This year Darren had carefully booked the adventure for the now infamous Woodbridge Surfers Extreme division 6th outing to the Alps to coincide with and pander to his other secret loves. Chaps and face hair.
So it seemed appropriate that given our central position within France’s largest Harley Davidson gathering, less than 100 metres from a 20 metre speaker stack and directly facing the stage, that we should attempt to blend in. To help us mingle fully and properly fit in the Surfers Extreme embraced change and renamed the group and indeed our own names to reflect the kudos which we would gather. So the Melton Mounted Moist Marmot’s MTB chapter evolved and with our new names, which embraced our characters, such as BigAir, DangerMayst, Bruiser, MisterPain and GoinCarefulThisYearButSomehowFaster&inFront OfYou and so with all our new facial hair, we were truly part of the local scene. (Marmot is a kind of Alpine Beaver, not normally visible but seen a lot more this year).
Prior to all this with some 12 hours of travelling in Mels Mystery Machine, we arrived slightly early, enough to book our steeds for the week, check out the pad and sample some cold filtered nectar before laying out our armour ready for the next day. With some trepidation, big hopes of sunshine, dry trails and forearms of steel, it was off to bed.
With the breakfast team pumping out the eggs early and all squeezed into our gear, we very quickly realised just how hot it would be and just how bad that would smell after four days.
The first day was off to Les Gets, with its moon crater like berms and mass of interconnected trails, we slowly all overcome the fear of the first outing and maybe slightly acclimatised to the high level of lactic that a six minute handstand could produce. With the trails drying fast under the baking sun, we had not realised that the moisture was not disappearing, merely a temporary lifting. With all the excitement of the fantastic runs and BigAir’s brake lever bolt dropping out, we had not noticed the clouds had turned black but with bolts of lightning we quickly gained height to location where we could freewheel home from. As the clouds built and surrounded us the rain lashed down and as a lightning bolt struck below us and umbrellas tore at their mountings, we eventually realised apart from the two that had stripped to their vests and cling filmed the rest, we were the only ones, fool enough to be up there still. A little over an hour later, as the rain slowed, we gently eased our way down the now treacherous trail back to Morzine. Having already scouted the Happy Hour unwinding drinking hole, we judged the day to be really great success, our bodies said we could have stopped at 3PM, so vowed to avoid the rain the next day, by starting even earlier and getting home before the rain.
Day two. 24 hours later - 3pm. We huddled under a tree, stretching water proofs over everything we could! Then heading off not really knowing a route home, but assured that the torrential rain which had started to form 3 inch deep mud rivers, was not going to make it easy and also that plans are best not made in the pub. Earlier in the day it was decided that the Moist Marmots were going to cross the border and dive into Switzerland, Pain, Mr Pain had planned the route and the early start got us ahead of schedule. It was not long before the temperature was dropping and we exceeded 2000M. There was plenty of snow still left which created its own amusement as it is slippery and cold and funny. As we crossed the border, the trails changed, fast , rugged, daunting and we repeated a particularly challenging trail near Les Crosettes, before fear of weather, being 3 valleys away from safety and with no passports, we headed back to France.
La Panoramic , is a gently sloping trail which meanders all the way round a mountain, dropping you majestically in a natural valley , surrounded on all sides by some the most beautiful mountain scenery you could imagine, for you to gently enjoy. Or alternatively you could pedal wherever you can (to top the speed up), you will see none of this scenery (hopefully), hold on real tight, spend only 80% of the time on the ground, for the twice-as-good-as-any-roller-coaster ride, touching on 30mph, will have you gripping everything you have. Turn on Strava and release the beast. You decide what happened. 2 laps full on, don’t look down, with BigAir landing off the trail twice and Careful Dave in a ditch, we counted our good fortune that nothing else mad would happen that day and we headed off to the next valley. Strava on, can we break 40 mph from Melanie’s corner down to Chatel? With that lovely loose shingle feeling of two punctures, all we managed was 36mph on the gravel, shale and jumping drain ditches!
Chatel is another natural picture card bowl surrounded by snow topped mountains, lined with trees, picturesque streams gently babbling past the many Alpine hut restaurants, completely ruined by a huge Burn jump air bag. As we cruised by, watching the mindless idiots with no respect for their limbs, fire themselves skyward, BigAir stopped, pondered and decided that maybe he could try this, he is young he had a note from his parents, so off he went. Me, well I couldn’t let him do it on his own. As we stood in the queue, it dawned on me what I had let myself in for. As I neared the front I could hear my heart, if Duncan did it what choice did I have, well actually, if I let Duncan go first, I could do the smaller jump. I can’t remember being so scared or more relieved when I landed. The second one hurt a lot as the bike escaped me so I had to do a third. BigAir was getting big air so we were glad we had called him that. And so after a massive sugar entry and a forth jump we headed off, knowing if I came back, I would have to do the big one – Shit what is wrong with me, I still feel nervous saying it. Well nothing would stop Duncan now, well luckily for him, the tree which also could not stay on the mountain, did. As we came above Morzine the storm just dumped on to us. We found ourselves dropping through heavily rooted now mud rivered trails, which were just easier to ride then walk. As I picked my routes I could hear, like a wolf in the woods at midnight, DangerMayst gently encouraging himself, with the F-word at full volume, as the near impassable trail caught him out once again and caused him to use his shorts as mud anchors. As Pain and I arrived at the accident scene, a wisp of a girl was just helping BigAir back up the mountain side, from his and his bikes resting place, jammed on a tree. Not really learning off he went again and a little later I was confronted by just his bike, stuck axle deep upturned in a hole. At 3mph eventually you would overtake the sheet of mud falling down the mountain side and safe riding could resume. Half an hour later, very muddy, very tired, we welcomed Happy Hour once again.
End of Part One - Part Two Coming Soon – Photographic & Video evidence to follow soon after.