This weekend was the Ae Avalanche Enduro. Format: friday and saturday course opens for practice. Basically it consists of select parts of the big loop and 'the shredder' one of the downhill runs there. You have a generous amount of time to make it between the timed sections where you race 2 up. Your compatriot is found by doing a seeding run on the saturday afternoon, after practice.
The timed sections are not long - about 3-6 mins....but some are pretty balls-out hard efforts. A lot of fuss is made of stage 4 (of 6) that includes a (gasp!) climb. But for me, stage 6 is the issue - the shredder. i can get down it, and indeed do the jumps on it courtesy of the new bike (well all except the road gap, but that is taken out of the race after a bloke rips half his face off) but i cannot descend it anywhere near in control at race pace.
Saturdays practice (which takes me 3 or so hours) is useful. I'm getting to know the Vertigo, and to be honest i'm pretty overwhelmed by what this bike can and will allow me to do. It is best on hard & fast mountain terrain, rather than table tops and ultra rough dh type terrain, but the limit is definitely the pilot. I crash in qualifying on one of the '7 stanes-typical no edge (tm) corners on loose stones', then again trying to take a poor line on a slimey fresh cut drop in - much to the baying crowds enjoyment.
In the end, i'm top hardtail (though there are precious few) in 74th. Top 25% is good for me. My friend Rob Hamilton Smith smashes into the top 20 and Nico Vouiloz is in 7th ( i think) after on-sighting the seeding run...yep. No practice...amazingly fluid rider....and fellow Moulineer Lyndsey is right up there in the dames (the race organisers term, not mine!).
Race day after an early start: My fellow rider is Stuart Bond - a good bloke. A veteren of several Avalanche and mash up type events, he is really helpful keeping me right. We decide (as many other pairs do - due to the narrow tracks and lack of passing opportunities) to take it turn and about for leading into the sections. We have good banter and are pretty evenly matched, though i use the xc fitness and hardtail to my advantage on stage 4.
On stage 5, stuart has the lead. Unbeknownst to him, i launch off a steep transition on one of the table top jumps. These seem to be more bmx suited than mtb to my mind and many others, and they are pretty unpleasant if you dont soak them up. Needless to say i am skywards and over rotating before i touch down off course heading down a fortunately grassy slope over the course tape and into a small gully. Regaining the course gives me a lot of work to do, but i come in a second or 2 down on Stuart with only the Shredder to come. It is my turn to lead, but i gladly hand this over and Stuart dissappears off nto the distance. A poor line choice loses me more time and my nerves start to jangle as i hit some of the bumps too fast and ragged. Into the final drop on Omega man trail and there is a crowd. At some point i have picked up a puncture and the rear end is fishtailing as i try to soak up the drops. Onto the ladder trail with a last minute adrenalin kick as my completely flat rear tyre refuses to steer me off the end without a caveman effort to keep from flying face first into the brush.
I lost some time on that last stage (probably close to 30 seconds) but that was to be expected. Even so, i made it into 58th place - which i'm pretty pleased with. Next time i need some burlier tyres (stiffer sidewalls really) and some bigger cojones. Lyndsey did really well (i'm sure she will post something soon) and Rob punched it into 13th on a borrowed bike. Given the calibre of the field that is a pretty impressive result!.
Some guy called Nico won, and i'm sure he'll go onto great things.
Good fun indeed.