Briancon

The Making of a Tough Mudder…update

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Salomon Speedcross 3 CS Trail Running Shoe

ALORS, at the end of last week I broke the 10km barrier and under the time I’d set myself of 50mins so I’m obviously moving in the right direction with this clueless training program I’ve set myself.  I did it in 48:40 so not much to spare but I’m not sure if I’ll get any faster than that because it felt like I was pretty much flat out for the entire distance.

What it does mean, is that my goal of being able to run 12km in under 60mins by the time of the Tough Mudder at the beginning of June (well – end of May actually, as apparently you should rest up with no hardcore training for the week before a big race/event like this) is still on…like Donkey Kong 🙂

And even better news…is that those bad boys in the photo above turned up today!  And. They. Feel. Awesome!  Lots of support but very flexible and a serious tread pattern (is that only for tyres or can you use that for shoe soles too?) that looks like they’ll have me eating up these Alpine trails with no problem at all…well that’s the idea.  And everyone knows red stuff makes you go faster anyway 😉

 

1st 10km run!

1st 10km run!

Categories: Briancon, clothing, Design, Europe, Events / Races, hardware, Health & Fitness, Other Sports, Photography, Running, Serre Chevalier, Tough Mudder | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Double Down, Part 1…

Looking east from Le Mélezin, 1,880m alt.

IT had been a week since my last ride (sounds like an AA meeting), although been hacking ’round town & skatepark on the Nukeproof most days – but not a proper off-road shred in the mountains and that is what’s required for a peaceful mind and happy body.  So on Friday afternoon I decided to go for a big one, and what turns out might’ve been the last high altitude shred of the season…

I went to tackle the Double Descents of Col Des Ayes & Le Mélezin which when I look up at them today (3 days later) are both covered in fresh snow after the first pre-season dump that’s reached its icy hand below 2,000m

First dump to reach below 2,000m

When I say Double Descents that obviously means Double Ascents too!  I set out at about 14h00 at the usual fast pace down to the river then through town to Villar-St-Pancrace and then you climb.  It’s a nice easy fire road all the way up to the little hameau of Les Ayes which sits at about 1,750m alt.  After Les Ayes you get up to a nice clearing/pic-nic spot where you cross the river and continue onwards and upwards…the higher you go the worse the track gets and there’s some pretty steep sections but nothing to testing

Les Ayes, 1,850m alt.

          

          

Continuing up the trail and checking my watch I realise I have now done over 1,000m of vertical ascent and as I hadn’t done this route before I don’t know much higher I have to go.  There’s obviously amazing views everywhere you turn but when you come across animals it’s always a good excuse to stop, take a some photos and have a breather for a minute or two…thank you cows bulls      :-/

                    

That young black bull wasn’t feeling me at all and I’d left my matador gear at home so thought it was time to continue up the trail and see how high it would take me.  After about another 100m of vertical I reached a small gite and some little shepherds huts and a bit after that and three hours after setting out the trail stopped at about 2,300m alt.  Time for a drink, an energy bar and try to find the top of the Col des Ayes descent so the fun part could begin 🙂

Trail head, 2,305m alt.

End of Part 1…

Categories: Briancon, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Snow, weather, Wildlife, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Custom Build – Part #5 (the first ride)…

Aprés-ride

So – took the Urban Dirt Bomber out on her first proper ride.  About 7km of tarmac to the BMX & Dirt Jump tracks on the other side of Villeneuve.  It turns out the only wet & muddy mountain bike trails in Serre Chevalier are on the BMX track and the dirt jumps!

More like claggy clay than mud

I was a bit worried that the treads on the Schwalbe Table Top tyres would get clogged up with this muck but they shed the sh1t remarkably well.  The bike was awesome on the BMX/pump track but as it’s a Four Cross (4X)  frame this wasn’t really a surprise.  I’m no dirt jumper that’s for sure but I had go, hitting the small and medium sized jumps and again the bike felt light and poppy off the jumps but also stable on the landings..some grippier pedals might be in order though.

Rode the 7-8km of fast, flowy singletrack back through the woods and again the bike was great.  The frame seems to soak up the bumps and bigger hits amazingly well (well better than my other hardtail).  And the tyres are basically fine for the usually dry or at worst only damp trails ’round here.  They provide plenty of grip for climbing too…which was obviously hard work and an out-of-the-seat affair given the 34t single ring configuration.  In fact I wonder with a 2×9 set-up and some playing around with stem & handlebar combinations what this little bike couldn’t do.

