Alps 2011:Down the Drain

 

The previous year had been our best; we rode hard and surprised ourselves with what we stepped up to. This time round, pumped after watching the FMB round at Chatel, we arrived with high expectations, and even a plan of what to film. 

"I looked up to see Andy grinding down the landing on his side. He couldn’t have chosen a less forgiving place to crash. His arm took the full brunt of the fall, grating against the sharp rocks that protruded the berms rugged surface."

We were greeted with two days of sun followed by a wave of rain which persisted throughout the remainder of the holiday. We remained hopeful as weather forecasts provided positive outlooks, but these often materialised into cumulonimbus clouds and increasing disappointment. Below is a summary of our experiences.

Day five


It had taken me a while to get properly warmed up and feeling quick this year, but during the previous afternoon something clicked and flowing down mountains felt natural again.


The sun was out while we were training each other on Chevanne barely touching the brakes. I took the Gopro out for the first time on the bike and filmed our favourite section. On the first take I had to haul on the brakes to avoid going into the back of Andy, then on a subsequent run I almost came out the top of a high-speed berm! This is what it was all about though; getting lose! Afterwards we headed over to the Bike Park, filmed near the top, then got lairy overtaking each other on runs t-boning round turns and taking alternative sections in a race to the bottom. In definite need of food, we rolled down to Snack Attack, to find that not only did it no longer exist, but what stood in its place was a huge crater! After a cheeseburger at Snack 412 we took the rode to Morzine.

When we got back to the apartment to pick up our things for the lake, I saw a missed call from an unknown number on my phone, and after listening to my voicemail, realised I had been invited to a job interview for the following Monday when I was still in France... Before relaxing at the lake we decided to session the infamous berm jump and record some footage. After two runs Andy pulled out as he was exhausted. I rode it again, then on my way back up I looked up to see Andy grinding down the landing on his side. He couldn’t have chosen a less forgiving place to crash. His arm took the full brunt of the fall, grating against the sharp rocks that protruded the berms rugged surface. This combined with my missed interview opportunity drove our moods into a drastic U-turn from the high we were on earlier, although I couldn’t help but smile when Andy realised at the super market checkout that he had forgotten his wallet! Back in the apartment with a very basic meal, we remained positive about our plans for the next day: Chatel, followed by Desberados and Status Quo who were playing on the Harley Davidson European tour of 5000 motorbikes which had stopped off at Morzine for the weekend.

The news was a huge blow, especially as it was due to rain heavily the next day. I slumped back into bed completely demoralised.”

Day six


I woke up to beaming sunlight pouring into the apartment, which got me pumped on the day ahead. While I was eating breakfast Andy broke the news that he was in agony from his foot so there was no way he could ride. This was probably the lowest point of the trip. The misfortunes of the latter half of the previous day were blown over by the prospect of an amazing day of riding, which had now vanished. The news was a huge blow, especially as it was due to rain heavily the next day. I slumped back into bed completely demoralised, until I decided have some runs of Pleney. 


It felt good to be riding but I was still gutted about not being in Chatel. I talked to a guy on the telecabin from the UK with a totally beat 222 who shared his recent Megavalanche experience. I followed him down the tech wooded sections splitting off from the main track for a few runs before he headed off. I had a couple more runs to record some footage.

After lunch Andy’s foot had healed enough to allow him to ride to Les Gets, so we went to the lake before drinking and hitting the town. Morzine was completely packed, mainly with leather clad men on the wrong side of 50. We caught the end of Status Quo’s set then went into a rammed bar fighting to order drinks until half 2 in the morning. After we left I practiced my French by advising local’s that smoking was bad for the health. This received mixed reactions, and was a sign that it was time to go home.

Day eight


The previous sunny evening and clear night sky raised moral as we anticipated good weather the following day for the trek to Chatel. Upon awakening, the first sound was a car splashing through a puddle. We couldn’t believe it, it was raining again... After lazing about reading magazines for the umpteenth time, we put the mud tyres on and messed about outside the apartment. I spotted a steep, wet and overgrown slope with a tree near the top of it. Thinking about riding down was a daunting prospect, as it was treacherous enough on foot! As I decided it would make for some interesting footage, I returned padded up with the Gopro. I hit the ‘track’ a few times, trying out some different lines. Several near tree and Andy misses and an over the bars comedy crash later I was done. We headed out to the chairlift and rode through puddles on the way to Chevanne. Andy’s foot was out of agony and it felt great to be training runs again.

Day nine


Our last day of riding... The night before we had high hopes but low expectations towards good, or at least dry weather. After previous false alarms, looking out at 6am to blue skies provided the green light for Chatel. I went back to sleep stoked on the day ahead, then woke a couple hours later to clouds. We decided to go anyway. 


It was a relief to finally be taken up the mountain by the Super Morzine lift. Along the way to Chatel the ground was soaked in most places, but we held onto the fact that the Mountainstyle course was out in the open. With plans to ride the top and bottom sections of the track, we cruised over the roadgap on the run down to the end of the course. What followed was another series of disappointments. The jump and the monstrous step-down we intended to ride had been shut off as areas were wet. We ventured up the track to find something else to session, stopping at a new roadgap that had been built before the huge step-down. We sussed it out and retrieved our bikes. While the gap itself looked smooth, the run in was steep and rough, and it was anyones guess as to where to roll in from...

We were sizing up the gap and I started clearing some of the rocks from the run in, but it soon became apparent that neither of us wanted to go first, as there was some debate over the speed required to hit it. Then it began to rain. Taking cover in a nearby cave, our enthusiasm washed away. When it became clear that neither of us were up for it, we left planning to film the roadgap on the other track


It rained harder as we ascended the mountain. The focus shifted from filming to getting back. We rode back to Morzine down the long winding rode. My body was freezing up as I was pounded by ice cold rain drops and an angry wind, which persisted throughout the torturous 40 minute trip. I was not having the time of my life. With one full day remaining, we clenched onto our last opportunity to go back to Chatel and film some riding, but when the forecast came in it was clear our riding was over. 

Several near tree and Andy misses and an over the bars comedy crash later I was done.”

My body was freezing up as I was pounded by ice cold rain drops and an angry wind, which persisted throughout the torturous 40 minute trip. I was not having the time of my life”

This panned out to be the worst Alps trip we’d experienced, but hopefully now the worst is over. How will 2012 unfold? Who knows, but one things for sure, we’ll be making the most of the sun and the (still for us) untapped riding opportunities. 

 

03 August 2011