Well, that’s it! Crankworx 2016, Les Gets is done and dusted… and, despite the weather’s best efforts, it was awesome!
It’s taken me a few days to write this post because the last few weeks have been such a mad whirlwind of activities that we needed a few days to pick up all the bits and pieces that had fallen by the wayside. Anyhoo, we’re getting back on track and “Oh! Hello!” summer has decided to join us today. After all that mud and rain, we’re now basking in wall-to-wall blue skies and 27°C heat! Amazing! It’s a world away from last week’s mud-fest but the forecast says, “don’t get used to it, buddy!”…
In our last post, Thursday’s events had just been cancelled and rescheduled for Friday. Nina and I got out early to take some of it in while the kids were at school. We had a wander around and caught some of the dual speed and style qualifying as well as practice sessions on the massive slopestyle course while we didn’t have to worry about chasing the sprogledites around. It wasn’t long before home-time though and we picked the kids up and headed back down for more of the action.
The sun was out, conditions were good and the organisers were rattling through the events while the sun-shined. First up were the finals of the women’s dual slalom. These competitors were flying and Jill Kintner pipped Casey Brown to come out on top. Nina took Iz and another school friend over to watch the medal ceremony and after kindly posing for photos, the girls chased after Jill and she surprised everyone by giving Iz her first place medal and her friend her massive (fake) cheque! Respect! Iz has been wearing ‘her’ medal ever since.
Next up was the men’s speed and style, down the same timed course but with time bonuses for tricks thrown down on the way. There was a surprise victory for relative unknown British rider Daryl Brown who totally smashed it. The girls went trophy hunting again and got a picture with Daryll who was looking well chuffed but a little shell shocked.
Next came the mini bike challenge. This was a bit loopy. The same massive kicker, big tricks but all done on 20″ wheeled kids’ bikes. Mental! There were plenty of massive crashes on this one but thankfully everyone got up and walked away. We headed over to the pump track area, met some friends, had a chat and watched some of the pump track practice. Conversation was abruptly interrupted by a very angry looking cloud rolling up the valley. Everybody scattered for shelter and we decided it was probably a good time to head home for tea.
I left Nina and the kids under shelter when the thunder and lightning struck while I sprinted back to get the van. By the time I reached it, I was completely drenched!
After tea, bath time and a change of clothes for me, Nina dropped me back at the AprèSki Bar by the pump track to meet up with a few friends and head out to sample the Crankworx nightlife. As part of the Crankworx festival, the street outside the Irish Bar was closed off and a main stage had been erected for nightly bands and DJ’s. The weather didn’t let up and we spent most of the evening inside or huddled under event shelters. A good night though, loads of people out and a great atmosphere. I set off on the 25 minute uphill walk home at 1.30am. They need more taxis here!
I woke up a little groggy in the morning but excited to head out and check out the big one, the blue ribbon event, the only event with a live television slot on RedBull TV. I’ll just have a quick check of the times online I thought… “CANCELLED!”… completely. Due to the conditions it was unsafe for the riders to proceed. Bummer! The course builders have spent weeks building this beautiful course and it’s off. What a shame. Crankworx ran a best trick competition off the main kicker instead which was quite a spectacle. Nicolii Rogatkin took the title with ‘the twister’ 1080 spin. He nailed it after coming up short and landing on the lip of the landing with an earlier attempt. Check out the vid below…
T’was Nina’s turn to feel rough this morning and it was time for the downhill. This was going to be good. No chance of the weather stopping this one going ahead and by the sound of it, a lot of the riders were looking forward to riding a wet, sloppy, ‘old school’ course.
The DH course is on the Mont Chery side of Les Gets starting from a drop-in off the terrace of the Grand Ourse Restaurant. Riders then hare down, full-tilt over a super fast, open fell section before launching off a huge road gap and into other open fast sections before slowing for a more technical section of switchbacks through mud, stone, roots and gorse bushes. They open up again to run alongside the top of the telecabine station before dropping into the woods and some seriously steep, deep and heavy mud before breaking out into fields, another monster road gap, a river gap and pedal to the metal for the finish line.
We got ourselves packed up for the day and caught the Mont Chery telecabine then the Telesiege de la Pont chairlift to the very top of Mont Chery. From here, we traversed the hill to the Grande Ourse mountain restaurant where we planned to get some lunch before working our way down the whole course and catching the action all the way down.
Riders were milling about doing warm-ups and grabbing a bite to eat in the restaurant and a couple of French riders were having a pre-race glass of wine (like you do). We got a table in the corner where we could watch them dropping in off the terrace just outside and ordered some lunch.
La Grand Ourse is a lovely place with incredible views over the valley, the Les Gets ski area and across to the Mont Blanc Massif beyond. In addition to the enviable position, they do some top notch food and in winter they’ll pick you up from the valley in a snowcat in the evening and drive you up for an exclusive dining experience before driving you back down again to waddle home. That’s definitely on our ‘to-do list’ for this winter. They’d not been so lucky this weekend though and were doing an amazing job running on generators after lightning from Friday’s storm had knocked out their power for the whole weekend!
Somehow, they managed to pull it off and with a couple of very welcome pulled-pork sandwiches in the tank, and 2 happy, full kids, we necked our complimentary Genepi, settled-up and filed out to watch the race.
We watched a few drop in from the start before moving down to the first road gap. The mud was seriously deep and the riders were squirming and sliding as they tried to keep their speed up to make the gap. What a spectacle!
While we’d been eating, the starts had been halted and the medical helicopter arrived just below the road gap. We found out that one of the male riders had taken a massive stack on the landing and broken his arm in three places. Ouch!
We walked down a bit further as the pro-women started dropping in. I just commented how fast the latest one was going as she landed the road gap and hurtled past us before hitting a lump, taking a huge compression and sailing forward over the bars for about 30 metres before landing heavily and tumbling before, laying still. I started making my way over and ushered the kids towards Nina. Two marshals got to her and the medics from the road gap sprinted down the hill. She was conscious and a few minutes later the heli was back and they put her on the spinal board and choppered her away. Jeeze! Two in half and hour, hopefully that was it for the day. (We found out the next day that she’d escaped with just concussion, Phew!)
We decided to push on down and it got great fun when we hit the woods. I think the spectators were having as much fun as the riders, slipping and sliding down the steep, muddy, wooded hillside. It took us yonks to get through, stopping intermittently to cheer as a rider came past. We hit the fields and T ran out of steam. Iz and I went ahead to watch the second road gap and when Nina and T caught up, he’d been getting cheered for sliding through the mud on his bum. As a 5 year old boy, he obviously loved this, until he went straight through the middle through the middle of a fresh cow pat! Haha!
The last rider came through and we traipsed to the finish area for the prize giving. The French were clearly loving the home ‘turf’ with the competition being won by Remi Thirion for the men and Morgane Charre for the women. Iz wanted more signatures for her Crankworx cap and managed to get one from Morgane, as well as French DH legend Fabien Barel’s.
We were so covered in mud that we stopped the van by a stream on the way home and all jumped in to wash ourselves off a bit before disrobing and heading home.
What a week! This was a brilliant 5 days of mountain biking mayhem and I’ll be trying to persuade my biking mates from back home to come over for it next year. Fingers crossed for a scorcher next time!