2015 Enduro World Series – Round 1 in Rotorua New Zealand

If you had to sum up this race in 3 words, it would be tough, hot and humid. We had a long day in the saddle with technical stages and tight transition that allowed us only a little time to rest before the clock started. Coming out of the winter from the northern hemisphere to New Zealand was kind of a heat shock, had to that the 100% humidity from the jungle, it was like racing in a turkish bath all day. 11078068_600647926738906_7002083653410615025_o The course was really fun and technical due to the slick roots everywhere. And the best would be do go stage by stage as each had their own peculiarity.  We started off at the Te Puia center that host the Maori Arts and Crafts instute and is located in a geothermal valley. The first 6 stages where in the Whakawerawera forest and the &th and last stages was at Skyline bikepark. 11080515_600647870072245_2780262119214986601_o Mattwragg_20150327_3233 Stage 1 was my nemesis: lots of pedaling on the top flat section in the mud to destroy your calf muscles for the rest of the course. Then come the DH bit with muddy off camber turns spiced with slick roots. Lots of heckler populated the jungle in this bit and to keep you on your toes. A nice flatish sprint at the end to finish to kill you. I didn’t stay upright enough on this one. Stage 1 Mattwragg_20150327_8282 Stage 2 had a really tight transition leading into it, with just a few minutes to spare it didn’t give much time to recover. With lots of pedaling involved at the beginning of that stage, it gave me leg pump and I had hard time at first, then the flowy bit came and it was all fn and giggles. stage 2 Stage 3 was my fave! A freshly cut track with not too much pedaling. Stage 3 Mattwragg_20150327_8004 Stage 4 is where I totally fucked up as I forgot to unlock my suspension before it. But once the upper bit was done and my suspensions where unlocked, it was all good. Stage 4 Mattwragg_20150328_3361 Stage 5, my second nemesis but only in 1 spot where I got hanged up for what seemed forever and it involved a lot of swearing in French. Other than that if you look at timing, it did not go badly apparently. It had a lot of off camber traverse with lots roots and it involved picking up your front wheel a lot. Stage 5 Stage 6: That was one of my favorite during practice, a high speed flow track with lots of drops. I got offered a re-run on it after being diverted due to an injured fellow racer but passed. Would it have been worth taking it? No sure as I was pretty tired at the time. Could have, would have, should have…. we will never know. Stage 6 Stage 7 was way more slick at the top than I remembered and quite treacherous plus being tired didn’t help. But I felt quite good on the bikepark bit even though wooden structures are not to be trusted. Stage 7 So stoked to have made it out alive, in one piece and with just a few bruises all over my body. Finished 24th of a stacked up field of strong women. Good day in the saddle though. Finished the day with a huge smile on my face. Mattwragg_20150327_9082 GPS track for stages 1 to 6 (forgot to restart it for T7 and stage 7) Official results are: Pro Men 1- Jérôme Clémentz 2- Fabien Barel 3- Wyn Masters 4- justin Leov 5- Florian Nicolai 6- Nico Vouilloz 7- Matt Walker 8- Damien Oton Pro Women 1- Anne Caroline Chausson 2- Tracy Moseley 3- Cécile Ravanel 4- Aneeke Beerten 5- Megghie Bichard 6- Ines Thoma 7- Rosara Joseph Full results here

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On the road again…

What has only been 2 weeks on the road seems like an eternity. After a month and a half home, away from racing and socializing, we took off for a journey, which would see us go to 3 countries for 3 different reasons.

 

Matt and I set off from Sospel on a 7-hour trip to Friedrichshafen, Germany for Eurobike.

Sunrise CH

We were lucky enough to found a sweet B&B on the Swiss side of Lake Konstanz with a gorgeous view.

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I went roaming the halls in search of new products for 2015. I’ve published my findings on Pinkbike:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

p0pb11353691

 

Eurobike is an interesting place, as you feel like a kid in a candy store with all the upcoming cycling products surrounding you. It is also quite exerting physically and mentally to be around so many people.

 

After those crazy few days we headed to Switzerland, to find the total opposite of what we had experienced in Germany. Lenzerheide, in the Grisons, was quiet and restorative.

wpid-psx_20140831_181711.jpgWhile Matt was busy with a photoshoot, I was able to explore trails, relax and even meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen in 2 years. We even had a little one-day trip to St Moritz, what a gorgeous place. wpid-psx_20140902_125244.jpg

Our third stop was Italy for the fourth and final round of Superenduro. We went from the Plessur Alps (Central Eastern) to the Cottian Alps (South Western).

sunset sauze-2

The terrain was widely different in Sauze d’Oulx, with dusty singletrack winding in the pine trees, Greina plains and sharp shelly rocks on the peaks. wpid-wp-1410195130117.jpeg

As per Italian custom, the course was unveiled over a week prior to the event. Arriving on Wednesday evening meant 2 days of practice for 2 days of racing. We had 3 stages and a half to memorize as we repeated all stages at least twice.

