I’m sat writing this with my nose, left thumb and general right side of my body throbbing on what should be my second to last riding day in the alps, spent ripping up the tracks in Morgins. Yes of course it’s sunny. I frequently get distracting by lose sun burnt skin and scabs, both of which plentiful, that I have an addiction to rubbing and peeling. My black eyes shade my growing frustration at two specific events that have occurred over the past few days. Maybe I should be thankful that I don’t have a broken neck or knocked out teeth, but I don’t feel grateful in the slightest.


Rewind four days. It’s Monday morning on the 9th of July. Yours truly, Andy and Ben have had an almost perfect week of riding everything from the local Morzine and Les Gets tracks to the French National course and Chatel. We watched part of the Chatel Mountain Style FMB event, recorded some footage, Andy dropped his bag from a chairlift, and we gave our aching bodies a rest the previous day by walking to the Mountain Style course to witness the finals. When we got there we found out the finals had been held the day before due to the amount of wind forecasted. I came prepared with my camera and I.D to attain a press pass for the day so the news was a blow but it wasn’t a big deal. The weather had also been OK. Apart from the odd shower we hadn’t had any wash out days contrary to what we were expecting, so despite some wet tracks we had little to complain about.


Back to the 9th of July. Myself and Andy had been eyeing up the last two features of the Mountain Style course: the step down and doubles. We said we would do it and we were going to stick to our words. It was Ben’s last day and he was eager to ride Champery. We devised a plan to get the lift out of Morzine at 9am, ride the Mountain Style jumps and clock the necessary footage, then head over to Champery to fling ourselves down a world cup track known as the steepest and most technical of the circuit.


Everything was going to plan until Andy’s mech fell apart in Avoriaz. Half an hour later it was back together but since we were both extremely nervous about what was coming and wanted it over with, it was particularly annoying. When we were on the bottom of the Mountain Style our nerves escalated. We removed the ropes in front of the jumps, handed the camera over to Ben and pushed our bikes to the top of the roll in. Andy was up there first, and after a long wait he dropped in. I knew he was going to do it and he did, floating off the take off, adding some style and landing near the bottom of the landing. He nailed it.


I knew my time was up and I wasn’t going to waste any time with warm up runs. I also said that I would do both the step down and the final jump on my first run, and I was going to stick to my guns. I copied Andy’s run in, sent the step down and landed smooth, braked, then continued towards the double. The distance between the two features seemed huge as I rolled towards the jump. I felt fast, very fast, but my perception of time had slowed. Then I hit the lip. I kept the bike level, spotted the landing, nosed in for it then... I woke up. I was at the bottom of the landing with the chin guard of my helmet pressed hard against my face. I had been out cold and could not recall landing or being flung onto my face on impact. I realised that I mis judged the landing while in the air and nosed in too early, unaware that I was about to over-shoot. Apparently Brendan Fairclough had even checked I was OK. The following minutes are a haze. All I remember is telling the ambulance crew that I was OK and that I didn’t need to go to hospital and checking my teeth were still in my mouth. I was relieved to feel them there.


This was the first time, over the many Alps holidays that myself and Andy I had, that one of us had come off on a sender drop or jump. I couldn’t believe it. It was the end of the days riding. I felt bad for ruining the days plans. No one was in the mood to ride anymore. I picked up my bike with twisted forks, totaled helmet, and binned parts of what had been a peak and goggles, and we made the journey back to Morzine up and down the chairlifts. My injuries were mainly on my face: cut and swollen lip, cuts on my nose and forehead, a sore jaw and black eyes. I was also gutted that I had written off my remaining long sleeve t.shirt after losing my other one the day before, and tore a good t.shirt. After 24 hours I was three items of clothing down.


That evening we all considered going home, but it was too expensive. The next day Ben set off and we, Andy and I, took a day off riding and grew hopeful of our remaining holiday. After a day or two off we still had a few days to ride in and we planned to go to Morgin on the Friday. Ben left me his helmet to ride in, but it was too big. I bodged his peak onto my cracked Gyro with Andy’s spare goggles strapped on and planned not to land on my face.


A day and a half later we were back on the Pleney lift, about to ride Chevanne to see whether I could ride. A few yards after we set off my positivity had gone. I could feel every little bump on my nose as my borrowed goggles moved ever so slightly. I rode on anyway and before we even got to the bottom of Les Gets Andy’s mech fell to pieces. This time it was broken for good. Our ride had quickly come to an end. On the way back to Morzine I decided to buy sunglasses as I couldn’t ride in goggles, and Andy accepted the fact he had to buy an expensive mech to get his bike running. By 6pm, with new mech fitted and sun glasses purchased, we lazed in the sun and grew positive once more.


I felt like a bit of an idiot riding in sunglasses but I was happy to be riding. After a couple of runs of Chevanne to warm up we tried some of the tracks running through the woods, where I spotted a fun jump line I was eager to try later in the day. I was riding well, consistently riding the berm jump at the bottom of Chevanne with style and generally having a good time. After some lunch we did some filming. I had planned to have a clip of a fast berm section, but when Andy went to film we realised it didn’t look good on camera. On the next chairlift we spotted a different angle for the section that seemed promising. When we got there we planned the shot and I walked up to the top of the section. I was overly conscious that I was being filmed and so had to ride fast for the clip to be worth while. I rolled in faster than usual, hit the first couple of turns on the edge of control, but on the next berm I was getting out of control. I thought I could hold my line but on a small jump after a corner I flew far past the landing. The jump placed me in an awkward position but I was still confident I could ride it out, until my front wheel hit a ditch.


That was it. Another high speed crash. My bike flung me sideways face first and ’do not land on your face, your helmet won’t save you’ was stitched in my mind. I forced my arm in front of my face before I slammed the ground and once again I was thrown like a rag doll, hitting the side of my head hard on one of my rolls. When I came to a stand still I was in excruciating pain. I was light headed and it felt like my arm and ribs had been hacked away with a saw. After I forced myself up to move my bike out of the track all I wanted to do was lie down and wake up at home. To add to my anger I had ripped apart another good t.shirt. When I stopped feeling dizzy we rode down the rest of the track and back to the apartment. I noticed something was wrong with my left thumb and knew my riding time was up. Morgin was going to have to wait.


Not all holidays go to plan, especially when bikes are involved.


Update: The next day I decided that I wanted to end the holiday on a positive note, so on our last day we went out on the bikes. I was in agony straight away; I could feel every little bump through my arm, shoulders and thumb, so the plan swiftly shifted from having a few runs to getting to the bottom of Chevanne to film a clip of the berm jump. When we got there we chilled out in the sun for a while and had a laugh watching some of the action unfold. Gopro attached to the end of a helmet peak? That was one of many comical sites we saw in half an hour of being there. We weren’t here just to lounge in the sun though, I had something to tick off the list.


Despite hitting old Berm Jump countless times before, I felt nervous dropping in with no warm up, my bars pointing 30 degrees to the right due to the twisted forks and a broken body, but I sailed over the gap and the clip came out well. I was disappointed that I didn’t ride it like a style guy but another run wasn’t worth the risk. I was still content. As we rolled down the road back to Morzine I was in a good mood for the first time in days.

18 July 2012

Unhappy Endings

When one hard slam isn’t enough

Andy Wardle

Photo by Milan Olivier-Recknagel

Andy Wardle

Photo by Milan Olivier-Recknagel

Milan Olivier-Recknagel

Photo by Ben Pearson

Andy’s Bag: Unhappy Endings promo video:

Unhappy Endings video:

Clips per section shown in chronological order