The story of young Welsh junior rider Manon Carpenter on her first World Cup season continues in Leogang, Austria.
This chapter is written by Manon’s dad Jason.
Manon Chronicles – Leogang, Austria
Manon, Jason and James at a very rough Legoland
Going back out to Austria after being there only a month ago wasn’t in our original race schedule. Quite why the UCI send everyone to Slovenia (right next to Austria) then to the opposite end of Europe, Fort William, then back to Austria (right next to Slovenia) I can’t understand, perhaps they are sponsored by BP or someone. Not very eco. Still, on a positive note, at least the Champery – Val Di Sole trip makes sense.
As Manon had been doing well (qualifying had been the first goal, getting the Junior leaders jersey had been a suprise, getting a top 10 position at Fort William an even bigger one) we thought we’d go to round 3 at Leogang to try and consolidate her hold of the Junior lead.
Preparation had started the week before, I was working, finishing a job in Stoke, Manons exams had finished so she spent the week riding BMX and XC with Nikki Whiles (Team Skene). On the Thursday they came up to Stoke on the train to help us test the new track out. We spent the afternoon riding the track, did a bit of landscaping work then went to Derby for club night at the track there. I have to recommend Derby BMX track to anyone who wants to learn to ride a bike, it’s really quite good. National Standard BMX track with a pump track alongside it. Friday morning we rode the Stoke track, spent a few hours finishing off the landscaping then tidied up out kit and left midday. On the way home we called into some trails near Birmingham and bumped into Harry Heath (Baz for some reason) and Wyn Masters (sans Wyn TV for some reason). Unfortunately the trails were too wet to ride, but real fun to look round, so we left and headed for the next spot Bishops Tachbrook pumptrack near Warwick that Cunny featured in his Dirt column last issue. After a couple of hours we were done and wilting a bit in the heat. Homeward bound.
MPORA Action Sports >>
Nikki riding Bishops Tachbrook
Saturday was a non riding day all round, I slept all day after a hard week and Manon went to the beach.
Sunday we hit up some serious DH on some killer tracks close to home. One long and fast (we’d cut the undergrowth back a couple of weeks ago), One steeeeeeep track that is only just rideable, we took the tools along and put in an hours work on a couple of sections that weren’t actually rideable before doing four or five full runs. Last up we hit up a new track Rob Williams had made, so much fun, fresh lines with a few shadey jumps.
Monday, no riding but Karate training for Manon.
Tuesday, I was cleaning and packing the van while Manon went to Bryn Bach BMX track with her Mum (Lynette takes some kids from school to the track once a week during the Summer) I’m not sure who is the real coach, but Lynette holds the ticket.
11pm and the van is stacked to the roof (literally) with bikes, tyres for any occasion (High rollers, cut Wet screams, full Wet screams, Minions, even the trusty Swamp Things, spare Nukeproof wheels and rims and all the camping gear.
As I said Leogang wasn’t on the original agenda so this one was going to be a budget trip, van and tent and a shitty weather forecast, joy. The 661/Royal truck wasn’t going to be there either so we were pitting out of the van too. I’ve never driven to the Alps on my own this time so my bud and work partner James was coming along for the event and to help with the driving. We left late and drove through the night to miss the M25 carnage that is the daytime, no drama or tickets this time I hope. We got to Dover and found out I’d booked the ferry for 6pm not 6am, oops. They wanted £60 to make the alteration but were very nice and with a bit of grovelling they settled for £20, thanks Norfolkline (who sponsor Katy Curd btw so nice guys Norfolkline). We drove to the end of our line, parked and I saw a very funny sight, see the pic, truck with rse logo parked behind an A frame, you figure it out.
On the ferry zzzzzz, off the ferry, drive, swap driver, zzzz, swap, drive, zzzz, get the picture….. 20 hours from home and we get to Leogang.
Sweeeeeet, get to the race sight and find out the organisers have laid on a Privateer pitch. Nice one Leogand organisers. 3 euros each a night with full electric hook up, heated toilets and showers, the wifi from the main pits even reached us a little bit. After hearing stories of the the Fort William organisers throwing privateers out at 8pm with Police force this was a breath of fresh air. One dad was threatened with arrest when he was waiting in the van for his Junior son to finish walking the track the night before qualifying. Totally out of order, I think these ££££organisers need to remember that without riders there is nothing. Perhaps ditch the spectator stands, get a smaller telly then put a few coppers into providing a privateer pitch at an economic price. Phew, rant over.
Got our heads down late Wednesday night, Manon sleeping across the back seat of the van, James and I tucked up in the tent.
Sign on at the UCI WC works like this, 11am UCI trade teams, Noon 4X riders, 1pm Privateers. Always one for convention I always like to try to sign on early. This schedule is controlled at the doors by a guard. At Fort William we squeezed past the doorman on a social pretense, nothing wrong with a bit of nepotism. This time there was a burly blonde Austrian lady and we couldn’t see a way past her. I wanted to try a diversion, fall over a chair or something, so Manon could sneak in behind her but Manon was having non of it. So I figured it was a hotel and if there was a front door, there was a back door, bingo, we were in. Signed on and even got all the passes we needed for the three of us. This sneaking around early stuff is important so you can walk the track when it’s quiet, mid afternoon gets so busy on the track you can’t see it. I guess life’s going to be a bit tougher now, but can’t wait to see what challenges we’ll get in Champery.
