Enduro racing is very much in it’s infancy in the UK but out in France they have been racing Enduro’s for years, having great fun and keeping quiet about it ! Fred Glo from Tribe Sports has been running races for 10 years in France and this year I decided to venture into Europe and try one and take in some different races to see how I would fair and check out some different formats of racing.
Samoens was the location for the first round of the 4 race series. `Located just over the hill from it’s more famous neighbours Morzine and Les Gets, Samoens has the same great riding but just not as busy and over ridden !
Arriving on Friday morning after the long 12hr drive you could have been sure we had come to the wrong Samoens ! No sign of the race other than a few posters and a pile of barriers ! As the afternoon progressed more bikes and vans arrived and people started to disappear off in vans with no bikes…..there was no practice allowed, only course walking, but with no gondola open it was either get a lift up the hill or walk up and down !
Having seen the course profile we would be riding 5 descents on Saturday of around 900m each so there was no way you could walk all of these in one afternoon ! I got a lift up with my Cape Epic partner Anka Martin and walked the first half of one of the stages and after an hour of walking that was enough !! Steep, muddy natural terrain was going to be the feature of this weekend and full DH mud spikes were applied to our bikes to make sure we made it down the hill !
After picking up our numbers and timing chips and getting our bikes checked it was time to get packed ready for the 7.30am start the next morning ! Setting off down a very much unknown track at just after 8am in the morning was pretty tough going. The stage had some nasty little climbs and it was very quick awakening for the day ! That was only the first stage, 4 more to go ! We did the first stage twice which was great as the second time you had a much better idea of what to expect and it didn’t seem anywhere near as far ! The 3rd and 4th stages were on another track and this one I had not seen at all, so it was complete riding into the unknown. Another 10min plus stage and we still had to ride across to stage 5 in the next village ! We finally made it back to the base of the gondola in Samoens after around 1hr of timed DH racing ! A epic day and I certainly felt as though I had spent some quality time on my bike !
In true French style dinner was put on by the town in the town hall and the results were posted right away. It really does seem as though the whole town gets involved in the races and are happy to support them, a format I think we need to adopt more in the UK.
Sunday was going to be another test, 3 times down a 1000m descent but first we had a 25min climb from the top lift station to get to the start ! It was an epic descent, freshly cut steep, alpine moss and loam up top and then some beautiful mountain singletrack before it met up with the last part of Saturday’s first stage. It was 21min stage for me and I had to do this twice more to complete the day !
It was a truly epic weekend and an amazing experience to race for over 2 hours over the 2 days down some great trails. I was exhausted but really happy to have completed one of the original enduro formats of racing. I also rode well enough to take the win ahead of French Junior DH World Champ Anais Pajot and Enduro specialist Estelle Vuillemin. Only one week to wait for the next great challenge, but at least I now know what to expect this time. Rest up and get the DH tyres on ready !!