Downtime in The Alps With Richie Rude and Jared Graves

Jan 18, 2015
by Yeti Cycles  
 
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Downtime in The Alps

What do you do with two riders fresh from the Valloire EWS stage? Send them to nearby La Grave for a week with photographer Dan Milner to juggle training programs, massive calorific intakes and nailing images aboard their new SB5c bikes. Coming straight from the chaos, intensity and race win at Valloire, spending a week in the little village of La Grave was like stepping into another world. The village is tiny and with only 700 inhabitants, all hardcore mountain folk and most lured here by the extreme-ski tag the resort has in winter. But with few distractions, the week allowed Richie Rude and Jared Graves to focus on their training, get further acquainted with the SB5c and squeeze in photo sessions, while Yeti mechanic Shaun Hughes kept everything moving. With a lift right outside the apartment door delivering riders to a 900m descent, gravity laps weren't a problem, nor was accessing some of the nearby backcountry trails with a few hike-a-bikes. Dominated by the 3983m high peak of La Meije, La Grave is unique. The cold, stone-built village and the steep, no-nonsense resort is not for everyone, and its trails threw in a few curve balls when it came to both training and photography. But we're glad we experienced it, its glaciers, weather and body-punishing trails. What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger, right?

Downtime in The Alps
Downtime in The Alps

Richie cuts it loose during his first time down during a 500m off camber, skinny, scree trail descent at the end of a long day. Shooting at La Grave that week was all about trying to work with a very changeable weather pattern. Frustrating at times, rewarding at others, all helped by a 7 a.m. lift up the mountain.

Downtime in The Alps

La Grave is not known as a mountain bike Mecca. It's steep and unforgiving. In the winter it's two curious lifts hurl backcountry skiers straight into 10,000ft off-piste descents that dodge glacial crevasses and seracs. In summer, its five dedicated trails carry a similar feel: committing. But, just outside the resort, we found trails that oozed flow like an over-ripe Brie.

Downtime in The Alps

Head up the valley a little and the type of trails you find could be a million miles from the glaciers of La Meije, the mighty peak that dominates La Grave and its surroundings. Richie and Jared find some dusty flow to finish the day.

Downtime in The Alps

Fitting in a photo shoot around some winning racers' training schedules means working late. After a recon on this trail, we hit it up to shoot for a late light session, but got clouded in as soon as we hit the peak. A full 90-minute wait in a cold wind didn't help morale, but when the light popped again, the descent was worth the wait.

Downtime in The Alps
Downtime in The Alps

After a sunny day recon' at the Col d' Izoard, one of the Tour de France's famous battlegrounds, we drove an hour to explore the unique terrain. Five minutes after arriving, the rain set in and we huddled in the van with Jared keeping us amused with Australian-twanged anecdotes. Just before calling it off, the weather cleared enough to go have a play on the incredible trails that flow through this lunar-landscape and the boys put the SB5c’s great climbing abilities to good use.

Downtime in The Alps
Downtime in The Alps

We only got to scratch the surface of the trails at Izoard, trails that on the map run out in every direction for tens of miles. For me as the photographer, the bad weather actually served up a lot more atmosphere than we'd have had with sunshine, really helping pick out the rock formations. For Jared and Richie, they got to throw the bikes around on some very loose corners that felt more like the Dolomites than the Alps.

Downtime in The Alps
Downtime in The Alps

It never feels good getting up to grab a 7 a.m. lift, especially when you have to wait in near zero temperatures for it to open while the liftie gets his coffee and cigarettes sorted first. But as soon as you step from the lift up the mountain and back into those first rays of sunshine, there is little that can compete in both riding in this light or shooting it.

Downtime in The Alps
Downtime in The Alps
Downtime in The Alps

The official bike trails at La Grave have consistency. Beginning above tree line they are steep, rocky and technical. Once in the trees, they are steep, rooty and technical. It was a great proving ground for the SB5c's ride-anything capabilities.

Downtime in The Alps
Downtime in The Alps

With the SB5c not officially launched yet, it was important for us to keep the bike away from public eyes and Instagram. Riding at La Grave, we needn't have worried. Nobody rides here - you have the trails, either in the resort or in the nearby backcountry, to yourselves, every day.

