After a winter away from the Alps it was a welcome return to the land where huge silhouettes are painted against the skyline- it is so easy to forget how impressive the mountains are as you approach from Geneva. The heart rate really does rise in anticipation- this is ‘proper’ mountain bike territory.
I usually drive down each year, but this time chose to fly out. Oh what a bad decision it was. In the age of ‘cheap’ flights I found my bike being refused onto the flight and a £90 excess baggage bill to boot- all for reasons that I didn’t quite understand. After eventually sweet talking the Easyjet lady (always try and find a lady) I was then refused entry onto the flight!! After more arguments and a delay to the whole cabin of passengers waiting for me I was eventually on the plane and was subjected to a horrible walk to shame to find a spare seat. I thought I’d made it through my troubles. Alas, the baggage handlers must have heard I was being a pain as when I opened the bag up in Morzine the bike looked like it had been drop kicked. Twice.
After swearing and straightening bent parts I found the town buzzing- with a huge Harley Davidson convention in town. There were thousands of bikers knocking about and an impressive array of chrome and tassles. I was somewhat concerned though that when walking through town it actually SMELT of leather! Whatever you think to these bikes it was quite a display and there was a good buzz to the town.
With the Passportes du Soleil in Morzine at the end of June, the Slopestyle madness in Chatel just recently, this week was the turn of Avoriaz. They hosted an ‘Extreme sports’ festival in the mountain top resort which included BMX, skateboarding and Mountain bike Slopestyle. The course was altered from last year but still included a roof top section. With good crowds to please some of the top mountain bike guys are really getting good: 360’s onto the roof and 360’s off the bloody thing too! Back flips, tail whips and Supermans were all de-rigeur and it made quite a spectacle.
The annual pilgrimage to Alpe D’Huez for the Mega sounded as dramatic as ever, with some amazing results to boot- Rob Francis, full time Engineer, part time swamp donkey, and soon to be dad blasted into the top 25- putting a lot of guys to shame in the process. Brendan Fairclough was also there to race, but a blown shock after doing all the hard work left him floundering and at the mercy of a mechanical. He returned to Morzine with ‘The Usual Suspects’ for some shenanigans. He is able to claim this is training, and who can question it- he is having a great season so far. Clay Porter was also in tow filming for his new film- I hear Brendan was blasting down long fast sections just to have to hike back up over and over. It’s not all Champagne and Monster girls eh?
I was shocked and saddened to hear the news about young Dan Hume being killed in Afganistan. The news was stark- on the front covers of the newspapers that fill the news stands here. I am sure he has spent time riding here in the Alps with his dad and the Meerkat boys so it was especially sad to read. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family as it must be a very difficult time for them.
After years of little or no development, the Pleney hillside has seen a lot of official spade work at last. 2 new tracks are now to be found running parallel to the main downhill course. With some wooden jumps and wall rides at the bottom of the hill too there is a lot of new things to see and ride.
Although there has been development, some of the shops have suffered in recent times. Misty Fly is no more, and neither is Dert. Uncle Nigel Reeve (ex Dert co-owner and suspension guru) is back for the summer after wrenching for Rennie for the first world cups. (Rennie has decided to head to back down under until the World Champs). As the sole suspension man in town, as he disappeared to the French National Champs this weekend to work for Sabrina I am sure there were many riders waiting anxiously for his return- this man is a wanted individual in a town where Boxxer seals are a commodity and blown shocks can spell a ruined holiday.
I’ve found myself the guardian of quite a special Orange for the season- under the Strange nomenclature, this lightweight downhill bike features a linkage- a rare sight. As a bit of a ‘prototype’ I would have been tempted to make it stand out- chrome frame, maybe even with some graphics to hint at it’s ‘not-yet-ready’ status (I was thinking the dashed pen marks of a tailors chalk…) However, Orange know that the bike will talk for itself and although they painted it terracotta, it can’t hide from the glares and stares. I feel like the un-known boyfriend of the Hollywood actress as she attends a party. More on the bike in a separate piece, but suffice to say this thing is a big step forward that climbs like a mountain goat before gobbling up everything thrown at it with more composure than my previous bike…Lightweight, rideable everywhere and huge bump soaking ability- is the future of downhill bikes?
Next week brings the Tour de France, more amazing tracks in Chatel and a 4 hour hike to ride down one of the least accessible trails in the area….