Once unpacked and our bikes were set up we head out into town for a walk about and a pizza. We’d also heard that one of the local bike shopshad an opening evening to celebrate the beginning of the season so we head down there to see what the place was like! The shop seemed pretty good but to be honest we were a little pre-occupied as the shop was also right next-door to a great little bar! Erm the night kind of became a bit of a blur as the beer kept flowing but it was a promising start to the holiday.
The rain had stopped by the time woke this morning and a fry-up put our fuzzy heads at bay so we were looking to a good days riding! We started off with a couple of runs down from Le Pleney – all the runs were wet. Really wet. And slippy. And steep. Great fun and a real challenge compared to what we’re used to in The Chilterns. We head over to Les Gets in the afternoon for a bite to eat and watched a bit of the Les Gets round of the French Enduro cup before heading down for another few runs.
The wet trails and lack of sleep were taking their toll so we ended up a bit early and hosed the bikes down before a brew…
More to come tomorrow…
Day Two | 29.06.2011
Our second full day in Morzine began with a few hangovers, some minor sun burn and a fry-up… Breakfast of champs! There was no rain overnight so we were expecting dry and dusty trails all day with a few damp patches in the woods at the most…
It was dry and the trails were running really well – nice and grippy with the first runs on Le Pleney lift followed by a trip to Les Gets to ride the trails over there – they were long, fast and were packed full of really long berms and some lovely smooth table-top jumps, then odd root infested corner appeared every now and then but thanks to the dry weather they were (almost) easily ride able. The previous days sketchy moments were behind us and everybody seemed to get into their flow and were hitting the runs at a comfortable speed whilst still being able to enjoy the amazing surroundings we found ourselves in!
The morning passed far too quickly and we decided to stop for lunch before we got too tired…
The first runs after lunch were not the best to be fair –a bag was left at the top of the mountain (lift pass, wallet and phone inside), a crash saw one of our riders duck out after crashing in a high speed berm (he’s waiting at the doctors at the moment and hopefully will have escaped with nothing worse than a bruised rib or 2). Our group diminished to 4 riders as Mark made his way back to our Chalet.
We made our way to a few new runs that felt like almost endless singletrack with the odd jump thrown in for good measure! Our next run took us down a really technical rooty section which we’d ridden yesterday, today was the first time all of us rode it ‘clean’ at which point my rear derailleur took the rest of the afternoon off duty… After an initially technical (down-stream) ride towards Morzine those with working bikes went to the pub whilst the other half of the group tried getting hold of reasonably priced spares… After a few wasted trips into ludicrously expensive bike shops Pedro at The Alpine Sports Warehouse managed to fix my derailleur saving me at least £60.00 on a new one! Many thanks Pedro – you’re a star! I’ll drop off a crate for you later!!!!!
Once that was fixed we re-grouped at The Rhodes Pub in Morzine old town for a much needed drink!
As I write this spag-bol is bubbling away on the stove and everybody’s cleaning their kit ready for another day’s riding tomorrow! Might even get the hot-tub fired up after dinner to give the legs a bit of a thank-you treat!
TTFN, another report tomorrow....
Day Three | 21.06.2011
Last night finished off with a beer in the Sauna so we woke this morning not quite fresh but ready for the day none the less…
Clear skies and calm winds were a promising start to the day which was great as we were planning on trying a few new runs today.
We headed down the main run from Le Pleney for a warm up which was running really well! A quick trek over to Les Gets on a lovely bit of singletrack landed us at the bottom of the Mont Chery lift. A few runs comedown from this lift – a green run that lead onto a promising red run and also a black run. We started off on the Green which was an awesome mix of flat-out singletrack, some monster roots and really supportive, fast, berms which unfortunately finished with a 5 min road section! This was a bit of a shame really so we decided to head over to the black run from Mont Chery – this was a great run starting off with some nice jumps and techy root sections leading into a wooden drop off, a few steep chutes and finally a fast and narrow section. We did this top-to-bottom run as few more times until we saw a rider down in a rooty section. It was clear he had a broken ankle and was clearly in a lot of pain. His mates had already got a bike-patrol to him but the sound of him screaming pretty much killed the mood of the ride so we took an early lunch break in a café in Les Gets to clear our heads and work out a plan for the afternoon.
Half of the group went back up Chavnnes Express that we were riding yesterday to practice the fast jumps on the runs up here whilst Mark and I went back up Mont Chery to ride on of the more natural trails. This trail took us around the back-side of the mountain with a spectacular view of Mont Blanc and some really good, rocky, singletrack that cut a line around the mountain ducking past waterfalls and riding through alpine streams. The weather started closing in so we fast tracked into the woods to avoid the downpour.
One more run for luck was a bit of a mistake as we had a few small crashes and the trails were soaked through making the roots treacherous and the corners almost impossible! Surprising how quickly a dusty trail turns in to an ice-rink!
