Monday, 9 August 2010

Avalanche Racing - July 2010

Here is a (slightly delayed!) round up of my summer road trip to the Alps to do a week of Avalanche races.

Wednesday we finished work, packed the van and left home at 8pm. Just over 1000 miles later we were in the French Alps.
We arrived in Alpe d'Huez just as it was getting dark on Thursday night and set up camp under the main lift station.

Friday morning and we awoke to wall-to-wall blue skies so we got our bikes ready and went for an explore. Our 9 day lift passes weren't due to start until the Saturday, so we opted for an XC/DH/roadie sort of day. We took a traversing singletrack trail out of Alpe d'Huez which turns into a downhill trail and descends all the way to the town of Bourg d'Osians on the valley floor.



We got there just as the Brazil vs. Netherlands quarter final was kicking off, so we found a bar and settled down in a sea of orange to watch the match. A few cokes later and we got ready climb the road back up to Alpe d'Huez. I had been dreading it, but I stuck it in an easy gear and spun away. I thought I was doing well until about halfway up I got passed by an old guy on a hardtail and flipflops who I definitely saw sinking a few beers in the pub earlier!

Enduro Avalanche - Vaujany
Saturday, we collected our lift passes and went to suss out the trails at Vaujany where the first race was being held. Racing wasn't until Monday and Tuesday, so we were a bit optimistic in hoping the course would already be marked out. But we rode what we thought would be the route and were quite happy with what we found.
We also met a friendly Fort William boy, James, who took us down some well good secret trails that he knew.


Monday came around and this was the sign-up and seeding run for the Enduro. We picked up our race numbers and a map of the course and headed off for a practice lap.
Looking at the map, it was clear that the route we had practiced previously was nowhere near the actual race course and in fact took us much higher to 2500m where there was still loads of snow. It was a bit of a slog through the snow between the timed sections and a lot of it was a push.

The seeding run was also used as race stages 1 and 4 and this was a fast, twisty and narrow trail. The other two timed stages were very open and fast and you didn't necessarily know if you were going in the right direction all the time as they weren't taped very well.

I was seeded 8th in the ladies which I managed to improve on in the race and finished 7th overall.

It was a pretty cool course on off-piste trails and I found the link stages just as tough as the timed ones. And although we were finished racing by 1pm, it really felt like you'd had a big day out in the mountains.

Avalanche Cup - Oz En Osians
Due to racing the Enduro, I missed the entire practice day for the Avalanche Cup downhill race and only just made registration. Looking at the start sheet was quite daunting.The women's race consisted of Sabrina Jonnier, Claire Buchar, Intense rider Tahnee Seagrave, UK downhiller Sue Mahoney.....and me. Fifth place awaits! I just had to get to the end. Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy as that. Having had no practice, I had no idea what the course was like on my morning race run and I took a wrong turn completely missing the tape at the entrance to the finish arena, ending up in a grassy clearing next to some tennis courts!

I crept down the outskirts to the finish area hoping nobody noticed my no-show. No such luck! The announcer guy recognised me from the Enduro and asked me over the mic what happened. "I got lost". Cringe.

My afternoon run went a lot better in that I actually crossed the finish line. Not without crashing twice on the way there though. My second crash was more of a ditch into the side banking to try to get out of Sabrina Jonnier's way as she flew past me.
I finished in 7m 28s compared to Sabrina's winning time of 4m 52s. I was, as expected, last female. But not last overall, which is a result!

The best bit of the day was at the finish when the announcer came and interviewed me before any of the pros. "So you didn't get lost this time Lyndsey?"

Megavalanche Qualifying
Qualification day was Friday with the men's races leavng every 20min from 10am and the ladies group last to go at 1pm.
I was starting on the second row behind a front row packed with world class riders including Tracy Mosely, Anne Caroline Chausson and Emmeline Ragot. If I could just stay on one of their tails.... No chance!

The start was pretty mental with dust everywhere. A couple of girls collided and crashed in front of me and I somehow managed to avoid them. It was a fast fireroad to the first techy rock section where it got pretty congested. Everyone wants to try and ride everything, but a lot were crashing and it was faster just to run past them. About 2/3 of the way down there is short fireroad climb and thanks to my Gravity Dropper I managed to overtake a few girls, including Fionn Griffiths who had punctured.

I had no idea what my position was as I raced down the fast, dusty singletrack into the forest but I managed to overtake a couple more girls. Near the end I hit a tree stump and crashed and a rider came past me. I couldn't get back on and up to speed enough to catch her before the line and I finished 28th.
The first 27 places get a front row start in the Mega Ladies so I just missed out. But I was still well chuffed at my placing.



Megavalanche Ladies
Saturday was the Mega Ladies race and it was a 5am start to catch the 6am cable car to the top at 3300m. At 8am they started calling each rider up to their place on the starting grid for a 9am depart.
On the glacier there was a lot more snow and for a much longer distance than last year and riding on it was totally knackering! The piste had been groomed for the race, but the snow was still very deep and soft.
I had a terrible start. I tried to clip both feet in and just go but instead I fell over! I got up, then fell over again! By the time I got going it felt like everyone had gone past me and was away. I really didn't want to look back!


Once I got out of the snow, I had a really clean run and felt like I was riding well. I was pedalling really hard to catch as many girls as I could and make some places back. At the traverse, I was glad to put my saddle up and get a seat and I took off my goggles to let some much needed air in.
After the traverse my run down the singletrack to the finish was pretty sweet with only 1 dodgy overtake (by me, almost taking us both out) and only crashing into 1 tree!

I made it to the finish line, and once again, my commentator buddy was there to congratulate me.

I managed to finish 35th in the Mega Ladies which I'm pretty happy with. It was an improvement on 44th last year so here's hoping for more of the same next year.

It also turned out that I was the only female to take part in all three races during the course of the week. I think my wee pink Cove Hustler stood up to the challenge pretty well!

(Photos by Mark Forrest)

1 comment:

Gordymac said...

Fantastic effort Lindsey, I was wondering when you would post it up. That weekend was a good un for Vcm with you out in France and Steve winning at Kirroughtree. Well done everyone ;o)