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Manon Carpenter Chronicles: La Bresse and Val di Sole

World Cup junior rider Manon Carpenter wraps up her fascinating race diary of life on the World Cup circus.

Big thanks to Manon for giving us this great insight into the highs and lows of World Cup racing this year…they’ve been a great read!

Good luck at Champery Manon!

Manon Chronicles: La Bresse and Val Di Sole

In between the last chronicles and this one we went to Whistler to race Crankworx. I got third in the Dual slalom and then came second in the Garbanzo – possibly the hardest DH run to race! We also had some drama with Harry Molloy (teammate) KO’ing himself in the first round of the Mens dual but I haven’t had time to write about the trip so sorry everyone. However, I would like to thank everyone at Crankworx who were a big help before during and after the races and everyone at Ticket2Ride who picked us up from the airport in the middle of the night, looked after us for our stay and helped getting Harry processed in the Hospital….Thanks Peter!

Our haul from Whistler, Jason (Dad) won the GoPro in the 30+ am dual.

Also, if you want a laugh VitalMTB photographer Gary Perkin (www.flipper.co.za) has let me have the crash sequence from my race run in Mont Saint Anne when I crashed seconds from the finish line – I found it pretty funny at least!

One of the pics of the sequence.

La Bresse

After racing the National Champs at we’d had a week at home to recover from jet lag from our trip to America, Canada and Whistler and get some riding in. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed riding at home. All the tracks were completely dry, which is pretty uncommon in South Wales, so they were riding perfect!
We went to the Bala Pearce race the weekend before we left for La Bresse – I’d been unsure whether to go or not because it meant missing more time away from home but I had an awesome weekend, getting the biggest drift on ever in one of my race runs on the grassy corners at the bottom!

The next day we started packing for La Bresse and left on the Tuesday. The van was pretty full when we left the house and by the time we’d picked Harry up it was full to the roof. It all fitted in though in the end thanks to Jason’s packing – which looked quite a bit better than the Atherton’s!!

I feel sorry for Pete and Stevie (Atherton mechanics) who had to unpack the Atherton truck!

We got the Ferry overnight from Dover to Dunkerque and bumped into Ben Cathro and Fraser McGlone ? We thought we’d had it bad driving the 4 hours or whatever to Dover from South Wales but they’d been driving for over ten hours and were still only half way! I’d planned on sleeping but we ended up talking rubbish and playing games the whole time so before we knew it we were in France.

The iFat version of Cathro!

Jase hadn’t managed to sleep on the Ferry either so after an hour of driving we stopped at a service station for a snooze, but with me on the back seats and Harry in the front there wasn’t enough room for three of us in the van so Jase ended up on the roof of the van… He said it was pretty comfy and all was well until a coach load of Belgian football hooligans turned up! At first I thought they were just jeering and making a fuss as they walked past but after 5 minutes I could still hear them and they weren’t getting any quieter.

Then we saw flashes through the window… I sat up and no joke there were around 30 people surrounding the van taking photos of Jase asleep on the roof and making a lot of noise – It’s safe to say my dad was not amused!! (It was pretty funny though.)

Where’s Wally?

As soon as we got to La Bresse it was obvious we really needed to be able to speak French – even ordering food was a mission. When we got to our accommodation, the woman couldn’t speak any English and we couldn’t speak any useful French. A lot of gestures were made, a lot of Oui’s and Merci’s were said and a lot of heads were nodded, but eventually I think we all got the gist!

After we’d signed on we went to walk the track as always. I like going to a new venue and having to learn to ride the track from scratch so I was looking forward to the race and although the track was very short it was also steep so looked fun. There was also a very big finish line jump!

Most of the track at La Bresse was one obvious line but one section at the top of the track caused a lot of confusion and you could take any combination of lines you wanted through there.

