Heli-Skiing … Whaaaaat

Over the season I worked At Eagle Pass Heli Ski lodge as the Masseuse, and part of my roll was to instruct the 6am stretch class with the guests. IMG_4898From day one I loved the job, Mike had to take off to Hawaii for a month to film Dream Ride 2; turns out we’ll have a handful of long distance episodes for a few years to come. However, it was great timing, I had my new job to adapt to and keep me occupied.

Getting up at 5am took about a week to get used to, one thing I continued to struggle with was the split shifts; some nights I’d be giving massages until 11pm, getting to bed past midnight, then, up again at 5am for stretch class. For awhile midday naps became essential, which didn’t leave as much time for skiing as I’d hoped. The staff were great, and within a few days I already had a nickname, apparently the chefs had misheard my name as Tron;

images I’d told them a little bit about my family and they just assumped my parents were some young hippie 80’s kids who called their first child Tron… Not far off haha!! I swiftly claimed the “Mega Tron” status, always followed by the classic super hero air punch.

 

I wasn’t even one week into work and I got to go heli-skiing. I’d just said bye to all the guests and their guide came running back in. “There’s a free spot, who can take it?”

He asked the chefs, they hadn’t done their training yet, they asked house keeping, she didn’t have her stuff… Finally they turned and asked me.

“Have you done your training?

I nodded

“Have you got your gear?”

A second nod

“Can you go?… ”

A third and final nod came shaking out, the staff were so stoked for me, leaping up rushing me to my things… “GO MEGA TRON!”

Before I knew it I was in my gear sitting in a helicopter … what just happened, I was still shaking, the adrenal came over me in a flash.

It was an insane day of skiing, luckily one of the guests was my level of skiing, so we stuck together. I had the biggest smile and before I knew it I’d accumulated another nickname; Giggles. As soon as we met up with the other heli group for lunch, my group couldn’t wait to tell them how funny I was: “whatever she does she has the biggest smile, she giggles non stop, even with every crash all you can hear is her giggling, we just started listening out for the giggles to know where she was.”

I had no idea how much I’d been giggling, and I definitely didn’t realize they could all hear me. It was an insane experience and I couldn’t have gone with a better group of guests.

After that experience I was on a mission to improve my skiing ability, if I had another chance I wanted to make sure I was stronger and less likely to hold the guests back. However, for an entire month I went nearly every day skiing at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, but I just got worse and worse and worse. Mike was still in Hawaii, my new ski friends were all boarders so they couldn’t help me. I had zero control, I was crashing on the easiest of things, I’d be cruising down a groomer until … POW!! Right out of the blue I was tumbling down the hill like a washing machine full of shoes… you get me, zero grace, zero coolness. Until this point I’d started to find groomers boring, constantly darting off the tracks and into the trees, it felt so similar to biking: berms, rollers, jumps, ducking through trees – it was biking! Something was up, I couldn’t get down a groomer let alone through the trees. I was starting to dislike skiing, it made me anxious and I started avoiding it, maybe it just wasn’t my jam, I gave it my best shot though.

 

Finally Mike came home and we went skiing, I told him about the issues I was having, something was up, just no idea what. It reminded me of when I first started biking, I knew something was wrong but no idea where the problem was coming from or how to fix it, half the time I’d be horrified to find out my wheel was about to fall off. Now I’m way more in tune with my bike, and if I can’t fix it, I at least know where it stems from. Not with skiing though, even though it seems much simpler… I mean what is there to go wrong? Well I quickly learnt that for an entire month I’d been strapping up my boots the wrong way, such a subtle tweak but made THE WORLD of difference! I instantly felt more controlled, in the biking world it would’ve felt like all my bolts were loose, finally everything is tightened up and ready to go. I couldn’t ski for long that day, it was the first time all season I’d been able to strap my boots up, which means one thing… cramp, lots of cramp.

Now I know I don’t completely suck at skiing I had my zest back. Combined with work and HIIT classes at the gym I was pretty happy with the program I had going on.

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Hellooo Canada…

So here we are, Mike and I met in New Zealand nearly 4 years ago, we battled through the highs and lows of a long distance relationship and now we were finally on the same continent.

