The windy lift station was home for DirtTV for two hours this afternoon.
The first day of racing was a mixed bag of sweets and nuts. The weather was sweet, then sour for some and the stages were nuts. 7AM heading for the gondola station under a cool, crisp alpine sky with few clouds in sight, the scene seemed set for a stunning alpine day, but what was to come?
Here are the results from the first two stages and if you want some more insight into what went on during day one then keep reading below.
Jared Graves continued his form from the last stage of the Whistler round and took the first two stage wins ahead of series leader Jerome Clementz. Justin Leov was definitely on it only seconds behind Graves until a puncture ended his day. Tracy Moseley lost ground to Anne Caro who made the first stages hers, but T-Mo came back to win stage 3 by fifteen seconds. Martin Maes again was on form, taking the Junior field by a country mile but also landing himself a time good enough for 4th for the day in the Elite Men!
Head down pushing or bike on back, it was a good early morning warm up.
After the early start Stage 1 was raced in the dry with little other than the whisperings of sour weather in the lift queue to fire darts of prediction into the sky. Out of the gondola the riders were greeted with a climb, about 200m vertical distance in a few short twists up the loose rocks that form the base for a steep ski piste. No one was daft enough to ride up this, instead it served as a wakener/weakener after a sleepy trip up the lift.
After a climb the riders were warmed a bit further by the rising sun
Stage one left the peak into some steep turns, the loose stuff even took series leader Jerome Clementz off guard and sent him straight out the front door, thankfully without injury. Buzzing down the piste base riders passed the lift station that had brought them to the 2700m of the gondola before dropping into the valley below.
Tapes opened up, as did the throttles, grassy terrain interspersed with rock patches and gully’s threw riders downward and ever increasing speeds. The tapes stayed wide before dropping further in to some tight turns before the tapes spread and riders let go of the brakes again. Working into narrow paths hewn into the passing contours of the valley riders flew down the alp. Some flew further than others and you need to check out our edit for Gary Forrest’s bike exit to bike chase down this section of stage one.
You can take the boy out of the North….
With Stage 1 dusted the riders had the opportunity to grab some food and drink before they were back in the gondola heading for Stage 2 practice. Hope rider Sam Flanagan knew the score with Enduro nutrition, ham butties!
After stage two the weather started to loom ominously at the mouth of the valley, preparing to throw it’s worst on the backs of the EWS racers.
During the afternoon the weather closed. The clouds you see above joined forces with fog from the other end of the valley to neatly converge on the race. After rain drops had dappled matt black helmets the clouds threw out their worst, accompanied by a symphony of thunderclaps and lightning that kept the lift operators on their toes.
Unfortunately it was these electrical whoops from the gods that led to the grinding halt of the gondola cables, and that was that. For pretty much two hours not a lot happened, mist rolled into the gondola station where DirtTV and a few lonesome hikers camped out only entertained by the docile mountain dogs and conversations about hot chocolate and the hotel sauna, calm down now.
When the gondola cranked into action it still looked like this out of the window.
What riders were left had headed down to put in a time for stage 2 but were then stuck, riders at the bottom, race organisers at the top. Much of the media and marshals were spread over the mountain sheltering in whatever crevices they could muster.
Once the huge wheels in the gondola station rolled into action the riders headed back up the gondola to take on stage 3. With the weather still poor some racing was a whole new ball game. Challenging riders in slippery conditions over the exposed rocks up top and the loose muddy banks in the low lying woods the afternoon had it all.
It’s been throwing it down most of the night and we could well be in for another day of the wet stuff. There was a mixed response to the rain yesterday but the majority of Brits seemed to relish it.
Right now we are off to find the Val d’Isere brolly shop but make sure to check in for the DirtTV video of day one.