Mega Post Alert – Today’s post is brought to you by serious Mountain Bike HORN, so if you would prefer to just focus on Celebrity stalking, then feel free to skip to the end, where I have nailed some of my best work EVER in this field. For those that want the full experience, then roll on.
Driving around France is pretty fucking cool… But not as cool as RIDING in France. As such, I was pumped to the point of being weaponised to get up and ride… Fuck you Jet Lag, it was time to get the Nomad rolling on Le Terrain. My hazy suspicions that it was raining were quickly confirmed by my trusty weather app… Yes, that the view from HQ in the background of my real weather report:
The only thing I could do was Bonjour the fuck out of the place (which I am quite handy at, even mildly singing it at some people) and another one of my specialities, the French breakfast. Sure, they don’t seem to understand bacon, but I don’t think they care as they busily ram you with Croissants:
Whilst I let the 14 Croissants digest and the rain clear up, I went on a quick stalking sortie to see if anyone was going to get caught out early. Thanks to Instagram I now had detailed files on who was arriving in Meribel, thank you Social Media for making creepiness so easy. Big ups to the Lapierre team, they know how to do the best Truck-slash-Tent combo. They’ll have to do better than that to hide Blenki from me:
I had considered waiting for it to dry up some more, but fuck, its not a blog about being a Clean Nomad is it, so it was time to get shit mega Dirty and slide around a bit to get the day underway.
ABSOLUTE TERROR – That’s my very succinct description of getting back on a trail bike in a bike park in the wet and trying to ride down new trails blind. My first run was so horrendously bad I had to check my passport to confirm that yes, I was the cunt that had recently been riding in Whistler. Damn if my super capable Nomad didn’t feel as scetch as fuck after being on the Demo.
Logically I knew it was just a matter of time, but I had plenty of leary fart noise inducing moments on the first few laps of the day. Luckily there were cows near the summit to take my mind of things… Private joke of course, but it reminded me of the only time that science has ever been wrong in the history of the world, Herr Doktor’s assurances that I wouldn’t get Guardia halfway up Alpe d’Heuz when I was dying of dehydration a classic gag:
Slowly but surely confidence was starting to build, getting the feel for the relatively ‘little’ bike again and very much keeping it on the MF down low that this was the last riding mission as a team before its more flamboyant sibling arrives… I did feel awkward about that when the Green machine fielded compliments ALL fucking day long:
SO… the big question… What’s the riding like?! Hmmmm… I would sum it up in two words:
Open & Inconsistent
Basically you spend a lot of your time in BIG mountain territory and I mean big… the kind that makes you feel really insignificant, which some people actually need… So its not like you’re in the trees and tightness of Whistler, its a total contrast to that. As for inconsistent, there are some awesome sections of trail here, dispersed amongst bogs and fire road.
Yes, it feels a little odd at times that you will have a section that blows your mind, only to then get very frustrated with a total piece of shit section of track that seems far too long. After some initial head scratching, I just focused on enjoying the good bits and ignoring the rest, so very similar to dating promo girls. One thing that is consistent, the views are epic:
Here’s the same piece of track, from the robot cam placed far too close to my line of sight. It wouldn’t be riding in France without some exposure, they basically invented it:
Meribel basically runs 3 different lift zones, which then each has 2 lifts, so in total you end up on 6 different lifts and areas, which is pretty cool and obviously why they call it the 3 valleys, sounds way better in French, like most things. This means that if you work the map properly, you can nail some big runs and then keep coming back to Meribel upper station. Handy to have options when the clouds have other ideas:
One such run was the 8.7km run down to Saint Martin, which I said with a heavy French accent to ensure I made a maximum cock out of myself. It has banging views, especially if you have a Heidi or sound of music fetish-slash-fantasy:
This is one of those inconsistent runs, some absolutely awesome sections, connected with shit that will make you say ‘Le Fuck’ a lot, its a strange combo. Does get better the further it goes though. Allow me to elaborate – It had open gnar stuff:
It had #howfuckingfastcanyougobeforeyourballsshrink sections, which invite you to forget riding conservatively:
And it had super fun hero dirt amongst trees that you feel can only be in France… Ahhhhhh:
That run managed to finally make things click and the trail bike love was back, big time… At last starting to throw it around and smash sections that were begging for it more than your best mates sister. It was also a tad muddy:
The other odd thing about riding here post Whistler is the signage and trail names. You get very spoilt in Shred HQ, not only is the lay out basically super tight and well known, but the signage is excellent. Here, the trails are spread over a much wider area it and you have to keep eyes peeled for the little markers here and there with either coloured arrows or numbers… A trail map is a must. I thought that my favourite trail of the day was ‘Number 20’, it was well made and got better and faster as it went on… Berms that made you feel like a fucking hero & a porn star all at the same time, this one flicked you through so fast that you could actually ride it the way that you think you ride berms:
And then, suddenly I ran into a fucking Goat:
That was a segway to nothing… So to recover, next I tried out probably the hardest trail of the day, which quickly reminded me on the limitations of trail bikes, not to mention how mind fuck slippery it can get here when its been wet in the forests which are rammed with roots, rocks and mud walls that want to actually kill you. My reward for trying new stuff? Two crashes and even more mud than I thought you could possibly ram in a VPP linkage:
Still, I was going off faster than a Singaporean Banana, so with the lifts closing at 4.30pm (what the FUCK?!), I had to push on and into a new zone, all the way up to Croix De Verdon at 2,739m… faaaark. Indeed it was actually quite high up:
Yes, this ended up being a very long and interesting final run. The first half was an absolute hand massacre session… Holy fuck, steep and mega gnar action, demanding full focus and all the skill generated from the day. Perversely it then gave way to a flow trail that was sensational, aside from the mega muddy tree sections, the rest of it was dry, fast and had flow to it that almost seemed fake. Not surprisingly it was listed as Trail #1, if the shoe fits…
So, with 5,346m of DH action on a trail bike in the Mother F bank (which oddly is bigger than my biggest day in Whistler this year, WTF?), it was time to take my smashed chassis home to refuel.
But wait… Not so fast… Hold up. I sense something… Like any hunter of note, I could instinctively sense that prey was near. I moved calmly around the favoured bottom of the lift location at the end of the day, until I saw a prize that I couldn’t pass up. I won’t elaborate on how long this hunt took, but the trophy speaks for itself. Its none other than Santa Cruz superstar and current UCI DH World Cup points leader, Josh Bryceland:
I will confess to being absolutely stoked, not to mention it being an awesome wrap to the day. The best part is that he is one cool dude, really nice and genuinely happy to stop, have a rap and get some photo action in. Lock in cheering for Ratboy on Saturday and our Dirty favourite to take out the win and the overall. A golden end to a rad day on the bike in FRANCE.
And finally, testament to how hard a day it was back on the Trail bike… the little rubber bands tell us I used ALL the available travel front and rear…
And before you comment on set up, that’s after I put an additional 10 PSI over normal setting in. Which tells us one of two things:
- Fuck I have got fat
- I was killing it
Hopefully the Go PRO footage points to it being #2.