Downtime in The Alps

Riding by Jared Graves & Richie Rude.
Photos by Dan Milner.


Yeti SB5 Carbon @yeticycles @jaredgraves @DanMilner
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74 Comments

  • + 55
 seeing amazing photo epics like this one only reminds me how sucky my local spots are.
  • + 18
 All it needs is the Photo Epic layout D:
  • + 5
 It's true. Nice photo makes every ugly thing look good. This though does not change the fact that the Alps are looking good.
  • + 7
 #nofilter - Those pics are beyond amazing. I didn't realise the Trail Ninja is also a Lens Jedi!
  • - 12
flag twozerosix (Jan 19, 2015 at 11:53) (Below Threshold)
 "La Grave is not known as a mountain bike Mecca"...with those photos, no, it looked awful, sure enough.

Yeah... umm.... you know what? Go dig your nose.
  • + 22
 Err, I'm not sure what "go dig your nose" means, but whatever. So yes it is true my camera work was long established prior to my rather amateurish video offerings as the 'Trail Ninja'. Actually la Grave is pretty off the bike radar. Its riding is pretty tough, steep, committing and not the perfect place to have a photoshoot, but seeing as the SB5 wasn't yet released, we had to hit somewhere away from the crowds so the bikes weren't Instabanged the hell out of. Yep, nearby Les 2 Alpes or Alpe d'Huez have the prep'd bike trails, a ton of flow, DH tracks and miles of singletrack, but La Grave had its own feel. Veyr unique. Not for everyone's taste, but it can work if you want it to.
  • + 2
 Yes, Dan has been taking great photos for quite a while. Lots of photos winter sports involving adventure also. His personality on film or in writing something I've always enjoyed too. Keep it up Dan.
  • + 2
 Wow. It's like a neverending Top of The World trail in Whistler and lift access as well, but way better. On my fantasy trail list.
  • + 3
 Only problem is that I can't choose one for my new computer desktop pic. They're all too good. =)
  • + 1
 off the mountain bike map @danmilner? there used to be a bike festival there, the fat wheels festival. there are lots of bike videos still online of this era, they used to have a yearly little film contest
  • + 1
 Sorry, my sarcasm wasn't working on Monday. What I meant was more along the lines of "if that ain't nice, I don't know what is."

