 minutes) and generally less physical than you would get over in Europe but that didn’t make them any easier. Each time there were tons of wet roots, slippery mud, off camber narrow trails, steep drops and switchback corners compacted into the stage so you had to be fully on it to ride well. It took some getting used to the wet trails and the first couple of stages felt slow and static, I kept hitting the wrong lines, had a little wipeout crash and found it hard to judge how much speed you could get away with. It didn’t stop the enjoyment though, racing down Djouce classics like XTC and GC, trails I’ve only raced on an xc hardtail, was amazing!
Photo credit: CycleActionPhotographyWith on and off rain all day the trails were getting increasingly sloppy and as we headed up the long climb to stage 5, the longest and steepest of the day, we were getting horror stories from guys who’d just come down it – “you’re gonna die up there”, “it’s mental, you just have to slide, the trail has disappeared!”, encouraging stuff. The top section was epic, downhill but slightly pedally trail crossing a section of felled trees, there was a constant mesh of greasy exposed roots mixed in with a thick layer of sloppy mud. My Enduro 29er was the absolute business on this and despite the greasiness I had tons of grip and loved sliding around at high speed. After dropping into the forest the trail got steeper and the disadvantage of not being seeded became apparent with the muddy trail having been totally cut up by a hundred people riding it. Things got pretty sketchy and out of control! at the steepest point I had to let 2 downhillers past only to get stuck behind as they crashed at the bottom when a wooden bridge across a stream had been dislodged from position and disappeared under the mud! after that it was more sloshing around with some leg sapping pedaling through the soft mud to the end. Exhausting but an awesome stage!

Photo credit: Keith Wallace

I was delighted to finish 3rd with unstoppable junior Leah Maunsell taking the win in style, results here. So you can stick your Alps, Ireland is the place to ride bikes. I wish I could get back to more races, the atmosphere was brilliant, the trails deadly and it was great to catch up with everyone. The mtb scene is booming, with that weather in Switzerland nobody would have turned up but this race was sold out and nobody gave a shite about the rain!

Big thanks to Think Bike in Rathmines for sorting my brakes out at the last minute and Velo Elsener who are gonna have to deal with the mud damage to the bike! Photos robbed from Action Pictures Ireland, Cycle Action Photography, and Adrian Van der Lee.


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EWS La Thuile

Round 4 of the Enduro World Series was in La Thuile, a small traditional village in the Italian Alps close to Mont Blanc. The format was 2 days of practice, 2 days of racing with 3 timed stages per day and a mixture of chairlift access and pedalling with 4700m descent over the two days.

With some horrendous weather in the days leading up to the race including snow and 60 kmph winds for those practicing stage 1 early on Thursday, this was looking to be another epic EWS challenge. Luckily the weather improved and practice was so awesome I had to drag myself off the trails each day to conserve energy for racing.

Day 1

20140713_111437Stage one was the longest of anything in the EWS so far, starting up in the clouds and patchy snow at 2600m and descending all the way down to the village. The top was full of big, sharp, slightly greasy rocks. After that came a loooong flat out fast slightly downhill trail across rough grass, which required a lot of pedaling and taking your heart rate up to high levels. This dropped into a tough section of narrow singletrack which required full concentration. At first fast and dry with some rocks and switchbacks but becoming boggy, mixed in with some technical rocky sections just as your tyres got covered in water and mud. Up to this point I was going well, made it fairly cleanly through the tricky boggy bits and caught the girl ahead as the trail kicked up into a horrendous steep fireroad climb. Going into this after already 15mins descending, my heart was thumping, legs burning and arms screaming but seeing someone ahead I gave absolutely everything to get to the top ahead. Dropping into a muddy narrow singletrack I was going cross eyed and so full of lactic I could barely hold onto the bike and soon after had a minor crash, catching the handlebars on a bank at the side of the trail and twisting them round at almost 90 degrees. Arrrgh panic! I desperately tried to straighten them but they were totally stuck and in the end I had to dig out a multitool to get them straight, whilst all the time riders were passing me and the clock was ticking. I was stopped for a good couple of minutes and they were still slightly off center as struggled to get back into the flow riding the seemingly never-ending last section of switchbacks through the forest to the end of the stage. Gutted.