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Things continued as usual, same old busy schedule, we were all over the map, staying in Vancouver, then to Revelstoke, then to Jasper, back to Revelstoke, up to Banff film festival and back to Revelstoke… all in less than a week!! Mikes film, Dream Ride was in the World Tour of the Banff Film Festival, so there we were representing Diamond Back and Dreamride! I was so proud of Mike, I’d seen how hard he worked putting this together, it was incredible to see his vision become reality and to see the video getting the reception it so rightly deserved.

DreamRide from Juicy Studios on Vimeo.

Once November hit, Revelstoke was pretty miserable, the sun seemed to set behind the Rocky Mountains by 2pm, it rained, and rained… and rained. I didn’t have a bike, and after injuring my back last year running was too painful. Whilst all the clued in locals left Revelstoke for most of November, Mike and I stuck it out. I had a job lined up but it didn’t start until January… It was admin time anyway, September – December is crunch time for locking in deals with sponsors for 2017, my proposal was dialled, a solid plan for 2017 was put into place, time to sell it like a boss.

I was in a great and conflicting spot, with 3 awesome offers on the table from different frame companies, leaving me torn, each sponsor meant something different to me with all reasons as good as the next. Finally I made the decision and signed the contract, becoming a rider for Diamond Back Bikes.

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From then on things started picking up, the snow seemed to arrive over night, I’d only done a handful of ski holidays before, so this winter was all about getting better at skiing.

I’d been in Canada for at nearly 2 months, which can only mean it’s time for my parents to visit; they’d actually booked their flights to come for Christmas before I’d booked my flight to move here in October #classic. Mike and I showed them around Revelstoke, I didn’t have the place figured out yet, but wanted them to see where I lived. I took dad skiing, we were like two kids at Christmas, Dad was the best ski buddy ever. Up for anything, smiled the entire time, and every crash (there were many) he’d jump/wiggle back up and kept on bombing down. Dad actually managed to get himself out of a lot crashes, just as we thought, for sure, he was going down, he stayed strong and rode it out. Which ended in nothing but nucks and cheers.

Mum wasn’t really into the idea of downhill skiing, so we went on an adventure to find a waterfall… turned out we were the only ones to make the trek since the snow fall, which increased the effort levels somewhat, even with snowshoes, but she did great and it was awesome to do with my parents.

Mike, my parents and I all headed to Rossland (Mike’s home town) just in time for Christmas. The parents met the parents… it was finally official. Of course, they all got on, making it a pretty awesome Christmas.

A vision I’ll never forget is taking Mum and Dad cross-country skiing. If Mum’s on anything other than her own 2 feet, she feels rather unstable, (after having a horrible road cycling crash a few years ago and knocking her teeth out, I can see where the issues stem from). However, she did great on the xc climb, she started to relax and things were looking promising for the way back down.

I wanted them to get the full Canadian experience, so we stopped off at a small little cabin on the side of the tracks, got the fire roaring and stuck some smokies in it.

On the way back down, Mum instantly became nervous, as she started picking up speed she panicked, not knowing a better solution, she forced herself to crash. She ripped off her skis in a huff and quickly had to start chasing after them as the bombed perfectly down the hill, even making the turn ahead.

We found a solution for Mum…

… She took her skis for a walk back to the car, and couldn’t have been happier.

I was sad to see my parents go home, but a couple of days after they left I started my job.

End of Part ONE

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Final

fullsizeoutput_14Not even home for a week and there was another race, the last race of the season, the last race before I pack up and leave for Canada. At the time we didn’t know it, but it was also the last ever round of the British Enduro Series, at Innerliethen, Scotland. I thought I’d allowed myself to recover from my head injury, I didn’t feel great during practice, but I just put it down to needing to warm up on the bike, as I rode up to my first race run I started to see spots, felt lightheaded and nauseas … I hadn’t recovered. Game over, again. So once again I took the opportunity to spend time with Joel and I rode with him on his stage transitions. Joel did his usual finish on the podium, then we booked it home.

The next day the countdown really began, Mike arrived in Heathrow from Canada, I excitedly booted along the motorway, until … Pfffft, BANG, rattle, Smoke… lots of black smoke. Recorded death of Blueberry (aka, shitty bus) – Monday 10th October 2016, 10:00am. Mike sat waiting for me in the airport, while I posted up on the side of the motorway waiting for AA recovery. Just when I thought I couldn’t be busier, I had less than 2 weeks to plan my leaving/birthday party, fit in all my clients (for my mobile hairdressing, massage and beauty business) one last time, get ready to move to Canada, and get ready for my brother’s wedding!   All without my little blue van.

