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Åre Maxi-Avalanche Europe Cup Report

Alex Langley and his dad headed over to Sweden at the weekend to race the Maxi-Avalanche event at Åre.

Check out his report:

Ice Baths and the Waiting Game

Its funny how when you haven’t got a clue you seem to be always waiting around and anxious before races. Then, as you become more acutely aware of bike setup, maintenance, warming up, down, recovery shakes and now, ice baths for hands (!), there never seems to be enough time to get everything done.

Are 2009 was about as good as it gets for me; first time in Sweden, surrounded by a fantastic group of friends, took the hole-shot in the first heat and managed to squeeze myself onto the podium. And I haven’t even mentioned how good the cakes are!

Sweden is a feast for the all the senses, a remarkable country that screams excitement and adventure. Some of the most astounding scenery, people and food make this a most excellent destination for almost any reason. But we are here to race mountain bikes and luckily Sweden and Are in particular are exceptionally good at hosting such events. Welcome to round 3 of the Maxi-Avalanche Europe Cup.

I was a little worried that Are wouldn’t make it onto the Maxi-Avalanche calendar this year. The race organizers used to be supported by a large Swedish car manufacture (no, not Volvo!) but lost that income last year. I figured that might have been why they originally came here to race, seeing as how it’s a little harder to get to than most places. Whether this is the reason or not, it’s great to see organizers and resort management continuing to support this as a race venue because in Are there a superb racetrack is to be found.

The Maxi-Avalanche track is somewhere between 15 – 20 minutes long depending on how good your run is and two heats mean that you are completely drained by the end. The course is ever so slightly more DH flavoured than some other tracks, there aren’t many uphill sections and where there are most are of the short sprinty variety. This means that Enduro and DH bikes can almost equally mix it up here. Swedes Herman Olund  (AREBERGSCYKLISTER) and Niklas Wallner put in storming performances last year on their DH bikes utilizing a bucket load of skill and a touch of local ingenuity!!

Anyhows, onto this year: After the schloberknocker (wrestling parlance) of a journey from Stockholm we arrive in Are late and not in the mood to sleep. This year my old boy who is always up for an adventure has come along for the ride (check his photos). The intention was to chill and spend Wednesday building bikes and generally getting sorted before practice on Thursday, however I knew I would be far too keen to get up on the hill so that was never really happen was it?!

Robin Wallner (Sunn) in practice

Luckily the track didn’t disappoint, largely unchanged from last year, fast and rocky at the top, some great flowing techy singletrack in the middle into a nice steeper section with some cool turns near the bottom before trying not to do a Shaun Palmer and loose it on the asphalt in the main square.

The rain that was promised for Friday’s qualifying predictably decided to turn up just before kick off. It actually made the track a lot of fun, turning all the deep dust into a lovely loamy shred fest. Visibility however was a bloomin’ nightmare.

Big hitters in the first heat included Remy Absalon (Commencal) and World Cup downhiller Robin Wallner (Sunn) who initially took first and second respectively. After a stewards enquiry though Remy recieved a penalty for instigating an altercation with Robin. The general feeling was that Robin should have had a penalty too. Remy would start from row B for race day.  Alex Stock took a convincing second for the Brits which he should be stoked with after an excellent third at the last race in Samoens. James McKnight  (Kingdom Bike) also looking good and British in third.

Did I mention it was Misty?! Remy Absalson (Commencal) leading out qualifying heat 1

There was the potential of a similar battle in heat two with Frank Parolin (Riviera Bikes) and Herman Olund (Herman winning the battle last year). Unfortunately Herman dropped out whilst miles ahead with a mechanical, I waved as I went by! Sad to see a great rider and geezer like this get taken out by gremlins.

I managed to get into the lead down the first straight then promptly shot off the track by the first corner not being able to see for the mist on my goggles. Herman whizzed by and I managed to hold onto second for a little while then Frenchman Simon Andre (Sunn) passed me where I should have pulled off a tear-off, Frank Parolin took a lovely inside line for the next pass, quality clean racing, whilst the battle to remove a tear-off had me flying up a bank and losing a further two places. From there on complacency and sore hands took over and I got passed by fellow Brit Martin Astley (Sunn) on a climb whilst napping, I think I shouted some words of encouragement at him, dunno if he heard them but they must have worked as he managed to pass another guy on the next climb, doing good for a flat pedaller.

Leisure Lakes rider Alex Langley temporarily about to take the lead in qualifying heat 2

Girls qualifying race was won in fine fashion by Hanna Oletra riding for Dream Ride Holidays. Hannah won last year and is the firm favourite for Saturday’s finals.

Race day and the nerves never seem to go away do they?? I was pleased to see Remy Abalson line up behind me! Luckily he didn’t get by for a few minutes. Some carnage in the middle of the field pushed me out wide over a few large drops to flat. A solid if unspectacular start set the tone for the rest of the run and I came home tenth. Frank Parolin took the win but man of the match was Herman Olund who came from row D to 5th. Top Brit went to Alex Stock in 6th.

Race one provided plenty of spills at the start

Heat two came around unusually fast, a broken wheel keeping me amused in-between. No carnage at the start this time and I got myself into a strong 4th and was looking forward to trying (!) to follow Robin Wallner. Disaster struck almost immediately and a rear flat sent me spinning off on a corner, landing heavily, fracturing and dislocating my right thumb. DNF, gutted. I was super stoked to be running where I was and still feeling fit to fight in this very competitive field.

The 2nd race was won again by Frank Parolin with Robin Wallner 2nd and Remy Absalson 3rd. Herman again putting in a huge performance to come 6th whilst running a front flat for a short while. Top Brit, Alex Stock in 5th.

Martin Astley (Sunn) rounding the penultimate corner in race 2

Hanna Oletra won the girl’s race for the second year on the trot. After walking back up to the start I got to watch her take the holeshot and lead out all the way to the finish. A dominant and well deserved victory. British rider Catherine Campbell rounded out the top five.

The track here is a fine example of what we should be doing in the UK for Enduro racing. Enduro needs to be physical and yes, I know we don’t have a hill big enough to do a race of this kind (unless they let me loose on Ben Nevis with a spade!) but seriously, the courses need to be way more technical. Trail centres are great places to ride with your buddies but they do nothing to elevate what should be a serious format of racing. I know Steve Parr and his crew are working super hard on a dedicated series for next year and from talking to him he’s defiantly got the right idea. Go Party Parr!!!

Big shout outs go to my Father for the superb company and (I’m sure you’d agree?) the cracking photos. Race organizers and resort management for the best race of the year. Leisure Lakes, Santa Cruz, Mojo and Syncros for by far and away the best bike on the hill and last but not least; for the excellent care I received under the care of orthopaedic surgeon Oliver Timmle and staff of Ostersund Hospital.

Laterz, peace, I’m out. Quite literally!

How’s that?? Cracking!!

1)     Frank Parolin (France)

2)     Robin Wallner (Sweden)

3)     Simon Andre (France)

4)     Remy Absalon (France)

5)     Alex Stock (Great Britain)

Women

1)     Hanna Oletra (Sweden)

2)     Jenny Ottonson (Sweden)

3)     Kristin Signemark (Sweden)

4)     Mathilda Heimer (Sweden)

5)     Catherine Campbell (Great Britian)

For full results go to:

http://www.avalanchecup.com/maxiavalanche-are-swe-resultats-2010.html

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