First day of Practise

I had a bit of a lie in on Thursday practise because there wasn’t a rush as top 80 men/20 women get longer, so when I turned up most of the boys had already done a run and everyone was talking about the finish jump. About 80% of the men had cased it with a fair few people having massive crashes and/or destroying bikes. I’m pretty sure Katy Curd was the only girl to try to jump it and unfortunately it didn’t go well. She came up short, breaking her humerus like I had done last year, only her break was worse and put her out of racing World Champs. It was only after a bunch of people had mullered themselves that they decided to make the landing longer and the gap a bit shorter…

Qualifying

In practise I felt good on the track and after they made the last one easier I had done all the jumps by qualifying. I wasn’t too nervous for qualifying this time and my dad had come up to the top with me with the turbo trainer so I pulled a few wheelies and sent a few jumps for him down the start straight and had a really good run – until I got to the last section of the track. I hit the compressions in the steep grassy field at the bottom too fast and apparently I had a bit of a Rennie moment. I didn’t jump when I should have and bounced into the middle of one of the compressions, coming out sideways and upside-down!

My bike with some French grass attached post quali crash!

I got up as quickly as possible but I was in bottom gear on a slight uphill and struggled to get the bike moving again so I couldn’t do the last few jumps and I came through the finish in 11th. At first I was gutted about not getting any points but then I realised how many more girls there were to come and I started to worry about not qualifying. On a sub-3 minute track you really can’t afford to crash… Luckily, I just about scraped through in 18th I think, only 3 seconds inside the qualifying time!

Ems (Emyr Davies) getting a lift through town.

Race Day

After qualifying, the rain came down all night, which was a bit of a disaster because all the run ups to the jumps were grassy so they became very slow and very squishy. At the top before my run I really didn’t know whether to do them or not – I’ve never been more confused in my life before a race run!

After qualifying and National Champs and Mont Saint Anne and all the other races I’ve crashed at this year, I really just wanted to get a clean run in and a decent result so I decided to leave the jumps to the big girls and just get down. My run was pretty slow and conservative although I still went offline in one section so I was satisfied with 8th. I know I could have gone a lot faster but really I just wanted to stay in one piece for Worlds this year!

Lots of the British boys had amazing runs ending up in the top 20, including Al Bond who was 7th and 8th at the splits and Cathro who ended up in 10th!

Cathro pretty surprised to be on the hot seat!

There was a massive crowd watching the race.

Podium crowd!

After the race we went into town for food ‘cos I was starving, whilst Jase disappeared off to the Santa Cruz Pits – everyone was pretty drunk over there already what with Greg winning, Steve getting disqualified and Josh having a massive moment seconds before the finish line. I think their team had had the most eventful race that weekend!

In town there were lots of rumours of an after party being held in a church with free beer which sounded controversial, although unfortunately it wasn’t quite that good and we ended up getting smashed at pool and embarrassing ourselves on the punch bag machine! I don’t really know what happened to my dad that night and apparently it was Andrew Titiley’s fault but he was very wasted and we couldn’t get hold of him until half 4 in the morning when he answered his phone after waking up on some stone steps in town. We were staying 5kms away from town, all uphill, and he didn’t get in until 7am after getting a ride with the dustbin men!!

Thanks to all the staff at La Bresse for a really good race

The next day we had a nice awakening at half 9 after 4 hours sleep by the cleaning lady telling us we were supposed to have left by 9 o’clock so we stumbled around trying to pack everything and dragged a very hungover Jason to Lac Blanc bike park half an hour away. There had been rumours around the pits that there were free lift passes for world cup riders so about 20 of us had gone there only to find it was over 20 euros each and it was raining and windy and very cold!

Pretty much everyone who had qualified for the finals used the excuse of having a rest day, apart from Bernie Kerr who’s from the south, and all the boys who hadn’t qualified had no excuse and so had to go riding!

A very hung over Jase struggling the next day!

After packing the van as quickly as possible in a dry spell we warmed up then headed off to Morzine for a week of riding and rest before hitting up Val Di Sole.

You know you’re in the Alps when your Sat Nav looks like this!

Val Di Sole

We arrived in the Valley of Sun on the Wednesday after driving across Italy via a quick stop in Pila for a morning of riding in 6 inches of dust. Josh Lowe, the junior rider for Madison Saracen had joined us in Morzine and somehow we’d managed to squeeze him into the van so it was even more cramped than before but it was Josh’s first world cup so he didn’t mind and was pretty excited the whole way there!