Track was looking good, steep in parts, good corners, nice and wide in places, lots of lines and flat with Bike Park jumps in others. A real physical challenge because of the big holes and pedalling sections. It didn’t help that it had rained for the past few weeks making the flat bits boggy. James and Manon looked for lines while I did a set of photos of the track to put a slideshow together, in and out of every corner/section for future reference. We were passed by Chris Kovarik and wife Clair Buchar, the Atherton posse and all round nice guy Scotty Mears.
Track walk done, we packed up the van again and went shopping to stock up on food for the weekend. The plan was not to eat out all weekend to save some coin.
The weather was beautiful on Thursday and we were hoping the terrible weather forecast was wrong…..
Amazing day on Thursday, check out the view, we didn’t see these mountains again all weekend., visibility was down to the end of the fields most of the time.
We had put my old Specialized Big Hit back together for James to use for the weekend, she was retired back in 2004 and has hung in the garage for the last 6 years. Heres a pic of her from 2002 testing out the step down at Garway.
She was a beauty, BETD 26” back end, designed by yours truely.
I showed her to Brendan who was over the moon as he’s riding one of her descendants, with a couple of tweaks. He had one back in ’02 as well, same modified back end.
Brendan on the ’02 Big Hit – She’s a beauty, just look at the smile on his face.
Manon went up to walk the track again so James and I went to watch 4X practice. It was pretty impressive stuff, a decision maker on the third straight, pro line or smaller jumps into a rock garden. Uber long fourth straight with step up to bridge to step down with three double jumps or a crazy triple to on and off deck jump to the back of a tiny roller that only 4 or 5 riders were doing. We watched Athy rim it to puncture (although he did do it clean later). There was a lot of skidding and pulling out of the step up, lots of very scarey overshooting on the three doubles. When Manon joined us after her track walk we saw 4 or 5 very dangerous looking crashes and couldn’t watch anymore so we left it and went to get the bbq on the go. Got Manon to bed (well back of the van) nice and early and all crashed out.
Up early to feed Manon in time for practice. After the success at Fort William it’ll be porridge for breakfast race weekends from now on. Quick warm up on the Zesty and Manon runs through the track slideshow before setting off for her first run down the track. Tyres of choice were Minion fronts, but with cut Wet Screams on standby.
Privateer pit this time, best showers ever.
Manon came back with the worrying news of dizziness and needing to sit down or pass out. Not the best really for a race weekend. We’ve been learning hard about how to keep her fed with the right stuff to keep her upright and maybe got it a bit wrong, who knows? She sat out for a bit, had some sugary drinks and began to feel a bit better. Possibly all the travel, a bit of a cold, whatever?. Luckily it was a one off and she felt fine after that. When she felt right she went back up and had a good day, 5 runs and no crashes. She did timed qualifying again, didn’t pedal at all and came in with a 5.20, fifteen seconds behind Sabrina. We changed tyres to cut Wet Screams before timed qualifying and they were better for the off camber grassy bits. It then rained all night long so they definitely stayed on.
The three of us on a dirt jump watching the 4x in the rain
After DH Manon walked the track again while we cleaned and worked on the bike. We met up on the 4X track again with food and drink for her, desperate to avoid any more ‘white’ incidents. 4X Timed qualifying was excellent, fastest rider went round the ‘small’ third straight with second fastest Graves hitting the Pro line. Real cool that, two alternative lines with almost the same outcome. Come the race tho, no one was going to hit the pro line as the second corner was where all the action was.
Found an unusual sign outside the pits….
We cooked the BBQ in the rain, not easy at all, needed the assistance of an umbrella and Fenwicks lubrication.
Jas and BBQ with Umbrella
Don’t do this at home kids, the people in this picture are all trained professionals
Locked Manon in the van for a good nights sleep and James and I went to check out the Party and good fun it was too. Some good music and some German Europop (not quite as good as the French Europop). Usual psycho bouncers throwing kids around, nice free biscuits and a spot of Tectonic dancing, sweet.
Party in a car park?
Another early start, no dizzy spells today thankfully, solid runs with no crashes again then we got everything clean and checked ready for qualification runs. James went to the top with Manon and a bag of Tangfastic to sugar her up and bring her coat back down. Manon qualified 12th with two crashes, her first of the weekend, so she must have been a bit worried about qualifying during her run. I think most riders had problems of some sort or another during their runs. One crash was into a drainage ditch next to the track that she showed us the next day, on one of the worst pedally sections as well. Post qualifying was the usual routine, wash and check bike, feed Manon then back up to see what the score with the boys and qualifying is. Qualifying in the men is sooo hard, any mistakes are hard to make up and some of the guys got held up by slower riders, no question of reruns at World Cups, only if you are stopped because of a red flag incident and these rarely happen.