La Thuile EWSAfter that was a long pedal and hike-a-bike up the other side of the valley to stage two. I was excited about this one, such an awesome trail full of loamy fast switchbacks through the trees – the kind of trail you could ride non stop all day long. As we set off the forecast rain began to fall meaning sections of the track got pretty greasy and other more sheltered bits were still dusty so it was hard to judge what speed to ride. I was still not back in the flow after stage 1′s disaster and messed up at what seemed like every moment possible, missing lines, hitting little climbs in the wrong gear and generally making a meal of it. Was not happy, I loved this in practice and went into it feeling confident.

Stage 3. By this time the rain was well underway and the temperature had dropped so that despite lots of extra clothes by the time we got to the top of the chairlift we were all absolutely freezing and all I wanted to do was be at the bottom in a hot shower. The top section dropped down two steep rocky sections which were fine in practice but had now become greasy and muddy. I slid out towards the bottom and got tangled up in the tape but quickly back on track. Then came a fast, fun grassy section with a few big corners. Coming into in there was deep muddy puddle which I’d been coming into at speed and jumping over in practice. I did the same thing but the bloody mud had got longer and I landed smack into it and the bike wiped out underneath me. Slapped my elbow and knee off the ground at high speed and twisted my saddle so that every time I tried to lean the bike into a corner after that the saddle was sticking into my leg. F**cksake! After that things got better and I got into a good flow. The trail was awesome and the rain damped down the dust making it even more fun to ride. Loamy corners, roots, high speeds and the finish down a short bike park trail into the middle of the village.EWS Women's race

Day 2

Having had too many stupid time wasting crashes on day one I was keen to improve things on the second day. Rain over night meant the trails were wetter and more mud filled than the day before. Stage 4 was a repeat of the monstrously long stage 1. I didn’t start well having a small crash on a muddy section high up (wrong tyre choice!) and later on wasted more time getting my bag tangled up on the saddle as I tried to let someone pass from behind.20140711_114104

Stage 5. This was another awesome stage, the same start as stage 3 yesterday before turning off into more endless loamy corners in the woods. Rode better. By stage 6, another long one, I was beginning to feel the exertions of the past 3 days, mostly in the form of arm pump. The trail was so good and I rode the top 2/3rds well, telling myself to stay loose and relaxed through the rocky and sometime muddy singletracks. Towards the bottom the corners got steeper and my arms just gave up, I couldn’t hold my speed because my fingers weren’t able to pull the brakes anymore! had to take it mega steady. Towards the end the trail flattened out for some pedaling before turning uphill onto a fireroad climb. This was a major sufferfest and it was only the sight of a couple of girls ahead that kept me going at full gas before we dropped into a few berms and a short sprint to the finish. At the finish line there were people everywhere lying on the ground or hung doubled over there bikes gasping for breath for a good five minutes after we finished. Awesome!20140711_132259

La Thuile is seriously one of the best places I’ve ever ridden and I’m dying to get back. The format was great, the race was a challenge but manageable and the people fun to hang out with. Having gone into it confident of being able to ride the trails well I was disappointed with how I rode but you can always learn from mistakes!






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European Enduro Series, Flims CH

EES Flims, stage 1 startThe 2nd round of the European Enduro Series was in Flims/Laax, a ski area in the Swiss Alps a couple of hours from Zürich. Practice on the course was on Friday but I had to work in the morning and only managed to ride half of the course before the prologue on Friday evening so had a lot of blind racing.


This was a short sub 2 minute sprint around the race centre which I rode blind but it seemed most people had practiced it (although you technically weren’t supposed to). A fast downhill fireroad pedal came into a tight gravelly corner, a short rooty singletrack, super tight switchback, short rocky rooty trail and then a flat out pedal through an underground carpark, short lung-busting uphill and a grassy drop to the finish with an awkward corner to catch you out at speed. Good fun, barely long enough to notice but practice would have been a big advantage!

