Zach Faulkner for Descent-World.
The ruts got wider, deeper, and less effective as the days wore on. Picking wisely was imperative to success.
The French Alps are a wondrous and beautiful region, one which everyone should visit if they get the chance. With that said, when it rains for a week, any sort of paradise will quickly become a place of disinterest. The weather is a very trite conversation topic in social scenarios, but in the world of Mountain Bike Racing, it is serious business. The forecast greeting those of us who journeyed over from the World Cup round in Leogang, Austria was a bleak and lack-luster one: rain, and lots of it. To be fair, much of the rain fell at night, and when it did rain during the rain, it was brief and/or in between DH riding sessions. But, whatever respite we received by having the rain fall while we were indoors, was quickly relinquished as we literally fought our way up, down, and across Mont Chery.
This was the most common sight all weekend: bikes being powerwash, after accumulating 15+kgs in detrius and foliage.
Les Gets is most famous for the 2004 World Championship where Fabian Barel won after Steve Peat has a spectacular crash within sight of the finish line. That weekend 12 years ago was sunny, dusty, and a race for the ages. This weekend could not have been more different. However, it will go down as one of the muddiest, most-rutted, and best constructed downhill tracks in recent memory. As insane as the mud build up on bikes was, riders generally seemed stoked to ride. Less stoked, were the mechanics who were tasked with uncasing the bikes from their muddy tombs, and rebuilding all the moving parts nearly every run. The riders were unrecognizable, save for their personal position and style on a bike, and even then that wasn’t a given, as there was a lack of harmony between rider, bike, and track once the tire treads clogged up, the frames gained excessive weight, and it became a game of white-knuckle rodeo to get back to the pits.
The ground was so saturated with moisture, that it was not longer absorbing the rainfall come Sunday. This created some amazing/icy surface textures. Grass and mud became weaponized as it was jettisoned from spiked tires – bystanders beware!
While it was a mess right up until the last rider crossed the finish line, it was a pretty rad event. The track was raw, the riders were challenged, and the views were staggering.
The Mont Chery, Les Gets track is what Downhill is all about. It brought out the best in the athletes, and created an interesting storyline, as well as a wild spectacle for anyone brave enough to stand along side the track.
As a fan of the sport, a rider, and professional photographer, I want to see more venues like Les Gets. Lets find some new bits of hillside elsewhere to create some new and fun/exciting race tracks. Bring back Schladming for World Cups too, the iXS race was just there, and between the two events this weekend, the scene is starting to have the cool, old-school feel of the heyday of the sport once again.
Mountain biking is an amazing sight to see, and it’s best shown on display in locations where riders can really hang it out and push the limits of their abilities.
Congratulations to winners Remi Thirion and Morganne Charre and for the full results, just click right here!
Tracey Hannah blasted through the stream in her race run with authority. Her exit speed was even surprising to her, but it drove her up and over the hill into 3rd place.
First day out, and things were not looking promising. The peaks were in the clouds, and the rain was on the horizon.
Some of the spectators were noneplussed by the whole ordeal of Crankworx.
Winner of Elite Women by 25 seconds, Morgane Charre rode brillliantly. She was visibly faster on track, and never looked phased.
The podium was a combined affair of both men and women, so the celebratory champagne shower was especially chaotic. Morgane Charre was sporting a much damper look upon her return from the top step of the podium.
Rain and roost decorate the backdrop of the last winner in Les Gets in 2004, Fabian Barel. It was cool to see Fab back in a race aboard another bike he helped design - in an ironic turn of events, he was DQ'd in finals after blowing through the tape.
The Birthday Boy hucked himself over the road in his race run, much to the crowd's delight. Eliot Jackson, 18th going on 26.
The Les Gets local, Sylvain Cougoureux was probably not expecting to have to learn how to ride sideways on his home mountain. He held this drift, and rode it out!
It took two lift rides to get to the top of Mont Chery, but when the sun was out, the summit chair was an absolute treat.
One of the riders looking most comfortable in the trying conditions, Joe Smith put on a clinic in Les Gets.
One minute the hillside would be in a cloud, and the next, rays of sun would be breaking through. The variance in track conditions and general weather made for a very unpredictable event.