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Canadian Themed leaving party

^Photos thanks to – Dan Wyre Photography^

We pulled it off, Joel and Corinna had a beautiful small wedding the day before I left, making for an extremely emotional day with 52 of our family members being there on Joel and Corinnas special day, and saying bye to me and Mike.

It’s been a jam packed year, truly making the most of the British summer, with my friends, family and little pooches. Stay tuned to hear how things shape up in British Columbia, Canada.

THE END

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Five

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Me, my Uncle Luke and Dad, racing in Eastridge

There wasn’t time for any catching up when I got home, back just in time to compete in the Welsh Gravity Enduro, in Eastridge… my back garden.

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Before I’d unpacked from Canada, it was time to load up the van and head back to Europe. I spent the next three weeks on the road, competing in the final two rounds of the EWS (Enduro World Series) and a regional french race, run by 1001 Sentiers Enduro, which I ended up winning.

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Joel and I living out the back of the van

My brother, Joel, and I headed to Valberg-Guillaume together, It was an epic week of riding and racing in another quaint town in the French Alps.

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After the race I dropped Joel off at the airport so he could get back to his extremely new family, he had a 10 week old baby, 2 hyper dogs and a very patient newly proposed to Fiancé waiting for him in their construction site home.

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Joel and my beautiful little Niece

I spent just over a week on my own in the south of France, I camped, slept in the van, entered random races, won them; my favourite memory was waking up at 6am, sliding the van doors open, and lying there watching the ever changing colours of the backlit mountains as the sun rose into the sky.

After a week of nothing but bliss, alone on a mountain top, with nothing but my bike and the shining sun, I headed back to the rush of the city where I picked up Joel and our Friend Dan from the airport. The three of us cramped into the questionably three seater van (myself being the only one who could really fit in the middle seat) and headed straight to Finale Ligure, Italy, for the final round of the EWS. We met up with our friends Fay and Lee, who hooked us up with a local guy doing shuttles for practice, everyone was on their own program and if you didn’t sort out anything… tough luck! We were very lucky that Fay had done this before and had everything dialled, Joel and I aren’t known for our planning and organisation skills… we have much more of a “wing it and sing it” kind of style, which seems to work, mostly because we have some very organized friends who watch over us like angels (thanks buds).

We were living the dream in Italy; dry, long, technical, fast tracks, guided by a local, he even booked us in to a local restaurant for lunch, it was tucked away in the middle of the mountain, disguised as a locals home… in-fact, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t of been any more of a stereotypical Italian family’s home, a family run restaurant literally from their home, making their own wine, jam, olive oil, pesto, this place was magic. We sat in the patio area eating a 5 course lunch, whilst picking at the juicy grapes hanging over our heads.

Unfortunately things took a turn for the worst, I crashed during practice, it didn’t seem like it was a bad crash, I’ve definitely had worse. I landed straight on my head from a 5ft drop with speed, (suppose it’s not ideal) but I just brushed off the dust and carried on riding, it wasn’t until a few hours later I realised I was loosing my vision. I’ve had concussions before and always knew they were coming, but this one seemed to come from nowhere, as my vision narrowed, I started to feel nauseous with a splitting headache. I rested and drank a boat load of water, I really hoped I’d be ok to ride the following day, I was having so much fun riding with my brother and our friends, I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

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The realization I can’t ride, but still hoping there’s a chance.

However, I woke up with the headache and nausea still lingering, the thought of crashing again and hitting my head just wasn’t worth it, Joel then told me he wouldn’t of let me ride anyway, he just hoped I’d figure it out on my own. Head injuries are not something to chance! So for the rest of the trip I became chef cheerleader; my parents were due to arrive, having planned their holiday around this race, which turned me into their guide, we got hold of some bikes and managed to follow Joel in the race by riding to starts and finishes of select stages.

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I suppose that’s the silver lining, I couldn’t race, but got to hang out with my parents and show them parts of the race they would never have been able to see without me. On Sunday morning I left early with Joel as he started the two hour climb to stage one of day two, Mum and Dad followed proudly in the car, Dad even got inspired and ran with us for the last few miles.

