Racing, Riding and Summer Road Tripping with Helen Gaskell
You'll no doubt remember Helen Gaskell from her World Cup racing days, but what's she up to now? Well read on...
Over the past few months I have been riding my bike constantly! From racing all 5 rounds of the UK Gravity Enduro Series to road tripping through the Alps and taking part in the Mega Avalanche.
At the start of the year I got an awesome deal with Scott UK and have been riding enduro on a Scott Genius LT 10. With 180mm of travel and a carbon frame I have been climbing the hills like mountain goat and been hot on the tail of downhill queen Tracy Moseley (T-Mo) on the descents.
One of the rare moments where I've been in front of T-Mo.
One of the enduro rounds came to my local trail Hamsteley Forest, it was an awesome weekend and the weather couldn't have been better. I thought to myself, if I'm going to have a chance of beating T-Mo it will be on my home turf! All the stages were brilliant, they had jumps, natural sections, berms and even up hills. It was a great weekend of racing. Tracy was on fire, as always, and she took the win, I came second with Sarah Newman taking 3rd spot. There was over 20 girls racing that weekend, it was so good to see and I can only imagine the field getting bigger with Enduro racing becoming even more popular.
Loving the snow in practice.
As well as racing, I have also been busy coaching. I was asked to be involved in the awesome Air Maiden 2012 weekend, over 50 girls had entered for the free ride and coaching weekend, it just gets bigger and better every year.
I'm also involved in the Diva Descent weekend on the 18/19th August, its a Downhill only race for Woman. If you want to work on your bike skills check out my coaching website www.helengaskell.co.uk and get in touch!
After Air Maiden, I had a few days to get everything packed in my campervan ready for a road trip to the Alps with my friends. I packed lots of spares as I knew a few weeks of riding and racing the Mega out there would take its toll on my kit and I didn’t want to forget anything!
First stop was Morzine and Les Gets, the sun was shining and we were all excited to ride. We only stayed a couple of days in Morzine, the breaking bumps were not that much fun so we decide to go to La Cluz and ride there. We got a lift up the mountain and started following some crazy signs - it ended up being a epic 7 hour ride - I only had a small bottle of water (should of known better!) We ended up going some epic way and finding some amazing trails, I still loved it even if I was nearly passing out with dehydration …The next day we were all pretty tired so decided to have a rest in the morning and have a game of crazy golf.
Extra points for doubling it up...oh yeah!
After some rad crazy golf, was time to move on to the beautiful Chamonix. I have spent lots of time out there when I was growing up, I learnt to ride and snowboard there! We did the Merlot Route, it’s a old favourite of mine, we rode up the mountain for about an hour and a half to get to the singletrack, you can see the glacier from the top, the scenery helps when you are climbing for sure! At the top it had some vertical cliff edges, which can be a little scary if you look down, I decided not to look so I could get a little sideways on the berms ; ) The singletrack down takes about 20mins, flowing rooty, rocky, natural sections. It’s a must ride, it's not hard and just so much fun!
That night the rain decided to set in, so we made a group decision to move out the valley! I text Tracy who was already in Alp D'huez where we’d be heading for the Mega, she said it was beautiful sunshine! So we had a rapid lock-down in the vans and started trucking!
We drove up a mountain pass which the Tour had been up a couple of days before, next year I'm taking my road bike so I can ride the 25km climb! We had a few stops on the way up to check out the view and let Steve's van cool down, the trusty VW was over heating a little…Somehow my van decided to roll back on its own accord …….see pic below……
I think I may have run faster than Usain Bolt!
After the three hour drive we finally arrived in Allemont, we stayed at a lovely campsite right at the finish of the Mega track. For that week it was all about the Mega Avalanche race, out of all my friends I was the only one to have ever done it before. After a nice relaxing evening, we got up at 7.30am and went to the very top, to sample some of the snow. It was a funny morning, Sarah was sliding down on her ass out of control and Angela was making a slush puppy with her peak on her helmet in the snow going flat out down the mountain (you can imagine the laughs I got!)
Having a rest after the steep section of snow.
The whole track was 32km, there is a bit of climbing, but not much, so it was going to be one very exciting, hard week! Everyday was beautiful sunshine, we rode nearly everyday stopping to have one rest day because it was getting hard on my hands. My Scott was perfect for the riding out there, having that bit of extra travel was great. Qualifying came round fast, the track was about 30minutes long and the holes that appeared from the sheer number of riders was crazy! I qualified well, which gave me the front line for the final, which is very important for a mass start race like the Mega.
Race day came and the alarm went off at 5.30am, yes too early hey! It takes so long to get to the top, plus we were staying at the very bottom of the valley…
Nice and early start with my weapon friends.
So Race Day, I had a pretty average start, I was in the top 10, the snow for our race was really soft, which meant we all had to run the flat sections of the piste which is very hard when at altitude!
Anne Caro (the legend she is) had a flying start, Tracy was trying hard to stay with her but she is just too good even for the jet fighter (T-Mo). I was battling down in about 10th spot, I was over half way down, feeling good but somehow got a rear flat even with tubeless!? I knew that was it for me; I was fixing it at the side and could see so many girls flying past! Overall the race was amazing, as ever, always epic in one way or another. (Everyone get it in your diary for 2013… I will be there for sure!)
After the Mega it was time to head back to the UK for more coaching and racing, next stop was the 4th round of the Gravity Enduro at Eastridge. I did some practice and the trails were great fun and I was feeling nice and fit after my few weeks of riding in France.
The weather stayed nice all weekend with the odd shower to make the tricky stages a little harder. It was another great event, big up to Steve Parr for getting this series going in the UK. Tracy Moseley once again took the win, I was 55seconds behind her in second, with Sarah Newman getting a constant 3rd spot, Aimee Dix came out of deep dark Wales to race and took 4th spot with Carrie Poole, the smallest, but brilliant enduro rider in 5th place.
Sometimes you have to go away to really appreciate the stuff on your doorstep.
Since I have been home, the weather has been better so I got to get some more great epic rides done in the Lakes. We rode up Helvellyn at the weekend and it was superb.
I still have a few more events left this season, a local 1-2-1 race at Hamsterley Forest in a few week, XC on the Saturday and DH on the Sunday, you have to use the same bike throughout the whole weekend. Get it entered, so much fun! And after that is the final Gravity UK enduro in Wales.
I’m also involved and running a coaching weekend at One Giant Leap with Campbell Coaching, its on the 15/16th September…Check that out everyone.
I’m already looking forward to next season, with the talk of a UCI Enduro World Series, events like Trans Provence …Best get away from my desk and go riding ; )
See you on the trails