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Morzine: Champery World cup: Val di sole World cup5th AUG 2010

Rob Smith

Well three weeks travelling around Europe didnít quite start to plan, Ralph Jones and myself left Shrewsbury heading to Weston-super-mare to pick up Ben Baker; who got delayed deciding what party gear he should pack! So we missed the Dover to Dunkerque midnight ferry by around 5 minutes, and then had to wait 2 hours till the next one at 3am.

I snuck into one of the staff rooms and had a chill and made sure my phone was fully charged for maximum roaming charges! From Dunkerque we hit the road straight away and headed for Morzine. Old Lesley the sat nav took us the scenic route and avoided as many tolls as possible. We had a quick stop in a European McDonalds before enjoying some views of Lake Annecy and then doing some serious laps of Geneva before finally arriving in Morzine to enjoy some 30degree sunshine!

Rob Smith
European McDonalds, way healthier than the UK!!!

Week one: Morzine

I wasnít too sure how much I would enjoy this as I was missing the National Champs in the UK, but after seeing the weather warnings for Scotland and the 30 degrees in Morzine, I was sure it would be a good week ! We were staying with Brendan Fairclough, his brother and Andrew Neethling in a nice apartment with all the works including Jacuzzi and Sauna.

Rob Smith Rob Smith
The apartment

Riding in Morzine, the downhill was probably some of the best riding I have ever had, amazing tracks and riding with good mates and some of the best riders in the world, Ben Baker also joined us. The pleney in Morzine was where we spent most of our time riding loads of new tracks that Chris Kovarik had cut into the woods, we didnít spend too much time on super Morzine as rumours of head height barbed wire on the tracks didnít sound very inviting!

After finishing riding around 4í0 clock most days we would then go and chill out at Lake Montriond for a few hours in the late afternoon sun.

Rob Smith
Rob Smith
Lake Montriond

The Tour de France had just gone through Morzine a few days earlier so I brought my road bike out to do a few mountain passes. Brendan and I headed up the 12km switch backs to Avoriaz, a climb which one of the tour stages finished on. 50 minutes later we got to the top and then took a different route down, 18km of downhill on the road bikes overtaking cars at 45mph, pretty good fun and a top way to end a good days riding, just a shame no one had painted our names on the roads !

Rob Smith
Riding in Morzine

Week two: Champery world cup

We packed up and gave the bikes some TLC before heading over the valleys into Switzerland for round 4 of the UCI mountain bike world cup in Champery. This track is steep and was raced on in 2007 and it was a shock to the system then when I rode it! This time the track had been worked on a lot with loads more man made features which would make things a little easier to get down. Walking the track in very dusty conditions I was a little worried about setting the forest on fire my brakes would be getting that hot! First day of practice went well and I had most of the jumps sorted apart from one gap I wanted to do which I got sorted in my two timed runs in the afternoon, a little nerve racking as I had Steve Peat, Greg Minnaar and Brendan line up behind me for the first one!

Rob Smith
Champery Mountains

Champery is not shy of enjoying a few rain storms and Thursday evening a big storm rolled in. Friday and it was still raining hard, and it did for most of the day changing the dusty track into a mud bath. I put flat pedals on and did one practice run before heading up for my qualifier.

Rob Smith
Rain Rain

I qualified in 57th which I was pleased with after a crash in the bottom section. I then headed back to our expensive Swiss apartment (Never trust the Welsh) and got my kit in the washing machine first.

Race day and the mud was getting deeper and really sticky; in a few places my back wheel was clogging up real bad. Race run didnít go very well for me; I went off the track in two places and ended up 60th. Ben baker pulled out a stormer run and got 58th and Ralph had a big crash and came in 68th. Brendan came home 3rd and got the biggest cheers from the crowd for some of his wild line choices. As soon as the race was done we packed up and headed back to Morzine. I got all my kit washed and sorted before popping into town to watch my good friend Ben perform all the dance moves he had been practising in the mirror each night. We also had Alan Bond join us now, one of Englandís break through riders this year, Champery didnít go to plan for him, four crashes in his run and a broken bike. The English born and bred rider was hoping for more luck the following week in Italy. An interesting night out in Morzine ended in some funny entertainment watching a few local lads getting a metal barrier into our apartment whilst slightly influenced by alcohol.

Check out Brendanís run at Champery

Week three: Italy

After another day riding in Morzine we packed up and headed to Les Arcs, another riding area in some stunning mountain ranges. On the way we had a look at Mont Blanc and its glacier.

Rob Smith
Mont Blanc glacier

I decided not to ride in Les Arcs and instead fix my bike. Luckily Les Arcs had a lot going on including the French National canoe championships so I spent the afternoon watching that in the sun.

Rob Smith
French National Canoe Championships

After a day in Les Arcs we headed to the round 5 of the world cup in Val di sole! We drove over some more exciting mountain passes and into Aosta and then Milan before finally finding the small town in the valley of sun!

Rob Smith
The view after 26km of driving up near the Italian border

Val di sole - I knew this was a technical track but when seeing it for the first time I couldnít believe how rocky and rooty it was. Check out Sam Hillís run down this one in 2008.

First day of practice went ok; the track felt really awkward to ride with rocks and roots hidden in all the dust. Any rain on this one and it would get real tricky, then early afternoon in came the rain; although the forecast for the next few days was sunny. In the qualifying run I made way too many mistakes and had one of the worst runs this year, it put me in 90th just under two seconds from the top 80 which was pretty frustrating as I knew I could have ridden a lot better. Oh well! Fellow school buddy Marc Beaumont got himself a very impressive victory which was good to see. That was it for my world cup racing this year as the last round is in the USA and I donít quite have the pennies to get there! Well Iíve had an amazing few weeks of riding and banter, thanks to Ralph and the big red van, Brendan and Christian, Ben Baker, Shropshireís new found talent Alan Bond and all the other top riders and everyone that helped us out.

Berty Smith

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