We were back on the road again, this time to Val d'Allos, a ski resort town on the edge of the Mercantour National park in the southern Alps. The six hour drive didn't phase me as the unforgettable landscape made the journey fly by. However, the journey wasnt totally smooth running. As I went to overtake a truck before entering a tunnel, just outside the town of Gap, I heard a loud BANG! then smoke and I immediately pulled over to the look of sheer horror on the boys faces! I felt slightly comforted by the fact that I had bought breakdown assist before leaving for France so I got onto them immediately as the thought was that the shock mount had gone.....this really would have been the worse case scenario and I began to imagine being stuck here in Gap for the weekend and saying 'au revoir' to racing the French Cup! With the boys sorted for a lift for the remainder of the 1.5hr journey with the Maunsells, I settled myself in the van for the four hour wait for the recovery guy to arrive.
By 8pm I was back in the game!! It turned out to be simply that the turbo hose had disconnected and I found myself making the remainder of the outrageously danderous road on the coll to Val d'Allos in the dark and made it just in time for registration deadline.
The format of this race was typical French style blind racing. Two days, 8 timed stages. Day one we had three stages. We got one practice run of stages one and two before being timed. So after one practice run of S1, we went straight back up for the race run. The same for S2 but S3 was completely blind with no practice run. So we did a total of five stage runs on day 1.
With a great practice run on the first stage, unfortunately my race run didnt go as well. Half way through the stage I lost my chain and in fact, both jockey wheels came off! Disaster! I ended up having to run the rest of the stage. I know had a lot of time to make up now for the next stage. I ran back to the van, frantically looking for my spare derailleur. I had forgotten that a similar problem happened the week before in Morzine where I had lost a jockey wheel and replaced it from my spare derailleur. So now all I had was a spare derailleur which was missing one jockey wheel! I spent the next half an hour asking around the race village, hoping someone would have a spare jockey wheel. I had lost all hope when I met my mate Jonny Maunsell who was able to come to my rescue! Within minutes I was back up on the chairlift and heading to S2.
After Day 1 complete, we got back to the van to get ready to do it all again tomorrow. The routine usually went as follows: Wash and check bike, dump race kit into bag, get kit ready for the next day, head down to next village for a shower, head to race village for the amazing paella and red wine supplied, go to bed!
With a much better run on S2, I was feeling great and the bike was running superbly well.
It was a seriously fun race, in a field of faaaaast French girls so was happy with a Top Ten out of 9 finishers ; ) Well done to Irish pinner Leah Maunsell on 5th amongst a stacked field.
Being my fourth summer in a row travelling around France and Italy in my trusty VW Transporter van, I was by now a 'pro' at planning! Like all my previous summer roadtrips packing in as many enduro races and days on the bike in as possible, this one was by far to be the most full on trip with regards to racing. After a very busy year teaching, I was ready to 'live the dream' as they say, once again!
The trip was planned months in advance, pretty much as soon as I knew race dates. Im used to packing in a lot of biking during these trips, but this one was to be my busiest ever with four races entered over four consecutive weeks:
Week 1 - French Cup, Val d'Allos
Week 2 - EWS, Millau
Week 3 - Mega Avalanche Cup, Alpe d'huez
Week 4 - SuperEnduro, La Thuile, Italy
In between these races was unplanned so a few days in Morzine, Les Arcs and Val d'Isere was on the cards!
I had a very busy few weeks leading up to the trip as I was racing and working for the www.streetvelodrome.co.uk in Dublin and Northern Ireland. I still managed to get everything ready in time and without too much stress! The essential (which I found out to be very useful) Breakdown Assist bought, racing insurance with Cycling Ireland (I wasnt taking any chances after last year), a full van service to make sure she was in perfect nick and ready for a 3500km roadtrip, the bike in for the full once over with the Bike Rack Dublin and any spares and essentials bought and packed as these can be quite expensive in France.
We hit the road Tuesday 20th of June, hopped on the ferry that night and arrived in Cherbourg the next day at 16:30. Being the only driver between the three of us, I kept myself well stocked up on coffee during the ten hour journey to Morzine. After seven hours driving, we stopped off for a few hours sleep at a petrol station.....me squished in the van amongst all of our gear, the lads having a sleep on the grass under the stars as there was no point in putting up their gigantic seven man tent! This was the epitomy of #vanlife!
After an awsome full day riding in Morzine, we set off early the next morning for Val d'Allos, our next destination for some French Enduro Cup racing! Wohoo : )
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider