Manon Chronicles – Summer in Europe – Part 2, Val Di Sole

Mountain Biking Magazine



Manon Chronicles – Summer in Europe – Part 2, Val Di Sole

Val Di Sole World Cup – Part II

This is Manon writing this time as my dad is busy moving around piles of muck to make a wicked BMX track and has handed the Val Di Sole update over to me! I’ll start where Jason left off – at the Opera in Verona….

Opera in Verona

As Jase said in the Chronicles Part I, ‘I only fell asleep the twice’ here is a picture of him looking fairly bored…. before the opera started!

The opera finished just after midnight and we had arranged to get a night bus back to the motel as it was cheaper than taxi. Everything was going to plan – we had found the bus, paid for tickets and were being driven out of town. The bus stopped for the first time just before our motel and I got up to get off but my mum and dad told me to wait because we weren’t there yet..I wasn’t convinced but I didn’t want to be blamed for making us walk too far. Next thing we knew we’d gone past our motel so I pressed the button.  The bus didn’t stop! It kept going, and going for over 5 minutes at about 50mph.. you can do the maths and by the time it stopped we must have been 5 miles from the motel. No way I was gonna walk that.. but we didn’t really have any choice. We weren’t allowed to hitchhike either because on our trek home we’d gone past prostitutes and all sorts and mum said someone might think I was one if I tried to hitch a ride back. Nice. So I was considerably grumpy the whole way back and it took us aaages!


Wednesday morning we set off for Val Di Sole after a quick blast on the Internet hotspot before we disappeared off into the middle of nowhere to stay in a field.. Our SatNav had broken before we even got to Champery and our Europe Atlas had been doing the job so far on motorways but we couldn’t even see Val Di Sole or even the nearest town on the map so we were driving blind for a while! After a few stressful junctions we decided to stop at a garage and buy a decent map, where some locals drew some scribbles on it showing us where to go and we were set.  You had to drive through some pretty dramatic mountains (the Dolomites)to get to Val Di Sole. Luckily the mountain the race track was on wasn’t quite so severe.

My mum and I had been prepared to stay in a campsite with warm showers. When we turned up , however, there was a field the other side of the river to the pits and it was obvious that was where we were going to be staying as it was free – no showers, no toilets, no nothing, except the river (that looked suspiciously glacial-coloured) – which was seriously cold and caused some major brain freeze – apparently an ice bath is good for your muscles tho so that’s alright.

After sign on, Jase managed to blag some team passes from somewhere and we set off to walk the track. Rocks, roots and loads of ‘moondust’. The whole track was taped really wide and the first rock garden section went on forever. I took about ten minutes trying to find a decent line down it! The track looked cool though and I was looking forward to riding it after the gloop in Champery.


Thursday started really well, I loved the first few runs I did once I’d found a line through the top rock garden – even tho my hands felt numb when I reached the bottom from all the rocks and holes pounding the bars into my hands. I had good 3 runs in the morning.. but then down came the rain – and I was having Déjà Vu from Champery but even worse. The first time I went up in the rain wasn’t so bad, but there were just so many roots in some sections and you didn’t know where most of them were until you’d lost your front wheel or ended up pointing in the wrong direction! After a disastrous run in timed practise I gave up riding for the day – I think most people already had – as the weather was supposed to dry up for qualifying and I didn’t want to get too grumpy or lose my confidence too much! (When the timed practise results came out it looked like me and Mio Suemasa were the only girls who’d still been riding – she took 15 minutes to get down and I took 17!)


The track was still a bit greasy on Friday morning but more rideable and I was enjoying it again. In quali I tried to go slow and steady  although that’s hard to do with super dusty steep shoots where you’re basically surfing in the dust! I had a few moments but ended up in 7th place which was good but after Champery I felt I could do better – even I felt though Val Di Sole was a much harder track physically, and maybe even technically. I think it was Friday night that Jase went for an XC ride with Tristan and they ended up riding down the World Cup track on their XC bikes; I would have loved to have seen that!


Saturday was a strange day because normally the day after qualification is the race, but instead we had a bit of practise in the morning and then the day off.  It was cool to have a bit more time to get used to the track especially for riders like me who hadn’t been there before. In the afternoon we  ventured  down river to a spot we’d found  to go for a swim and  rode the rapids. A load of the British boys turned up as well for some entertainment!

Scotty Mears decided he wanted to try and ride into the river but his 1st attempt was fairly poor so after Sam Dale showed him up with an over the bars into the river, Scotty had to have another go which you can see in the vid…

Scotty Mears face plant >>

Saturday night we watched the 4x finals which was exciting to watch. Katy Curd made the A final in the women’s with a ballsy attempt at the pro line. I was scared just watching so I can hardly imagine how she felt! It was wicked when she pulled it off though. The men’s final was very controversial as well with Graves getting pushed off line by some serious inside lines. Jase got pretty rowdy as well and bust out a load of downhill press ups during which my mum and I were trying to hide!

Jase liked the marshal


Sunday came around and I still felt pretty relaxed. It was strange having the Saturday off and to me it didn’t really feel like race day. The track was just getting faster and faster though and so many rocks were emerging as the dust got blown away. Once again I was getting déjà vu because again I was struggling to steer in a straight line – but this time because of the dust instead of the mud in Champery!
In my race run I guess I was braking too much, lost my balance and ended up falling into the tape and getting my bars stuck behind one of the poles which sucked and I lost a bit of time. I watched the freecaster footage when I got home and as Rob Warner said I was riding too untidily – my main goal for my next races is to keep my feet on!
I ended up 10th which was okay, but once again I would have liked a better result.