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Me and Mum

As soon as Joel finished the race we took our parents to our favourite Italian restaurant for Mums birthday, we were so happy to be able to show them this magical spot. The family showed us where they make their wine and even gifted us with some home made jam and wine for Mums birthday.

Joel and I headed back to the tent and got ready for an early exit, come 5am we were up and on the road, we had a long, cramped, hot and sticky drive back from Italy to Calais, Joel had a great time, but was now on a mission to get home.

END OF PART FIVE

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Four

DiamondBack Team trip video – https://www.pinkbike.com/v/embed/467972/?colors=C80000“>Lake Tenquille Heli Trip

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Next stop, I jumped on the plane for a quick visit with Mike, and to check out the hustle and bustle of Crankworx, Whistler.

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Just as soon as we arrived, we left, I joined Mike and the Diamond Back crew on an epic trip to Tenquille Lake in Pemberton.

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All 5 of us got heli lifted to the top of the mountain, and made our way down the insanely beautiful Alpine trails, soon ducking into the trees until we found the lake in time for sunset.

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There was a huge cabin right by the lake… it was perfect, that’s where we posted up for the night. As soon as the sun made his appearance the following morning I dived into the lake, pretending to be mermaids with Micayla while Porter and Mike tried to fish. After dancing ourselves dry, we carried on riding to the bottom before heading back to the chaos of Crankworx. Two weeks flew by and it was already time to head home.

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END OF PART FOUR

Imagery – Mikehopkins.com / @mikejhopkins

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Three

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I’ve lost track of the races I’ve done this year, they all seem to blend in to one. Before I knew it I was packed up and on the road to La Thuile for round 4 of the EWS. This place blew my mind. All six stages were full on Downhill tracks, it’s been a while since I’ve had my fingers cease to the bars, screaming down at my pumped up forearms.

Stage one was the only stage where we had to earn the descent with a beautiful two hour alpine climb. Stages two-six were accessed by chairlifts, gaining serious elevation, delivering 10-15 minutes of downhill galore. Race day one was fun, fast, loose and steep, the faster you went the wider the smile grew, I forgot I was there racing. However, race day two was set at a different pace; stage five was loam heaven on steroids and six was a butt-clencher from top to bottom, but both were probably my favourite stages. The locals couldn’t have been more welcoming, and just 60 miles from the hustle and bustle of Morzine, it’s a hidden gem.

Find out more on La Thuile EWS here – La Thuile

If I ever found myself with the rarity of a free weekend, another race would pop up from somewhere, or I’m straight on the case for a social shindig.

The Summer Solstice is also a big ‘todo’ at the Chidley residence, riding till the sun goes down, surrounding the pump track, roasting marshmallows on the bonfire; this year’s weather put a slighting different ring to the day, but the Shropshire mons came out in force and stuck out the rain until we were summoned back to the woodfire pizza oven.

END OF PART THREE

Summer Rush … Making it Count! – Part Two

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The EWS in Ireland was incredible, and to be greeted with Irelands long lost friend, the sun, was a treat. I have never competed in such a positive race; it was a tough day on the bike, 7 different stages, 7 repetitive climbs; with each stage hosting a burly feature, there was no time for switching off. All stages were fun with challenging monster rock gardens, but stage 6 was a personal favourite: flat out, fun, steep and tech. The Irish crowds were beyond positive, only shouting out encouraging heckles; ‘Keep ‘er lit’ stayed ringing in my ears throughout the weekend.

Another wild opportunity I couldn’t walk away from; resulted in sailing up the west coast of Britain competing as a runner in the Three Peaks Yacht Race.

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Record breaking sailor, Dee Caffari, asked if I’d join her team of 5. Despite never stepping foot on a yacht before, yet alone any kind of sailing, there was no chance I’d be turning down an opportunity like that; with 3 months till the race, the bike season training program promptly switched to a heavy programme of running.

