Manon Chronicles – Summer in Europe – Part 1, Champery

The exciting story of young Welsh junior World Cup rider Manon Carpenter continues in Champery for WC#4.

Manon Chronicles – Summer in Europe – Part 1, Champery

Words:Jason Carpenter.

Sorry it took me so long to get round to this, we’ve been flat out, thanks to Rui of Faro MC for shaking me out of my writing block.

The story of our trip to the last two European World Cups of 2010 begins at home.  Training.  With the rumours circulating of the big jump section in Champery it was time to get some of the DH jumps local to us finally nailed.  Manon had hit a few over the Winter on her XC bike, but that all ended with a concussion just before the Maxxis race in Fafe.  Since then, jumps during XC rides were out for her.  In the run up to Champery I was working locally so we were out almost every night.  While everyone else was getting muddy in Ae forest at the National Champs we were riding DH in the Valleys.
Manon Carpenter: Training in Wales >>

Manon hitting one of the secret step downs in S Wales

Also, since visiting Austria, Germany and Slovenia I had been getting serious wood envy.  EVERY house out there has a massive stack of firewood.  So I set out correcting this with a concerted effort to fill the garden ready for the winter.

A van full of Wales finest Beech

I also hooked up with one of my old time buddies from the early Dragon Downhill days, Jeremy Wyatt, and finally got a picture of his Dragon tattoo.  The Dragon logo is one I stole from a tattoo parlour in Merthyr back in 1998 to use on the first laser cut trophies.  The numbers are the time it took Jeremy to finish his first Dragon race which was at Mountain Ash, I think it involved banging his head a couple of times and sitting on the floor for a while.  Anyway, it was Jers first Dragon race and it meant a lot to him.

Jers Dragon DH Tattoo

The run up to leaving for champery was a bit hectic, We were finishing a job in Ferndale and tarmacing the berms the day before we left.  They now have a sweet pump track deep in the South Wales Valleys tucked away in an industrial estate.  What with all the training and working, I was starting off the trip a little overtired.  Manon finished school the same day and we were set.

Ferndale Skatepark BMX pumptrack, finished the day before we left for Champery

The van was filled to the roof again, this time the co driver was Mum Lynette.  Have to add that Manon passed her driving test the week before we left as well so congratulations there, but there is no way she’s driving my van after the last time she stuck it in a ditch.

Last time Manon drove my van back in 2008 Rheola

As usual when we visit Europe we seek out a few BMX tracks along the way to break up the journey.  This time we hit Dijon and used the intergoogle to find the facts.  We went to two tracks, one out of town that was used for the French National champs and one in the centre of town, location shown.  When I was chatting to one of the Marshals in Champery it turned out that he used to use the one in town when he was a kid alongside non other than Anne Caro Chausson herself.   We got real sweaty riding both tracks in the midday sun then cooled off in Dijon Plage for a swim, a snooze, then back on the road.

Dijon BMX track next to the swimming lake.  This track has real history, there are only two BMX tracks in the World that have bred BMX Olympic Gold medallists

Manon on the start hill Dijon out of town track

We pulled up at our chalet in Champery late on Monday night after a 24 hour trip that involved a swim, 2 bmx tracks and one skatepark, no pics sorry, the lights went out 20 minutes after we got there.  We hit the sack, had a decent lie in.


Manon and I went out and had a full day riding  the Swiss side of the Portes De Soliel.   I had to seriously man up as I didn’t want my chicken nature rubbing off on Manon in the run up to the race.  I hit all the jumps on the Grand Conche, Croisettes first time ( a first for me)  Manon followed suit so we went to find some more.  Back up the Croisettes lift to Morgins to find some of the stuff built by the Champery track builder Ben Walker.  We spent the rest of the day riding the Morgins red and blue tracks which are fantastic fun but both had refusals on the road gap at the top of the Morgins red.  Me because I’m too old for shit like that and Manon because she had some serious races coming up.  Maybe, just maybe we’ll do them another day….
Training in switzerland >>

Manon getting in the jump at the bottom of the Grand Conche

Wednesday was sign on and track walking so we all had a well deserved lie in.   We shared our Chalet with Ollie Burtons mum Sue so they turned up Tuesday morning.  At sign on we were told that there was no provision for privateers without prebooked pitches (like 500e’s) and we would have to pit from the Champery Village 2km away…..Like, sure we could do that!!  We found a spot in a little field close to the venue with the rest of the poor privateers and left the van there for the duration of the event.  When it rained it was completely stuck there anyway.  When will these organisers realise that it’s the privateers that are the roots of UCI World cups and make some provision for them??? Bonkers

The track itself was steep for sure but not very technical in an MTB sense, Jones (Dirt Magazine) would have hated it.  Digger built from top to bottom with just two or three rooty sections.  Scarey fast jumps too.  Seriously big at the bottom, but hey you’ve seen the track vids.  I got one myself, I helped talk Tracy into a small huck at the bottom of the track, she had a go and crashed into the netting, it looks worse than it was, don’t think she hurt herself tho.  I did feel a bit guilty afterwards.  Pointless too because they took this line out for the next day.
MPORA Action Sports >>

Thursday practice was cool, the track was steep but easy enough to ride so no drama, just took Manon some time to get in the jumps.  We agreed she wasn’t to try the jumps at the bottom as they were ‘Man’ sized.  Good to see that Claire and Florian were doing them.  Manon did some timed practice runs and was happy enough with a full run.

