Mountain X Race, France

After an epic 24 hour journey on the train from Olomouc via Vienna we arrived in Bourg St Maurice for the start of the Mountain X Race the following day. We had packaged our bikes up like blue ukelailes in order to get them on board the ICE, Inter Continental Express.

Dan, Josiah and Cassidy picked us up from the station and we ate out with the other Nike team at a pizzeria. There was mist swirling about the rocky peaks as it had recently rained. We drove up the windy road after dinner to our accomodation at Les Arcs, a very famous French skifield.

In the morning it was all go to get organised for the first event of the race - a 10km trail run starting at 6pm. After many hours spent gear checking and rushing around buying forgotten gear and food race time arrived. The pack took off insanely fast up the hill and it was immediatlz obvious that this field was filled with some amazing runners.

Look at this guys moustache!!!!

Before long the first runners were hooning back along the cobbled streets into the finish - Josiah leading the pack! Dan came in not much later, followed by Chris. Our team had the fastest combined time of all the teams and so took the yellow jersey to wear the following day as race leaders, a great start.

A petite female runner sped in not much after Chris in an amazingly quick time, who we later found out was a kiwi racing with a British womens team - these talented kiwis pop up all over the place.

After the run we drove up from Bourg St Maurice to Le Chapeau, a Refuge and campspot in an alpine meadow amoungst some magnificient peaks. Actually, we remembered having been there in the previous RIAD Race in France. We were quite high (about 2000m) so the night was chilly and we snuggled down into our cozy sleeping bags.

Teams crossed this glacier from left to right beneath the rocky buttress of the peak.

At 4am we hopped up and got organised for the nasty 5am start.

It was still dark as the racers raced off up valley on a 50km run, involving a ridge climb and glacier travel climbing over 3500m! As the sun rose over the peak I could make out tiny figures on the snowy ridgeline.

A cycle up valley took me to a pile of friendly cows and some racers decending from the summit. Chriss team had already come through so I zoomed back down valley and Cassidy and I hung out at the finish line with some smelly local cheese and a baguette.

The team came in about 7th overall having had a bit of a tough time - Chris wasnt feeling great and Josiahs legs had died a bit at the finish. Chris sat in the stream for a bit while the others napped before we packed up our funky wee Quechua tents (with some help from the lady from the French team - they take some tricky folding manuoevers) and headed to Beaufort for trail run No 2. Luckily today was a shorter downhill run so the guys blasted around in a mere 30 minutes, once again taking out the trail run section with the fastest combined time.

Day three came around with yet another horribly early start; this time it was onto the bikes and riding by 6am. We had to drive (me at the steering wheel!) over another windy Col de Saises, then drop down into another wee town called Bellacombe to meet the teams from Stage 1 of the biking and transfer them to Stage 2. Team Nike came in first after a very strong ride and looked so longingly at the yummy pastries we had bought for our team that we had to donate them some. Nike Beaver Creek came in around third so we headed down to Flumet to hang out before the next start.

Chris was feeling really crappy by now and I was amazed to find out he had been towed up most of the 2000m climb by his team mates! Still after some delicious sorbet ice creams he was feeling a bit better as they set out on Stage 2 of the biking. Other teams were having some tough times too - Travis from the Crested Butte Team still had giardia which he caught in the Primal Quest and had spent the whole previous night throwing up, but he was still struggling along. We headed off to Thones, where the mountain bike finished and another trail run took place.

We set up the tents amongst the 'tent city' in a grassy green paddock right beside a clear flowing river.

We completed our twice daily ritual of grocery shopping and in swooshed the team, our guys in 2nd place after a much better ride. We all swam in the icy stream then headed back to the start for Trail run number 3. Today they had to run about 10km with about 300m climb and the pace at the start of the race was looking significantly slower. Yet again Nike Beaver Creek took the trail run victory before some well deserved showering at the local pools and a very cheesy potato fondue dinner.

A slightly easier day had arrived in the form of an untimed Canyoneering section in the morning and a Via Ferrate and rock climb in the afternoon of which only a small bit was timed. The canyoneering sounded great fun and I decided it should definatly have been a 'support crews must complete also' section. We drove up to the rock climbing at Col de la Colombière, one of Cols in last years Tour De France. I walked to the base of the Via Ferrata with the team and enjoyed wandering in the mountain air amongst the cows with bells and green green meadows while all the teams just seemed tired and miserable... sometime this seems a very silly sport.

I watched the teams cross a 3 wire bridge high up on the rock face and then climb ladders up a steep rock face before jogging back down to Cassidy who had been cleaning out the car. After driving to a town and buying a pizza for the guys we decided to wander up to the base of the climb - Cassidy in her jandals much to the amusement of our team when we met them. The rock climb was a bit silly; each team member had to climb one of the 3 climbs, one was quite hard (about grade 17 NZ) and the other two were easy. Chris had to do the hard because the others had done even less than him managed to scrape up in 5 minutes, the maximum time allowed. If he fell however he got a 1 hour penalty! Thanks to the Kiwis of team Orion Health he at least had climbing shoes and chalk.

So the timing for the race meant that if you did the climb well you gained a huge advantage on the other teams, it was easy to do the 6 minute climb in half the time...but on a trail run even if you are brilliant it is impossible to do it in half the time of another competitive team..oh well I now have an excuse to get Chris to do some rock climbing before next year!

Another trail run took place that evening in Megeve. This time it was a longer 15 km run and lots of teams opted to sit out and lose points rather than race and feel even worse. Josiah came in strongly in 2nd showing he was not getting any slower. Chris and Dan came in a bit further back and the British Team Saab Solomon had the best overall time that night. We were camped in a big parking lot and ate dinner at the local sports centre.

Friday, the 5th day of competition was canoe time. From Sixt-Fer-a-Cheval teams embarked on the river Giffre and careened down through the Tines Gorges, some fairly dramatic looking white water.

Our team all loved it, even if they did lose some time with a lost paddle on the second run having capsized. We then drove with the team to the final trail run in Morzine. This time the trail run took place in the form of a 2km lap relay and we knew our guys could definatly pull off a good victory. Sure enough Dan came in near the front of the pack from Leg 1, then Chris had a storming run to charge in way out ahead, and Josiah easily took out the victory. We all felt pretty stoked even if we knew the points wouldn't count for much.

The final day had come round with an 45km 'Adventure Run' invloving (to Chris's excitement) some level of route choice. In the dark the teams zoomed off up the hill. Cassidy and I snuck back to bed for a few hours and only just made it back down into town to hear that Nike Beaver Creek were just coming in having had a brilliant run and easily taken the victory for the final stage. The French Quechua's had won overall, and the British Salomon came in second. Nike had beaten us to take third and the strong run by our team today had moved them back into fourth.

So it was all over and we headed out for some delicious French cuisine to celebrate before Dan and Josiah dropped Cassidy, Chris and I off at her place in Chamonix. We pitched the tent on Cassidy's lawn and enjoyed a very good sleep.

We spent 2 days muchling around in Chamonix thanks to Cassidy's hospitality and biked some of the local trails and basked in the shadow of the snow puff Mont Blanc. Finally we caught the train out of the mountains and over to Freiburg to Julian and Jana's place where we now are hanging out, enjoying their company, some good German beer and the black forest mountain bike trails!


Anonymous said…
Love the pictures...very scenic!

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