Arriving Sunday night, we had three days to relax and sort out any bike issues before the stages were open for official practice on Thursday. The town was teeming with Italian teenagers for an AC Milan Soccer tournament so you can only imagine how busy (and noisy!) the town was. A sense of tranquility descended on the town on Wednesday when they left, however this was shortlived as by Wednesday evening, mountain bikers had replaced the loud vibrant teenagers but added a touch of 'coolness' to the place. By Friday, the professional team pit was full of the usuals....Trek, Specialized, BMC, Giant etc and bikers were gearing up for a tough weekend of racing.
Two full days of practice Thursday and Friday meant that I was pretty wrecked by Friday evening but a good nights sleep in the van and a feed of Italian pizza left me waking up feeling refreshed Saturday morning, race day! Unfortunately I had no memory storage left on my laptop so I was unable to watch my HEDcamz footage which was a real disadvantage as this is one of the really helpful ways to remember the stages and help me to memorise them.
The women were off first at 8.50am with Tracy Moseley leading the pack from the stage. Enrico on the mic was there to send us off with a cheer and words of encouragement along with a nice crowd that had turned up to give us a wave of support, which was cool.
Stage 1 - Two chair lifts and an hours climbing up to the snowcapped peak we had ten minutes before start time. I was in 20th position, just behind Hannah Barnes. We had a 30 second gap with the fastest riders first. This was the longest stage of the race and in fact the longest of the whole World Series to date. I started well, staying in control but maybe holding back a little too much as I knew it was a really long stage, I was saving myself. After a crash and being slow on the hills and not giving it my all, I finished this stage with a disappointing time and in 28th position.
Stage 2 - The transition to 2 was really tough and took a lot out of me. However, as soon as I started to race, I was on fire! Pushing hard but staying relaxed and in control, I was having fun on my bike and getting really nice flow and speed. I loved this stage! Finishing well with 25th position.
Stage 3 - Another really cool stage. It had started to rain so the track was a wet and muddy, just how I like it. I was in my element. Finishing in 25th position, this was progression!
Stage 4 - Waking up to a nice looking sky and fairly mild conditions, I knew today was going to be a good day for racing with such conditions and knowing that I had just one long transition to climb today to stage 4, which was actually stage 1 from day one, I was going to give it everything on the stages, no holding back or saving the legs. I pushed hard on Stage 4 from the start, staying relaxed and in control. After a night of rain, the track was very different to the previous day and had become wetter and a lot slippier. It was knarly! I had pretty much a clean run and rode really well finishing in 22nd position, my best performance so far.
Stage 5 - I felt good on stage 4, now I was feeling great on stage 5. The KONA Process 153 was really fast on this stage, taking whatever the mountain threw at it and helping me to ride with ease and flow. Finishing in 22nd position just 2mins 13 secs off Tracy Moseley! Its fun to just compare :)
Stage 6 - Final stage and boy was I glad to be on stage 6. After a nice break, time to clean the bike and have some food we were ready to tackle the mountain again. I had a good stage but not as clean as the previous two stages which lost me a few places. Finishing in 24th, I couldn't complain.
Final Result - 25th Overall with 22nd on two stages, this was my best performance in the series to date...Stoked!
After the podium presentations, which were good craic, it was off to watch the World Cup Final in a nearby hotel where the after-party was being held. Lets just say it was a great night!
The whole weekend was just so good and I felt so lucky to be part of it all. Such a great atmostphere and yet again another flawless and superb race organised by Enrico Guala, Chris Ball and the SuperEnduro team. They really are so good at what they do.
Look out for my interview in Dirt Magazine where I discuss 'Vanlife' with Victor Lucas for an upcoming feature he's doing!
Next stop, Finale Ligure for some beachtime and biking in the fabulous Finale mountains.
A huge thanks to Joe and Tim at SRAM who got my bike ready for racing, I had absolutely no mechanicals or problems all weekend. These guys are such legends and are always willing to help out racers.
Thanks as always to MBW-Bike Shop in Moycullen, Galway. To KONA Bikes, HEDCamz, GRrana Energy Europe and Allmountainstyle.
Nestled in the stunning Aosta Valley, in the shadow of Mont Blanc, lies the lovely little town of La Thuile. A historic mining town with classic Italian charm, La Thuile is every outdoor enthusiasts paradise. With mountain bike trails originally built as pathways between the mines many years ago, this place is definitely a mountain bikers dream as the miles of singletrack give you a real mix of technical natural features to tackle, with fast, steep trails filled with fun swooping berms. A very popular ski resort in the Winter, and said to be one of the best places in Europe for white water rafting, it is only a matter of time before La Thuile will be up there as one of the best places in Europe for mountain biking also.
Racing Flims had not been part of my initial itinary. A week riding in Morzine was the initial plan but after chatting to local Flims rider, Caro Gehrig at Madesimo, the seed was planted and I mulled over it for a few days. It was going to be my third consecutive weekend racing with La Thuile the following week so I wasnt sure if I should. Decision made the day after Madesimo and it was definitely the right decision! It was a brilliant weekend from start to finish.
