On the road again! At least this time it was only a three hour drive instead of eight hours plus! We were off to Les Deux Alpes for Reon's next race, the Air DH which was a part of Crankworx France. The entire gypsy commune was on the road to Crankworx with everyone arriving at different times. “The Wasp” had arrived, we knew “Blake” was on his way but we weren’t worried as it always took him forever to get anywhere but there was no sign of the Go Kart Van. We trotted off to a café for some internet action and an excuse to smash a hot chocolate and opened up Facebook to see the Go Kart Van broken down inside a tunnel!
There is nothing anybody could do but after they finally arrived (vanless) we got the run down on the rescue mission. They went to the SOS phone inside the tunnel to ring for help. The lady jumped on one of the cameras inside the tunnel and was quite impressed she could actually see them there broken down. It made me wonder if they get quite a few prank calls? She told the boys a tow truck would be with them shortly and after an hour or so the truck turned up. The tow truck driver had them by the balls in terms of price and it was a small fortune to get the van out of the tunnel. After dropping them at the mechanics and being told it would be a further 1800 Euro to get it up and running, what did the boys do? They trashed it. They went into the van, ripped everything to bits, blasted it with the fire extinguisher, inside and out, to ensure it would be a major pain in the arse for the mechanic to sell it on. And that was that! Luckily some of the other Aussie boys weren’t too far away so they jumped in with them and arrived safely at Les Deux Alpes.
With it being so close to the Commonwealth Games we were in accommodation finally. Bliss. Man were we stoked as a few of the days were rain – very heavy rain. It was really good training for Kate here with it easy for her to do big long climbing missions but not a lot of flat riding.
Reon had decided to give the Whip Off competition a go but on his second jump getting himself used to the jump his crank snapped off on landing. Luckily the good buggers at SRAM sorted him out, however he had missed the competition.
The Air DH practice was trying to get under way but due to the wind the first day of practice was cancelled. Reon was not overly stoked on the track with it being like a goat track in parts and had a big bin in his qualifying which saw him off on his race run relatively early. The last run before his race run he stacked three times, ha ha, not the ideal preparation for the old race head! Race run was up and it was incredibly windy with a lot of dudes eating it on the very last jump through the finish line, some literally sliding over holding their bikes. Reon had a really good run and ended on the same second as a lot of other people and since he had come down early he got to enjoy the hot seat for quite a long time until Eddie came down a few seconds quicker.
From here it was on to Alp D’heuz which wasn’t part of the original plan. We were meant to be heading to Livigno, Italy as Reon had managed to score himself a spot in the Red Bull Wide Open event which was being described as downhill meets motorcross; dream event! Unfortunately due to some access issues plus a few other things the event was cancelled. While this was pretty gutting it did mean we could save ourselves a big drive and head over the hill to race the Megavalanche and convinced the rest of the gypsy crew to come along also as it is such an amazing event. Again we had accommodation which we shared with another member of the Giant Gravity NZ Team, Hayden Lee, who has also been doing well racing Enduros in Europe. The weather was crap all week, freezing temperatures and rain. A lot of rain. It was the worst weather they had at the event in 15 years and camping just looked so miserable. The boys were hating it and probably hating us as well for telling them it would be awesome, which we knew they would realise after racing.
Kate had no choice really but to get out in the weather and do her training as it was almost the last big week of training before the Commonwealth Games. Again it was easy to get the long rides in and the infamous Alp D’Heuz road climb was perfect for efforts and interval sessions.
Soaking wet and pretty damn cold her hard work was rewarded when the guys at MET Helmets gave her an awesome new lid to ride in. These things are seriously comfortable.
Qualification day was a dry one, probably the best day of the week and all the Kiwi boys managed to get through to the main event, apart from those who got mechanicals. Reon and Kelly were in the same heat and McGazza got the hole shot off the line but Reon's fitness kicked in and got passed the big goat to finish in third which meant he got a second row start in the main Megavalanche event. The bike was running mint and everything was set for the main event on Sunday.
The bottom of the Megavalanche track was so horrific that for some of the smaller finals they didn’t bother using it. It was such thick mud it literally stopped wheels turning and the boys had to drag their bikes down the hill. Some of the smaller finals also didn’t get to ride the glacier as the weather was so bad. The Mega isn’t really the Mega without the glacier but on Sunday the weather was good, very cloudy at the top but at least they got to ride the entire track, glacier to Allemont.
Reon only has his Giant Glory downhill bike here so he was racing on that. It was a little concerning with the amount of pedalling involved but it did mean he could smash the downhill being less likely to break something and we knew he was fit, plus the bike being so light made it okay to pedal. Kate went up to the glacier in the morning to bring everyone's gear down. Eddie being the on to it guy that he is, brought a shopping trolley up, which everyone filled with their gear for her to get down to the bottom. WAY harder than it sounded.
It was go time and the horrific music that plays every year started up and the carnage begun! Still one of the most hilarious things to watch as the top boys take off and everyone behind seems to throw themselves into a pile to fudge down the hill. Brilliant. Kate couldn’t get to the bottom in time to see the finish but as riders started re-appearing from the bottom Kate was hearing comments like “did you guys see that guy on the downhill bike smashing up the climb!? He was sitting in the top 15, she was thinking 'shit, top 15!!' Imagine if that was Reon! Then, “did you see the Kiwi on the downhill bike killing it through the thick mud in third?!” Holy cow, third?!!! Reon was the only Kiwi on a downhill bike (apart from Eddie who had punctured and was now back at the vans). Couldn’t believe it! Kelly reluctantly confirmed that Reon had come third overall which is an insanely sick result and a real show of his fitness and skill. That track had everything in it: glacier, rocks, pedalling, mud and road. Reon was aiming to peak for that weekend with his training and it had really paid off. The biggest mistake Reon made this year was not bring his Giant Trance with him but due to the cost it was impossible this time. However after hearing him say at least 25 times “I wish I had the Trance here”, next year he'll definitely be bringing his new Reign which will be exciting to see what he can do on that!
Although the boys were totally over the week and hating it, Daniel Melink in particular having a really crappy time, after the race there was nothing but stokeage from everyone. That’s the affect the Mega has, so much adrenaline on the start line and after 50 minutes of riding you're completely spent but can’t wait to do it all again next year.
It was time to pack up and Reon was dropping Kate at Zurich airport to fly up to Edinburgh for her final week of training before the Games. Reon had the big drive up to Amsterdam then onto a ferry to Newcastle before meeting her there. Things were starting to get real as the Commonwealth Games were now just around the corner!
Commonwealth Games write up by Kate:
After arriving in Scotland I had a week of training then entered the village on July 22nd for the opening ceremony on the 23rd. It was really cool hanging out with old friends for the week, seeing some of the sites Edinburgh has to offer all while trying to relax as much as possible before the event.
The opening ceremony was amazing. It was such a proud feeling walking into the stadium in front of all those people and I was just so happy to be there. Karen and I had managed to score the front row behind Valerie (after slightly bending the rules in the rock, paper, scissors game) who is an absolutely awesome person and totally deserved to carry the flag.
After the opening ceremony I left the village to stay with Reon as it was advised to keep things as normal as possible. I am really glad I did this although in the village it was very easy with all eating, training and recovery facilities literally on our door step plus the New Zealand Team had sourced these awesome cruiser bikes so we didn’t even have to walk!
Luckily we had arranged prior to arriving access for Reon to ride the track with me to learn my way around. Although it wasn’t that technical I enjoy riding with Reon and I am glad he could ride the track with me. The first day on track I had a very unlucky crash and badly bruised my thigh and faceplanted a rock, hitting my cheekbone and causing a bit of a black eye.
This was early on so I had plenty of time to recover. I had good practice and preparation on the track, it was quite flat and I knew it would be a tough track for me due to the lack of climbing but I guess that’s the beauty of the sport as different tracks suit different riders.
All week I had received such amazing support from friends and family back home and while I knew they weren’t putting any pressure on me I think I did feel the pressure to do well, not just for them but for me also. I finally managed to be starting on the front line which I was so excited about as in World Cups we are quite near the back.
The countdown began and my heart was pounding, the gun went and I missed my pedal. This meant I had stuffed up my opportunity to benefit from the front row start. I was so disappointed and gutted this had happened as it meant I had to put in a lot of effort in to catch back up and pass the slower riders. I managed to catch up to the group where I knew I should have been positioned which is a positive I can take that from the race. I held on well for the majority of the race but petered off on the last lap. While I was disappointed in my result of 8th place as I feel like I could have done better, there are many positives I've taken from this race and many lessons learned that will help me in development for the future.
It was really cool to hang out with all the New Zealand athletes, especially the mountain biking team and it was so rad to see Anton and Sam get first and second! Sick! So stoked to be involved, it was such an amazing experience, and one I'll never forget!