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I had a few really good stages over the weekend but as I was too cautious on the first 2 stages of the weekend and had a mechanical on the second, I ended up in 6th. For the overall series, I finished up in fourth. wpid-wp-1410195175475.jpegIf you like datas and are on garmin connect or strava, here are the link to follow:

– Garmin Connect:

Stages 1&2

Stage 3
Stages 4&5

Stage 6

Stage 7

Supermountain stage

– Strava:

Stages 1&2

Stage 3
Stages 4&5

Stage 6

Stage 7

Supermountain stage

 

We are finally home after 2 weeks of being gypsies. There is 2 more races to go until the end of the season: Enduro Marathon de Gourdon and the EWS in Finale Ligure. Before this, we have to move house though, still in Sospel but a little more lost in the countryside, which should keep us busy for a while.

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.

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

XMB challenge, WTF is this?

If you only want to ride long travel bikes. If you only shuttle or ride park. If you smoke like a chimney. If pedaling uphill and hike-a-bike do not do it for you. Then do not even bother reading the rest.
But if you’re a fan of trails with views. That a ride with at least 80% of singletracks is what you are looking for. If you dig technical descents. If you secretly dreaming of having Graves calves. If your motto is no pain, no gain. Then XMB is for you.

Trail with a view
Trail with a view

I discovered this new style of racing last fall. I had just moved to Sospel, in southern France, and didn’t know anybody to go ride with. So I bought a local map and began to explore the local trail network. I must admit that coming from the U.S., I’m addicted to Strava. Not only for the pseudo competition but mostly to discover new trails and I use it as a training tool. After uploading a few rides I did in Breil -sur- Roya, in the next valley over. I saw that three of my favorite descents were segments with the name ” XMB – descent”. A quick Google search and I found the XMB challenge website. From February to May, there are 4 events in the Alpes- Maritimes.
To sum it up quickly, each race has at least 1400m of ascent, almost all on singletracks for 35/40km. As Enduro season does not start until the end of April, it seemed like a good plan to get in shape.

Hike-a-bike during the liaison to the start
Hike-a-bike during the liaison to the start

The first round took place this weekend in Aspremont, a few kilometers inland from Nice. The day before the race, I suddenly wonder what I got myself into! I was sick all week and go race XC was perhaps not the best idea. In addition, while preparing my racing bag, I find myself packing my XC kit. Something I have a hard time admitting owning and even more wearing in public. And then, I realize there is 1400m of ascent in 29km, it’s going to hurt! So I decided to use my XC/trail bike: a Blur TrC (120mm rear travel) with a Revelation adjustable from 120mm to 150mm and a lockout system. And I also added a pair of shorts to cover my chamy.
On race day, I found out I wasn’t the only undecided one as to what to wear and what equipment to use. You could see everything from semi-rigid to 150mm and even a few freeride bikes. There was XC riders, all club-clad, with matching kits and a bunch of Enduro racers such as Yoann Barelli, Thomas Lapeyrie and Aurélien Giordanengo coming to test their winter training.

Thomas Lapeyrie on the way to second
Thomas Lapeyrie on the way to second
Hike-a-bike
Hike-a-bike
Maxime Folco, winner of the event
Maxime Folco, winner of the event

The atmosphere was friendly and we all met in the center of the village for the liaison to the start. Just 3km on the road plus a bit of hike-a-bike, not a bad warm up before the race.
The race is pretty brutal and if you go for GC, it is better to have trained all winter and have an XC background. Time is made on the climbs and not descents, even though the latter are awesome in this race format.
It was an interesting experience, although Enduro is definitely more my thing, as I do not have to worry about my time on the climbs. But once I get in better shape to race XC, I will give it a go. And above, just go ride it again as the trails were beautiful.

Riders are getting spreadout after the first climb
Riders are getting spreadout after the first climb
Proof that it is possible to keep smiling during a XMB
Proof that it is possible to keep smiling during a XMB
Descents were worth the sufferfest
Descents were worth the sufferfest
A good rest is needed after the race
A good rest is needed after the race
Top 35 Scratch
Top 35 Scratch

All results here.
And GPX track for those who want to challenge themselves.

All pics by Matt Wragg

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!