Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bienvenue à Champéry!

Champery, Switzerland is home to the famous MTB Pass'Portes du Soleil and host to the Mountain Bike & Trial UCI World Championships this year. It the largest mountain bike area in Europe with 24 lifts, 9 downhill and freeride runs and over 600 km of marked trails.

The girls (Sophia and May Shann) and I commenced our trip in Paris for the obligatory shopping and some sightseeing, flew to Geneva and then travelled by rail to Champery.

This period is just before the beginning of summer, so no crowds and tourists yet. We had the opportunity to stay at Marc and Louise's cozy chalet with a priceless view of the majestic Dents du Midi.

Day 1 (15 June)
Champery - Sur Cou - Ayerne

I picked up my rental bike today - a new Scott Genius LT from Lo Lo who was really helpful and friendly at the Bikeshop in Champery. The TwinLoc lever allows switching between full travel with 185 mm, 110 mm and complete lock out - perfect for the climbs.

I did not know what to expect, but found out really fast what mountain biking in Champery meant - big and long climbs!

Day 2 (16 June)
Champery - Les Rives - Monthey

Today was mainly a tarmac ride and I climbed 1,000 metres in total. It was chilly in the morning and I only had my light summer jersey on, but the sun and climb helped to warm me up soon after. The panoramic view of Champery township from across the river at Cantine des Rives was magnificent.

Day 3 (17 June)
Champery - La Poyet - Croix de Culet - Champoussin

The ride today was mostly on dirt and fire roads, and the climb for the first half of the trail could make a grown man cry. However, the scenery at the top around Croix de Culet more than made up for it, although it was very windy along some stretches. The descend to Val d'Illiez was on tarmac and fast - I clocked 62 km/h on the Garmin!

Day 4 (18 June)
Champery - Barme - A "Secret Trail"

It had been raining all night and and as forecasted the weather wasn't looking good. We woke up to a wet and cold morning and drove down to Monthey for some bike supplies and lots of coffee. The rain started to clear in the afternoon so my friend and bike coach Pat Fitzpatrick from Ride International and I decided to go for it.

The trails were slippery and my Garmin registered 6 °C, but it turned out to be a pleasant ride up to Barme and then down some nice and steep single tracks. On the way back we stumbled on a "secret trail" at the edge of a cliff - check out the video!

Day 5 (19 June)
Morzine - Les Gets

The girls, Pat, Petra Wiltshire and I drove to Morzine in France for some downhill rides. Petra is the current Masters Downhill World Champion. So there were practical coaching from both Pat and Petra ... "look much further ahead, bunny hop on the ruts for a smoother and faster ride, etc". My technique and confidence continues to improve.

It was still raining in Champery but cleared up as we got over to the other side of the mountain in France. It was quite a busy Sunday with a Grand Fondo/Sportive and Enduro Downhill race going on. Some stretches of the trail were rooty, rocky and muddy, not unlike the trails back home in Butterfly and Woodcutters in the raining season. We also rode through Col du Joux Plane which is a classic route of the Tour de France.

Day 6 (20 June)
Champery - Morgins - Troistorrents - Planachaux - Crosets II

Today's weather was perfect, cool and sunny. The ride had a bit of everything with the Téléphérique lifts finally open - sweet single tracks, long sweeping fire roads and the ultra flowy downhill track at "Sundance".

We met the girls for lunch at Restaurant Coquoz at Planachaux and had the most delicious local pork dish called rôti de porc vigneron. I had my first puncture after a fast and harsh rocky stretch, but I guess it's not too bad after 6 days of cross country and downhill riding.

Day 7 (21 June)
Champery - Soie - Anthème - Barme

One word to describe today's ride - EPIC ADVENTURE! Pat, Thierry "Mountain Goat" Favre and I climbed 2,000 lung-busting-and-leg-cramping metres and rode 46 km. And we were rewarded with the most awesome views and sweetest technical single tracks. Some trails were precariously close to the edge and got the adrenalin pumping.

We stopped for brunch at Cabane d'Anthèmoz at beautiful Lac d'Anthème, right next to the base of Pic du Midi and close to the snow line. Along the way, Thierry almost fell off a narrow metal bridge to a steep rocky stream but he just managed to hang on to a supporting cable.

Day 8 (22 June)
Champery - Col de Coux - Barme

It had been drizzling all morning, and thus the steep and slippery ride up to Col de Coux was especially challenging. But we were rewarded with the most amazing single track on the ridge line down to Barme, with a good measure of tight switch-backs and technical sections thrown in. As the rain cleared, we had a fantastic 360 degree sweeping view of the mountains around us.

Champery and the surrounding area is arguably one of the best mountainbike resorts in the world. It has all types of riding to offer, and most of the trails are connected and easily accessible by bike, lifts and train.

My sincere appreciation to Pat, Petra and Thierry for the trail guidance, skills coaching and videography, and to Marc, Louise and Suzi for the chalet. And of course to Sophia and May Shann for their patience whilst I was out riding.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

12 Hour Night Mountainbike Enduro 2011

After last year's inaugural 12 Hour Night MTB Enduro in Singapore, I decided to continue the tradition in the Men's Solo torture category. Except that I did not do much preparation this year, not even testing out the racing trail because of hectic work schedule and travels.

I raced under the Team Five-0 banner which had our usual full complement of racers, logistics support and 2 masseurs who worked non-stop throughout the night.

This year's race was a little better because I had consciously paced myself and thus the body did not seize towards the end. I was accompanied by Class 95 radio (they spin cool club music on Saturday nights), George Michael and U2's Achtung Baby on my Walkman phone which helped to break the monotony and maintain sanity.

Despite the terribly muddy conditions at Kidney as the night wore on, there were no major incidents except for my helmet light battery that died near Moonscape (so always have 2 lights for races) and the Garmin Edge 800 that gave up towards the end.

I was pleasantly surprised that the Scott Spark soldiered on without any issues, not even chain suck except that I rode the last couple of laps with no brake pads left.

I completed 23 laps, 159 km and finished 10th out of 79 starters, so I am really happy with the results. Thanks to my Five-0 mates, supporters and special appreciation to Karen for being my drinks runner.