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Running in the Lake District – Photo Credit Mike Hopkins

The ‘Three Peaks Yacht Race’ was the hardest race I’ve ever done, taking 4.5 days to complete, involving: 389 miles of sailing, 57 miles of mountain running, 40 miles of cycling, 26 miles of rowing, 4 mountains, 5 summits, 14,500ft ascending, wobbly sea legs, vomit, diarrhoea, sleepless nights, 4 sunsets, 4 sunrises and one epic experience!  I’m a strong advocate for the quote “It doesn’t have to be fun, to be fun.” However, this race was next level; pushing through the crippling stomach cramps whilst running down Scafell Pike, still only half way through the 9 hour excursion, and terrified to consume any form of energy (I’d also ran out of water). Crawling my way up the final mountain, I wished I would just pass out, feeling that was the only way the pain would end. My head was running wild, all the people who’d supported me kept popping up amongst the hallucinations and they honestly got me through, I couldn’t let them down. Once I got to the bike, the 20 miles back to the yacht seemed like nothing, another burst of energy kicked in and I was away, as we reached Whitehaven, finishing the 54 miles in 9 hours 13 minutes, I had the biggest smile and was stoked to do it all over again… Idiot!

Find out more about this race here … 3 Peaks Yacht Race..

END PART TWO

Summer Rush… Making it Count!

Stay tuned, as over the next few days I’ll be posting what I got up to during my last UK summer before moving to Canada…

 

It’s mid-November; blissfully cocooned, swinging in a technicoloured dream hammock, entranced by the midnight sky above Nicaragua, until annoyingly interrupted by the modern day bleep of my phone, this bleep, however, added to the tranquillity; there it was, sat in my inbox, a long awaited email from Canada immigration: “Congratulations, your visa has been accepted.”

Finally!!! I’d been stuck in transit on the waiting list for over 8 months.

I have one year to activate my visa; with plans for UK and European races already in full swing, the timer was activated to make this summer one to remember!

Combining a jam packed race schedule with a serious case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) certainly makes for an eventful season.

For the first time ever, my brother, Joel and I headed into the season competing on the same team; if anyone would’ve told me six, or even two years ago, I’d be competing with him, I would’ve laughed in their face, hard. He’s an absolute boss on a bike; you don’t come across many 26 year olds who can say they’ve got 20 years of racing under their belt. I have a different tale to my brother, quite the late bloomer in the biking world, not discovering my bike passion until six years ago. So to now be racing with Joel, competing in all four European rounds of the Enduro World Series, all rounds of the British Enduro Series and whatever else we have time for, is pretty wild, I can’t think of a better way to spend my final UK summer.

Just as I’d mastered a race schedule for the year, an opportunity arose to work closely with my sponsors, Sealskinz, bringing to life my personal story for their ‘I am Endurance’ campaign. My story focuses on how mountain biking built up my confidence and strength, enabling my escape from a violent relationship. I’d been a shadow of my former self for 5 years, and biking saved me.

This is my story..

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My story not only inspired countless people, I’m proud to say it’s changed and saved lives and is being used across the country to help men and women get through abusive and tough situations. I’ve been contacted by ex-marines suffering from PTSD, policemen, Schools, Teachers, Women’s Refuges’, family members, old friends and complete strangers, thanking me for sharing my story and how it’s helped them gain and provide strength and move forward.

After the release of the story I made the finals for Women’s Sport Trust: ‘Be a Game Changer’ Awards. The awards clashed with the Irish round of the Enduro World Series, but this didn’t stop me, I did what had to be done to attend both. Joel drove to Ireland as planned, taxiing my bike; I hopped on the train, wide eyed and bushy tailed, entering the big old city smog of London; attended the awards, feeling a little star struck and out of place, surrounded by Olympians, TV presenters, film stars and journalists. My boyfriend, Mike Hopkins also burst through the door at the final hour; he’d travelled especially from Canada to be there with me, cutting it a touch fine jumping from the plane, navigating straight to the awards. All 300 guests were mesmerised by my video, and applauded me with a standing ovation; safe to say it was an overwhelming and emotional moment, with my parents sitting at the back of the room, taking it all in with me.

Finally, collapsing into bed by midnight, just to be woken by the squawking alarm at 3am ready to catch my flight to Ireland… This appears to have set the tone for the entire year…

END OF PART ONE

La Thuile

Enduro World Series

Round 4: La Thuile

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Well it’s been a while since I’ve been this battered and bruised. Round 4 of the Enduro World Series has certainly taken its toll on me.

I’ve been on the road for just over a week, traveling in style and comfort in the Jordan’s camper: The Colonel. Driving through Europe has never been so comfortable. Lounging in the back with my feet up, getting stuck in to a good book (which never happens); sweating next to Orsa Bear: team mascot and the fluffiest, cutest, most travelled 8 month cockapoo, (you should see how cute her passport is).

