Crankworx Europe, Giant Air Dh race report.

Arriving back in Morzine after spending my week in Munich with Lena I had only 3 days to sort myself out and get back riding before we were due to leave for the European Crankworx in Les Deux Alpes, France.  Crankworx is a big mountain bike festival that originated in Whistler, Canada around the turn of the century, since then it has grown to be the single biggest festival on the mountain bike calendar each year with over 60,000 people congregating on Whistler Mountain to watch the Freestyle event which is the main draw card of the festival.  While the festival has also expanded to have a Crankworx in Colorado, This would be the first time the circus had migrated over the pond to invade Europe so the organizers were keen to make a good first showing.

The welcoming sign for Les Deux Alpes.

The drive from Morzine to Les Deux Alpes was filled with a lot of epic scenery plus the obligatory motorway antics when you travel in a convoy with a bunch of Downhillers. 3 hours later and TomTom (the GPS) took us on an alternative route up the last part of the climb to Les Deux Alpes where we were treated with a dual lane road that was only wide enough for one car and had a 200 meter vertical drop on one side. Luckily for Gladys we didn’t have to take a crash course in base jumping as things may have gotten slightly hairy and I don’t think there is a parachute big enough to fly the big blue van. With our tightrope walk over we made it to Les Deux Alpes without any further incidents before getting a meal at the local Kebab joint (we didn’t know this at the time but we would get to know this dude VERY well over the next 5 days).  What we hadn’t planned on though, is where we would sleep that night. Luckily we managed to find a public car park/caravan park where we were able to set up camp for the night and indulge in some chairlift climbing (don’t try this at home) to keep ourselves amused.

Team NZ campsite, Gladys on the right and Charles on the left.
Only the comfiest mattresses.
Not a bad view to wake up to.
The chairlift tower we climbed up, it looks a lot higher from the top.

On Monday an early wake-up was followed by a trip to registration to sign in for the event that we would be participating in (the Giant Air DH) and a check of the event schedule which allowed us 2 hours for a track inspection before practice started at 2pm that afternoon.  Getting on the gondola to head to the top of the track we received a couple of interesting looks from the gondola staff but didn’t think anything of it until we were passing the start of the track 50 meters in the air and the top gondola station was another kilometre away…Oops.  Getting out at the top of the wrong gondola we considered our options and decided that taking another cable car back down a part of the hill and then walking up a small bank would be the best idea. Jumping into the 2nd cable car we took off down the hill whilst being mobbed by a million little French ski-school kids, I should mention at this point that we were 2500 metres above sea level and that the lifts continue right up to 3400 meters where a glacier allows for year round skiing meaning that you see some people in town wearing interesting attire and looking fairly out of place amongst the downhillers that had taken over.

At the top of the Cable car, we were supposed to be on the top left of the grassy ridge…oops.
Epic Scenery, there are soo many big mountains here it’s crazy/
Coming in to the lower cable car station, we would be walking up the hill to the left.

Cable car ride over and the walk began, naturally as we got closer, the “small bank” got larger until it could be considered a “large hill” and at altitude this turned into quite a hike leaving us a more than just a little tired before we even got to the track.

Not such a small hill anymore…
Still a wee way to go! Nice day for it anyway.

Upon  starting our track walk we found a very open first section with a couple of big jumps leading into a long off camber straight,  a couple more wide open straights and road gap number one was in the sights,  landing this was a very loose right hander that was followed by 2 particularly tight switchback corners that would prove to be highly challenging leading into road gap number two,  some more wide-open fast stuff and it was into the single-track section, this was a change from most tracks that we ride on as the single-tracks don’t normally allow for much line choice but this looked like it would make for a nice change to the usual motorways. Two creek crossings and more off camber trail was next on the menu before coming into a drop off and the two big jumps that were a spectator favourite over the weekend. A long straight followed by a left hander set you up into the first solid 30 foot step-down over a road was followed by railing around a bank and up a 35 foot step-up that caused more than a few people problems over the course of the race. Post jumps, a long pedal was greeted with yet another road-gap into the finish arena.  As well as being a long track (2.8km) it was also a pretty steep beast with a vertical drop of 700 meters being well over the normal  drop for a Dh track meaning that brake pads and tires were going to take a particular beating this time around.

