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Enduro World Series #4 – La Thuile, Italy

Landscape from La Thuile-7

While some went to play in the mud at the Méga, the world’s best enduro riders weren’t too far away from L’Alpe d’Huez. Just across the border in the Upper Aosta Valley, Italy, for the fourth round of the Enduro World Series, organized by Superenduro.

We were in La Thuile, a small village of less than 800 souls, just on the other side of the Col du Petit Saint Bernard if you were in Bourg St Maurice, France. Best known for its ski area with views on the Mont Blanc, the resort has been catering to MTBers, during the summer, for a few years now.

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Unusual for an Italian enduro, but quite normal for EWS, there was only two days of practice. The weather being indecisive all weekend and  with having to race 3 specials per day, all but one with lift access, the choice was simple for most riders Thursday morning to go ride the 6km and 700 meters of D+ to reach the start of Sp2 while the skies were favorable. We had a few flakes over 2400 meters on Thursday afternoon, but nothing that held more than a few hours on the ground. The Sp2 was less physical and less technical than the other stages but it was quite tough after a leg-shrinking transition.

Landscape from La Thuile-6

The rest of the stages were on the bike park, starting high up on the mountain and going through some good ol’ alpine loam with  their fare share of roots, mud and rocks coming out of nowhere.

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Sp1 and 4 were identical, with a 4km transition, but at more than 2200m high with a 10% grade and freezing temps, it hurted like hell. Especially as the stage itself was the longest and most pedally one of the weekend: 7km long with 1000m of D-. In the middle of this stage, it felt like crossing a swamp for over 400m that could easily swallow your shoes if you unfortunately. At the exit of this quagmire, you had to hammer up a 10% grade fireroad, which seemed endless but should not have been more than 200m. It is on these two parts that the race seemed to be lost or won.

Stages 3, 5 and 6 were more DH oriented with a few kick-ass climbs to max out your HR, with a sweet finish on the dual slalom at the end of each day.

Landscape from La Thuile-2-2

To sum it up, four days of EWS with 2 days of practice and 2 days of racing hurt your shoulders and quads so bad. But as the tracks were so awesome with amazing views and food was so yummy, it was probably one of the best enduro races of the year.

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I got a solid Top 20 and beat my usual competition which is a good thing but still have a lot of room for improvement, especially on the pedally parts.

Here are the full results:

EWS4 La Thuile – Day2- Women

 

Here are the datas from each stages:

- Stages 1 & 2

- Stage 3

- Stages 4 & 5

- Stage 6

 

Next Superenduro will be Sauze d’Oulx on September 6 & 7 and the next EWS for me will be in Finale Ligure on October 4 & 5.

 

Action photos by Matt Wragg and landscape pictures by myself.

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Apricot and almond bars

With racing season in full swing, it’s nice to have some extra bars stached in the freezer so I don’t have to worry come race day. I’ve been making a bunch of different bars to fuel for day-long races and this one is one of my favorite as it’s easy to bake, tasty and nutritious.

 

Ingredients

  • 1½ cup almond meal
  • 1 cup dates, pitted
  • 1 cup dried apricots
  • 1 tbsp coconut butter softened
  • 2 tsp mandarine juice
  • pinch sea salt
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, pulse the pitted dates, dried apricots and sea salt until the dried fruits are mashed into a paste. wpid-psx_20140705_213517.jpgThey may try to ball up in the processor, in which case you’ll want to stop and break up the mixture with a spoon before continuing. wpid-psx_20140705_213650.jpg
  2. Break up the fruit mixture and pour into a ball. wpid-psx_20140705_213950.jpg
  3. Add the nuts to the dried fruits mixture.
  4. Mix with a wooden spoon until the almond meal is incorporated evenly into the fruit mixture.
  5. Add th juice and softened coconut butter until smooth.wpid-psx_20140705_214149.jpg
  6. Line an 8- or 9-inch square baking dish with cling film.
    Transfer the mixture to the baking dish, and use your a jar top to press it into an even layer. wpid-psx_20140705_214534.jpg
  7. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the flatten mixture and fold in half. PSX_20140705_214843
  8. Reflatten and wrap in cling film.
  9. Chill the baking dish in the freezer for at least 30 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut the fruit-and-nut blend into squares or bars. Wrap each bar tightly for individual servings.

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Matching the local flowers

Superenduro #3 – Madesimo

View of the reservoir above Madesimo

After racing in the French Alps for the past month, we headed to the Italian Alps, less than a couple hours north of Milan, right by the Swiss border. This remote location, nestled in the high italian mountains is where the third round of Superenduro is happening. Welcome to Madesimo, a cute little family resort. There is only one lift for mountain biking here and a few trails in the bike park. There is a wide network of multi-use singletracks all-around town that go either down the valley or higher up in the mountains.