Tuesday

We arrived in La Thuile late on Tuesday, managed to find a nice little spot for the camper, I pitched up my tent at the back and set up home for the next few days.

Wednesday

Today we did a whole lot of nothing, registered, checked bikes, changed tyres, walked around the town… which was stunning! Every angle you looked was as if you were in your own fairy land. Any time of day, every which way you turned your head, you’re greeted with nothing but pure beauty, guarded from every angle by snow kissed mountains, including Mont Blanc. Fresh fruit stalls and a chocolate shop selling freshly made croissants every morning; you’re pretty much set for the day. Everyone in the town has the biggest smiles, living here, there’s simply no time for a “bad” day.

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Thursday (practice day one)

My usual travel and race buddy, Joel, (my bro) was absent for this race, barely 3 weeks ago he had his first beautiful baby girl, so obviously his priorities changed for this race, leaving Fay’s husband, Lee, as our trip mechanic and Mr Motivator. I’m so grateful to have had his support and knowledge on the trip, my bike literally wouldn’t have lasted a day on the mountain without him.
I struggled to get hold of tyres before I left home, so Lee rummaged through his options, and between him and my new tent neighbour, Si, I had a brand new set of rather used tyres.
I knew my forks, shock, brakes and gears needed some love, so I started the morning waiting outside SRAMs pits, 08:30 on the dot. That wasn’t the last they’d see of me either.
Once our bikes were up to scratch we headed up the mountain.

Day one practice: stages one, two and three only.
Day two practice: stages four, five and six only.

Stage One

Has a beautiful 2 hour alpine climb to reach the top, with an epic view of Mont Blanc, really having to earn that 900 meter descent, over 4.26 km. Full run took me 12:24 minutes.


Stage Two

Accessed by two chair lifts, with a 10-15 minute traverse to the top of the 670 meter descent, over 3.64 km. Full run took me 10:30 minutes.

Stage Three

Accessed by two chair lifts, with a 5-10 minute push up to the start of the 906 meter descent, over 5.94 km. Full run took me 15:20 minutes.

We rode both stage two and three twice, both were fast, loose, steep and fun, with nothing to catch you out, apart from good old arm pump and fingers seizing to the shape of your grips. We’d been riding all day and already done over 20 miles/35 kilometres of pure descending, not the forgiving kind either, you were constantly getting rattled, and working the bike, all stages were full on Downhill tracks. Over 20 miles of that when you’re barely used to 3 minute descents, left me screaming through the pain trying to hold on to the bars by the time we practiced stage one.
Friday (practice day two)

I was fired up after day one, the tracks were insane, my arms and face cheeks were the only things that suffered [face cheeks-from smiling so much]. It felt like a holiday, I’d totally forgotten we were here to race the Enduro World Series.

However, there was a different tone for day two…

All week, everyone had been harping on about stage five, even top 20 men had told Fay and I how burly and tough it looked, they looked genuinely concerned. Usually if someone tells me it’s steep; I smile quietly, knowing that’s my jam. I’m way more comfortable on steep technical terrain. Yet, after days of people drumming in negative and daunting comments about how un-rideable stage five was, it’s safe to say it got to me.

We saved stage five till last, with it being freshly cut, loose and off camber (definition of dreamy) we knew it would change the most throughout the day.

Stage Four

Accessed by two chair lifts, then a 30-40 minute pedal and hike-a-bike at the end, before tackling the 981 meter descent, over 7.55 km. A full run took me 15:49 minutes, with a dirty climb in the middle.

Stage Five

Accessed by two chair lifts, with the same start as two, before cutting off in to the freshly cut, loose, steep, tight, tech butt-clencher 750 meter descent, over 3.98 km. A full run took me 15:00 minutes.

Stage Six

Accessed by one chair lift, rolling straight off the lift and into the 600 meter descent, over just 3.19 km. A full run took me 12.06 minutes leading you straight in to the finish arena.

Although stage four shook my arms like a Mexican in the Antarctic, it was fun, although that climb in the middle would not be fun come race day.

Stage six was wild, I loved it. (I was trying to push aside my nerves and apprehension for stage five). There were definitely sections to catch you out, rooty, steep, loose, fast and tight; including a rather large rock garden you wouldn’t want to come off on; keeping you on your toes the entire way down.