Race Day – 5 Stages, 850m climbing, 1900m descent

After a short climb from the gondola the race started with a long, technical stage from high up the mountain. Full of big sharp rocky and tuffy grass there were line everywhere and it was really hard to see the best way to go through. In the middle section lot of really tight switchbacks required perfect line choice to get around and rain overnight had added an extra layer of grease making the trail tougher. I always seem to struggle to get into the flow starting the first trail cold had one crash trying to change line and generally felt I rode like a bag of potatoes down this.EES Flims, Stage 1

Stage two was shorter, I rode most of it blind and still struggled to get into the flow. Lower down it was a mix of roots and rocks through the trees. Stage three was very short but awesome fun. I tried to force my head to get into gear before we set off but took it a bit too far, going into overdrive and riding like a hyperactive kid. A fast grassy section turned sharply into the woods and I got carried away totally overshooting the corner and getting tangled up in my bike. After that I calmed down and rode better as the trail was full of roots and fun loamy corners finishing on a short flat out sprint.EES Flims, Stage 2

A longish climb took us up to stage four, a long man-made trail down to Flims town (the Runca Trail), which I rode half of blind. I’m not normally a fan of these trails but racing it flat out was fun, not so technical so you could almost switch off, get into the flow and ride flat out. The upper section has lot of bermy corners, tabletop jumps and pumping sections before coming into a loooong fast pedal across the grass. I whacked my saddle up and got on the pedals giving it all when suddenly out of nowhere there was a  half meter drop that I nosed dived off and somehow just got enough weight behind the saddle to keep the bike upright but it was properly sketchy! the second half of the trail was down north-shore type wood at high speed which was kind of fun but a crash would have had high consequences. Good fun.

Stage 5 I hadn’t practiced at all but it was fairly short. A narrow rough grassy trail traversed along a ridgeline with a steep drop off one side. After that was a flat fireroad pedal, a fast downhill and some loose drifty corners down to the finish in the race village.

EES Flims, girls groupOverall a great race with a nice mixture of trails and a good format that meant stage start times were relaxed so you could ride around at your own pace with a group without stressing about being in a certain place at a certain time. I finished 12th, a bit disappointed to be honest (results). Arriving tired from a tough week at work and missing most of practice didn’t help but enough excuses, I need to sort my head out at the start of these races and get the balance right between being focused and being relaxed. It was nice to race with mates from Zürich close to home and fun meeting up again with Irish rider Michelle Muldoon who had a great ride to finish 8th. Race village, Deckchairs Deckchairs with Michelle

Next up, EWS in La Thuile!

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EWS Valloire

women's EWS ValloireAnother round of the EWS, another epic weekend of racing. Chairlift accessed racing in Valloire was a long way from the long pedaling distances and slippery steep roots of Scotland but it was no less of physcial and mental challenge. The location was stunning, Valloire is a pretty little village surrounded by huge snow capped Alpine mountain in the middle of prime Tour de France roadie climbs.

Day One – 3 timed runs on two stages + 2 practice runs

Taking the gondola up I was full of anticipation and maybe a slight be of apprehension about what would be in store for us coming down. The first stage was huge, over 1000m descent over 7km, but after practice revealed there was nothing majorly scary, I was excited to race. The women set off first with the fastest ranked riders starting last and only 15 seconds time gaps between each person. This led to a bit of chaos when racing with both faster and slower riders losing time with passing leading to people getting frustrated (luckily the organisers changed this around for day two). The top section was rough and full of the kind of sharp pointy rocks that are keen to puncture your tyres so riding smooth was key. After that speeds increased as the trail dopped through meadows, some freshly cut grassy turns, a massive slightly uphill pedaling section, switchbacks through the woods and a flat out fast ski piste finish. I rode ok-ish but got passed on the top section and then stuck behind people on the pedaling bit.