Madesimo mountains

The previous two rounds of Superenduro were on the mediterranean coast in Liguria and Tuscany, so it was a drastic change from the coastal trails. The Alpine courses that Superenduro concocted us was unfortunately disrupted by the weather. When heading to the high mountains, you have to expect the weather to change quickly. We had a nice first day of racing with a couple showers, nothing too dramatic and then the sky opened up from saturday to sunday and it was a proper downpour all-day sunday.

 

Stage 1

We were supposed to have a total of 6 stages over 2 days but with the dramatic weather conditions, the organisation decided to revised the race schedule. We ended up with 3 stages on day 1 and a single stage on day 2. The 3 stages on day 1 were a mix of what the mountain had to offer: first stage was more DH and technical with natural rock gardens, slippery roots, a descent downhill grade and not too much pedalling. This is definitely the type of terrain I like and that suits me. The second stage, on the other side of the valley, was more a natural hiking trail, with a bit more pedaling and a few trial-like sections, it was quite fun. For the last stage on saturday, we went back to the bike park and had a pedally stage to finish the day: a man-made rock garden, some nice burms and a few whoops, nothing really technical to finish sprinting in the center of town.

Stage 2

With the torrential rain that didn’t stop on sunday, the organization met with the rescue team and the riders and decided to shrink down the race to only one final stage: same as the last one from the day before. Even though we raced on it the day before, it was a totally different terrain due to the amount of rain that got dumped on us.

Staying dry before stage 4

Stage 4

This 3rd round of Superenduro being held between two rounds of EWS (Valloire last week and La Thuile in 10 days), it brought a more competitive field of international racers (Scottish, Swiss, Kiwi), which was really nice. I finished in 5th behind a stacked field of international women and ahead of my usual competition. It’s a small victory after last weekend trip to the hospital (I busted my hip in Valloire and as I couldn’t walk paramedics thought I had a broken pelvis. After waiting for the X-rays results for what seemed forever, it just turned out to be a bruised hip) and a bad crash on stage 3 this past weekend.

Women results

We are back home for a week, so we can chill, ride some home-trails, recharge. And then we are heading to La Thuile, Italy for the fourth round of EWS for some international challenges.

 

Racing pictures by Matt Wragg

cocoa bars

Dates and chocolate bars

Ingredients   

  • 300g Moist Medjool Dates, pitted and chopped
  • 280g Raw Cashew Nuts
  • 60g Almond meal
  • 25g Cocoa Powder
  • 30g dark chocolate
  • A Pinch Of Sea Salt
  • 40g Unsweetened Shredded Coconuts
  • 2 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp Cold Water

Preparation

  1. Line an 8 inch baking pan with  saran wrap, and set aside.
  2. Combine chopped dates, cashews, almonds, cocoa powder, dark chocolate and sea salt in a food processor. blander - dates, cashews, cocoa
  3. Pulse and process all the ingredients together until the texture is coarse.
  4. Add the shredded coconut, a quick pulse, and add the vanilla extract, a little water at a time until it reaches a dry but moist dough consistency.
  5. Scrape the dough mixture into the lined pan, wrap with saran wrap and press evenly with a rubber spatula. cocoa dates freezer
  6. Chill for about an hour before cutting into 2cm by 5cm bars. Store in sealed container for up to a month in the fridge. cocoa bars

Close to the podium in the first race of 2014!

This Sunday (16 Feb), I took fourth at the first round of the Urge 1001 Sentiers Enduro Series at Levens, France.

2013 was a tough year for me, major knee surgery at the start of the year left me recovering for the rest of the year, unable to find the pace I had in 2012. So I was nervous this weekend, as it was the first race I have felt healthy for in a long time, I wasn’t sure how it was going to go.

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The trails in Levens are super-rocky and rooty, but really fun. For the first stage we started from Col du Dragon at 1,100m, which was under the snow still after the storms a few weeks ago! I felt good on course, fit and able to keep my pace up over the 20 minutes of timed stages we raced on. As this was my first time racing this series I was not seeded, so started a little way back in the field and had to pass 5 or 6 riders on every stage. I finished fourth, 13 seconds off the podium, which I’m really pleased with, as I haven’t ridden at race pace in so long. I feel like I could have made the podium if I hadn’t had to pass so many people, and with a bit more racing to get back up to speed, I feel really confident for the coming races.

Next weekend there is another local race in Asperemont, but this time it’s XC, so I can find out how fit I really am!

Persimmon muffins

There still is quite some persimmons on a tree along one of my rides, so it’s quite easy to grab a few to carry home in my backpack to eat fresh or cooked. This recipe is quite simple and fast and really yummy.

Ingredients

  • 4 very ripe persimmons
  • 270 grams flour
  • 200 grams sugar
  • 6 grams baking powder
  •  1 soupspoon candied ginger with syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg white
  • 140 grams unsalted butter, melted
  • 200 grams plain yogurt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Line muffin cups with paper liners or grease the cups with vegetable oil if you don’t have paper liners.
  3. Cut the persimmons in half and scoop out the pulp into a food processor; pulse until smooth.
  4. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger,and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk the persimmon puree, the eggs, egg white, melted butter and yogurt in a small bowl.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (it’s fine if the batter is lumpy).
  7. Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling each three-quarters of the way, and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 30 minutes for regular muffins.

