The 2021 Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team
We’re proud to continue racing in the Enduro World Series with our partner, Race Face Performance Products, and our three dedicated athletes, Jesse Melamed, Rémi Gauvin, and Andréane Lanthier Nadeau. We’ve built a dedicated program over the years with our long-term partners and athletes, by staying committed to the enduro discipline.
The riders’ ability to perform on and off the racetrack and engage with mountain bikers around the world has made for an unforgettable chapter in racing. 2020 was a challenging year, however we landed on the top step of the podium for two out of three races - and we’re excited to keep up that momentum in 2021.
"The Rocky Mountain enduro program has been one of the most consistently high-performing teams throughout the first 8 years of the EWS. Thanks to the best supporting sponsors and structure you could ask for, the team has achieved podium results in every year of its existence. Rocky Mountain has stuck with me through the lows to get me back to the highs and onto the top step of the podium. I am proud to have been a part of this legacy since the beginning and stoked for the coming season!"
“I am really happy to sign with the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team for another year. 2021 marks my 7th year with Rocky Mountain and 4th year as a member of our current team structure. Working with Rocky Mountain and Race Face, two brands from my own backyard, has been an amazing experience over the past few years. We have one of the strongest team on the circuit, fast bikes, and work with some of the best partners in the industry. I’m excited to get to Europe to show the world what myself and our team is capable of in 2021!"
Andréane Lanthier Nadeau
“Staying at the sharp end of the field requires a strong program and we’ve built that the past few years with our sponsors, staff, and my teammates. We’ve not only learned how to be with each other, but also how to work together. That’s what makes our team solid and allows us to perform our best. I’m preparing to be ready to rise up to the challenge of staying on top.”
2021 Enduro World Series events
Rounds 1 and 2 – Val Di Fassa ITA | 23-26 June
Rounds 3 and 4 – La Thuile ITA | 8 -11 July
Rounds 5 and 6 – Loudenvielle FRA | 2-5 September
Round 7 – Crans-Montana SUI | 11-12 September
Round 8 – Pietra Ligure ITA | 25-26 September
Round 9 – Tweed Valley GBR | 2-3 October
Race Face – Handlebar, stem, wheels, apparel, protection
FOX – Suspension, seatpost
Shimano – Drivetrain, brakes, shoes
Maxxis – Tires
Smith – Helmets, eyewear
K Capital – Capital Market Advisory
CushCore – Tire inserts
Reform Technologies – Saddles
RideWrap – Frame protection
EVOC – Travel bags
OneUp Components – Chain guides, tools
FSA - Headsets
Photos by Margus Riga
Video by Peter Wojnar
Ridden by the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team, the Altitude will be their key platform for enduro racing and aggressive trail riding. See the models here: ALTITUDE
The 2020 Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team
We’re excited to return to the Enduro World Series this year with our existing Canadian partner, Race Face Performance Products. Over the past two years, the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro team has made its mark on enduro racing and we’re thrilled to keep up that momentum.
Over the past few seasons, we’ve watched Jesse Melamed, Andréane Lanthier Nadeau, and Rémi Gauvin come together as a team and add their own flavour to enduro racing. We’re proud to have all three of them on board this year and excited to bring the world along for the ride with a second season of “The Jank Files”.
With the recent news of race cancellations in South America, we'll be ready as a team for when the race schedule is back to normal.
Peter Ostroski has been riding for Rocky Mountain in one way or another for 18 years! He’s been on every enduro race team we’ve ever had and these days his race schedule includes a mix of EWS races, the Trans Madeira, and the BC Bike Race. 2020 marks a particularly exciting season for Peter, with the announcement of his home tracks being raced at the EWS #6 in Burke, Vermont.
The Final Trans-Provence
Story by Peter Ostroski
What makes the Trans-Provence different than all the other stage races? It’s the combination of a massive amount of vertical metres descended, the number of hours in the saddle, countless switchbacks executed, and the camaraderie formed between riders. In my mind, it’s one of the hardest mountain bike events in the world as it tests your physical, mental, and mechanical stamina over six unrelenting days. This year marked the 10th and final year for the Trans-Provence and it finished just as it started – incredibly. This race has always delivered the ultimate adventure for like-minded riders looking to move through the mountains, interpret trails on sight, put down some fast times, and feel a true community vibe.