EWS ValloireStage 2 which we raced twice was a full on monster. 8.5km and over 20 minutes of racing starting up on what felt like the top of the world, traversing across a rough rocky mountain above the vegetation line. The first obstacle was a small but very deep and rutted snow patch where it seems most people had an OTB at some stage after which was a nasty uphill and a very physical rocky descent. As the trail dropped down it became more and more dusty with occasional short pedaling sections, lots of eyeballs out as high speed as you dare sections, some switchbacks and finally a steep lung-busting climb from hell just to finish you off as your arms and legs were screaming to stop. The Stage was extremely tough and physical but the sheer length of it was insane, double the length of the longest stage I’ve ridden before so maintaining fully focused concentration was a real challenge . Although the passing (or being passed!) was really frustrating at times, it was great to be close to other riders all the time, to have people in your sights to aim for, to learn where your strengths and weaknesses are and to see just how fast the fast girls are. Awesome day.

Day 2 – 3 timed runs, 2 stages, 2 practice runs and a transition stage that involved more braking than my body could handle

EWS raceThe first stage of day two started high up another mountain with stunning views down a freshly cut trail full covered in tuffty grass with pointy rocks hidden underneath, some rock gardens and lower down some fun rooty corners through the trees to the finish. Big Enduro 29er wheels were a saving grace when hitting rough sections full of hidden holes and rocks at high speed! Although slightly shorter than saturday’s stages the distance was still tough with arms and legs sore from the day before and quickly filling with lactic acid. The killer of day 2 was a downhill singletrack transition to get between two gondolas, which we had to ride 5 times. Normally this would be far better than an uphill fireroad but the extent of the arm pump from racing meant that any braking was a painful experience and this was the final nail in the coffin!

EWS Valloire day 2The 2nd stage was another tough one starting across a rough rock filled trail with a few loose high speed ski piste sections in between. Keeping the flow and ride smoothly to avoid mechanicals was key with lots DNFs due to mechanicals and crashes. Loads of dusty switchbacks and some physical forest sections filled up any remaining space in your body with lactic and shot your pulse up through the roof. Then it was time for the climbing. Several short, punchy full gas climbs followed one after the other with sections of technical singletrack in between so that as your heart and lungs felt like they were going to burst out of your body you had to be fully calm and composed to clear the downhill section. I take some kind of sick enjoyment from this, in xc you are always holding something back on climbs and descents but here its flat out every time which is awesome!

So overall 13,000m descending over the two days (usually it might be 3-4,000 over two days!). I finished 26th, an improvement on last time but still have lots to learn. Brilliant weekend meeting and hanging out with lots of cool people from all over the world. The trails themselves were good although probably not the best I’ve ridden in the Alps, but as a race event it worked very well. It was sickening to leave the circus to be back at work on Monday morning when it seemed everyone else was heading off in a van for several weeks of playing in the Alps. Bring on La Thuile!

Thanks to Velo Elsener for making sure my bike was in tip top condition!

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Wallis, secret Swiss Alps

We had a long weekend in Switzerland last week and with temperatures in the mid 30′s it was perfect for escaping to the mountains for some early season Alpine adventures in the Wallis area.  We used a combination of local Post buses, gondolas and pedaling to find some of the most incredible trails I’ve ever ridden.  It was a far cry from the famous Alpine bike parks – empty trails, no braking bumps and pretty little villages nestled high up in the mountains.

One trail was the fairly well known Brazilian, often called the best trail in Switzerland. I’m not sure I would go that far but it was pretty damn cool. A bus followed by 1000m pedaling took us to 2800m and from there it was one long descent down to 500m. The second half was incredible, loads of fast swoopy corners with dust flying everywhere.

The other days were even better as we got up high with spectacular views of glaciers and snow capped mountains before dropping into the woods for amazing loamy fast singletrack descents. One side of the valley is dry and dusty like Italy, full of rocks and loose tight corners. The other is more forested, loamy, fast and flowy. Amazing weekend, I’ve had withdrawal symptoms ever since.

So where were we? top secret, I’d have to kill you if I told you ;-)

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