The final round of the 2014 World Cup season has officially kicked off, and it looks like it's going to be an absolute stormer! With the points battle being so tight we needed a 'real' track to do the race justice, and that is exactly what Meribel looks to have delivered. It's the first time Meribel has featured on the World Cup calendar, but if it proves to be as good as we think it's going to be then we really hope it becomes a regular stop on the circuit. Now we just can't wait for the racing to start! Until then though, sit back and enjoy some incredible views of this new track thanks to Laurence Crossman-Emms...
In the winter this is one of the most popular skiing areas in Europe. Based in the Tarentaise Valley in the French Alps, Meribel sits at 1400m, right in the heart of an activity filled ski area. But when the summer comes, it doesn't stop! A huge tourist attraction for riders and families to come and experience these rugged hills.
The Europeans like to go big when the World Cup rolls into town. A triple header to tick off the World Cup season, with all new tracks being built for everything. There's even an appearance of trials at the bottom of the valley to entertain the masses that are hopefully going to descend on this small town.
A simple itinerary for the riders for todays activities. Some say they have it tough.
We are just a tiny spec on a huge map outlining the surrounding ski terrain. For skiing in the Alpes it doesn't get a whole lot better. But good ski terrain breeds insane downhill tracks...and were at the top of one!
The adventure starts with a fast lift journey to the top of the hill, but with outstanding views all around you don't know where to be looking. Atherton Racing hill bound for track walk. Marc Beaumont chats about his thoughts on the track. [audio url=" http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/4_audio.mp3"]
Small, but it has it all here in Meribel. This quintessentially Alpine town hosts a huge influx of winter tourists...I'm sure they will be able to cope with a few rowdy bike riders.
The french like to mix it up I suppose by kicking off the track in a less conventional way by dropping out of a lake. This reservoir providing the perfect background as you are about to roll in. At least you can't complain about the view in front of you!
So the idea was to drop in off the over flow for the lake, which I think on paper sounds amazing, but when the rain comes and the river quite possibly...overflows...then it may turn the track into more of a kayaking slalom course than a DH track.
All the teams are rolling in for the final track walk of the 2014 World Cup season and everyone is looking to send it out with a bang. But what a track to end on. Not even into the first few corners and you are already frothing at the mouth with excitement to ride this track...ride of the year?
With Meribel being a new venue for the World Cup circuit there is a lot of prep that goes into making it all come together, and in true European style it's always left until the last minute when the seconds are really counting. Finishing touches on the DH track this afternoon, whilst the XCE track is built and the trials sections are tidied up. Nothing like a bit of just in time working.
Out of the gate and you are right into it. A few pedal strokes sets you up into a steep booter which drops you into the first section of technical rocks. Bouncing through and off this road gap, it just keeps coming. More rocks, shady loose turns and it's fast!
Chasing the overall this weekend, number 1 plate female, Manon Carpenter feels right at home on these long, technical tracks. Excited about the shapes up top, she can't wait to get out on her bike, but with the points race still so tight in the women’s, it will be one hell of a fight to hold the title.
The excitement just keeps coming as the track weaves its way down the valley on this loose dry ridge and into the woods. Although the track is bone dry now, the hovering clouds and unpredictable forecast could set in for a wet one. Either way this track is going to be a physically tough one, technical pretty much top to bottom.
Tucking out of the open section and into the first of several wooded sections, the track takes a turn for the muddy and rooty. Now this is DH! Technical rocks and roots with plenty of line choice to really mix things up. The riders have been waiting all season for something a little spicier. It will be interesting to see how the lines shape up come practice with the natural feel of the track.
From the woods and back out onto the piste, already around 2-3 mins in and you can't even make out the bottom of the track. This fast section will make or break a few riders going into the last woods with a few sniper lines which could unlock some vital time.
Damp and greasy inside the woods, and that was before the rain came. Looks like it's going to be a full spikes weekend with the track being so steep and slippery. Non of this hard packed bike park stuff we have been seeing at some of the tracks. Fine Alpine terrain to get stuck into.
The smiley face rock approves of this section of the track, full throttle to the bottom of the valley. Another key section to make good time before the finish line.
Mach 10 and into the final jump feature which by the looks of it will quickly turn into a long jump challenge to see who can send it the furthest. You wouldn't want to crash out this close to the line though trying to go big in your run.
Crossing the line and closing track walk for the 2014 World Cup Season. With the general rider consensus being a huge thumbs up, it sure is going to be an insane end to what has already been a crazy summer of bike racing.
With all the space available around the valley, it was still a bit of a logistical struggle to fit everyone in, pits are strewn all over the town. A raw deal for the campers of the group though, they have been pushed out to the neighbouring town above, really out the way.
Steve's ready to rock this...are you?! Out of the top 20 for the first time this season, he his keen to smash it out this weekend!
Broken bones, missing bikes, delayed flights and jet lag are a few of the problems that riders have been facing the past few days. News travels fast that Troy and Brendan are both missing bikes and plenty are feeling the post Crankworx blues. Young Scotty Mears got a little zesty in Morzine this week and broke his hand, not the best way to end the season, but in positive hopes he is keen for the new season with a fresh start. [audio url=" http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/21_audio.mp3"]
The Syndicate are hoping for a big one this weekend with Josh looking like he may take the win. Building up the steeds ready for racing, these new 27.5 machines have been doing the boys proud so far.
Focused and 'peaking', Josh Bryceland although relaxed and open as he normally is, will be feeling the pressure of the overall coming down on him, with everyone asking him, 'How you feeling?', 'Feeling nervous?', 'You going to win?', but we won't know until he swings a leg in practice tomorrow whether or not this is his track. [audio url=" http://cdn.coresites.factorymedia.com/dirt_new/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/23_audio1.mp3"]
Number boards prepped for racing. Most bikes are here and track is almost finished...what are we waiting for...lets go...final round of the 2014 MTB World Cup.
Some people just can't contain their excitement for the race to begin. Sam Dale felt the need to give this poor girl a seeing to after track walk and can't wait to give another girl a seeing to tomorrow on the track. Jump in tomorrow to find all the action from practice here in Meribel.