I was anxious about heading into the Trans-Provence. It’s such a legendary event with a long and documented history. But even though my anxiety was growing it shifted to excitement as soon as I arrived in Barcelonnette, France to kick things off. The schedule was set for the next six days, and although it was daunting the vibe at camp couldn’t have been more relaxed. New riders were introduced, past riders were reunited, and everyone was stoked to get going as we organized our tents and gear.
The Trans-Provence is all about blind racing so when you’re charging down old donkey paths, predictability goes by the wayside and the good choices you make begin to outweigh the risky ones. It’s quite unlike an EWS race that lasts only one day or two. At the Trans-Provence, you’re tasked with managing your own decisions and support to sustain nearly a full week of racing.
We were greeted by unfamiliar but awesome trails day in and day out. As the entire group rode through the Maritime Alps, we navigated everything from high alpine singletrack to technical rocky crags at sea level. The style and flow of each trail changed dramatically, putting even more strain on our bikes, body, and mind. Even though I was completely exhausted, it was the other racers at the Trans-Provence that helped to keep me going in the adventure. Riding with friends, swapping stories, and having coffees in small villages made for an unforgettable journey.
The idea behind the Trans-Provence is simple. You camp in tents and change locations each morning, manage your own gear, keep your bike and body running, and get through each day. It sounds simple enough, but I can assure you it’s far from it as you navigate from valley to valley and cover hundreds of kilometres and descend the height of Mount Everest two and half times.
The Trans-Provence is a race model that’s influenced an entire culture of mountain biking and pushed the limits what’s possible from an event. It truly is an incredible mountain bike adventure.
Catching Up with Jesse Melamed
Jesse tells Stan's Notubes about overcoming his injury and finshing the last two rounds of the EWS series; and how he's going to come back strong in 2016.
“Next year I want to be the best I can be. I’m not trying for anything but my best, although I’d like to get some more top 10 finishes in the EWS like the one I had in Ireland. I will train hard over the winter, but I also want to have fun - I’m still young, and I have plenty of years to reach the top step.”
- Jesse Melamed
Check out the full interview at notubes.com.
Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team
We're very excited to return to the Enduro World Series in 2018 and announce the formation of our new Canadian partnership with Race Face Performance Products. We're incredibly proud to form the Rocky Mountain Race Face Enduro Team, and to tackle a full season of racing with passion, drive, and dedication.
Our two brands have a deep history together that began in 1993. When freeride was born Rocky Mountain and Race Face were there, under the same roof, meeting the needs of demanding North Shore riders. Now, 25 years later Race Face is making some of the best components in the world, and we're honored to be officially reunited through our EWS team partnership.
- 12th EWS Series Overall Ranking
- 1st EWS Whistler, Canada
I'm excited to start a new chapter of this team, with Race Face on board to strengthen the Canadian vibe. I'm really looking forward to working closely with another local brand that shares my passion and roots. The crash I had in Finale Ligure at the end of last season was a tough one to recover from, but I've been training hard and am confident I am going to come into the first race strong!" - Jesse Melamed
- 8th EWS Series Overall Ranking
- 5th EWS Whistler, Canada
"Partnering up with Race Face and their strong Canadian roots is something that is unique to the EWS and exciting for myself. I'm really looking forward to getting things kicked off in South America in a few weeks, traveling with Jesse, ALN, our new crew of mechanics and Team Manager! This off season has been really productive for me, and I feel super-strong coming into the first round." - Remi Gauvin
- 11th EWS Series Overall Ranking
- 3rd EWS Wicklow, Ireland
"I feel really happy and at home with our team for 2018. With such a good set up, it really is a bittersweet feeling to be sidelined for the two first rounds with a wrist injury. With the team supporting me, the matter at hand is to regain my maximum shred capacity to join the party ASAP. I look forward to seeing us evolve as a team this season and to enjoy not only the racing but the whole vibe." - ALN
The new Altitude is here
Taking trail to new heights. Often imitated but never surpassed, the all-new Altitude pushes the envelope of what a modern trail bike is capable of.
