Part 2 of the summing up France game is quite essential… Yes, you can ride yourself into a coma in France/Italy, but I would highly recommend doing so around the pinnacle of the sport:
The World Cup!
Yes, there is no better place (apart from maybe the World Champs I guess) that you’ll be able to hunt, catch and embarrass yourself in front of so many Dirt Celebs. And fuck, did I indulge or WHAT?! Never look a gift stalking moment in the grill:
If you’ve never been to the World Champs or a World Cup round and you like Mountain Biking in any way, even a little tiny bit, then this is fucking simple (unless you’re in a club, then it won’t make sense):
You MUST go to see this in person at least ONCE in life
Lets start with the important stuff – The best places to stalk PRO’s:
- The lift line – Not so relevant if you’re into stalking XC nerds, which if you are, please stop reading this immediately. No, this is for capturing the DH crew… They HAVE to take that chairlift/Gondola, so position yourself accordingly and let the good times roll. Perhaps not a good call just before Quali or race run though… Mad cred if you awkwardly get on the same lift as one of them
- Their hotel – Granted, this one is a little more awkward and even creepier, but you may find the PRO’s relaxed here and with their guards down, easier to embarrass yourself with by getting a selfie. Significantly more legit if you actually book yourself into the same hotel, so I recommend picking one close to the race site to hit maximum pay DIRT. To be fair, a little more tact required in this environment… Especially at the breakfast buffet. Sorry Jill Kitner.
- The pits – You’ll have to contend with pesky little kids wanting to get pics with YOUR hero’s, but just remember you have a key advantage here as an adult groupie: Size. Yes, use it to either jump the queue, push them out of the way with a swift hip movement or shield them so you get priority.
- In the street – This feels the most awkward to be honest… Like a full accosting… They’re probably going to or from somewhere, so your chances of a decent PRO experiences will be diminished. This option is more for the opportunistic strike or to pick off peripheral celebs (no offence to anyone I stopped in the street)
Truth is… All the MTB PRO Downhillers were awesome… no one told me to fuck off and all were super cool to grab a pic with. There is always that 2 to 3 second window as you make your approach where there is the real fear of getting a FACE job by someone, but it never panned out… Which only acted to encourage me. Only prey I didn’t feel I had the weapon to hunt? Sam Hill… Yeah, he is NOT into that shit man… Just stand back and let the man shred the house down.
Time for some actual spectating?
Assuming you have now got your PRO hoe stalking fix, lets move on to some actual legit spectating and the gear you’ll need… Not to mention how to roll. You’ve got a shit load of chances to catch the action, so don’t panic. Break it down like a shotgun:
- Track walk – Usually on a Wednesday I think… I missed it as was out shredding, but a chance to get involved and soak up the vibe as people pick lines and scope out the gnar
- Thursday – Practice, neatly divided into groups, which helps to narrow down who to see and when, also gives you the chance to practice your photo skills, spots and work out a good vantage point
- Friday – Practice and Quali! A double header, so prepare for a big day… Best to stay camped out on the hill and get value for money
- Saturday morning – Practice and RACE!! Yes, the moment you’ve been frothing for… Time to see people really dropping the motherfucking DH hammer.
Most places will have a well laid out schedule and literary, well worth having on hand, or saved as a pic on your phone, assuming your iPhone battery isn’t fucked and goes flat when you want to know what time Group B are starting… Yeah…
Chances are you’re going to be on a mountain right? So, act accordingly and get up there prepared with all the usual nerdy items that one must take into the alpine range, jacket, sunscreen etc… Unless you’re in your 20’s and don’t give a fuck about the cold or being sunburnt.
The DH is a nightmare to walk down – Best part of the trek down was watching fighting couples after the dude forgot to mention to his GF that perhaps jandals/super dumb girl shoes weren’t going to be handy when traversing a World Cup DH course, so my main advice is pack decent shoes, imagine being the gimp that rolls their ankle on a shredding trip walking down the mountain? You’d be on ball bag duty the remainder of the mission.
Along the way you will run into a few dilemmas though, that’s right, its not all croissants and beer whilst toughing out the challenge of watching the worlds best racers shred the mountain to smithereens. Here are some of the challenges you’ll face:
The “Where do I stand” dilemma – This is perhaps the worst of them all… SO many good spots! You want to watch them KILL that rock garden at the top right?! But then you want to be at the bottom (no pun intended) to see who is really nailing it… Timing wise. Yes, its a conundrum. I suggest moving around for Quali and practice and then starting finals at the top and drifting down the hill as the racers come down.
The “How do I watch the race and video/photo the fuck out of it?” dilemma – No comment…
The “What sort of fan am I?” dilemma – Do you go slightly conservative on it and occasionally cheer out when you manage to recognise someone famous/from your country? Or, do you go full Euro on it and get mixed up thinking you’re at the Spotted Ox Hostel, treating it more as an Amsterdam rave than watching a race? This would involve deploying a bike frame to hit with a metal pipe, a police siren and an air horn. Position yourself in the cuntiest part of the track, usually a rock garden and then let RIP like a mofo every time a rider approaches:
Rowdier than a night out in Zurich…
The last tip is on accom… If your budget can manage it, stay as close to the race village as possible, walking or riding distance if you can. Its usually a semi remote location, which means transportation and parking can be an arse. You’ll also most likely need to buy a lift pass to watch the DH, so get that early on.
That’s about it really… Oh yeah, some weekends they have XC races on, so just be careful as they can get in your way at times when trying to spring a stalking ambush on a DH star, SO annoying.
2015 World Cup calendar should be out in the next few months, so get planning people!