For day 5 the Trans Savoie transitioned into a new area called Beaufort Ain first thing in the morning and we were dropped by the most beautiful reservoir called Roselane. It is an impossible thing to convey for those who weren’t there but it was a literally breath taking view.
Words: Phil Shucksmith
Photos: Mick Kirkman
Stage 1 started pretty mellow with large roots which made maintaining momentum very rewarding. The speed soon picked up materially with some wide high speed traverses. The bottom section tightened up with a succession of tight but almost hero switchbacks which looked harder than they actually were, making you feel pretty good about yourself.
Stage 2 made the roots on stage 1 look small, although because they were dry it was a lot of fun. The track is called drum and base because it feels like the bike is dancing under you rhythmically over the roots. A big surprise was a rock climb half way down where the track seemed to come to a dead end. It was only when you looked up the rock face it because evident that you must have to clamber up with the bike on your shoulder. Flustered by the unexpected challenge I completely ballsed this up.
Flustered by the unexpected challenge I completely ballsed this up.
Firstly I wasted time fumbling around trying to find a way of lifting the bike up, then on finding a crap way of lifting it I started scrabbling up the rock face only to bounce the front wheel on the wall causing me to tumble back down. After a brief peptalk I mounted a slighly more successful accent. The rest of the track was mint, very rocky and technically challenging but enough flow to keep it rewarding to the end. 300m decent, 1.4km.
Stage 3 was the only semi-man made trail and we got to inspect it from the lift as we went up. From the lift it looked smooth and rippable, but actually on the track it was much more downhill than it looked and there was very little opportunity to get off the brakes. Probably not my favourite track but then we have been very spoilt this week and letting loose for 200m down a steep grass ski piste was a lot of fun. 650m decent 3.5km.
Stage 4. Seriously high speed but always on a very narrow ledge on the edge of a very steep hill. It was a very cool gradient to be off the brakes a lot, but always paranoyed as to what was round the next blind bend. 500m 3km
Stage 5. Very high speed straights with unexpected switch back corners. About one third of the way down we had been warned of a pretty full-on rock section. I came in hot and nailed it carrying really good speed out. Unfortunately I had not learned from my experience the other day and started to give myself a mental pat on the back for just how well I had done. I should have been thinking about how to navigate the next switch back without riding off a ledge into the bushes! 450m decent, 4.5km.
Open Gallery6 Images
Stage 6 was an 800m decent and had everything in. The information sheet at the top said it perfectly, ‘It will go on just a bit too long.’ It was a pretty mental stage. Very high speed ledges with a lot of rocks and roots on to keep you on your toes. Two of the fastest straights had blind ravines which you hit at very high speed, getting just enough warning to try to pre-jump into them but not enough to slow down enough to not bottom out front and rear and do a death press up into the handle bars (all while trying not to fall off the ledge). It was the end of a long day and for me the trail description was spot on. Two thirds of the way down I was going strong until I hit a physical wall and I was a pretty average passenger to the bottom. 800m descent, 5km long.
Results on Day 5:
(As I got into the top 5 today I took the liberty of extending the list!)
1. Nico Lau
2. Francois Bailly-Maitre
3. Florian Golay
=4. Philip Shucksmith
=4. Jamie Nicol
1. Meggie Bichard
2. Monika Buchi
3. Kerstin Kogler
4. Lisa Curry
5. Megan Rose
With only 1 day to go it is starting to get pretty tense for the overall. First and second places look pretty secure in the men’s with Nico Lau and Francois Bailly-Maitre, however for third place there is only 16 seconds splitting Jamie Nicoll and Florian Golay. In the women’s the places are looking more secure with Meggie Bichard looking pretty comfortable for the overall win.
Rider introduction: Francois Bailly-Maitre
Currently coming second place in the Trans Savoie and with at least a couple of EWS podiums under his belt Francois is a force to be reckoned with in enduro.
He originally got into mountain biking through school where they had a competitive sporting culture including ski racing. Mountain biking was initially just a social pursuit but the local cycling club made sure the youth were kept on their toes by holding tri events. Not the tri you are thinking of but the tri of the following: trials, cross country and downhill. Sounds like a good foundation to me!
Francois was one of the top World Junior XC racers, earning a place on the French cross country team. He moved to enduro six years ago, coincidently completing his first enduro on the very mountain we finished on today.
He says he never planned on being a professional racer, however after a few years working in environmental conservation the idea of being paid to ride a bike rather than sitting at a desk looked more appealing and he signed with BMC. A very approachable and relaxed character, he looks like he has the talent and mindset to build on his already very impressive career.