The final round of the MaxiAvalanche went down at the weekend in Flims, Switzerland. Old Skool UK rider Aidan Bishop made the trip out there with a gang of mates and sent back this great race report.
MaxiAvalanche EuropeCup Round 4 Flims, Switzerland
Report: Aidan Bishop
Photos: Barbara Sztyk
This time last year, a last minute decision was made to go and race this round of what was last year’s Avalanche Trophy. That weekend I had so much fun riding and racing this format of race that I had to come back for more this year. This year 4 rounds of the MaxiAvalanche races made up the EuropeCup, with Flims in Switzerland hosting the final round again this season. Last year was blessed with warm sunshine all weekend, so would this year be the same……..kind of! With some heavy rainfall Thursday night/Friday morning the course was slick, muddy with snow at the top!! But thankfully the Saturday and Sunday was spoilt with lovely sunshine pretty much all weekend.
Gondola to the top of the course, and some views.
The start list for the final round of the EuropeCup was pretty stacked, with number one Remy Absalon, Franck Parolin, Simon Andre, Florian Golay and other ‘specialists’ all present, plus the edition of the current XCO World Cup Champion Nino Schurter thrown in…..could his fitness be enough to beat the technical skills of regular marathon DH racers?? The Brits had a good presence too with the likes of Alex Stock, Ian Austermuhle, Charlie Williams, Mike Thickens, Fraser Dales and Co. and myself were all out for good riding and racing.
So Friday the course was open for practice but not a great amount of riders opted to ride the course, instead waiting for their weekend lift pass and see what the weather would do. Saturday morning was practice then the afternoon held the 3 qualifying races, first 34 across the line would make it through to the ‘EuropeCup’ main final with other finishers then competing in the ‘Challenger Cup’, first 8 would get front row, next 8 second row, etc.
Looking for alternative lines near the start!
With the course still being slippy up top I had an interesting morning, not managing to complete a full run without a getting a flat tyre (must just use DH tyres next year!!) but still enjoying the course and the riding time. Qualifying was a rush to get the bike fixed ready and the lift up to the start, I made it in time to see the first heat set off with Absalon controlling the race from the front and taking the win. Second heat was my one, previous results seeded me on the front row and so an average start got me settled in the top 10. Mike Thickens joined me and another rider, all jostling for top 8 positions when with 5 mins or so of the course left my front tyre flatted again on one of the sharp little rocks sticking out…..Gutted! I kept riding where I could and found it was taking time for people to overtake and so managed to finish 27th, good enough to make the Europecup final but would be lining up on row D. Mr Schurter posted the fastest time Saturday and so had first line choice for Sunday’s finals, and other Brits fared well too with Alex Stock and Ian Austermuhle making row A and Mike Thickens and Charlie Williams making row B.
Alex Stock (3rd in pic) on his way to a solid 10th place overall
The weather was bright and dry again Sunday morning and so the course would ride pretty much the same as Saturday. So we were on the lift for 9am ready to line up for the first final at 10am. Due to the snow at the top of the course, the start was different to last year’s, where as last year there was probably a 200m wide open sprint to the first corner this time they were forced to use a narrow tarmac road for 100m and then up a bank and then onto the effective first corner, and with 24 riders wide going at it there was plenty of incidents off the start!
Me going for an alternative line in an effort to pass more riders.
First race everyone lined up, I was at the back on row D (72 riders in front of me!). The helicopter was filming again, the 5 second board was shown and then we were off….well the front row was while I watched them go and waited until I could start pedalling! Held up with one crash in front of me I got going and luckily a gap opened up in front of me and so I put my head down and sprinted through it. I had looked at alternative lines before the start and was able to make use of most of them and so allowed me to pass a lot of riders within the first 1KM of the race. It was hectic, with riders everywhere, different lines being used, etc. Once you get down off the top of the course there was a long fire road to pedal along, I managed to pass a handful of riders here but from then on the race settles down a lot and making ground on anyone in front of you then is slow going. I made it down without any mechanical issues thankfully and ended up 32nd place overall.
Working the Trek Remedy.
Second race was at 2PM and again everyone converged on the start line ready to be called up to their line. This time I opted for a different start position, placing myself far left I decided it would keep me away from any crashes and give me more of a chance to sprint around the outside of a lot of riders. The plan worked fairly well, I nearly didn’t make it back onto the road off the start due to one incident but I was on the bike and making places up faster than the first race. The rest of the race went similar to the first, besides one last straight overtake and with the more positive start I managed to work my way up to finish 25th in the second race which I was pretty happy about all things considered.
The battle at the front was very close between Absalon and Schurter, with Schurter winning the second race he also took the overall win with Florian Golay in third, results are as follows:
1_ Nino Schurter
2_ Remy Absalon
3_ Florian Golay
4_ Franck Parolin
5_ Lukas An rig
And the Brits:
10 _ Alex Stock
19 _ Ian Austermuhle
23 _ Mike Thickens
28 _ Aidan Bishop
42 _ Charlie Williams
Full results on AvalancheCup.com
Gratuitous scenery shot!!
So that’s the series over with for another year. The overall series wins and EuropeCup champions in Pro went to Remy Absalon (Commencal) who seems to be a very strong and consistent rider at this discipline who is very tough to beat, Simon Andre (Sunn) won the seniors and………I managed to win the Masters30 category!!
I’ve had a great time racing these events and can fully recommend them to anyone who enjoys riding. Entry will cost you 50 Euros which gives you two days lift accessed riding and racing for on average 2 full hours of riding time, value for money in my book. Looking forward to next year and hopefully will see more Brits racing out there too.
Checkout AvalancheTrophy for more info.