For 2018 we've designed an all-new frame to increase stiffness, improve pedaling efficiency and small-bump sensitivity, and include a host of next-generation features. Now available in both carbon and alloy models, the Altitude allows for a wide range of RIDE-9™ adjustments to tackle any terrain—from technical BC loam, to clapped out EWS tracks, flowy New Zealand jumps, and Moab slickrock singletrack.
"The Altitude has always been my go-to, do-everything bike, from technical climbs here on the North Shore to burly descents in the Italian Alps. This new one improves everything I love about the bike—it’s smoother, stiffer, lower, slacker, quieter, and nails all the little details. Just like this old freerider, the Altitude gets better with age!” — Wade SimmonsIntended Use: Aggressive Trail Wheel Size: 27.5 Wide Trail Front Travel: 160mm Rear Travel: 150mm
Improved suspension performance
We’ve increased overall progression and support at sag, while making small-bump performance even more sensitive. Higher anti-squat values dramatically improve pedaling efficiency.
Next generation features
Comprehensive evolutionary updates across the platform include features like tooled axles, single-sided bearing pivots, integrated “spirit guide” chainguide, boost spacing, and metric shock compatibility.
Our Ride-9™ system provides a wide range of geometry and suspension adjustability; it has been moved into the link for lighter, narrower packaging.
To add control and descending capability, we’ve increased reach, slackened the headtube angle, and lowered the bottom bracket. We’ve retained short chainstays to keep the bike agile, and used a moderately steep seattube for efficient climbing performance.
- Increased anti-squat for better pedaling efficiency
- 27.5” Wide Trail and 26+ compatible
- Bearings at all pivots, including at lower shock mount (compatible with aftermarket shocks as well)
- Blind pivots maximize heel clearance
- Lighter, tooled rear axle
- Improved cable management: large headtube ports, full shift housing, large downtube access port, and internal shift and brake housing within the front triangle
- Future-proofed to be compatible with Di2, Fox Live, and a dropper post simultaneously
- Seat-tube lengths have been adjusted to accommodate longer dropper posts at maximum insertion.
- Chainstay and downtube protectors. *Due to production delays, the initial shipment of 2018 Altitudes will not include downtube protectors. They will be shipped to shops as soon as they’re ready.
- Integrated “Spirit Guide” chainguide, with 2-bolt ISCG05
- 1x only
- Lower standover height
- Significantly stiffer thanks to one-piece seatstay, new envelope, and updated layup (25% more lateral stiffness)
- Modern parts compatibility (boost spacing, metric shock lengths, post-mount 180mm brakes, etc.)
- All sizes fit a water bottle in front triangle, even with a reservoir shock
- Sizes: XS-XL
- Frame & shock: 5.45lb (2470g), size Medium
- Protectors, chainguide, & axle: 0.57lb (260g)
- Altitude Carbon 90 & Carbon 70 complete: 28.4lb (12.88kg), size Medium
Naming: In the interest of describing our lineup more clearly, we’ve updated our naming conventions. What used to be called Altitude 790 MSL is now Altitude Carbon 90, and what used to be called Altitude 750 is now Altitude Alloy 50. The Altitude still uses high-quality Smoothwall carbon and FORM alloy frames, and higher spec-numbers still indicate higher end specs.
2016 EWS Team World Champions
Photos by Matt Wragg.
Nobody ever said it, but after being runner up in 2014 and 2015, the goal at the beginning of this season was to capture the team title. The Rocky Mountain Urge bp Rally Team was gunning to be 2016 Enduro World Series Team World Champions.
EWS Round 1 Corral, Chile
Round #1 began with a flight to South America, and a few trips by boat to travel from our accommodation to the start of the race in Corral. The team would see 200km of riding between the four days of practice and racing, a big test of their off-season training. There was concern of a forest fire at one point, but when the smoke and the dust settled the team settled into their groove. It was a start much like the season would end in Finale, racing from the hilltops down to the ocean.