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Persimmon marmalade

The persimmons I had spotted on my ride a couple weeks ago have started to be ripe. So we went to pick some up and I’ve decided to make some jam qith it to be able to keep it as long as possible during the upcoming winter month.

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Ingredients

  • 1kg persimmons’ flesh (it has to be really ripe, aka mushy, otherwise it has a horrible meal taste)
  • 700grams sugar
  • 75ml freshly pressed orange juice
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract

 

Preparation

  1. Cut the persimmons in two and scoop the flesh out, leaving a couple milimeters until the skins. Put in a salad ball
  2. Cover the persimmons’ flesh with the sugar, orange juice and vanilla extract and mix well. Let marinate for 2hours.
  3. image

  4. Put the mixture in a blender to you don’t have big chunks in your jam, then pour in a saucepan and cook for 6 to 7 minutes on medium heat, while stiring often.
  5. Sterilize your containers and caps and pour your marmalade in. Flip them over to expel the air and let cool down.
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  7. Once it has cool down, store in a dry place.

Arbutus jam

This morning we went on a little hike to play gatherer: I love this part of France where I now live as we can just walk out the door and go pick up fruits and herbs in the wilderness. The most common one are herbs of course that you can find year-round: thyme, rosemary, savory, lavender.Blackberries have been filling our stomach for the past 2 month, I can’t wait for the Persimmons to be ripped in the next week or so, olives are starting to turn black and will be ready by early December.

What we found on our gathering hike today can only be picked once a year and is the berry of the Arbutus Unedo. What the hell is that? It’s also known as the Strawberry tree or Cane apple. It’s a small tree found in the Mediterranean region and oddly enough Ireland. It’s a small red skinned berry with orange insides. It’s best in jam or cooked as too much of its raw version is toxic. The roots, leaves and branches can be used on their own as medicines as they are anti-inflammatory and diuretic apprently. Anyway, you have wikipedia to help you out ont his part and to know more about the plant in general.

Arbutus Eonus

As we picked up 2 kilos  of berries, I decided to make some jam with it.

Ingredients

  • 2kg Arbutus
  • 1kg sugar
  • 200gr honey
  • 2 lemons

Preparation

  1. Clean the arbutus. arbouse
  2. In a mixing ball, top off the arbutus with sugar, honey and lemon juice. Stir gently so all the berries get covered in sugar/honey/lemon and let marinate for 24 hours. pret à maçérer maçération terminée
  3. Transfer in a stew pan and cook for 45 minutes on medium heat. Stir regularly and keep an eye on it as it can turn into candy really fast. cooking
  4. Sterilized your containers for the jam by pouring boiling water in them and on the cap.
  5. Once the jam have finished to cook, pour into the containers, close them and flip them over (so as much air as possible will be out) and wait until cold to store normally.

Confiture en pot

Onion marmalade

This is Matt’s recipe that I just cooked and I’ve transcribed it as thoroughly as possible as it is an eye-bowling-measurements type of recipe he gave me but I wanted proper measurements.

It’s delicious with cheese or cured ham or simply by itself on warm bread.

Ingredients

  • 10 red onions
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 50 grams butter
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Preparation

  1. Cut the onions in 2 and slice them thinly (3mm each)
  2. In a stew pan, melt the butter on high and add the oil. Pour in the onions. Whisk together so the onions get greasy.
  3. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the cumin and chili pepper flakes. Stir well. image
  4. Stir often, until onions are thoroughly cooked. It should take two hours or so: the onions shouldn’t be crunchy anymore and reduced to 1/5 of the uncooked ones.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and add wine and vinegar. Keep on stirring regularly for another hour or until onions are caramelized. image
  6. Sterilized your countener for the marmalade by pouring boiling water in them and on the cap.
  7. Once the onions have finish to caramelized, pour into the containers, close them and flip them over (so as much air as possible will be out) and wait until cold to store normally.

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Candied ginger

I snacks on those like crazy, so I decided to try and make some homemade ones.

 

Ingredients

  • 250 g of fresh ginger
  • 400 g sugar
  • 0.25 liter of water

Preparation

  1. Peel the ginger root as thinly as possible. Cut into cubes or sticks then soak in cold water for 1 hour. Drain.
  2. Put the ginger in a cooking pan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain and repeat this process 2 to 4 times depending on whether you want your candied ginger strong or not so much.
  4. Bring the sugar and water to a boil for 5 minutes, then pour it over the ginger. Cover with a plate and let soak for 12 hours.
  5. Strain the syrup and boil it for 10 minutes then pour it over the ginger and let stand for 2 days as described above.
  6. Boil for 5 minutes, then let stand, covered, 2 to 3 days . The roots should then be tender , swollen and transparent. If not, cook for another 5-8 minutes.
  7. Finally put in sterilized jars.
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