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Barel beats Vouilloz in the Himalayas

Fabien Barel takes the win from Nico Vouilloz and René Wildhaber in this epic mountain race in the foothills of the Himalayers. Checkout the photo’s and story below.

The event in the multiple facets which has just taken place during a week on the foothills of Himalaya is undoubtedly unclassifiable. Is it a trip? An adventure? A race or a humanitarian aid? And indeed it is a few of all this, according to Fabien Barel’s will, because the other name of the URGE Nepal is also the ” Fabien Barel Invitational ” number 2.

The first edition had already given rise to an epic adventure in 2009. It was an exciting race and the will to bring a humanitarian aid gave convincing results in terms of help to the local populations. The challenge of the 2nd version of Urge Events thus was to make at least as well.

On the rider’s side, Fabien Barel, the double world champion of DH, managed to gather a sample of the best pilots of the planet Mountain bike. Judge it rather with the list of the 13 fortunates:

Sabrina Jonnier (multiple winner of Cups and World championships DH), Nicolas Vouilloz (the pilot the most titled in DH by the history(story)), René Wildhaber (the biggest specialist of the planet in DH marathon), Darren Berrecloth (a monument of the world scene Freeride), Alex Balaud (twice winner  of the Trophy of Nations Enduro), Sam Peridy (World champion DH Master’s degree), Olivier Giordanengo (one of the biggest specialists of French enduro), Greg Doucende (multiple winner of the Mountain of Hell), Maurin TROCELLO ( top 10 enduro series), Nico Vink (the most beautiful stylist of the circuit of world cup DH), Simone Zaniboni ( top 10 of the great Italian enduro) and finally the local pilot Kumar Pong.

The adventure begins in Paris CDG airport because the storm which rages in Ile-de-France does not allow all the planes to land. The caravan is already cut in two at first because the unfortunate Vink, Balaud and Trocello miss the transfer and will arrive on the spot 30 hours after the other pilots. Not a good start considering the acclimatization at the height. But it is necessary to adapt himself, there is no choice, the adventure is the adventure.

Of more or less big planes, by bus more or less customized, our whole crew arrives safe and sound finally after 48 hours of journey.  All our thanks go to Cap Liberté, the organizator.

It is in Jomson (2720mètres of height), not far from the tarmac of the short landing runway nested between mountains, that all the pilots bustle to assemble MOUNTAIN BIKE with the aim to be ready for the following days. The first two days will serve as warm-up and as acclimatization before the ascent itself ( 1 and a half day) and naturally the descent.

Tuesday is warm-up day, short rides and discovery of the environment. The weather is pleasant and alone the very strong wind which blows in the high valley will slightly come to perturb the pilots.

All arrive finally at Kagbeni (2800m) and discover a village of a rare beauty and a comfortable lodge which offers them food and board for this first evening in height.

The awakening rings early in this Wednesday morning to take advantage completely of the beautiful day . This day is used as first test and as real acclimatization to the height (ascent and descent of a good pass to try to prevent the altitude disease that can strike anytime.

Just before leaving, the owner of the lodge who contains in its surrounding wall an old Buddhist temple of several centuries is anxious to give each of us a supposed blessed scarf to protect ourselves during our trip. Everybody accepts gladly, almost religiously, in front of so much kindness and attentions, also saying to himself that it is maybe better to put all the assets on his side.

Pilots and members of the staff are very careful during the ascent, which thus leads us to a pass situated at 3700 m of height and nobody tries to impress some supposed opponent. It is thus wisely that all acclimatize. During the descent the philosophy changes completely and, talent obliges, the speed that the riders reach is amazing.  Halfway we find our 3 pilots (Vink, Balaud, Trocello) who join finally the group and are too happy to share a small battle of welcome, even if Nico Vink has to content himself with a loan bike (like Mark Weir last year, its bike will never arrive to Nepal).  The most difficult part of the day was finally the return towards Marpha via Jomson with the very strong facing wind which blows every afternoon. Fortunately Marpha in itself is already a reward for all. Magnificent and harmonious architecture, this city is a real film set and nevertheless it is very real, and Nepal sublimates it! We are lucky to spend another comfortable and pleasant night in the lodge. All take some rest before the next two days, underlined in red on the road book, the most intense and key days of the trip. To the menu of this Thursday, an ascent since Marpha 2670m until 3600m approximately, place of our bivouac. The objectives of the day are double for the pilots. Rise quietly to save energy, hydrate a maximum but also scrutinize every meter of the path because it is on this same path that all will come down again for the race on Friday. The favorites who eye the victory such as Vouilloz and other Wildhaber already distance themselves. They look for the best lines and try to settle marks not to make a mistake in the trajectory, what would be highly harmful for the final result.  It is a day made of 80 % of climbing with the bike on shoulders  and only 20 % on the bike, but despite the difficulty to climb the path seems promising, and everybody want to ride it.