- Florian Nicolai — 5th
- Alexandre Cure — 15th
- Rémi Gauvin — 25th
- Jesse Melamed — 36th
- Sébastien Claquin, U21 — 2nd U21
EWS Round 2 Cerro Catedral, Bariloche, Argentina
- Florian Nicolai — 12th
- Alexandre Cure — 34th
- Rémi Gauvin — 19th
- Jesse Melamed — 48th
- Sébastien Claquin — 1st U21
EWS Round 3 Wicklow, Ireland
It was time for a change of pace and to come back to Ireland where we've had good results, and incredible hospitality. Wicklow does a great job of using the little elevation they have to create a fun, technical course. Voted best race on the circuit last year, the fans really get into the race and make for a great atmosphere—nothing like hundreds of Irishmen screaming at you to motivate a sprint to the finish! With all five racers placing inside the Top 20, the Rally Team took 1st in the Team category and jumped into the lead for the team overall.
- Florian Nicolai — 5th
- Alexandre Cure — 10th
- Rémi Gauvin — 19th
- Jesse Melamed — 16th
- Sébastien Claquin — 4th U21
Back to the towering mountains of Italy, in La Thuile, we saw the return of ALN (Andréane Lanthier Nadeau). She was out with an injury early in the season but was back and eager to race! With long punishing descents that would be more commonly ridden on a downhill bike, the La Thuile course put riders to the test. The big story this weekend was ALN. Maybe it was the espresso, or the pizza, but whatever fueled her hunger it worked, as Andreane landed on the 3rd step of the podium, proving that she has the speed and skills to play at the top!
EWS Round 4 La Thuile, Italy
- Florian Nicolai — 5th
- Alexandre Cure — 11th
- Rémi Gauvin — 23rd
- Jesse Melamed — 13th
- Sébastien Claquin — 2nd U21
- Andréane Lanthier Nadeau — 3rd
EWS Round 5 Aspen Snowmass, USA
The USA round is always a tough one for the Frenchies for whatever reason. Maybe the high altitude, or the different terrain, but we suspect it's the lack of baguettes, meat, and cheese. The tracks in Colorado are generally fast, tight, and loose—a big change from the steep, technical tracks of Italy. Flo and Alex pushed through to take respectable results, but it was Jesse who broke into the Top 10 for the first time. Another team win extended our lead on the category, and we headed north to Canada for the next round.
- Florian Nicolai — 13th
- Alexandre Cure — 26th
- Rémi Gauvin — 12th
- Jesse Melamed — 8th
- Sébastien Claquin — 2nd U21
- Andréane Lanthier Nadeau — 11th
EWS Round 6 Whistler, Canada
Whistler is our second home, and the first home of Jesse Melamed. The Crankworx EWS course is a monster of a race that takes a toll on both rider and bike, combining bike park and the raw, natural trails of Whistler and Blackcomb. Unfortunately another hand injury took ALN out for the rest of the season, so it was up to the five remaining riders to get it done. All the pressure or none, Jesse rode his race from beginning to end, knocking loudly on Richie Rude's door, and taking 2nd place! His first EWS podium, with family and friends surrounding him at the Whistler Village finish line.
- Florian Nicolai — DNF
- Alexandre Cure — 105th
- Rémi Gauvin — 12th
- Jesse Melamed — 2nd
- Sébastien Claquin — 2nd U21
EWS Round 7 Valberg-Guillaumes, France
The French side of the team was excited to return to their native soil. The legendary tracks in Valberg are steep, wild, and natural—an incredible venue for the penultimate race of the season. Alex and Flo bounced back from crashes and mechanicals in Whistler to take solid results in the maritime alps. "A lot of nose turn here at Valberg, it's really cool ride at home," said Flo. However, it was Jesse that stole the show, taking 3rd—backing up his podium in Whistler, and silencing any whispers of home track advantage. The Claq stayed consistent with another 2nd place finish in U21, and the whole team was fired up to bring it home.
- Florian Nicolai — 4th
- Alexandre Cure — 10th
- Rémi Gauvin — 24th
- Jesse Melamed — 3rd
- Sébastien Claquin — 2nd U21
EWS Round 8 Finale Ligure, Italy
A series of consistent results brought the Rally Team to Finalé sitting in top spot for the Team overall standings, but the overall win wasn't a sure thing. To make matters worse, Jesse was fighting a nasty illness. The whole team had to battle hard this weekend, but ultimately had a great race with three top 10s and the whole team finishing within the top 25.