As soon as we got to the venue it was clear we really needed to be able to speak Italian as well as French, seeing as the guards on the entrance of the pits didn’t have us down on their list and they didn’t speak a word of English. After about an hour of running back and forth looking for the guy in charge under the seriously hot sun, we managed to find a really good spot right next to the finish line, set up the pit and went to sign on and walk the track.

Track walk confusion.

It was pretty much the same as last year, just even more mental! I must have walked up and down the top rock garden at least 3 times trying to figure out a way through it and everyone else seemed just as confused as me. It took us three hours to walk the track so it was pretty late by the time we got down and we still had loads to do. We were in a rush to get to the estate agents before it closed, find accommodation, go to the supermarket, eat food, wash kit and build up the bikes before it go dark so obviously something was going to go wrong!

We were having a bit of a debate about something as we drove from our apartment to the supermarket on a steep single lane road and as we came round a tight corner some Italian guy in a 4×4 came the other way too fast. Before we knew it he’d hit the side of the van and to make things worse once we’d both stopped he reversed backwards, dragging the front of his car across the van!

This was the third time on the trip when we really, really needed to speak Italian. He didn’t speak a word of English and we couldn’t speak Italian, although we did understand him when he said ‘You’re in Italy, speak Italian!’ Soon more people turned up and we were surrounded by Italians who couldn’t speak English but after about an hour of swapping driving licence details and angry and confused gestures we realised he’d thought that it was Harry who’d been driving because the steering wheel is on the other side and he thought we were trying to lie about Jase being the driver.
Once this was cleared up the Italian guy cheered up a bit, especially when he saw that Jason had the title Dr. on his license and he told us that he was a doctor too! I’d figured out enough Italian to be able to tell him that although he thought it was our fault, we thought it was his fault and luckily his wife understood 50/50. In the end I think we decided to call it quits and he shook hands with Jase and we all said Ciao!

Thursday Practise

I had a bit of a lie in again on the first day of practise after such a hectic evening the day before and when I got to the venue this time everyone was talking about who’d injured themselves already and how gnarly the track was! The top rock garden was pretty nuts, it was okay to ride down slowly but as soon as you picked up any speed you got bucked around all over the place! The whole track was like that really – it wasn’t actually that difficult or technical, it just got a lot harder as soon as you started to go fast. After doing some full runs in practise I had a very cold ten minute freeze in the river (I think it’s glacial?) to help my arms and legs cope as much as possible, walked the track and then had to sprint back up to the estate agents again before they closed to pay them. I had ten minutes to get there in what was normally a fifteen minute ride so I had to sprint most of the way and by the time I got there I was absolutely dripping with sweat. I apologised when I got in there but they told me it was good training for the XC race on Saturday. I guess I look like more of an XC rider than a DH rider!

It was hard keeping your feet on over the rough sections and even harder with the dappled light hiding all the roots under the dust!

Friday – Qualifying and Results day

Friday was a pretty stressful day for me; I had qualifying in the afternoon and I had to wait all morning for my Nan to phone with my A level results. She rang me just before my qualifying run with good news – three A’s and an A* so that put me in a good mood for qualis! (or Quails according to Mike Rose-Dirt editor) I had wanted a couple more A*’s but I hadn’t done so well in my summer exams when I’d been busy racing so it didn’t matter too much. I qualified okay but it was soo hard to do a full run, I ended up riding over half the track a lot slower than I could have just so I could hold on!

Jack Reading and Emyr Davies had amazing quali runs, Ems had really good splits and ended up around 30th and Reading ended up 12th!! After ten more minutes freezing in the river we went to pick up my mum and sister Elsa who had caught the train over from Nice in France to watch the race!

They had ridiculously big tubs of Nutella in the shop in town Josh couldn’t resist one…

Saturday

Most of Saturday was spent resting so we’d have as much energy as possible for the race. I walked the track and did one run in the morning and then we all went down to the river – and it looked like everyone else had had the same idea too!