When I got to the bottom an Italian lady who spoke hardly any English told me that I had to do the antidoping testing which was a first. I hadn’t done it before so that was a new experience! The men’s final was really good and it was cool to see some different faces on the podium, along with the biggest surprise of the day – Marc Beaumont winning! He looked  the fastest and neatest on the big screen. Aaron Gwin also looked fast but he had a massive over the bars which must have been devastating for him. My mum pointed out that half of the men’s top ten were British which was awesome.

We also found out that I had finally moved up in the rankings to 10th overall so I’ll be protected for Windham in America so that’s cool, and it’s a nice change from the number 11 board that I’ve had for so long!

We decided to stay another night after the race because we were too tired to pack up and drive anywhere so we went for a last swim/freeze in the river and when we got back almost everyone had gone or were going! We hung around with the Dales, chasing the elusive ‘Carpark’ rabbit that appeared every now and again. Everyone seemed to like chasing it round trying to catch it. Sam Dale got pretty close when he shot between  the vans with a massive towel. I was glad he didn’t though –  we think he was planning to eat it..

Car park Rabbit

After a pizza and a goodbye to the Scottish boys who were getting their last take away from the pizza place that must have made a killing that weekend (there was a pile of at least ten takeaway pizza boxes outside their van), we sat around by the vans trying to figure out what to do.  There wasn’t  really anywhere to go or anyone there.  After a while, Jase, Sam and Steve (Sam’s dad) went over to Tom Braithwaite’s van to get a football.. this ended up in a 5-a-side football game in the dark with Sam, Steve, Jase, me and  one of Tom’s friends (who seemed to have drunk the least beer on one side) and Tom and some of the boys who had been at his van – didn’t know who they were, sorry – on the other side. Amazingly, we won something like 10 – 1 thanks to Steve’s football skills, and lots of beer being consumed by the other team ,I think! Steve and Sam both took Tom out as he was trying to score a sneaky goal at the end and they all ended up in a pile on the floor with Tom winded pretty bad!

We ended up sat around the vans again once it was too dark to see each other or the football . To distract Jase and Sam, who were concocting plans to abduct one of the inflatable rafts in the car park next to us and go down the river on it, we went to the pub place up the road for a drink, and gelati and a game of table football (after a few own goals by Jase, he and I lost badly). As it was getting on, a group of people including some of the top guns and the Parkin brothers stumbled in for a drink and a chat and then disappeared off again to their hotels, I think, as we walked back to our tents and vans!

The Journey Back

We had a week to get home and could take our time trekking home across Europe, so the next day we packed up pretty early and left for Lake Garda to do a bit of sunbathing, windsurfing, swimming.. and a bit of bike riding!

Not the best action shot ever but you can blame Jase the photographer!

The mountains around Lake Garda looked pretty dramatic as they were around 2000ft high with steep sides and massive fault lines. Once Jase found out roads went to the very top of some of the mountains, he was itching to get up there and ride down one and spent at least a few hours looking at maps to find a way down!

Once we’d persuaded my mum to agree to drive us down (they didn’t tell me how far, narrow and twisty that would be – Lynette), we set off up the mountain . The road kept going up and up and up, twisting and turning, and we kept going past lunatics riding up the mountain – even people with kids on the back of tandems! Once we got to the top about 50 minutes later, we said goodbye to my mum who was looking fairly nervous to be driving down the windy mountain road and set off down the track. We think the track was an old, eroded Roman road (maybe) but was like a walkers track and the closer to the bottom we got, the rockier and rockier it got until we were riding down some pretty gnarly rocky steps and wall rides!

Lake Garda in the background

On the way home we stopped off in various countries including Austria where I was force fed a massive pork chop (I normally only really eat chicken) and got lost in many cities late at night whilst trying to find places to stay. On the last night the 3 of us ended up staying in the T5 (the van), Jase on the front seats and my mum and I squashed in the back seats while Jase sent us to sleep with bedtime stories of French gangs who go around slashing car tyres and hijacking people!

Rain in Austria

We also managed to get lost for the last time when we innocently followed a sign for a lake on the motorway on our way back to Dunkerque, found ourselves driving for miiiiles through country lanes and  ended up stopping for crepes at a campsite where Jase bursting out of the van and exclaimed aloud to the confused French people at reception ‘OU EST LE LAC?!’
When we eventually got to the ‘Lake’ it was basically a duck pond which was fenced off because Centerparcs had brought it and built a toy town on the edge of the lake – we weren’t impressed after driving half an hour in the wrong direction to find it! Luckily, not too far away we found  another manmade lake which we were allowed to swim in so it wasn’t a complete disaster..

We had a swim and a snooze in the sun to make the most of it before we returned to Wales and set off again for Dunkerque.  9 hours later we arrived home at 4 in the morning and, guess what.. it was raining! But it felt bloody good to be home!

Thanks for reading… Next stop America and Canada for the World Cup series finale and the World Champs! We’ll let you know how that gets on.

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