Warning – Its another MEGA post, seems I can’t contain myself with these French updates, but I have good reason today, so just indulge me for a moment. Get a coffee/tea cake first…
When they interviewed Sam Hill earlier this week about the DH course here in Meribel, he mumbled about how much he liked it and then finished off that view by saying:
“Its gonna sort the men out from the boys”
He then may have mentioned that he was going to show a few fuckers how to ride a Mountain Bike this weekend in France, turns out he was true to his word… So, with this advice from Sam lingering in my brain, I wanted to see what was UP. Also helped that I had finally figured out where the World Cup DH course actually was. It was time to suit up, hit the mountain, bank some laps and then perhaps watch the Elite Men XC race, er, maybe.
Chur to Meribel, turned on another slap me about the face cracker of a day, #weatherporn:
Sporting more protective gear than a trigger happy SWAT team, I banked my warm up lap and then on the way to hit the course, I ran into two English shredders. Normally I don’t stop to talk to people (what a cunt), but today I pulled up to see if the boys were lost. A quick chat and next thing I was a Dirty tour guide. Turns out that Shaun knew more than a thing or two about riding, not to mention jumping:
Yes, I was being subjected to another DH bike fingering. I know FULLY now how it feels to be THAT guy that turns up to a DH trip on a trail bike, may not be doing that again:
So, turns out that Shaun used to race World Cups… Yeah… That’s probably why he was smoking tracks I had ridden 4 or 5 times on his first pass. Still, as I like to say, the best way to get better at riding is to ride with people who are faster than you – Tick that fucking box today!
And now – Dirty Nomad Vs. The Meribel World Cup track
Right, if this was a cage of death fight then the track would be getting out of the cage, not me. Yes, I did ride it twice, but by ‘ride’ I actually mean “Hold the fuck on and don’t attempt the gaps“. I was mindful that this thing was designed for the best racers in the world, on DH bikes. But, as we know, its curiosity that got the cat fingered, so I was still keen to check it out and ride it like a mere mortal. Here we go to see if I passed the Sam Hill ‘Man Test’.
May as well start at the start… I let the DH bikes go first, wisely. I have to admit, this is about as nervous as I have ever been on a casual ride. I promise I didn’t make the start beep sound… (in your head doesn’t count):
I was so focused on the first jump that I almost didn’t notice you had to jump off the ramp, cue first major near miss… Imagine cunting yourself here, I would have had to have hidden myself from my new riding buddies:
calmly rolled down charged in to the rock garden like a shredder:
Here’s what it looks like if you were lining up to take the World Cup racing line, essentially straight and then jump over most of the Rock Garden of doom:
And here’s what it looks like when your balls shrivel up to become raisins and you tip toe around the outside, panting like a constipated donkey and just pleased you’ve made it through the first test. Sam says – “You’re not a fucken man“:
Next up? Yup… the Road Gap. Now, I would A) love to be able to ride something like this and B) Be able to tell you that fuck yeah, I sent it man. Here’s what it would have looked like if I was about to do just that. I can assure you, its bigger than it looks when you’re there in person:
I did consider bull shitting for a moment here, but not only do we pride ourselves on authenticity, but it would have been terribly obvious when this didn’t make the video to come. So yes, no man points here. Whilst I was eyeing up this GAP, Sam sent me a Whatsapp message:
“You’re not a fucking man”
That’s right after the message from Spanky reminding me that all the junior girls did the road gap jump… Goodo… On with the course. Here is the easiest part of the course, just after the gap. Ironically, I caught the back wheel on something in about 1 second from here, lost it and almost got sent over the bars into that rock on the left. Fun:
Desperate to score some man points, I did actually hit the rock roll, a big deal… But, I don’t think Sam noticed it was there on his run:
Fair to say it was relatively blown out after fuck knows how many laps over the previous 3 days… Lots of loose shit around the traps, so you had to mind the front tire, handy for me my Minion had a slow leak, which meant a final line between grip and going over the bars:
The whole way down I had to keep saying “Let go of the brakes cunt“, not out loud like Rach Atherton, but in my head… Problem was, the track wants to eat you and all your suspension travel when you do that. Its partly the fact that its relentless that doesn’t help. Here was part two of the first steep sections into the woods:
One of the tricky things with that wooded section was that it had more lines than an afternoon with Nigella, I opted for the more Trail bike friendly lines… Which is to say I was on the verge of crashing the whole way. Its soft dirt mixed with holes and roots, groovy. My next ‘Man or Boy’ check point? The log kicker… Fail. Sam says: “Definitely not a fucken man“:
Yes, it was one of those obstacles that I SHOULD absolutely be able to do and I suspect that if I had been on the Demo, I would have done it. Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve etc… It was time to move on to more Gnar. I was mindful this was the section that took down Mike Jones, so respect it:
Luckily I didn’t have thousands of fans screaming at me, I would have been booed, no doubt:
The Man tests kept coming, next up was the big rock drop, seen here on the right… Big drops are firmly on my list of “Shit that scares me to unreasonable levels“, next to gap jumps… As such, I opted for the line to the inside, which was actually fuuuucking fast:
This spits you into more off camber root infested bank, which leads to the next Man Vs Boy check point… The first creek gap. The fact I have a pic of the side profile is a give away that yes, ehhhhhh, another fail… Damn fuck it, I should be able to do this with ease, I am considering going to a hypnotist to cure me of my inability to do gap jumps and to stop me saying cunt in public places:
Probably would have made the gap and then broken my face on the trees just past the landing area, so we moved on… Into the next section of steep woods where you had about 5 different line choices at any given time:
By this time I was starting to feel worked… I am not sure I had let go of the brakes all that much and they were starting to make funny noises as they roasted themselves. Here I negotiate a section that I watched Remi Thirion jump over, like, completely jump over…
That part in between the creek gaps was probably the ‘easiest’, which is a relative term, like saying being slapped by Mike Tyson is nicer than being punched in the face by him. Yes, there was another creek gap, this one a lot bigger:
I ignored Sam’s Whatsapp message as I took the bridge/pussy line, which led to one of the sections he probably won the race on. This was straight down, balls out through a mine field and then a very hard left into a drop and then another drop to the open. Or simply: It made me say fuck involuntarily:
Its possible that my rear wheel hit my ass down here, given how far off the back I was… And that I didn’t do the last drop, again, should have and WOULD have on the demo… But I was feeling so worked at this stage, I was just happy to be half way down. My split time wasn’t looking too flash, no green lights here brah:
WRONG – I almost went over the Enve bars dropping into the next section, yeah, can’t roll it… Luckily going from light to dark, so was blinded and too fast, as I was excited, meant that I jumped something that needed it:
This section was fucking gnar, by this stage you’re maybe 70% down the course, so feeling quite pumped, its a rad section, but asks you to expend a lot of mojo to get through it:
Bang, last wood/rock section done and we are out into the open proper and into the zone where we know that Sam Hill DID win the race… He’s the master of flat turns, especially when they’re blown out to fuck, which is exactly what was on the menu for the run to home:
Feeling well worked, there was no rest, a few drops and jumps for good measure…
While Sam wasn’t watching I sneaked around this lower section jump… Its another thing I should be hitting, but to be honest, I was frayed at this point and didn’t want to eat massive shit this close to the bottom. Mad Markus would have slapped me:
Holy shit… There is more! Yes, and its FAST… Just have to hold on and go full gas from this point on:
Through that final berm, to find that people had decided to use the finish jump as a picnic table! I was
relieved to fuck annoyed that I couldn’t hit it like Greg, so unfortunately just had to bypass it… How sad…
BANG! Across the line, or what was left of the line… See the fans going mental?!
So, the winning mens time from race day was 3.16… I did it in around 7 minutes… Yeah… And I couldn’t have gone much quicker to be honest on a trail bike, maybe on the Demo I could have been maybe a minute quicker with more practice runs, but the overwhelming evidence was clear: I am not a World Cup DH PRO. Sam was not impressed:
The usual rule of thumb with cycling is that we amateurs take twice as long as a PRO, so I am around ballpark I guess. Was it fun to ride? Second time down, sort of… Its fucking intense, as in, you’re on the limit the entire time and its a battle to stay off the brakes, which didn’t work the same for the rest of the day after two back to back runs. I think it would have been fun on the Demo, the head angle, extra travel and lower centre of gravity would have given a little more time to think and recover from some of the hard stuff. This is about as hard as terrain can get for a trail bike, but fuck, what a send off for the Nomad 2! Sam said that I didn’t even make the ‘Boy’ grade… I was more happy to be intact, so we’ll call it even.
How do you top such an awesome morning? Keep going! With my new BFF’s, we kept rolling. Here’s another scenery porn shot, taken after I came exceedingly close to a massive crash after sudden depressurisation of my front tire… Ironic after the morning I had survived!
Yes, we kept pounding out laps, with me again stretched the limit trying to keep pace with DH bikes manned by shredders who were killing trail with reckless abandon. As we see in this sequence, taking the PRO line to keep pace can have consequences:
This is where I ended up… Sans Nomad, which decided to stop suddenly. Pleased to say I executed a perfect leap and run, as opposed to a collarbone ending over the bars moment. The great escape:
Oh yeah, apparently there was an XC World Cup race on or something. It was my plan to watch it… But, I was having the raddest time… I sort of watched it, from the Telecabine:
Yes, it took about 0.00005 of a second for my gnar addicted brain to make this decision:
Sit around watching an XC race… OR… Go riding with the Santa Cruz Syndicate mechanics?
Talk about the definition of a fucking no brainer, back on that lift and this time with legend Mechanic Dougie and Jason Marsh, yip, inventor of the Marsh guard which I gushed about in Whistler. Was this day actually for real?!
I know I am prone to saying this, but this was a super cool group to shred and talk bike shit with. After all, they are PRO Santa Cruz dudes, so perhaps the best people on the planet to talk about the new V10c or new Nomad with. Pretty fucking handy at riding the things too funnily enough:
We topped off the day by riding the middle section of the World Cup course again, before peeling off into a new trail that was mind blowing awesome, steep, loamy and then super fast at the bottom, perhaps one of the best trails that I had ridden in Meribel. The stoke factor at the bottom of that was off the charts. And with 5,500m of DH epicness in the bank and a front tire that didn’t want to stay up, it was time to call it. Thanks to Shaun and all the Santa Cruz boys for an awesome afternoon of riding!
Few… Postzilla is done. You may be able to tell that I’m a little bit pumped about today. Days like this don’t happen all that often (ok, apart from most days this week), but to be on form, riding how you want to be riding, hitting a World Cup track and then riding with Santa Cruz legends is tough to beat. I fucking mean it when I say that cycling is the BEST sport on the planet.
And with that notion, its time to pack up and get back on the road! Thank you Meribel for an amazing experience.