If there is a man who knows how to let the bike run, it's Adam Brayton. Riding high on his recent World Cup successes, he was charging through the slop.
This one rut in the track was worth the trecherous middle woods section. Jordan Prochya passes on the inside in seeding.
The poor dude pulled over and called it quits half way down. The mud was so thick during seeding, bikes simply stopped rolling.
The horrendous conditions were no joke.
Swinging off the back and letting loose, Sam Blenkinsop wasn't holding back from start to finish.
Jack Moir went to work, quietly acing his lines and riding consistantly all week. Rad to see the young Aussie in 3rd for Finals!
The right man for the job, Brook MacDonald did the rugged and rough high speed top section proper justice. He would eventually motor his way into 6th in Finals.
Soft dirt and high speeds combined to form some seriously savage ruts. The open top sections looked more like an MXGP track than a DH course.
Wide-eyes and hanging loose, Emilie Steigenthaler kept the wheels on the ground and rode smart all weekend - she finished 2nd in Elite Women.
Half the fun of smashing laps in practice is chasing/being chased by your mates. This weekend saw some wicked freight trains chugging down the track. Mick Hannah leading out Brendan Fairclough, and Andrew Neethling.
Jackson Frew managed the mud well, though he was not at home in the muck at all - Adelaide is not know for it's rain.
Keeping the bike upright and bashing runs, Sam Blenkinsop put on a show and found 14th in finals.
Something tells me there was a better solution to this problem, but I suppose I just don't understand fashion.
Henry Fitzgerald found himself off line, off track, and on the ground more times than he'd like to admit, but the young Canadian was still thrown the horns and loving it.
The views off of the hill were constantly changing; sunny and scenic, to dark and forboding in minutes.
Brandan Fairclough was riding out of his mind alll week, and was one of the favored riders for the win. Second Place, with a view.
The lines changes with almost every riders, sometimes out of necessirty, other times accidentally. Brendan Fairlcough found the hot line into the finish, where the track was dry and even - he hammered past us like a man possessed.
Forrest Rieso nearly saved the drift that lead to this turtling slide.
Crashing is generally not fun, but this weekend, when (not if) you did, the sticky and plentiful mud added insult to injury. Forrest, post-slide.
Any race in France brings people of out the woodwork, and many random heroes out into the lime light. Jordan Maupas is one such rider - he finished 42nd in finals.
What was supposed to be a cool angled shot, quickly turned into Alex Fayolle DNS'ing on Sunday. He finished the race, but likely opted out from Finals after a solid encounter with this tree.
Neil Stewart was testing out some new body position techinique, specifically perfected for mud riding - some of Point One Athletic's finest work.
The conditions were atrocious the first day out, but riders like Phil Atwill were thriving in the loose conditions.
Foot out, catch the rut - that was the name of the game all weekend. Bryn Dickerson demonstrates.
Ruaridh Cunningham was right at home on the rutted and slick track. He was all smiles, hooting and hollering his way down the track on Friday.
The change in light kept riders and photographers alert to the changing weather, and was often the best cue for whether it was time to seek shelter or just hope it was a passing shower.
Smiling everytime he passed by Sam Dale was having a right laugh out on track.
Fraser McGlone explores the depths of the rut in seeding, that became a trench by finals.
With low-lying shrubs and tufts of plants, off-track excursions were a bit cushioned, which made crashing slightly more tolerable.
Smashing ruts and holding line like a seasoned pro, eventual Jr. Men winner Finn Iles was impressing all in attendance track-side.
As the track changed and deteriorated, it became increasingly unpredicatable. Many riders who were thought to be top contendors found themselves way down the list after crossing the finish in Finals. This track was unforgiving.
On Friday, the sun came out in the second practice session, much to the delight of everyone. The open track up top made for some excellent spectating and even better riding.
Top qualifier, Mike Jones, left only his visior on track today, pushing hard and going all out, unfortunatley crashing out of contention in the process.
Les Gets is for lovers, apparently.
Too fast for me, my camera, and for the majoirty of the Elite Men, Remi Thirion once again proved that the French perform best at home. 1st, by a solid 2 seconds. The Top 3 were on another level this weekend.
This is likely the least-caked Remi Thirion's bike was all weekend after one run down the hill. Dirt, the meal of champions.