Taghendra, our chief local guide, concocted us a bivouac 5 stars under the good auspices of the peaks Tilicho and Nilgiri which peak at more than 7000m. The setting is beautiful and the enjoyment ggiven by this camp of luxury installed right by sheepfolds is for the diapason. All the pilots are welcomed by a lemony warm drink, one of the local rites.   Then a first and copious meal is served to them before letting them settle down comfortably in one of the tents,2 places brand new (and with mattress) which are reserved for them.  Too easy this Urge Nepal !

During the evening, everyone is around the table, under a nice tent with a good mood to honor guides and cooks who really surpassed themselves to offer a meal of a high quality with sublime local flavors. The troops of downhillers are in shape with a morale set fair at the time of the last blinkings of eyelids around the fire lit by our hosts.

Despite this good moment, the organization staff is worried. The snow fell in abundance these last weeks in Nepal and in low altitude. More low than usually in any case. Shall we be capable to give the departure of the race at 5100m like initially planned ? Nothing is less sure, but the answer is for tomorrow and it is the mountain which will decide on it.

After a good tea or a warm coffee, it is the departure with frontal lights at 5 am. The first climbing with bikes on shoulders near the bivouac is very stiff and does not allow strictly speaking a gently muscular awakening but has at least the merit to put us fast in action.

The team of organization, gone first, has to face the problem it had foreseen. On the plan initially chosen the snow already recovers the path at 4100 m.  Impossible to continue on this trail because if however we succeed in rising, the pilot will not be able to ride it. Disappointed, but not beaten, the organization staff decides to turn on the left side of the mountain, on a snow free side, around 4000 m. The first part looks like a path of Yak but quickly we are almost on a off-piste skiing. The slope is stiff, very stiff and the climbing becomes a painful challenge.   The team reaches the acceptable limit of 4350 meters of altitude, regrettably far from the 5100 m initially hoped but which will preserve, they think, during  the race all the quintessence and the quality wished, even if it has to be to the detriment of the quantity. It would doubtless have been harmful if it had been necessary for example to push its MOUNTAIN BIKE in descent with some snow up to thighs.

The departure area is settled  with in the background the most beautiful of the panoramas and one of the most beautiful symbols which is, Dhaulagiri which down from its 8172 meters, arouses the respect and the admiration of all the climbers.

A photo of the whole family, then, it is the starting signal for Fabien Barel at 11:45 am. Fabien wants to open the trail, which is not an advantage when you have no trace to follow and no prior recognition. But Fabien wants to be at the bottom when everybody will cross the finish line to welcome all the riders. He is already at the end of the Freeride part in less than 3 or 4 minutes, keeping the fastest lines under the eyes of the other pilots. Everybody’s warned, the level is very high.

The battle is effectively going to rage between the 3 favorites (Barel, Vouilloz and Wildhaber) and the outsiders (Doucende, Balaud, Giordanengo and Peridy) who will take the start every 3 minutes in the order established by the drawing lots. A run 100 % SINGLETRACK of a rare beauty, a rare intensity and all to comment on arrival one of the best sequences of ride of their life and god knows  they know a lot about riding!  This comment is very important for us.

Fabien will take less than 30 minutes to reach the finish line. He will win this edition, admitting that he pushed his limits many times but “it was so amazing, so fun”. Nico Vouilloz takes the 2nd place. He is a little bit disappointed. He blames himself 2 or 3 errors of trajectory while accepting gladly his defeat today against better than him. René Wildhaber takes the 3rd place. Maybe would René do a better place if the trail was more physical and less “pilots” dedicated. But René is a gentleman, and he was not disappointed at all by the situation. On the contrary he was the first one to greet warmly the performances of his counterparts.  Behind them the order is finally respected and each is on its place in a way in spite of the flats of Trocello or the breaking of chain of Peridy. It was a really crystal clear race in fact. All recognized unanimously also the performance of Sabrina, first girl to take up the challenge and always with the smile.  It is in an atmosphere of big brotherhood shared between organizers, guides and pilots that takes place the ceremony of the rewards, this same evening in Marpha. There was a lot of emotion also at the time of paying tribute to Sam Peridy, to his wife Zaza and to their son of Nepalese origin Tony.

This family was the real centre of gravity of this Urge Népal and this kid is a real hurricane of happiness.

It’s our way to remind everybody that if the adventure Urge Népal ended on Saturday, March 6th after a 70 kms of a magical ride (out of the competition) and a memorable party (where so many of us showed how much they were happy to be there…), the far more important humanitarian adventure, continues through the auction sale we organize.  The money of these sales will go to 100 % to the association Children Home for Nepal of our friend Guillaume and to the school of MOUNTAIN BIKE of Tanguy.

The money will be used to build schools, to allow the Nepalese young people to ride MOUNTAIN BIKES and why not to develop a long-lasting job within the framework of their passion..

Follow the story on the www.urgenepal.com website. This website is created by our partner Altermondo…a good way to be aware about a third edition of the Urge events…who knows ?

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