MTBBerkhamsted hits the Alps
Just how many bikes can you fit on a truck? Quite a few as it turns out, the mighty Barbarian festooned in bicycles front to back as we pointed it towards Chatel and the trails of the Portes Du Soleil. Dusty trails, or so we hoped.
Only they weren't. Arriving to proper stair-rod rain we wondered if there'd been a disastrous navigational cock-up and we'd in fact rocked up in Wales. After all, it was hilly, tipping it down and the people all spoke a funny language. But no, we definitely were in France. And it definitely was raining.
Bad luck for Vicky. With the chalet packed to capacity she was off camping the other side of a trickling little stream. "S'alright, you can just walk across there to get to the chalet!" we joked.
Come Sunday the little stream was a raging torrent and even Vicky's love of canoeing and white water couldn't persuade her to take the short cut. Happily the long route meant going past the bakery on her way each morning. Result!
The first day's riding ended up at the top of the highest peak in the area at 2,300m shivering in gale force winds and sleet. This in August when usually your only worry is sunburn. A sulk and a burger later in a café and things were looking up but only a bit - the trails were waterlogged but fun.
Next day it really was sheeting it down. Cue much glum peering out of the window and ever more desperate comparisons of online weather forecasts in an effort to find a more optimistic one.
Come Tuesday and we were going to ride, come what may. Claire, Vicky, downhill loon Frankie and I headed out towards Morzine and the new bike park trails at Les Gets. The going was slimey as hell but fun over the roots down to Morzine (apart form the ones Vicky landed on), the bike park trails less enjoyable than the natural rooty stuff but at least we had a day's riding in the bag. And what felt like another day hosing mud off bikes and clothes.
Wednesday took us over the hill to Switzerland and it was time for me to dust off the borrowed Specialized Demo. Yee, and indeed, haw, that thing flew! New arrival Simon From Hope was loving it, living up to his factory sponsored kit and shiny new Orange 225 DH bike. The trails here were mega steep and technical, everyone getting stuck in and myself, Simon and Frankie racking up the first airmiles of the trip on some new wooden stunts.
For Thursday Claire and I took Richard III's advice and headed up to the Col De Coux, starting from the Swiss side. Instead of carrying on to Morzine we doubled back and towards Champery along miles and miles of steep, rooty and technical walking trail. Worth the 45-minute hike up the endless switchbacks to the top and absolutely stunning.
Friday promised a fine sun-drenched last day of riding. Friday lied. After a promising start the rain returned, the trails turned to shite and a glum party arrived in Morzine, moods as dark as the clouds swirling around the mountain tops. A run down the Pleney downhill was predictably a Somme on a hill combination of hideous mud and braking bumps harsh enough to bounce me off the pedals of the Demo.
Closer to home we sessioned the bike park at Chatel for the last few runs of the day, including boosting the Chatel road gap (curse you Simon, Frankie and the hordes of French groms for making it look so easy and encouraging me to do it!). My last run on the north shore trails, interweaving with Claire and Vicky on the Blues And Rocks run, was huge fun though, Frankie and Simon meanwhile boosting the ludicrous creek gap under the chairlift on People.
And the sun? Who'd have guessed - as we left Chatel it was blazing hot and drying out nicely. Bah!