Pizza and chips is ready so must go…
Day Four | 22.06.2011
Last night another storm came rolling through the valley so we woke to wet lifts and soaked trails. The majority of the group decided to have a rest in the morning and see what the weather did; almost everybody is carrying little injuries so this was probably a smart move.
Undeterred by a bit if rain (& not injured) I decided to try a few new routes that were a bit more XC orientated from Mont Chery. Unfortunately the first run once I'd got myself over there was pretty boring - it started in a fire road that lead onto a road that wound its way to the bottom of the valley... I rode the red run touring around the back of Mont Cgery that I rode yesterday again which was great fun. Its a pretty narrow, rocky run with a few lung busting climbs (can I blame the altitude?) and some awesome natural wall rides by the waterfalls! Perfect.
The afternoon we re-grouped after lunch to ride the DH trails in Les Gets and we rode the main red line as a warm up. I was getting more confident and hit this run faster than I have done before keeping a good distance from me and the rider behind, I think part of this was due to a few changes in my bike set-up but either way I ended that run with a massive grin on my face! We rode that a few more times taking different lines before heading over to the black run in Les Gets – this line had a few absolutely massive drops and jumps on it so we took this line slowly to start with whilst we had a look at the different options available. Towards the bottom of this line I pulled over to let a faster rider past and ended up burning my calf on my rear disc rotor! I must have done this about 5 hours ago and it still hurts! Ouch!
Onto the next run we all hit one of the drops with Ben aiming for the larger step down jump – unfortunately he took the wrong line and completely missed it! This may have been for the best as the next drop he tried he decided that the slight issue with his forks was getting worse and he was using all of the travel on his forks on jumps that my XC forks were taking easily…
We decided to get back to Morzine after a coffee to get his bike looked at – the run into Les Gets for a coffee saw Ben take jump too slowly and break his saddle on the landing!
Coffee down – lift back to the top to take the final run into Morzine – this was pretty much a stream half of the way down so we ended up in Morzine soaked about 2 minutes before the heavens opened up! Thunder and lightning had been behind us the entire way down so we were pretty lucky to get under a shelter whilst we let the rain clean our bikes!
It’s still raining now so possibly going to take half a day off tomorrow as we’ve got a huge ride planned on Friday with the Passport Du Solei!
Chilli’s cooking now so must dash…
Day Five | 23.06.2011
This morning began with a massive breakfast, crusty shorts and wet knee pads.
The rain stopped about 2am so at least the trails weren’t getting any wetter so far. The clouds were below the tops of the mountains and really thick so it was almost impossible to make out the cable car in front! Not a promising start to the day but at least the forecast was for a dry day…
Tim and Mark were first out this morning and looking fresh after a rest day yesterday and headed over to the jump lines in Les Gets where they bumped into Steve Peat, Brendon Fairclough and a few guys filming for DirtTV.
I did a 15km XC route from the top of the main Les Gets lift which was really good fun but the climbs weren’t much fun – thin mountain air, tired legs and wet rock made for a few interesting moments! It was well worth it though as the descents were great fun and had a few challenging river crossings and some pretty technical rock gardens.
Dan and Ben tried a few new lines on Ler Pleney lifts before we met up in Les Gets to ride the Black run from Mont Cherry. The roots were wet and the chutes were slippy which made it really hard work so we decided to head to some of the more open runs on the opposite side of the valley. The last runs of the day were running really quick with all of us pushing our bikes and bodies harder than we had done so far – footage to be uploaded shortly!
A few locals were kind enough to show us the off-road route back into Morzine to avoid the road ride and we had a great time riding through what must have been a stream-bed then onto some blisteringly fast ski runs with some mtb wall-sides thrown in for good measure. A torn inner tube valve stopped us at the bottom of Le Pleney (right outside a bar with happy-hour!). This can only have been a sign so, er, we did the right thing and replaced the tube with a beer in hand.
The Passport Du Solei starts at 7am tomorrow so we’re going to go out for dinner tonight and avoid the crowds tomorrow night (hopefully) so I must dash.
Day Six Le Pass’Portes Du Soleil | 24.06.2011
The lifts opened at 7am this morning for the PDS to a fantastic sunny morning – not a cloud in the sky! Unfortunately (for me) my lift pass expired yesterday and I had to get from Morzine to Les Gets to pick up my registration pack as the Morzine tickets had sold out before I had a chance to register. I managed to explain in Frenglish to the Morzine lifty what I needed and he let me take Le Pleney up to take the run down into Les Gets –this saved me a 45 min climb on the road/expensive taxi ride so many thanks Monsieur Lifty!
Registration only took a minute and I picked up a wrist band (to allow me to just help myself to food at the rest stops & technical support during the ride), a number plate and a branded record bag… I was half expecting a water bottle to be fair but the bag’s pretty useful as all my kit’s filthy and I was planning on using my Camelbak for hand-luggage. Now I don’t have to stick my laptop into a muddy bag! Wahoo!
