After 13,000m of DH action over the previous 3 days, I was ready for a break and to turn the attention onto something equally as thrilling: Stalking. Not to mention, some serious World Cup racing action.
I’m also now a day behind thanks to finally hitting the wall with trying to keep pace with updates and a cunty Wifi connection as the hotel collapses under the weight of a million devices. So, that means that most of this post is now ancient history, however, still worthy of documenting. You’ll also note that its more pic that words, another sign I am losing out to fatigue!
The first key to any good hunt is equipment, and thanks to Go PRO, I was all set. Note – Creepy crazy eyes sold separately:
Yes, it was Qualifying time here in Meribel and the DH crew were out in full force… Hero’s of the sport that you usually only get to see on Pinkbike videos or Redbull TV would be cruising around going about their World Cup business. Add to that mix, some serious MTB gear porn would be on show in the pits and under the riders. It was time to maximise.
And, how was the form? I was going to do individual photos, but my prowess was reasonably epic, so had to switch it up to a motherfucking montage:
From top left clockwise, this is the breakdown:
- Blenki – One cool dude, had a rap about how he hurt his knee in a crash in practice so took quail easy, hope he goes full gas in the finals
- Greg Minnaar – Absolute legend, on his way to practice… I didn’t want to mess with his mojo, so did weird iPhone in the grill pic instead
- Emmeline Ragot – #3 ranked woman for DH, happens to be French and reasonably fast on the bike
- Rob Warner – Commentating legend, able to pull out the best race calls you’ve ever heard and famous for such lines as “How does he sit down with balls so big?!” Golden shit.
- The T Rex – She must have read my Queenstown post from Feb, she gapped it on me… Either that or it was the restraining order
- The DEMOlition squad – Pretty stoked with this pic! 2 for 1 deal with Troy Brosnan and Aaron Gwin, super relaxed dude and more than happy to hang out for a pic. Didn’t get a chance to ask about the new Demo though.
What did all the people I spoke to have in common? They were all super chilled, really nice and more than happy to grab a pic and have a quick yarn, which was pretty awesome. Not all sports or all forms of cycling make themselves feel this approachable for fans, so big ups to the DH crew for keeping shit real. Meribel had absolutely turned on a stunner of a day for Quali… Absolutely golden weather to kick things off:
Initially I milled around at the finish line jump, trying to nail THIS type of photo:
After watching endless jumps, all the Intense bikes bottoming out on the impact from this jump and listening to that sweet buzz of DH brakes under maximum pressure to stop (You know that noise if you’ve ever made it….), I knew it was time to head up the mountain to scope out the epic top sections. Walk 4km’s up a cliff face? Unlikely…
It was therefore time to combine two of my favourite things, pretending to be French and Chairlifts, to head to the top to check out the course and watch the Quali action unfold – Lunch on the chairlift run, so fucking French/Enduro right now:
Meribel felt the need to hit back hard on La Thuile in the scenery department, this vista right here a very worthy response after all my load shooting yesterday about Italy. A stunning day to be in the mountains:
Yes, turns out there are worse places in the world that you could be doing a warm up for 3 and a half minutes of absolute mind bending gnar:
So how do I go about describing the course? I’m not sure I can adequately express how mental it really is… Its more evil than an HR manager that has a penchant for lying. I can’t recall ever seeing a track like this. Every rider looks like they are on the absolutely limit of control the whole way down, its fucking hectic. This is the view less than 100m from the start ramp:
This is it from the other angle, I saw so many near misses down here it was crazy:
And how about that MF Road gap… Yeah, its BIG… but every single racer sailed over it like it was nothing, respect:
Standing around watching this stuff is somewhat awe inspiring, combined with nerve wracking… It is truly awesome what these riders are hitting and how fast they are smashing it. No wonder the bikes have been getting better and better the last few years as this shit is wild. I was having trouble walking down it FFS! And it just keeps going and going, its not like they get a little break from it, its hard to see here, but its also as loose as fuck:
Turns out I did my best work nailing the chicks… PHOTO wise! The course is double taped, so its hard to get really close to the action, probably a very good thing, they are fucking flying, so if it goes wrong you’re going to wear a DH bike in the head. However, I found a dirty little spot to snap these few pics thanks to the power of Go PRO and its 10 shots in 1 second burst action:
Its worth noting that Rach swore the whole way down the track… I heard here scream out FUCK twice in a short space of track, must be her thing… I know a certain
wolf gentlemen that will love hearing that. Heading into the woods and some more serious gnar, in post production I picked up a couple of #Dirtytips:
- Take a back up Go PRO battery, fucking things eat themselves
- No camera ever likes shooting in light to dark or vice versa
As such, these are a little average, it was the sort of day where I wish I was a real photographer like Shep. Ratboy was killing it:
And here’s what a new V10c looks like fully compressed:
Mr Gwin was looking massively pinned, you have to be quick with your eyes, as these dudes all smashed this section to pieces:
Also managed to nab this of Sam Hill, not my best work, but fuck these guys were pinning it so fast that getting good photos is an art, full respect to the PRO photographers for bringing us the gold that they do:
Further down the mountain and Peaty was still looking the goods, even though he was riding ‘unprotected’ so to speak:
The thing I hate about photos is that they can’t convey the steepness and madness of things like rock gardens, Meribel had more than a few and to add to the occasion, this one had loads of screaming fans, cow bells and chain saws making it not only a tunnel of rock death, but also one that gave you a headache in the process:
Awaiting riders after this, was well, this:
Its no BS that walking down here was a mission. For real, I fucked both my big toes just trekking down this mofo. Watching the riders smash down it the way they did was nothing short of amazing. Massive respect to everyone who raced this thing!
The rest of the shots of riders are dedicated to the Privateers who turn up to world cups and attempt to qualify for the top 80 to make the finals day tomorrow. For a lot of these guys, and I mean a LOT, today was effectively their race day. There were 171 starters lying for 60 spots, as 20 riders are protected… Yip, so that meant 111 dudes going home early. When you think about how hard that is, you have one run in qualifying to get a spot and you can’t make a mistake. Nor can you cruise, I saw one dude 12 seconds off the pace and he was 48th, so you had to go the fuck for it.
Yip, lower mountain was open and I mean fucking wide open… Check out this mega old school turn, steep, balls out and getting rougher by the rider:
Everyone of these dudes were going full gas and looked massively fast, only to come in 100th and something. It really does give perspective to how good you have to be to qualify for a World Cup round, let alone WIN one of them!
This is what happens when you are fully committed to a berm that perhaps doesn’t feel the same way about you… Yes, this dude went down, HARD… As in there was a scream involved. Harsh to come down in sight of the line:
Speaking of the line, this is the final hurdle before finding out if you have a place in the Race on Saturday. It was so intense that even Sik Mik didn’t make it through, which says something for how intense the competition is:
I know I am tardy with my updates, so I will try and get back on terms… Suffice to say that while watching Quali was amazing, the race that I have just come back from was absolutely next level, so more on that tomorrow. Right now I feel absolutely rooted from two days of walking up and down a mountain and standing up… Fuck I need to get fit again!
One cool note – I ended up having dinner with the Fox mechanics last night, a very cool bunch of dudes and it reinforced that investing in a new Talas 36 for my Nomad 3 build was totally the right call.