Four have fun in Finale

Finale, the not particularly calm before the storm.

It’s de rigueur to make some sort of “season finale” style pun in reports on the Finale EWS round, what with it being the season final in Finale and all. Instead I thought I’d go with a nod to insufferable English kids books of the ’50s.

A reference that it seems will be lost on many of you as Google analytics tells me more than 50% of readers are “not UK” so you probably didn’t suffer Enid Blyton at school. I also wonder why quite so many folk are interested in this crap, you can’t all be robots (01001000 01100001 01101001 01101100 00100000 01110010 01101111 01100010 01101111 01110100 00100000 01101111 01110110 01100101 01110010 01101100 01101111 01110010 01100100. Yeah, I still rock that engineering degree. A prize of the only joke about binary if you work it out, thus also ticking my box of “try to engage with your readers” and “encourage feedback” which apparently all good bloggers should do).

Ahh Finale. Sunshine, sea and prosecco in the square. On the Wednesday at least...

Obviously, we were down to race, which is a serious business and not fun at all, but before that there was some riding, and some pizza, and some swimming in the sea, and some coffee, quite a bit of coffee actually, and practice.

Pre-practice play. Spence enjoying the dust down from Nato, cheers for the shuttle Nina.

Only practice didn’t quite go to plan as no one remembered to order good weather for the full week, and with promises of 120kph winds and biblical rains on Friday the EWS instead chose to let everyone practice all 6 stages on Thursday only and close the trails on Friday, so all you had to do was ride the full 106km and 4300m of climbing of the course, and session the technical trails, and remember it all.

The view on Wednesday night before practice.

This obviously wasn’t going to happen until Spencer gave up his chance to ride for the day and instead racked up some 140km of driving the other 3 of us about the tiny coastal roads, all the while battling the other 400 or so riders trying to do the same.

Yay for enduro’s environmental credentials.

Sole shot from practice, Nina nearing the start of S3. Cheers again for the shuttles Spence.

We did get pretty slick at putting 3 bikes onto the back and roof of the car though.

Sandy before practice. Not many race riding shots in this one I'll concede.

The trails were a mixed bag and the general chat about town was that they could have been better. S1 was the rider favourite. S2 was the fit rider favourite. S3 and S4 were fun, but scaring the pro’s ‘cos they have to actually go fast on them. S5 the looong one, but pretty good trails and S6 was just a bit dull. Nobody said they liked it, a shame to end the season on it really.

After a day of twiddling thumb’s watching the wind, drinking coffee, watching the SRAM crew get more and more pissed off with the entire field trying to get their bikes fixed for free, and checking out the head cam footage, we could go for the race briefing.

You know you're in Finale when.... This was a lot of Friday.

Due to the bad weather forecast for Saturday, racers favourite S1 would be cancelled. This got a boo from the crowd, much to Enrico’s disappointment. After the events of Colorado and Spain then it’s only fair the organisers were playing it safe, and the tragic events just a short distance up the coast in Nice showed how serious Saturday could have been. It was still a blow to spirits but.

Bof, same for everyone, on to Saturday.

Ready for the morning

Go liaise. Then race. Then get the excuses ready.

S1 Ok, then lost chain, S2 Good, then crash, S3 Didn’t really commit, S4 Really good, then started to get tired, then make mistakes, then bigger mistakes, then crashed. S5 Err, actually can’t find an excuse for this one, I’m just not fit enough.

Still, it all went better for me than for Sandy who made it about 200m into S1 before the slick ground took him down breaking his bike and forcing him to retire.

After the race briefing. You miss the sea in Chamonix.

Nina was fast when the trails pointed down, but they didn’t always point down this year. She still finished higher in category than the rest of us despite having avoided pedalling uphill for the entire summer.

So why race if that all sounds so meh? Because every race I still get at least one stage where everything starts to click, nothing else exists and the world is solely about you going as fast as you can. If you’ve never felt it, it’s as free as you can get from the worries around you, addictive and beautiful and pointless.

The opposite of racing. Pissing about on bikes with nice vibrant colours.

Sometimes there’s a calm measured voice in the back of you your head softly saying “brake early, exit fast”, “rotate the hips”, “look through the corner”, “drop the heels”. gently guiding you down the trail in a fast efficient manner.

That was the first 6 minutes or so of S4 on Sunday morning.

Sometimes I get the technique thing not bad. Wednesday on H trail.

Then, drowning out that voice is “CORNERARRRGE-BRAAAAAAKE-PEDALLLLLLLLLLLFULLLLLLLLGAZZZZZZZZ-CANT BREATHARGROCCCK-WHATTHEFFUANOTHER CORNERRRRDRROOOOOOPPPCORNERNAILEDIT-EEK”

This voice is not efficient or fast, but it’s shit loads more fun to deal with. That was the next 5 minutes of S4.

More shots of Spencer on the really quite grand Nato base trails.

Then, inevitably, there’s “Oh god my arms, I can’t feel my arms. Am I pulling the brakes? The fingers don’t seem to be working either. Wait, is that tape ahead, there’s spectator cheers, should I be turning left or right? Is it me or is the ground getting a lot closer? Bugger. Ow. Should my leg be through the bike like that?”

That was the final 2mins 41seconds of S4.

Nico Voullioz arrived at the finish 2mins 1second earlier, thus saving these issues for the liaison where it doesn’t seem to matter so much, the cunningness of a champion.

Is this not what every day in Finale is like?

Anyway. My arse was kicked and I coasted home tail between legs in 121st and 16% off the pace but still hungry to get better. And eat. And drink beer with the the folk you meet on the liaisons and were so good at getting out my way on the stage (28 passes in the weekend I think) And go for a swim in the sea (more successful for some folk that others…..)

Ciao* Finale.

Obligatory affogato whilst Fabien Barel retires on the stage.

*That’s also de rigure b.t.w., to finish the report with ‘ciao’ instead of something in english.

  • Chamonix Bike Blog

    Mountain bike blog for Chamonix and the Western Alps

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