Finally the dreaded stage five… We received a text as we reached the top saying “watch out for a gnarly steep rock roll at the bottom, the guys have just come back and they’ve all had pretty bad crashes.”… If we weren’t already nervous, now we were.

I’ve never been so stiff and tense while riding, over breaking on everything, causing me to crash; I’d crashed 4 times before getting to anything remotely daunting, my head was all over the place. I just couldn’t relax, anxiously waiting for this un-rideable section to come up. We finally reached a section worth looking at, it was an off camber rooty section, stuck between two 180 turns, I knew I could ride it but I’d got myself into such a state, I could barely hold on to the bike. I stumbled my way down eager to keep going to see the rest of the gnarly section; turned 2 corners, and there was the finish! Gutted! I’d stupidly let everyone’s opinions get to me, future goal: shut out other people’s negative thoughts and make my own judgement. Everyone has different abilities and preferences, and that track had my name ALL over it, but, now practice was over so I couldn’t go back up to ride it properly until race day.

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Saturday – RACE DAY ONE

Ground hog day: 8:00am, sitting outside SRAM, hoping to get that new banging noise in my forks fixed.
The ride to the top of stage one was a beauty! It took just under an hour, cycling up alpine roads with countless switch-backs. We peeled off the road, continuing the second half of the climb taking another hour on a single-track path. It was an insanely beautiful track taking us through the valley to the summit, with a beautiful panoramic view of Mont Blanc and its sisters.
Pretty much all the climbing for the weekend was done and dusted in this one stage; apart from a few traverses and dirty climbs mid-stage, the rest of the weekend was accessed by the chairs lifts… What a treat!

Day one went well, it was rad, apart from a few little crashes and stumbles, my bike and I were in one piece. Unfortunately it had not gone so well for Fay, just a few corners in to stage one, a stone jumped up into her rear-mech, jamming the chain, sending Fay over the bars. She soldiered on, minus a chain, and carried on the rest of day one, but her weakened shoulder meant she could barely hold on and made the wise decision to give day two a miss.
Sunday – RACE DAY TWO
With just three stages to race, all chair lift accessed, it was a pleasantly late start, I was due to set off at 11:22, so naturally the bikini was on, towel was down, and snagged me some prerace rays.
Day two definitely didn’t go as well, after having a rough practice day on these stages, I’d built up a bit of a mental barrier. During stage four I was crashing on the stupidest of things, I just couldn’t pull it together.
Coming down stage five I forced myself to sing trying to loosen up, but nothing was staying in my head… Until a rather catchy song popped up; I started singing, and my focus shifted, finally bringing it together. I was relaxed, enjoying the tracks and making far less mistakes; thank goodness for Justin Bieber [hanging my head in shame… but hey, it worked!]
As the finish of stage five drew closer, the volume of the crowds heckling increased, they were on the steep, tight, rooty corner before the finish… perfect. It added to the fun having them there, and I laughed with them as I winged it through.
Each stage was over 10 minutes of gnarly, rough, downhill magic, but stage six seemed the most intense out them all, way more features to catch you out, the spectators seemed to find themselves at the burly rock garden, I stayed strong and smashed my way to the bottom, until the last corner; it was a steep, awkward, off camber, rooty, roller/drop thing; as my wheel landed, I quickly realised my wheel was entering a hole of dust! The track was pretty blown out and had just been filled with dust holes; too weak from the week of riding, my arms collapsed sending me out the front door, filling my face with a mouth full of dirt. I managed to jump on and pick up enough speed before the drop that was all of 15 feet ahead, leading straight into the finishing field. I threw off my helmet trying to cough out all the dirt, and quickly realised I’d stabbed my hip with my bars and struggled to cough. It gave the camera men a good laugh though … hmmmm.
I was so stoked to have finished the intense weekend of racing, men and women were pulling out right, left and centre, but I’d managed to stay strong, with no major crashes, and clearly got all of my mechanically problems out of the way before racing.
I’m looking forward to the next EWS; I definitely need to spice up my training. It’s hard to train for alpine riding when you only live around hills, compared to the French and Italians the Brits really struggled, but I had the most incredible experience and cannot wait to head back to La Thuile, next time I’ll make sure it’s with my brother.

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