Messing around at the river.

In the evening we rode back down to watch the 4x racing. We only had 3 bikes other than downhill bikes so I got a lift with Jase, Elsa with Harry and my mum went on the BMX!

The 4x racing was good to watch and the men’s final was really good. Everyone who hadn’t qualified was planning on getting messy and I was a bit gutted we were going to miss out. We left to go home just before ten o’clock, just when some chocolate shot glasses and a bottle of vodka appeared! Hearing about it from Elsa the next day and seeing the photos it looked like it had been a pretty good night…

Watching 4x with Greg Williamson. He’s had a really good season, watch out for him next year!

Race Day

Sunday was so so so hot. Before my race run all I’d wanted to do was sleep in the shade somewhere – definitely not put my body armour on and start warming up! Jase came up to the top with me again with the turbo trainer and then ran down to watch the race from the rock garden. Unfortunately I got a bit lost there in my race run but the rest of it went okay. After a slow start I started hitting sections as fast as I thought I could manage comfortably and I came down in 1st. The rest of the girls knocked me back to 8th – where I seem to have come all year – but I wasn’t too far off the pace so I was pleased.

Recovering on the hot seat

As soon as I’d left the finish arena someone came up to me with a notepad and a watch and told me I had to do anti-doping for the millionth time this year! I stayed long enough to watch the rest of the women’s race and it was great to see Myriam get her first World Cup win ever – she deserved it after such a ragged run! I think the women’s racing has been really good this year with Myriam, Floriane, Rach and Tracy all getting on the top step, it’s never been predictable.

Pompon on the top step

I had to watch most of the men’s finals from the anti-doping room but got out just in time to watch everything kick off as the top ten came down. Danny’s run, as usual was insane and it was wicked to see Troy get on the real podium for the first time and Danny to do it again. I think everyone knew Gwin was going to win it, the Trek team have had an amazing season and it’ll be interesting to see if Gwin can do it all again next year.

Trek team on the podium

After the race we went down to the river for the last time then went out for dinner and I was really tired so I went home and went to bed… For about ten minutes before my dad and Elsa dragged me out saying I had to go out. There was free beer down at the venue and apparently I had to go! It was good to see everyone until I stood on a broken umbrella that was sticking up in the grass and cut my foot open… I’d survived a whole weekend racing the gnarliest track on the World Cup circuit only to injure myself on an umbrella!

Luckily, although there was blood everywhere and two first aid kits got sent for it wasn’t actually as bad as it looked – but it was a good excuse for my mum and dad to drag me and my sister home when everything started to get a bit lairy later on in the night!

Josh Bryceland after quite a bit of Jaegermeister…

The next day we headed off to Lake Garda for a few days for swimming, windsurfing and cocktails!

Manon Carpenter-2011 Junior World Cup Overall winner

I can’t wait for next year. I’ve had a pretty good season winning the Junior World Cup series and ending up 10th overall but at the same time I’ve had to hold back a lot as this year is my last chance to win the Junior World Champs and I really wanted to stay in one piece for it this year!

Now I’ve finished school I’m also looking forward to being able to train full time so I can be much stronger next year and start getting on the real podium myself!

Massive thanks to everyone who’s helped me this season; everyone who is involved with the team at Madison especially Kellie and Andy, everyone who makes the races happen and my dad for looking after me and my bike all year. Also to Jacob Gibbins www.jacobgibbins.co.uk for letting me pinch so many of his photos this year!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the chronicles, especially if you’ve had the stamina to read them all start to finish (I know they end up very long!)

From Jason – Phew, just finished proof reading this, don’t believe all the stories she makes up about me, Manon has a creative imagination. Shes been recovering all week, we’ve been sunbathing, swimming, windsurfing and had a great day canyoning yesterday. Today we are packed up and heading back across Italy towards Switzerland to start getting ready for the World Champs next weekend. I just want to say how impressed I’ve been with Manon this year juggling racing and training with A level exams then coming out of it all with 4 grade A’s (one of them an A*) together with a top ten finish in the World Cup Series despite missing a round. Well done Manon!

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