The Flims Dakine Trailfox Festival was in its tenth year and it was evident that this was the case as it ran like clockwork and the vibe with racers and organisers was cool. Not only were they running the European Enduro but also downhill races Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday. As well as this, they had a kiddies race and a pumptrack for the little ones set up. The weather helped too as it was up to the high twenties at one point even though storms were forecast. Finally a bit of luck with the weather!
We arrived late the Wednesday evening from Livigno, set up camp and had an early night. We were one of only two campers there but by Thursday the place was half full. Plenty of downhill bikes everywhere and lots of nice VW Transporters for me to drool over! It was cool to be camping next to two British guys, Chris and Kev, who would be our biking buddies for the weekend. These guys were racing the Mega and the Mountain of Hell which was an annual trip for Kev.
Thursday was a nice chilled out day. As it had been a while since I had done some climbing, we went for a good two hour ride up to the top of stage four. The views around us were just wild and the roaring turquoise coloured mountain river was cool to stop and watch. A swim in the nearby lake by our campsite was the perfect end to the day.
Friday was practice day and the Prologue. This was a one and a half minute sprint stage to seed riders. We were told this had to be riden blind but after I found out that most people had practiced it which immediately put us at a slight disadvantage. I was really bummed with my run as I completely overshot the first corner and going a little too fast into the last gravel turn just before the finish line, I skidded and came off losing valuable seconds. It put me into 13th position so I knew I had to do better on race day to make up for it and aim for a top 10.
Practice day went really well and I was feeling confident. My KONA Process 153 was pretty much made for stage 1 which was a steep technical stage full of natural features to catch you out and super tight switchbacks that put me pretty much to a halt. It was just the type of track that I love to ride so I was excited about racing it. Stage 2 and 3 were really cool stages through the forest, short but very very sweet! Stage 4 was a really fun bikepark stage with lots of fast gravel berms, which on race day were a lot grippier from the rain Friday night, tabletops and boardwalk....lots of boardwalk! Racing this stage was such an adrenaline pump and I felt really good on it. Overshooting the very last corner at the end lost me a few seconds but the next three girls after me did the same so it was all relative!
I used my HEDcamz helmet camera for every stage so I spent some time that night doing some footage geeking to keep the stages fresh in my mind. It was really helpful to have the HEDcamz which a cool little camera that produces seriously good quality footage and so was a great help to me to remember the tricky parts in the stages.
So, out of 16 Pro Women and 19 Amateur Women I came in at 8th position which I am delighted with. One thing I really liked about the format of this race was that there were no time restrictions between the stages so it eliminated the stress of having to power through the transitions and having to ride strictly in order every stage. It was cool to finally get to relax and chat to the other girls who Id raced with before but never really had the opportunity to chat to throughout the day.
Race over and the sun came out in force and the vibe around the race village was chilled out and full of friendly, happy people : ) I hung around for the Podiums and got some great photos of some of the best riders in Europe. A nice swim in the lake that evening was the perfect post-race treat, then to the hopping after-party that night. Everyone was in great form, sure it was 90s theme so the music was kickin!
We decided to pack up on Sunday and head straight to La Thuile as it was going to be a five hour drive. So, another great race, another great experience.
Big thanks to MBW Bikeshop, KONA Bikes, HEDcamz, GRranna Energy Europe and AllMountainExperience for their support.
Loving this racing life : )
After Madesimo, I decided to check out what Livigno had to offer for a couple of days before heading to Flims. I'd heard that Livigno had really fun tracks and was only a two hour drive away so off we went. We were treated to some stunning views as we drove through the Switz Alps, passing through some cute mountain villages and past stunning mountain lakes
Arriving in Livigno at lunchtime gave us plenty of time to have some lunch and spend the afternoon getting uplifts to blast out some runs. With evidence still showing of the previous weeks snow shower, the tracks were slightly slippy but still so fast and flowy. The black runs through the forest were wet, steep and knarly and really tested my skills
There was a really cool vibe to Livigno. A busy little ski town with lots of cool shops, trendy pubs and friendly locals, which is always nice. This is where the 'Nine Knights' snowboarding and freeride comps are held every year. The guys from the Redbull Rampage were over from the States busy building the track for the Redbull Wide Open Downhill race in two weeks time. The track looked mental!
The following day was a much better day on bike. The tracks had dried out a lot overnight which meant the tracks were faster and in general a lot easier. With each run I was feeling faster and was starting to really relax into the big wide berms which I wouldn't be so used to. The video of my run will give you a good idea of what it was like! (Headcamz footage to follow)
So a great day on the bike was topped off with a great evening in town having pizza in the coolest little pizzeria and a few beers with two of the Redbull guys who gave me the lowdown on the ins and outs of the Rampage!
Next stop....Flim, for round 2 of the European Enduro!
Irish Female Enduro Racer Flow MTB Team Rider