Its only been about 10 months since I last experienced this Euro Summer feel, but holy shit it feels good to be back in the land of Milk & Honey this time around to add the third instalment to the EuroEnduro franchise. Much like a Hollywood studio, once you have a hit on your hands, just keep cranking out more of that shit, with some subtle variations applied.
This time its an all Italian affair (Yes, I am avoiding saying ‘Italian Job’ as thats far too easy a cliche to rely on), which wasn’t my original intention to be honest. I have a default setting that means I want to be as French as fuck, so that was firmly on the radar, but Italy crept into the frame somewhere during planning.
Regardless, fucking oath you know the first order of business upon touch down in Europe, Italy in particular right?
Let me just say, that arriving in Milan airport at 6.15am on a Wednesday morning is a sensational outcome, motherfucker is deserted and as a result, 2 hours later I found myself cutting shapes in Aosta, which I presume is pretty much HQ for the Aosta Valley. Rad. Hotel room not ready until 2pm? Cunt. Still, let’s not let Hotel policy or Jet lag slow this shit down, Mon-Tons were waiting!
The Gondi up to Pila bike park is a short spin from the main tourist square set up where you get fingered on food prices, which is ok as its pretty fucking good as well just quietly. Its the classic double movement scenario of a relatively long Gondi ride across the river and up the hill before the chairlift takes over.
I got so excited to be sweating into my body armour in a Euro summer again that I took terrible Gondie photos looking back at Pila at the most bizarre moments.
I was ready to roll and I was so fucken ENDURO I even had a spare tube taped to my frame so I could ride packless… I did realise halfway through the day it was a 29er tube though. Cunt.
So, it only took half a run to realise that using Bali Bike Park as prep for dry, dusty, steep and long Euro runs was a bit like playing a game of Paintball to prepare you for dropping into the middle of the Syrian war… Good intentions, but shit was several levels up here. As was the scenery of course:
Every time I come to Europe thinking I am relatively well prepared I inevitably find myself spending a few days having my balls turn to shrivelled raisins before I adjust again.
But day 1 wasn’t too bad… Sure, I wasn’t on fire, but the mojo was winning the battle over the fear, in what is the modern day classic battle of Good Vs Evil, almost up there with ‘Remain Vs Lets cunt it up’. Yup, I was going ok… And then, I met Claudio…
If the gPRO screen grab doesn’t give it away, it was pretty obvious straight away that shit had gone massively sideways for Claudio. Or, more accurately as he explained in between screams of pain, he had flipped and broken his femur. Based on his condition I wasn’t about to argue with his diagnosis, even if I have previously faked being a Doctor (yes, it worked). It then struck me suddenly that:
A) I didn’t speak Italian – An issue overcome by Claudio speaking better English than me
B) I didn’t have the bike patrol number – Cheers to me for wanking on about being prepared and not riding alone… Nice one.
Summoning up my best #Rodfather calmness, Claudio and I conferred and agreed the best thing for me to do was check the bike. To everyone’s relief, it was fine… No fucking kidding, it looks like it could survive a direct hit from a Hellfire missile.
Given I was an expert in the situation Claudio was in, I decided to stay with him and tell him my stories of getting fucked up in an attempt to distract him from the pain of a broken leg now that the adrenaline was wearing off, before finally getting to be one of those dudes at the airport and rolling in some shameless publicity for POC at the same time (excellent mitts FYI):
Sending some real Italians off to find help, it took about 20 – 30 minutes before Park Patrol and Claudio’s homeboys arrived on the scene… Whilst I mulled over the obvious downsides of riding alone, jumps in general and took borderline inappropriate scene photos.
Get to the chopper!
If you cunt yourself at Pila, there isn’t a lot of scope for an easy extraction, so try and do it as close to the big grass field near the top if you can manage it. Rescue chopper outing #1 for the day buzzing in to extract the busted Claudio. Your mates won’t be stoked either, as they stop the chairlift when the Air Support arrives.
And for those of you with organisational OCD’s and asking about what happened to the TIG Welded beast, it got a free lift to the bottom courtesy of Park Patrol.
Tell you what, if you ever need motivation to ride cleanly, focus on Technique and not go outside your operating boundaries, then an interaction like that will absolutely do the fucking trick. Losing your lift pass out of your pocket because you’re a cunt and can’t wait to get an Insta-Banger out when on the chairlift also slows you down a bit as you spend some time under the lift doing a CSI grid search while getting abused. Good times.
I had enough time to mull over the carnage vibe and thus adopted the strategy of riding well within myself and continuing that theme from Bali of getting the basics right as opposed to trying to go fast. Plenty of scope for that at Pila, they love their turns here:
Like, fucking love them… And love linking them together to make you look like a cunt if you’re a one trick corner pony (I have a hoof in the air)…
But fuck its cool when you get it right, there are some excellent corners here, even ones that make you feel awesome even if you’re harbouring fundamental technique flaws in there somewhere. Bear in mind when you look at this screen grab that from an angle perspective the gPRO is basically on my forehead…
The thing about riding within your limits and attempting to be as smooth and technically accurate as you can manage is that you end up going quite fast… Yes, smooth is fast as they say and Nek Minute, I was blitzing a few sections with my usual inconsistent grace perhaps just a little too quick.
I needed something to help me dial it back again… On one of my uplifts, I noted a large group of people standing around a drop and jump double hit line watching each other go off it… Because fuck yes, thats always a good idea. I raised an eyebrow and mumbled something along the lines of “That is going to end in fucking tears“. Next uplift…
Its part of being human that we will never, ever digest that the recipe of: Friends + a camera + a jump + encouragement always ends up with someone getting fucked. This one seemed like a shocker to, with not a single movement from the latest Pila victim in the 40 minutes it took for Rescue Helo #2 to appear on the scene.
The vibe was clearly pretty cunted at this stage, so it was time to sit around looking at scenery and eat bread & cheese…
And drinking Coke like I’m a 10 year old again, so fucking EuroEnduro right now.
But Pila isn’t all just flowing turns, people getting massively cunted up and helicopter smoke grenades being tossed about like politician lies! Oh yes, it has Gnar… And its waiting out there for you in the form of a couple of aptly labelled trails.
I have to say, time for a slight product plug here, but the Nomad 3 and in particular the Fox double tap suspension combo was fucking going like a dream today!
I’ve recently backed off the High-speed and Low-Speed compression a couple of clicks on the DHX2 (I don’t really know what that means or why I did it), and its positively McDirty Dreamy now, and we were working like a tag team on this shit. Well, apart from this bit, it could go and get fucked:
Fucking real talk here, the sign really means it… I have no idea if they have actually hosted a World Cup here (I don’t think so), but if you wanted to do some bike and ball testing then this is an appropriate place to come to get ready for an actual World Cup. I didn’t have a DH bike, or World Cup balls, so found this out the awkward way…
Having said that, I was loving all the red trails, which based on it being Day 1 and all the associated carnage on the hill seemed appropriate for the vibe. I think Red 2 being my favourite, with a bit of 3 and 4 also quite handy. There’s certainly a bit to learn trail wise, as they tend to weave in and out with a lot of different combos you can take, so worth investing a few days in the park, the view is Insta Banger worthy as well clearly.
And just when your hands think they’ve had enough… We haven’t even started:
The race to the bottom
So just a heads up when you’re riding in Pila, there are two distinct parts, the upper section where you’ll spend most of your day running laps… And then there’s the final run to the bottom which takes you back to the previously mentioned Gondola base.
The top runs by themselves are enough to keep you occupied… But the bottom is a monster. Oh, which means that fuck, if you’re a total Baller and combine top to bottom in one hit then you are looking at one massive fuck off run that drops around 1,600m in around 8 or 9km’s… Its some serious shit:
So, aside from the fact my hands felt like they were being stabbed by an angry Ex, this is one of the rear occasions in life where my Shimano Saints felt ever so slightly under the pump. Potentially the way I was using them, but fuck its a long run and it demands a fair amount of braking. Anyone got a 203mm rear disc adaptor for a Nomad 3?
And then there’s the small matter of the fact you’re not only fingered and your brakes are on fire, but then your brain is trying to work out how much grip there actually is in these talcum powder filled turns…
Still, as much as I wanted to put my hands into an ice bath, I need to harden up – La Thuile will have some 15 minute plus race runs in it (Fart noise), so Shut Up hands, its time to embrace the Euro, not move away from it (google that the day after cunts).
My main piece of advice here is to refuel before attempting a top to bottom in Pila, its not a place you want to run out of gas halfway down. Unless you like crying after sex.
More thoughts and useless Dirty insights to cum, right now its back to the hill to see how the body can back up and to avoid the helipad.