- Florian Nicolai — 8th
- Alexandre Cure — 13th
- Rémi Gauvin — 22nd
- Jesse Melamed — 7th
- Sébastien Claquin — 7th U21
In the dusty hills above the Mediterranean Sea, our little Rally Team took on all comers and sewed up the Enduro World Series Team Overall World Champion title! In the individual overall rankings Flo finished the year in 6th, Jesse in 9th, Rémi in 15th, and Alex in 17th. The Claq earned himself 2nd place in U21. By all measures a year we're massively proud of.
Mission complete. Finalé is a great place to finish the season. Whether you win or lose, you're at the beach in Italy, on the Mediterranean with great coffee and food, and your bike. This year we managed to win the Team Overall, and have some individual successes along the way. We'll look to come back next year with more determination, focus, and fun.
Thank you to Florian Nicolaï, Jesse Melamed, Rémi Gauvin, Seb Claquin, Alex Cure, and ALN for an incredible year. Thanks to Lilian, Matthieu, Scott, and the rest of the crew—and thanks to Fred Glo for supporting this from the very beginning. The end of this season is bittersweet, with some of our favourite competitors retiring from racing. Salute to Anne Caroline Chausson, Nicolas Vouilloz, and Anka Martin for their contributions to mountain biking. It won't be the same without you on the circuit!
We would like to thank all of our sponsors, who have supported us from the first pedal stroke and supply us with the best parts available: Urge Bike Products, Maxxis, Shimano, Fox, Stan's Notubes, FTI Consulting, Race Face, Royal Racing, EVOC bags, Smith Optics, Val d'Allos, One Up Components, Clif Bar, 7 iDP, and WTB.
See you on track next year!
—Rocky Mountain Bicycles & Urge Bike Products
Return of the Rockies
The iconic peaks of the Rocky Mountains embody a particular wildness, a disdain for the manicured and curated experiences of the modern world. Rocky Mountain Bicycles’ namesake mountain range holds a special place in our heart. We knew this year that we were overdue for a return to our roots - our bedrock.
"Growing up in Edmonton, the Rockies represented the epitome of rugged, large scale terrain,'' says Thomas Vanderham. ''My trips to the Rockies have been few and far between since I left the prairies, so the opportunity to spend time in Fernie on the new Slayer was one I looked forward to all year. It did not disappoint - panoramic views, huge descents, impeccable trail building, and a tight-knit mountain bike community.''
This was my first time riding with Florian Nicolai, and it's easy to see what makes him one of the top EWS racers in the world. He's got natural speed and an eye for ultra creative lines on the trail. We had an incredible time, and I hope that my next trip back to the Rockies isn't too far away.
Elk Valley locals tell a story about William Fernie, who asked a Ktunaxa chief about the black coal rocks hanging on the necklace of the chief’s daughter. The chief showed him the source of the coal on the condition that Mr. Fernie married his daughter, but the prospector backed out of the agreement. The chief then cursed the entire valley, and it would suffer a series of fires, floods, and mining disasters at the turn of the century.
The supposed curse was lifted by Chief Ambrose Gravelle of the Ktunaxa Nation on August 15th, 1964. However, if you look at Mount Hosmer on summer evenings, you can sometimes make out a shadow of the chief’s daughter standing beside the ''ghost rider'' on his horse.
"I was in a window seat, jetting west across the mountains of British Columbia. I stared out at the grandeur of sun tinted snowy crags and knew that what separated my adopted home in Edmonton from the native soil of Vancouver was a massive rock formation called the Rocky Mountains. I thought about naming our new company after these peaks." - Grayson Bain, one of the original founders of Rocky Mountain Bicycles, 1981.
The jagged summits of the Three Sisters peaks that overlook the Elk Valley are massive beds of sloping marine limestone, called the Palliser Formation. Most mountains are younger than what they’re built on, but Fernie’s craggy peaks are literally upside down. 360 million years ago the area that would become the Elk Valley was much further south, close to the equator, and the Pacific Ocean was only 80km to the west.