So the PDS route itself was massive and I had hoped to complete the whole thing as it was our last day so I started as early as possible and planned to take every opportunity to refuel and re-hydrate on the lifts to save a bit of time.
Around 2000 people were taking part on the opening day, starting off from a number of different towns in the region to reduce bottlenecks on the trails, I had hoped to keep ahead of the main pack starting from Les gets to start with but by the time I got into Morzine the cue for Le Super Morzine lift was 30mins long. There was nothing I could do about so resigned to soaking up the morning sun and the sights whilst listening to a bit of music.
Once off of the top of this lift the crowds quickly dispersed due to a quick descent into a climb and for the rest of the day I rode with the same few groups of people riding at a similar pace, we overtook each other every so often on climbs with a friendly nod or a hastily shouted ‘Merci!’ if overtaking on the descents.
The route varied loads and took in long flowing single-track that wove through beautiful alpine meadows, a 4X track in Chatel that had me grinning like a lunatic, climbs that made me dizzy (must be the thin air again?), rocky trails that wound round the side of a Swiss mountain in the clouds (pretty terrifying as I only had <10ft of visibility!) and a fire road that I hit at 55kph whilst dodging mini-boulders and jumping drainage ditches (also pretty scary).
The route map can be viewed here and I won’t go into detail on each section as we’d both be here all day. I missed out the additional section as I think I’d have been too tired to ride properly and end up crashing towards the end. After a week’s riding my body was starting to feel worn down so I took the sensible option of taking the climbs at an easy relaxed pace and conserving my energy for the descents! I personally think this worked really well as I managed to have the best day’s riding of the whole trip today!
The last descent into Morzine was my favourite run of the whole trip – a 30 minute trail starting in meadow overlooking the valley – leading into a tight wooded section with huge root step-downs and jumps on really loamy soil that gripped beautifully, next into a rocky gully with big slabs that were perfect for wall-rides and gap-jumps with sweet, almost natural, berms that just kept going and going and going!
I could see that we were getting close to town and the gradient started to level off a bit which was a huge relief - my braking fingers were on the verge of seizing up after a weeks’ worth of riding, and I swear my brakes were hotter than the sun so was really glad to cruise into town and sit down with a (free) beer obviously just to cool my aching hands on!
This was also the first day of the trip that I didn’t have a crash or ride off the trail so was really really happy that I’d managed it all and hadn’t done anything silly. Don’t get me wrong – I did come pretty close to having a few nasty offs but managed to hold it together just enough to ride out of them. I am positive that the bike took a bit more abuse than Trek may have intended but nothing broke (that wasn’t really easily fixed). I’m not looking forward to unpacking my bike as I will be having to strip it down, re-grease absolutely everything (thanks mud), have the brakes bled, pads replaced and the rotors replaced (because I burnt one) but it was all well worth it!
If I were to do this again I’d ride with a few mates (Dan’s ticket was up for grabs but there were no takers in our chalet so I rode on my own), take a bit more food to snack on between food stations and carry an extra (extra) layer. The lifts were above the cloud level at some points so it got pretty bloody cold – I wore a riding jersey, windproof gillet, waterproof jacket, DH gloves beanie and a buff and was fine on the lifts but I don’t think it would have been enough if I’d have had to fix a puncture. A long-sleeved riding jersey/fleece would have been great as an emergency layer. A bit of local knowledge would have helped to avoid a couple of the fire roads but on a route that long it’d be hard to avoid them totally.
The PDS event was really well organised and had a great feeling to it. No trip times were being recorded so the vibe was really relaxed and everybody I shared a lift with was really friendly. Technical support from a few local shops as well as Mavic long the way was a great idea but thankfully I didn’t need any, the food stops were well spaced out with plenty there for everybody so there was no mad rush or scrum for anything that I saw. The music was an eclectic blend of Euro-pop, house music and hip-hop keeping everybody’s spirits up/ears bleeding at the food stations.
Many thanks to the organisers of the PDS for all the hard work taken to ensure the event ran perfectly!
Our final day in Morzine was due to end with a massive dinner and a few beers but an email from the company organising our ski transfers, explaining that due to a broken down van they’d be picking us up 2 hours earlier than planned, meant that we had to clean down our bikes and kit and finish our packing that night before we could relax.
On the plus side it meant that the following morning was pretty much stress free - until we saw how much food in Geneva airport cost!!!! Ouch.
Our flight was delayed so we spent a little longer than we’d have liked sitting in the airport watching the world go by. The flight home was uneventful (always good), the booze was flowing freely (Thanks B.A.), and even the coach driver who took us back to Oxford was in a good mood. We all parted ways as our wags picked us up from the park and ride in Oxford. Home now, finally in clean dry clothes with a proper cuppa - not looking forward to tackling the hazardous waste that is my laundry bag. Might leave that to tomorrow….