Maybe it is something they put in the water here? The two most recent international events I have been to have both been in the same region in the French Alps- the Portes du Soleil, and have both startled competitors and spectators alike. Champery; well we all know how that went down, and now just a short hop across on a lift or two, nestled between Chatel and Avoriaz, was the Chatel Mountain Style event.
On hearing this word ‘Mountain Style’ it conjured up in my mind images of a relatively short track made up of doubles and ‘North Shore’ to be tricked off with aplomb. Perhaps the course builders were out of the loop with this layman’s definition but they superseded my expectations by a mile- they were in another genre all together! What was, only a few months ago, a baron, boulder-strewn hillside was turned into a pumped up downhill track incorporating all the mountain had to offer. It took all the ‘big’ elements of a downhill track; big fast berms, motocross style doubles, road gaps, steep rock slabs and drops and added to this man made and traditional wooden creations- giving step ups onto rocks, ‘North Shore’ skinnies and some very sizeable obstacles.
The track was a riders dream! It flowed and had multiple lines all the way down it- none of them easy, and it was challenging to even get down, let alone with any flow or style. You needed to be able to corner, ride technical single track and also hit the blind drops and jumps.
Mother nature is in a strange mood this summer- the Alps have been taking a soaking for a week solidly now and the event, scheduled to be held over 2 days, had to be condensed into one. The track was too wet to consider on Friday but as Saturday dawned clear and warm and the riders took their first tentative steps onto it, they had to get to know it quickly and then learn to ride it well. Something that seemed to cause some problems with the majority of riders…
To me, this track had ‘downhiller with style’ all over it. Put Gracia on it, put the Athertons on it, put Bryceland on it, and you’ll have one hell of a spectacle. That liquid flow between obstacles, that innate speed, the huge whips and God given style off the drops and doubles…Alas the majority of the 40 riders signed up were probably expecting the aforementioned, and out of context view of what to expect from this hill. Many riders struggled to get down cleanly, with their dirt jump style bikes clearly not suited to the bigger lines and many riders avoiding the bigger stuff altogether. Then out of the blue, wearing blue, one of the local riders, Pierre-Eduoard Ferry on his Demo showed them how it was to be done, nose wheelies over the ladders, big whips over the gaps pumping the terrain like a world cup rider- this was Body English with a French accent and it was impressive to see.
Whilst over here filming for the new Cranked film, Eric Porter and Kyle Ebbett were here to compete. The previous week they had been battling rain and a huge double high on the Croset sky line to get something in the can for the Alpine segment. As Saturday had dawned clear and blue they were making the most of this to film and only arrived at the track just as the first runs were about to start. This had to be a disappointment for the organisers who had surely paid them for their services? To see these guys feeling out the course and missing the straightforward road gap on their first competitive run didn’t seem right. Especially after hearing what they’d been pulling for the cameras just the day before…
This style of track was very new and didn’t suit the majority of riders. I can think of many skilled downhill riders who would consider this great fun and not just a high dive competition- much to the credit of the course builders. Local rider Pierre Edouard Ferry was amazing to watch and will make waves in this type of event I’m sure. I think as the word spreads and next years calendar tries to avoid the big international downhill races and combine with series’ such as the Quashqai, this will be one to watch. Maybe some of the downhill riders who are not quite making the grade on the international race scene will start to specialise in these events and make a name for themselves here?
In the mean time you can check it out first hand- this track is being left for us all to ride. Adding to the already impressive Chatel bike Park, those visiting the Portes du Soleil are the real winners here I think as this long, well created piece of track is now open to all…Roll on next year and this will be a hopefully be a real spectacle.
There is a short video on Big Bike website that shows the track and the winner Pierre Edouard Ferry during first practice: http://www.bigbike-magazine.com/index.php?module=bigbike&action=News&ido=191
1 – Pierre Edouard Ferry
2 – Christopher Hatton
3 – Etienne Perron
4 – Damien Huszcz
– Alan Millway (Photos: Paul Thomas) – http://www.riders-retreat.co.uk
Maybe it is something they put in the water here? The two most recent international events I have been to have both been in the same region in the French Alps- the Portes du Soleil, and have both startled competitors and spectators alike. Champery; well we all know how that went down, and now just a short hop across on a lift or two, nestled between Chatel and Avoriaz, was the Chatel Mountain Style event.<