Dinosaurs roamed the land and earthquakes shook as the tectonic plates smashed into each other, fracturing massive pieces of stone along huge thrust faults. 180 million years ago, the old limestone sea floor was pushed upwards along those thrust faults and over the younger stone - turning the mountains upside down.
''I was excited to have the opportunity to work on this project. The first day I couldn’t believe I was riding with Thomas Vanderham - he’s a legend to me, and I love watching his signature style and whips,'' EWS racer Florian Nicolaï said of his time with the Canadian freeride icon. ''This was also the first time I rode the finished product of the Slayer, but it only took me one run to get used to it. It surprised me how good it is for different trails and terrain.''
The trails in the Rockies are so different from France, or anywhere else I've ridden on the Enduro World Series. The day we rode in the alpine was special. Riding raw freeride trails with Thomas right behind gave me a little pressure, but the views were beautiful and it was so much fun. It was an amazing experience, and I hope to return one day soon!
The scale of the Rockies is sobering. From geological upheavals to megatons of rock carving the landscape as glaciers advanced and retreated, the forces that have shaped these mountains are almost unimaginable. This place has a unique way of making humans feel insignificant and reminding us that today’s landscape is just an impermanent snapshot in the earth’s geological history. It’s an honour to explore this terrain, its stone and loam, on two wheels.
The Slayer is Back!
- Intended Use: Enduro / All Mountain
- Front Travel: 170mm
- Rear Travel: 165mm
- Wheel Size: 27.5”
Designed to lay waste to the world’s roughest trails, the Slayer is back as an all-carbon weapon. From the most aggressive Enduro World Series tracks to bike park laps and big mountain lines, its downhill-bike capability and pedaling responsiveness are matched with an uncanny ability to find and hold speed in rugged terrain. All killer, no filler.
“I’m super fired up that the Slayer is back. A few things really stood out to me through the development process—it pedals incredibly well, carries a ton of speed, and that extra bit of travel is awesome when you really want to rally! I see myself spending a ton of time on this bike." — Thomas Vanderham
- Full Smoothwall™ carbon frame
- Ride-4™ adjustability chip for precise geometry adjustments
- All sizes fit one water bottle inside the front triangle
- Future-proofed to run Di2 and a dropper post concurrently
- Max type Enduro cartridge bearing pivots with simplified hardware, Pipelock™ rocker link pivot
- Shock-eyelet bearings for small-bump sensitivity
- Single-sided chainstay and seatstay pivots for a narrower rear triangle—eliminates heel rub, even with Boost spacing
- Metric shock, 230x65
- 1x specific
- Clearance for up to 27.5x2.5 “wide trail” tires, and compatible with 26+ tires (26x3.0)
- Full-length internal dropper post and lockout routing. Internal brake routing in the front triangle, internal tube-in-tube shift routing
- Oversized downtube ports for ease of cable routing
- New derailleur hanger design reduces hardware complexity
- Lightweight bolt-on axle saves 35g compared to a traditional Boost axle
- PressFit BB92 bottom bracket, ZS44 | ZS56 headset
- Post-mount 180mm rear brake
- Max chainring size is 36t
- Sizing: S/M/L/XL
Our four-bar Smoothlink™ suspension has been tuned to eat up rough terrain and square-edged hits. We also increased the anti-squat values to make sure the bike pedals efficiently—whether you’re sprinting for a transfer stage or grinding towards a backcountry descent.
The Slayer features shock-mount bearings for incredible small-bump suppleness. Predictable, efficient, and capable, its rate curve provides good support at sag and a moderate ramp towards the end-stroke.
When we decided to bring the Slayer back, we knew it needed the crush-everything-in-its-path attitude of the previous generation while keeping the agility and efficiency that made it a favourite among aggressive trail riders. The updated geometry retains a fairly steep seat-tube angle, while the reach has been extended and the head-tube angle has been slackened.
We kept the BB drop neutral and the rear centre quite short to improve cornering, and shortened the seat-tube lengths to make room for the next generation of longer dropper posts.
Our Ride-4™ adjustability system was chosen for the Slayer in order to provide precise geometry adjustments while leaving the suspension curve virtually unaffected. The head-tube and seat-tube angles can be changed by just over a degree, and the bottom-bracket can be raised or lowered by 7.5mm. This allows racers to adapt their geometry from track-to-track while keeping shock tuning predictable and simple.