                    

All in all – it was about a 20km loop covering a load of different terrain and riding styles.   With a more suitable fork – maybe a 120mm DJ fork I’d be tempted to hit some downhill trails with this next summer…think it could be fun 😉

All shiny again

Click here for Part #1

Categories: 4X (Four Cross), BMX, Briancon, Components & Hardware, Custom Build, Dirt Jumping, Mountain Biking, Photography, Reviews, Serre Chevalier, Single Track | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Back in the Saddle…

After 2½ weeks with no riding  at all (due to the constant irritation of having to earn the rent!)  I went out and hit it hard today with a 28km ride and a climb up to about 1,530m.  I thought if I left it to later in the afternoon the warmest part of the day would’ve passed – wrong.

It was still about 27°C when I set off but there was a slight breeze which must’ve kept me cool for nearly 20 seconds 😉

I headed down to the river then dodged the dogs, walkers & dog walkers down to the little bridge crossing @ Fortville – it’s a nice, fast 1km run down to there which takes about 3mins.  After that there’s a nice shady 1km climb up to the  little hamlet of Pramorel which has great views across the valley.  Then more climbing on tarmac (about 1.5km) until you get to a cheeky little left turn that I discovered last season – it’s an overgrown 4×4 track that winds up for another 1.5km or so before breaking out into some gnarly downhill (actually one of the resort ski runs back into Briancon) with views over the town.  As is normally the case – it’s all over far too quickly.  The temporary electric fence across the trail and the cows were all that slowed me down.  By the bottom my back brake was smoking – literally…

At the bottom of this run you have to hit the breaks again but extra hard because you come flying out, all Pepsi Maxed up straight into the main road out of town! (on a Friday afternoon)  A couple of hundred metres of tarmac you can cut back and follow the river along some amazing single track back up to the little Fortville bridge.  Although this time you don’t cross it.  Just keep following the trail up river which after a nice climb on a section of fire road and a fountain to fill your water bottle spits you out above the village of Chantemerle.  Then it’s single track heaven until Le Moulin Baron and you cross the valley…and then the real climbing starts…

Categories: All Mountain, Briancon, Mountain Biking, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Single Track, Wildlife, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Another New Trail…

After a little look on Google Earth I spotted a nice looking track just above our village that I could include into one of my usual daily circuits.  I decided to do this new section at the end of the route because it looked like a great down hill into Briançon and I could then hit the tarmac for the climb home.

It turned out to be a good addition to the ride with about 5km of single track & double track/fire road with a stream to cross, a very sketchy little wooden ‘bridge’ and some rocky sections followed by a very fast, flowing track descending back to the top of town (right by the walled old town)

Not the sort of ride I like to stop on but it was such a nice evening I had to take a couple of photos;

  

Categories: All Mountain, Briancon, Mountain Biking, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Single Track, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Egg Burner…

Now I’m not a calorie counter – in fact very far from it but 982 kcal sounds like it should of helped get rid of at least some of the Easter excesses doesn’t it?

We spent a few days with my family in the North-West of France over Easter and when we returned to the mountains on Thursday morning everything was covered in snow again…happy days 🙂

Apparently we’d missed a huge dump 0.5m+ on the Tuesday night…but it’s melting..pretty fast 😦  The good news is that more snow is forecast over the weekend, next week and next weekend 🙂  The bad news is I haven’t had a chance to go and ride some of this fresh stuff yet and it made yesterdays bike ride very hard work – I guess that’s why it felt like I’d burned off more Easter eggs that I actually had.

All in all a good bike ride and probably the longest/hardest but most rewarding of the year so far;  started off by riding 4km uphill on a 16.5kg Dowhill mountain bike!  (and after that it’s never going to be easy is it?)  After the uphill-downhill session swapped bikes went for some fun in the snow, slush & mud.  Nearly got caught out by a fast(er than usual) flowing stream but managed to say on two wheels and made it up to about 1500m before a 60km/h descent back down to the village…all good fun.

Managed to stop to take a few cam-phone shots – bit of an overcast, grey day so these were the best of the bunch.

                   

Categories: All Mountain, Briancon, DH Mountain Biking, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Single Track, Snow, weather, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

First Proper Bike Ride of the Year…

Woke up to a clear blue sky, a slight breeze and birds tweeting in the pine trees.  We were on the first lift as is standard procedure on school days and after a pretty good 2hr morning session on the (icey & choppy) snow where it was all about speed it was nice to get on the bike this afternoon for a proper rip!