First straight, this got pretty windy by race day causing a few unlucky people problems right from the get go.
It’s a long way down to town!
One of the many road gaps on course, good fun!
View from the takeoff of the road gap, you had to clear to at least the second pole to make it smooth.
The start of the singletrack section, a good change from the normal race track’s, this section was tight and technical and you needed to be good at carrying speed to do well.
Still a long way up from town.
The step-up, this photo actually does it justice, good sized jump that you do not want to come up short on.
And the step down before it, also giving you some good hang time.

Normally on your first run down a track you go slowly to look at everything and make sure you haven’t missed any particular nasties while walking. However this day I was really excited for some reason and just decided to hit everything straight up.  Luckily for me this turned out to be a good idea and I managed to snake my way over all the jumps without too much hassle and cruise back to the van to make some adjustments to my cleats. Heading back up the hill I was unlucky enough to miss out on the cut-off time for the short practice session by less than 2 minutes but (having to get down the hill somehow) instead got to indulge in one of the jump tracks on the hill. This proved to be a great alternative and provided a lot of entertainment with the tiny jumps allowing for some interesting lines to be explored with jumps up onto the bank and sometimes over the next jump entirely being tested out.

More epic scenery.

I forgot to mention the weird French rules and so will tell you about them now, for some reason unknown to the rest of the world, when you participate in a French race you have to wear an additional back-plate and elbow guards as well as your helmet, gloves etc. Now for a kiwi dude who doesn’t have these items it could be seen as an inconvenience and so provisions were made in the form of a cardboard strip for the back plate and two bits of foam padding for the elbow guards. Honestly it was pretty comical and I looked like a Lego person but it did its job and the officials let me race without any problems…. however what that bit of cardboard was supposed to protect me from I will never know.

They just keep going!

Tuesday we awoke to another perfect blue sky day and I wasted no time in getting up and amongst it. Cardboard and padding on, I pedalled out of the start hut feeling good…for about 20 seconds. Being in a far to lower gear for the first big jump I sent it anyway with no way near enough speed and as you can imagine came up VERY short.  I was so far short that I didn’t even make it to the top of the landing resulting in my bike flipping up and over the landing ejecting me over the handlebars and into the dirt. Dusting myself off I couldn’t help but feel as though I had gotten very lucky with that effort and should spend the rest of my days knitting or train spotting but unfortunately I still had to get down the hill beforehand.  The rest of the run passed without incident and after making some more adjustments to my cleats I headed up for run two.

I must also apologize for a lack of riding photos, I have been searching the internet but no luck so sorry about that and I will try and get in some at the next few races.

I was having a pretty good second run and was starting to get used to the style of track when things came a bit unstuck. In the tight part of the track I got a little bit off line and couldn’t unclip to stop myself from going off the track and before I knew it I was over the bars and down the hill on my head not feeling very good.  Aside from a sore head I could tell straight away that something was wrong with my left wrist, I have hurt my wrists numerous times over the years and the feeling I was getting at that stage I knew it would be a trip to the medic tent once I was at the bottom of the hill. However I still had to get down there so the easiest way was to ride,  Coming into the big jumps at the bottom I knew that it was going to be an effort to hold on and overshooting the step-up just about blew my hands off reminding me that something was wrong and to not do anything stupid.

Off to the medic tent to find that there was no-one there and the pain in my wrist was getting worse, back to registration and after a few phone calls a medic was found and before I knew it I was off to hospital and 2 hours after that I was out of there with a brace on, a diagnosis of a broken radius bone in my wrist and with more drugs than a Mexican Cartel.

Medical report, pretty much just tells me I’m stuffed for a couple of weeks (they spelt my name wrong as well!)

Having never really broken a bone before I found myself in a weird position, watching everybody else ride is horribly annoying because all you want to do is ride and to know that no matter what you do is not going to allow you to do so is highly frustrating,  this was made even worse by the fact that the weather was nothing short of fantastic leaving me with nothing to do but hang-out in the sun and soak up the atmosphere, it  doesn’t sound too bad like that but I definitely wanted to be riding and not doing so was making me crazy!

List of pills, expensive little buggers too.

I did consider racing with my broken wrist but after heading up and doing a couple of runs on the Wednesday of the cruisy jump trails I just knew that no safe amount of painkillers was going to do the trick and so I made the decision to pull out of the race and start the insurance process (always a mission).

There are LOTS of these round here!

I spent the rest of the time in Les Deux Alpes cruising around and soaking up some sun before we were due to leave on the Thursday for Val D’Isere, the venue of the next World Cup round for some pre-training which I’ll talk more about in my next post.

Gladys enjoying the sunshine.

My week in Munich with Lena.

For the past week I have actually been taking a break from all things bike related (give the body and mind a rest from going at warp speed the whole time) and have been visiting a close friend of mine.  I met Lena last year when she was out in NZ doing some work experience for a friend’s uncle and auntie. We hit it off and were inseparable for the 4 months until university dragged her back to Germany last October, We kept in contact and I found a free week while she took some time off from Uni to hang out and show me around her homeland of Bavaria

After not seeing someone for 9 months you would at least expect the person you are meeting to be on time, unfortunately for Lena I have never been the most punctual and after losing Sarah and Ronnie right at the start of our road trip from Lossnitz, stopping numerous times to call them and then proceeding to get lost on the way to Munich HBF I arrived a casual 2 hours late……needless to say I was in the bad books for a couple of hours (Sorry Lena) and the city tour was done at warp speed  to fit everything in before closing time but we got it done.

Big church in the middle of Munich, every day at 12pm and 5pm the figures in the middle of the tower dance and move for about 5 minutes drawing in large numbers of tourists.

While on this whirlwind tour of a place with nearly as many inhabitants as New Zealand we stumbled upon a sight I definitely didn’t expect. The Isar River runs through the middle of Munich and so numerous bridges have built over it. After one of such bridges,  one smart fellow had the initiative to put some concrete blocks in the river to create a standing 3 foot high surfable wave, the best bit about this wave is that it isn’t dependant on the wind, the tide or any other natural problem.  Also if you fall off, no big deal, just float down the canal for about 15 metres and then jump out, run up the river bank and hop back in!

The wave in the middle of Munich, not bad considering we are 800Km away from the nearest ocean.

We also checked out some impressive castles and the English gardens also the palace of the Bavarian king Ludwig the 2nd, dude was a high roller! After much walking and sight-seeing we jumped on one of the impressively efficient train services and took a quick ride out to Lena’s weekly home (for university) with her grandparents in Moosburg , about 50km out of Munich.

Lena’s grandparents house in Moosburg. Pretty nice place.

The next day was back on the trains, this time we went down to a place called Prien am Chiemsee,  this place was both incredibly beautiful and incredibly hot, it was somewhere around 37 degrees that day and packing the boarshorts/bikini was definitely a good choice.  The actual attraction of Chiemsee is the castle on one of the islands in the middle of the lake, this castle was also commissioned by my man Ludwig but he ran out of money after only building a third of this one, nonetheless what is there is highly impressive with a room where everything is gold and one room where the bathtub would rival most swimming pools!

Our ferry for the day at Chiemsee
Not a bad day for it, 37 degrees on the clock!
The view from the palace courtyard down towards the lake, I wouldn’t mind waking up to this in the mornings that’s for sure!
And if house looked like this I would probably be pretty stoked as well!

Castle tour over and we looked around some of the grounds on the island, it was incredibly beautiful and if you lived there you would know that you had done well for yourself!  Unfortunately Ludwig died before ever really spending any time there but he was a high-roller anyway so that’s ok.

We took the ferry back to the mainland and decided that a swim was a good idea, with water this warm it was a welcome change from turning into a Popsicle every time you go in the water in NZ.

Impressive fountain in the castle courtyard.
The detail on these fountains was highly impressive too, this is just one example.
The castle courtyard, good place to put some dirt jumps in!

Sunburn…..Everybody knows I am the king of these bad boys and today was no different, sending out a clear (and very red) message to anyone that wants to challenge my throne! Get some!  Following this we wandered back to the station and spent the ride home contemplating a Doner Kebab  and also what we would get up to the next day.

“You’re such a tourist!”
you could cruise around in one of these if you had the money, it’s an expensive hobby being a tourist!