Size Specific Tune
Size Specific Tune ensures that riders of all sizes get the right balance of small-bump compliance, mid-stroke support, and end-stroke progressiveness. Our design team does custom shock tunes based on real world field testing, and adjusts each tune for every specific frame size, from S to XL.
Mountains as Far as the Eye Can See
Mountains, mountains, mountains. As far as the eye can see. We are definitely in the Alps…
Words by Remi Gauvin, photos by Matt Wragg
La Thuile 2016 will go down as the most descending in 4 days I have done to date. In those days we descended 15,000m, wore through brake pads, and made a short career of tires. We also had a lot of fun.
La Thuile is on the French-Italian border near the famous mountaineering towns of Chamonix and Courmayeur. Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe, loomed over most of the stages throughout the weekend, but the weather played nice.
Stages were almost all accessed by lift with the exception of stage one. This meant that while our legs were fresh at the start of each stage, the long steep runs were punishing on the rest of our bodies. Riders were complaining that their arms were dead by the end of each run. All stages were physical in their own way and each one had a solid dose of climbing. The energy we saved on the transfers was more than spent on the stages.
Stage 1 started across the valley from the ski resort, and was the one stage without chairlift access. We climbed Col San Carlo and then up into the alpine, 900 meters above La Thuile. The stage started with some typical tight European switchbacks before passing through grass fields and dropping into the woods below. Alex Cure and Andreane both finished 4th on this stage.
For Stage 2 we headed back to the lift and made our ascent to the start. This stage started in the alpine, flagged though rough rocks and gorse bushes, only burned in by the countless riders who were sent to ride through it. Next we cut through a farmers cattle field—in practice we'd encountered a herd of stubborn cattle here, and they could not give a damn if there was a bike race happening where they wanted to graze. Then, finally ending on an old access road that zig-zagged across the bottom of the hill. Andreane finished a career best 2nd place on this stage and Florian took 3rd in the men’s field.
Stage 3 was one of the fastest stages of the weekend, but also one of the longest, with a brutal climb at the bottom. Fast rock faces and high speed corners in the alpine, twisty woods in the middle, followed by some of the best steeps of the race. Just when you thought it might be all over the course turned a sharp right and sent us onto a gravel road pointing right back up the hill. During the race the crowds screamed at you to pedal, while your legs screamed at you to stop. Stage 3 one of the best of the weekend, but it was also one of the worst of the weekend.
A night off to reflect on the days racing went by quickly. Soon we were back on the top of the mountain about to drop into Stage 4—one of the longest and most physical stages of the race. It seemed that it was always just slightly flatter than you wanted. A gravel road climb in the middle of the stage had me seeing red into the next section, and hanging on by a thread by the end of the stage. Andreane showed her fitness once again and backed up her first day with another 2nd place.
Stage 5, although not extremely physical, was very technical. Steep off camber sections meant that you had to be precise and patient in during the stage in order to shine.
The final stage of the weekend stage had a mixture of the highlights of every stage of the race. Tight switch backs, technical off cambers, steep chutes and a solid climb in the middle of the stage. The bottom was lined with spectators as you entered the finish area. It was a great stage to finish the weekend on.
Florian Nicolaï said that although he was happy with his 5th place result, he didn’t perform his best in a few of the stages and it cost him. Nevertheless, his consistant performance bumped him up into 3rd place in the Overall category.
Jesse also felt that his 13th didn’t reflect his pace this weekend and a few mistakes on Stage 5 knocked him back in the overall. After injury troubles the last few rounds, it's great to see him smashing stages again.
Andreane was of course over the moon with her result. 3rd place in her first real race of the season!
Once again the team as a whole performed spectacularly. We were the number one team on the weekend and added 100 points to extend our lead in the Team Overall. Andreane finished a career-best 3rd, while Florian finished 5th in the men’s. Alex finished 11th, Jesse 13th and I finished 23rd. Seb also took 2nd place in U21, keeping pace in his season-long battle with Adrien Dailly.
Next stop, Aspen!
— Remi Gauvin