But, you might have heard that it rained on Friday, which was good for the ladies race, in my opinion,  as it evened things out a bit taking out the sneaky pre race jump practice element….  the track got just a bit muddy.  Manon kept coming down from practice….’I can’t ride….. I can’t keep my feet on….’  I went up to watch some practice and was able to tell her that neither could anyone else either.   My advice was, believe and keep confident, enjoy it and Wowee Manon qualified 4th, not a podium finish yet, but proves she can get up there.  We put full Wet Screams on for her qualifying run for the second time this year, she was amazed, said she could ‘steer’.

Manons bike weighed twice it’s dry weight after her run, completely covered in mud, no kidding.  As soon as the top men came down it absolutely thrashed down with rain, I saw Danny Hart after his run not 25 mins after Manons run and his bike was wet and dirty, but no mud on it, crazy conditions.

Washing the bikes was a total nightmare, thank god I had some Fenwicks FS10 to pre-soak the bike..  The pressure washers themselves were cool, but there were 10 hoses all crammed into two ezyups.  With 600 Xc riders and 300 DH riders it was carnage, I came out totally drenched, head to toe, should have worn my speedos I guess, not bothered though, still buzzing on Manons result.

The hill at Champery was sooo steep my legs were killing me from walking the track.  The organisers had a chopper on standby during all of racing and practice, instead of trying to stretcher injured riders out they went in with the chopper and a winchman to pluck them out, dropping them into the fields at the bottom for medical attention.  This was alarming at first but was a good service.  Wouldn’t have been much fun walking down with a broken collarbone or a concussion.

Helicopter rubber duck fishing

Race Day

More rain overnight and muddy practice again, lots of heavy ruts in the track but it was still riding quite well.  Manon had the long wait at the top for the first time, Top 5 riders in the ladies get a 3 minute gap for TV production.  She was in good spirits and confident so all looked good.  I went up with her to carry her bike down to the start to keep it as clean as possible pre race run.  I ran back up to the lift as fast as I could so I could watch her run (thought I was going to have a heart attack – no air up there see)

Manon at the start for her race run, Allez, Allez, Vite Vite

Champery Race Venue from the top, chairlift

The crowd at the jump section before the finish from the chairlift

I got down the chairlift just in time to watch the top ten ladies.  Again, not much footage of Manon on the big screen, shame, but she had a good first split, Mum and I were very excited.  She crossed the finish in third place but then got bounced back to sixth by the top three.  Not the podium she was looking for, but sixth, her best result so far.  She crashed twice in her race run, once with the bike on top of her.  Does anyone have any video???  Annoying for her, but hey, thats racing.

Carpenter on the scoreboard

Emmelines first WC win, nice one!!

Sorry I missed Manons Junior podium as I dropped my phone and the battery fell out. (ED:I found one)

Manons main goal of the weekend was to break into the top ten so she’d get that valuable protection (top ten in the ladies and top 20 in the men are protectected from disqualification in qualifying…..confused?, me too but it’s dead useful if you get it)  Unfortunately she was still ranked 11th after a 4th in quali and 6th in the final, gutted.

We cleaned up, ate then went out and had a drink in Champery, saw a whole bunch of racers, apart from the main UK contingent who scooted off to Morzine to sleep in a car park.  Someone stole Gees Redbull mammoth hat so if you see it on ebay let him know.

Sunday we went out and rode the DH bikes hard all the way to Morzine, rode Al Bonds ‘StepDown’ then headed back, made the last lift to Croisettes by 5 minutes then rode a mint link track round the mountain back to Champery village.

Monday we packed up, left Champery for Sweet Verona, Italy.  On the way we stopped in to check out the changes to the BMX Supercross track at the UCI headquarters in Aigle Switzerland, mellowed out 8m high start hill, pro lines on the second and third straights, improved pump track, sweet, jumped everything (in my dreams)

Aigle BMX supercross track from the top of the 8m high start hill.

To Val Di sole Via the Opera in Verona

As we had pro mum along to help with the driving we had to keep her sweet with some sight seeing, shopping, traipsing and the Opera?!?  We went to see Aida in the Roman amphitheatre in Verona, excellent venue, good story, I only fell asleep the twice, but the music was lovely with your eyes closed.  Cans of coke were 4 Euros each!!!

Aida Opera in Sweet Verona

Part II coming as soon as I get a chance.

Jason Carpenter.

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