After qualifying Manon wanted to walk the track again because it was cutting up really badly and with 350 riders going as fast as they could, some of the holes were getting huge. We followed the track repair crew down who were doing their best to cut the worst bumps and ruts out.
This is how bad the mud was where Manon crashed in qualifying. The dig crew fixed it up with a mat for race day.
As usual, we missed the first round of 4X racing so missed some of our buddies getting knocked out. The racing was wild with some crazy crashes and a lot of moves on turn two. How the men stayed on round turn one was amazing, I guess you can see it all on Freecaster.
One 4X rider (David Graf) spilled over into turn two, dislocated his ankle and got a ride in a shiney blue helicopter.
Another BBQ in the rain, another early night and another party, this time with the 4x riders, some non qualified Dh riders and a fire breather on stilts!.
On the way out we dropped my laptop off with Billy Trailmix cos Manon had locked us out of the van. He was busy in the press room working his magic for all you folks at home
Billy working the Dirt webber magic (Just look at that room, sooo late at night that every body else has gone!)
Sunday – Raceday
Manon woke up at 6 and had to shut the boot of the van because we locked her in, gave her the keys, but forgot to shut the boot, ooops.
Slower start on Sunday (after the boot incident anyway) because Manon only wanted one practice run to save some energy for her race run. Pre race check revealed a damaged rim and mech. Little flap then a little bit of work and the Lapierre was running good as new again.
James and Manon went up to the start again where it was wet, windy and quite cold. Further up the hill at the top station there was 6” of snow. Some of the brits who didn’t qualify went up there to play in it. Manon went for a ride up the hill to warm up and got James all worried she was going to miss her start time.
Manon stayed upright for her run, says she didn’t pedal enough, cased a load of jumps, but clean and steady on the technical bits. I was at the finish, no sign of her on the big telly unfortunately, riders outside the top 10 don’t get much coverage, never mind. Manon zoomed into sight at the finish going fast and pedalling hard straight to first place and the hotseat again. I just got a picture of her in the hotseat before Pompom went faster.
Manon in the Hot Cushion, Commentator Dan in front
So now we had to sit it out and see if Manon would get into the top ten and where she would finish. The main goal of the weekend was to try to get into the top 10 to get that Protection (means you qualify automatically in the event of a crash or mechanical). Sabrina went fastest with only Rachel to go. Although she was up at the split the clock ticked by with no sign of Rachel and we eventually heard she had crashed somewhere after the first split.
We saw her later from a distance with her arm in a sling, but otherwise ok. Hope she’s not too bad.
Sabrina took the win again with Manon first Junior. We got her changed, fed, bike washed and back up to watch the mens final. While we were watching the men Amanda from Lapierre came up to Manon and introduced herself and introduced Nico to her. He was very nice and we got a pic for the Dirt webber.
Manon and Nico, or is it the other way around?
Manon Junior Podium
Greg won the mens with Gee very close but you know all this already. Highlight for me was Brendog cleaning the log step down after one of the longest pedals on the track. After the race we went for a well earned snooze before going out to eat a proper restaurant meal for the first time in the weekend. We went out with Sam Dale, his dad Steve, Al Bond, Ralph (wrecking ball?) Jones, Milky and Berty Smith who wasn’t much company cos he was pining after the nice waitress in lederhosen. The crazy German guy from WynTV, Voelker (pronounced Fokker), with the bike box on his back, turned up and created some mild mayhem.
You had to go downstairs from the restaurant to the toilets and there was just THE BEST banister to slide down EVER. It had special slidey carpet next to it and a catch pad at the bottom
ooo James falling off the banister >>
Sam, Al and James sliding the banister but James crashing out.
Al Bond, camp banister sliding stance for sure
All the parties had been held when the racers themselves were tucked up in bed early so there wasn’t anything arranged for the racers after the race itself. Not very appreciative if you ask me. So the racers (Greg included) were left with hotel bars to drink in, which was a recipe for disaster. We came back from banister antics just in time to see a large posse of mountainbike racers being ejected from posh hotel number 1. We left for a quieter bar as some stuff went on, I’m not sure of the outcome. Our bar warmed up a bit later on, the beer flowed, Voelker turned up, WynTV spilled his pint in his lap, some people got drawn on with permanent pen. The main event was the arm wrestling. Steve Smith Vs. Chris Kovarik round 1, went on for a while until Chris laid Steve down.
Chris Kovarik victorious…..until the mighty Chris Hutchens
The next challenger, however, was a suprise, Kovarik was looking strong and dangerous and took a while to step up. Chris Hutchens sat down and took the Australian on…..and took the Australian down, top end to a top weekend. The bar closed and home we went.
Can’t wait for Champery, but next for us it’s Llangollen National, looking forwards to riding Wrexham pump track on Saturday night.
Jason and Manon (written by Jason this time, sorry it’s so long, I had to something on the drive home, sleeeep now)
Check out www.manoncarpenter.com for more news/info.