Convertible sports cars; I have never really liked them but have never really had any justification for this having never been in one, but the BMW Z3 of Lena’s grandparents was pretty cool, plenty of go and no roof is always a good mix! Arriving in Landshut (pronounced landsoot) on another blisteringly hot day, we went for a walk in the castle above the town and were very nearly on our own wedding crashers movie, with 3 different Russian couples deciding to tie the knot in the middle of the castle grounds, unfortunately there was no 21 gun salute but some of the colours were enough to blow your head off nonetheless.

The fortress at Landshut, This one had seen a few battles and was kitted out with all sorts of cool stuff.
This Cathedral is the tallest brick constructed one in the entire world, pretty immense.
The river Isar also runs through Landshut making the town look picturesque on a nice day.

After castles it was lunch and shopping time, I won’t go into specifics but I spent a lot of time looking at dresses.  It’s quite funny, when a girl drags you into a girls clothes store you are never the only guy in there, there’s  plenty of other guys there and they’re all doing exactly the same thing, staring at the floor hoping none of their friends see them.  Of course I don’t know anyone here so they probably all thought I was gay actually taking an interest in the dresses but no matter!

Lena’s almost as tall as the church!
The inner courtyard of the castle at Landshut.
Nice moonrise over Bavaria.

Post Dresses we jumped back into the Z3 and took off towards Lena’s actual home in a tiny little village called Rainertzhausen about 20km away from  Landshut and 70ish from Munich. I had never met Lena’s mother Sabine and so was a little bit nervous until I actually met her when I found a wonderful lady who (in true German style) was incredibly nice and very welcoming, thank you for putting up with me Sabine =).

The Bavrian flag, Blue and white checkers with an emblem in the middle,

One massive thunderstorm later and a day of chilling out was in order,  I took some time to write something towards this blog and, with exams coming up, Lena got some study done before we jumped in the car and headed back to Moosburg and bed.

Big tower at the Munich Olympic park. there is a restaurant at the top that rotates 360 degrees as you eat, high-rollers only please.

Monday was another day of being tourists, after riding a 46km round trip from Moosburg to Lena’s uni we got back on the train and headed into Munich to hopefully do a little bit of shopping and check out the Olympic parks and the aquariums there, the Olympic park was something else, used in 1972 for the games, the styling of the buildings in there would still be current even with the new modern architecture trend.  As for the fish, well I have always loved fish, and any aquarium is enough to get me excited but when you see a good one such as this it’s pretty hard to drag me away from them as Lena found out, once she did finally managed to drag me away we cruised off home via several easy and simple metro trains (goddamit New Zealand get out of the stone age!) and off to sleep for a big day the next day

Nice place for a picnic!

My final full day in Munich wasn’t actually spent in Munich with a 180km down to a castle called Neuschwanstein (the castle out of all the Disney movies), after almost getting run over by a truck on the way down we arrived only to find more people (namely Americans) than at the launch of the space shuttle and the entry fee to the castle costing about as much as the space program did to NASA.  With a queue that was over 2 hours long (who knows how they worked that out) we just decided to do the walking only tour (I.E. free) and cruised off up the hill to see what all the fuss was about.

Big slug, these things are everywhere in Germany, blimmen Spanish invaders.
This bridge looked like something out of Mordor from the Lord of the Rings.
“Oh god, what is he doing now….such a child!”
Neuschwanstein Castle, everything it’s cracked up to be and then some, pity about the thousands of tourists.

We found a beautiful place that was everything it is cracked up to be but the amount of people there was ridiculous though it was still and awesome experience to see it in person. Despite the long drive home things actually went pretty quickly for me as I passed out in the passenger seat and left the job of getting us home up to Lena of which she did a fantastic job even taking me to a Doner store on the way, as expected I was one happy chap.

Went for a walk and found this little chap.
Me looking all goofy outside Neuschwanstein.
They love their fountains here!

Needless to say leaving Munich was a sad affair for the pair of us but a trip down to Marseille is in the pipes for August so it was luckily only a temporary goodbye. I do want to say HUGE thank you though to Lena for putting up with my shenanigans during the week and looking after me impeccably, Danke schatzilein =).


Looking good for the camera.

Arty photo I wasn’t allowed to get out of, cheers Lena =P.
“Hey Lena, what are those?” “Garden midgets” . Gotta love your friendly garden midgets!