Some new upgrades made for a fun ride.  Climbed up to about 1600m so that’s about 500m of vertical but as we all know..what goes up MUST come down 🙂

Covered about 18km on the bike and 20km this morning on the board.  Did manage to take a few pictures with the phone but it was all about the ride today…

 

Briancon

 

@ 1600m

The Guisane River and the trusty Rockhopper

Broken chain @ 1500m

 

Luc Alphand piste from south side of the valley

 

Categories: All Mountain, Briancon, Mountain Biking, Mountains, Photography, Serre Chevalier, Snowboarding, XC Mountain Biking | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Serre Chevalier; an Introduction…

Whenever I tell friends back home exactly where I’m living now they more often than not say “where?”

So for those that don’t know here’s a good (snowboarders) introduction to the Serre Chevalier Valley – I nicked it off the Whitelines website (http://whitelines.mpora.com/directory/serre-chevalier.html) if you want to see the original

Serre Chevalier Piste Map

Serre Chevalier is one of the most southerly resorts in the French Alps, located on Le Grand Serre Chevalier range close to Italy. It has 250km of some of the best terrain in France, including gullies, open bowls, couloirs, cliffs, pillow lines and long, wide, tree-lined pistes. Spread over four fairly traditional French villages from Briancon to quieter Monetier, the accommodation and nightlife tends to be a little isolated, but nice and cheap. Briancon has less sunshine and is usually icier than the more popular Chantemerle and Villeneuve. Le Monetier, although quieter, has some crowd-free riding in some of the best trees in the valley.

The Companie des Alpes spent a reported 10 million euros last year on lift improvements, including the new chairlift links to the village of Frejus, as well as snowmaking facilities and two Gasex Avalanche control systems. Serre

Chevalier has had some great snowfalls in the last few years (it is frequently on a different weather pattern to its larger northern counterparts) and with La Grave and Montgenevre at opposing ends of the valley, there is always plenty of riding to be had.

THE PARKS (2 out of 5)

The Altitude Park is located off the Combes chairlift and has features for beginners and intermediates. There are two lines of kickers, various boxes and rails and a hip and wallride at the bottom. It is well maintained – great for learning spins and improving – but advanced riders will quickly become bored. That said, the whole resort is one big backcountry park for experts, with natural hits and gullies to be found throughout the valley. There is also a 100m boardercross course, located off the Grande Serre chairlift, which snakes down through nine raised bank turns.

THE POWDER (5 out of 5)

When it snows, Serre Chevalier is freeride heaven – just be sure to check the avalanche risk and ask at the lift stations before attempting anything remotely out of bounds, as there are some really dangerous areas. From Monetier you can take the Cibout chair and traverse to the tree line, then drop the Yret face that runs back to the Tabac run.

The Montagnole – a glacial valley run from the Yret chair down to post five on the Tabac run – is best done with a local guide as it is totally out of the view of lift attendants, has some large cliffs and is prone to sliding. From Villeneuve, there are great runs off the Tete de Balme – take the Balme lift and head down the Cucamle side. L’Eychauda is a nasty draglift that leads you to a long, clear run where you can join the piste at any point, or head off to the Isolee black run for some huge cliffs. Towards Briancon, the Prorel lift takes you to a popular face – although caution is required as it is prone to avalanches.

slope1 Serre Chevalier

THE PISTES (4 out of 5)

There are plenty of wide, well-groomed and tree-lined pistes in Serre Chevalier that are clearly signposted and interlink the various areas in a logical way. Briancon tends to get less sunshine – pistes are icier and accessed by several draglifts. Chantemerle has the Luc Alphand black run back to the village, which is fun and can be tackled by mixed ability groups as there is a bail-out green that avoids some of the steeper sections.

Villeneuve has some great pistes, particularly from the Casse du Boeuf chair and the Bez. The link to Monetier is accessed via a very slow chair and then two flat narrow traverses; it’s harder for beginners but well worth a trip as the runs back down to town are excellent. It is unusual to find so many trees on the slopes of a resort, meaning that visibility is OK even on bad weather days.

THE PARTIES (3 out of 5)

Due to the separate villages, nightlife is never going to be legendary, but with some great little bars around it’s not bad. The Saloon at the bottom of the Briancon main lift is great for après ski, while Bar Central and the Eden Bar offer the best nights on the town. Over in Chantemerle, the Station Bar has just opened at the foot of the pistes with live music and a buzzing happy hour, while in Villeneuve, the biggest venue is the Grotte, boasting internet, live music and a party vibe. Mojos has 2-for-1 happy hours and Le Frog is the best place to watch the football with a pint. In Monetier, L’Alpen is run by an English couple and has a great atmosphere.

“With so many trees on the slopes, visibility is possible even on bad weather days”

Categories: Briancon, Mountains, Off-Piste, Serre Chevalier, Snowboarding | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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