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Adam Craig diary: Racing mountain bikes down the slopes of the Alpe d'Huez

When I made it to the next short road traverse I couldn’t even push the lever to actuate my DOSS seatpost.

Fortunately, thirty seconds of smooth road is enough to recover before the next woods section.  It was in there that Swiss Enduro legend Rene Wildhaber passed me on a shortcut line that I overlooked, he was about twenty meters below my unobservant ass and turned a ten-second deficit into a five-second advantage.  Right, next time I need the time to do more than two pre-runs of the whole course.  Thanks for the tutorial, Rene.  And, by the way, how the hell did you survive your start crash?  It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. 

By pedaling, tucked, down the first 200m of snow, he got the holeshot, normally the safest place to be.  Except he was going about 80kph when the bumpy snow gave way to rocks.  Sliding out just before he exited onto to the relative safety of the stones, Rene started tomahawking, and people started hitting him.  It was horrific.  Only three riders made it through, Dan Atherton, Nico Vouilloz and Franck Paroulin.  And, while we were talking in the parking lot after finishing 17th and 18th, he didn’t even mention it.  Just another day in the life of a European Enduro racer, I guess…
Remy Absalon got out of the start crash early and unscathed, enabling him to hunt down the gravity-oriented riders on the traversing bits.  But Nico was checked out by then, with nearly a minute lead after the climb.  Which is funny, because Ross and I passed the legend shortly after, walking back up the hill with his bike on his back.  Hmm.  What could that guy, who is the picture of competitive restraint and calculated control have possibly done in the open, flowing meadow singletrack to abandon the race? 

Turns out he was still pushing hard enough that he overcooked a corner, burping his tire and breaking his front wheel.  Amazing that a ten-time downhill World Champion was pushing that hard while leading this race.  It speaks to the depth of talent and overall challenge of this event.  You’re PINNED, mentally and physically, for, well, in eventual winner Remy’s case, 41:20.  In Rene, Ross and my case, it was more like 45:00.  But we survived. 

That’s an interesting emotion to have post-race.  Normally for this kind of event you’re pumped to take every chance possible, and these guys are.  I will be next time, now that I know the score.  It’s another level. 

But it’s not that far away…

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