Sick photos and I'd love to make a pilgrimage there, Mecca or not.
  • + 31
 I NEVER EVER comment in here….like ever…..but this set of images is the best I have ever seen on this site in all my years of lurking here. Every single one captures exactly what I love about mtb. Alot of climbing, flowing DH stuff, very cool meadow single track, some techy sections, no one taking their bike up damn a chairlift in silly full body armour, and crazy good mountain views with perfect light.
Checks every box I have for a perfect days ride. Nice.
  • + 3
 The quality of photos is very high on pinkbike, but I agree, these are something else. The combination of composition of the landscape and framing of the riders is superb.
  • + 2
 almost has a hobbit feel they are so nice. I also have noticed the quality of sound on PB as I am a sound mixer and my new video sounds better here than on any other delivery service like youtube. Again the shots upstage the riders.
  • + 4
 Thanks for the err.. kudos, kudos100. I've been a pro photographer for 16 years so I'm hoping I've learnt a thing or two by now about nailing a good shot :-)
  • + 6
 Richie Rude on an SB5c just seems cruel to the bike. I know he got second (and won 2 or 3 stages) at Winter Park EWS last season on it, but the bike must wince when the man-child climbs aboard! Great photos, ridiculously skilled riders and super bikes.
  • + 7
 All I saw was the first photo and kept scrolling! now I'll go back and read it.
  • + 13
 There are words?????
  • + 1
 So...did the guys enjoy riding or is the author saying that it was a pain in the butt to get such epic shots and the scenic beauty of them makes the riding they did look more enjoyable than it really was.
  • + 1
 it's Milner he's always moanin'.Nice shot's dan.
  • + 1
 Ha ha. To be honest there is good riding at La Grave and in the neighbouring valleys, but you've got to put in a ton of effort (but hey, when is it every good if you don't?). But to reach the good stuff there are some real ball ache climes and then we got unlucky with the weather, having to cower from rain, wind and generally inclement badness, which if you're just riding might not be a problem -just peal out of there- but if you're shooting, it can kind of ruin the flow of things. So yes go and ride there. Its adventurous and demands some effort, but it comes with rewards.
  • + 1
 Understood.
  • + 4
 faved,thanks to pb and thank you yeti,this pleased my eyeball
  • + 9
 it pleased both of mine!
  • + 5
 video?
  • + 3
 Sorry, this was a photo only session. Remember them?
  • + 1
 Was there a story too? I couldn't stop scrolling to the next photo. Guess at some point I'll have to go back and read the story as well. Amazing photography.
  • + 1
 I rode my snowboard here for the 1st time last winter,it was amazing,I would imagine it's pretty full on for biking though.STEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.
  • + 2
 you got it. Steep. Hella steep.
  • + 1
 Decided I will be riding here this summer. It looks like the best way to escape the stresses of modern life. Oh and it looks loose as hell.... Bring it on
  • + 2
 Wow, spectacular and gorgeous scenery! Would love to ride those trails someday...
  • + 2
 I see a Europe roadtrip appearing in your life soon....
  • + 1
 As a general rule, don't let photographers write. This one is not up to Yeti's high content standards. Nice photos though!
  • + 1
 Yes, they let a photo monkey loose with the keyboard, apologies for that, ha ha. The idea here was to just caption the images and let the photos do the talking rather than do a full written feature. So I just wanted to add a little backstory to the images and put La Grave in context. You might find some of my other ramblings on Pinkbike to your liking, for example here: www.pinkbike.com/news/Taming-Wild-Mustangs-to-the-edge-of-pain-and-back-dan-milner-2014.html
  • + 1
 Loved this Alps article! I find myself wishing it had more journalism shots like the Taming Wild Mustangs article. Shots of dudes hiding from rain, in the uplift, mechanic doing his thing, etc. Smile
  • + 2
 My actual dream is to try (have) the YETI SB6C !!!!!
  • + 2
 Dream shared.
  • + 2
 Dream completed. At least for an hour and half
  • + 3
 I love my backyard! Smile
  • - 1
 Mountain ain't yours
  • + 6
 it's 20 minutes from my house, so it truly is part of the playgarden Smile
  • + 1
 Salut fredooo!

Je planifie y aller cet été : les deux alpes, le téléphérique...

Je garde ton nom en mémoire!
  • + 1
 si tu vas la bas cet été, à part les deux alpes essaie aussi oz en oisans, serre chevalier, bardonnechia... pas mal de bike park sympas
  • + 1
 What time of year is this? Heading to Europe curious to find some riding in April, hopefully!
  • + 1
 great photog,amazing riders and awesome bikes- a very fine feature
  • + 2
 34 Float Forks?!
  • + 1
 Sure looks better than Chicago. FML.
  • + 1
 I went to La Grave last week... m.pinkbike.com/video/417060
  • + 1
 Epic shots!!!!!! Nikon? Canon? Lenses??? Film? Digital?
  • + 1
 Nikon D3s, 70-200/2.8, 24-70/2.8, 16-35/4 and 50/1.4 on this shoot. Hope that helps. I also use a Nikon D600 + 70-200/4, Zeiss 18/3.5, 50/1.5 combo for more remote mutli-day carry everything trips where I want to go lighter, and Leica M9, with Zeiss 18/4, 50/1.5, Leica 90/2.8 combo if I want to go even lighter. Wow that was geeky wasn't it.
  • + 1
 Thanks Dan! Sweet - I'm a Niko guy too - epic talent!
  • + 1
 POD!! Home sweet spots!! i fucking love my mountains!
  • + 1
 Why are they not wearing enduro-packs?
  • + 1
 beautiful photographs everyone deserves a POD bravo!
  • + 1
 where can i find a photo studio with that background.....epics
  • + 1
 La Grave.
  • + 2
 WOW.....POD..........
  • + 1
 No kneepads, t-shirt... Looks like this is the new trend.
  • + 5
 *sponsored by NHS hospitals.
  • + 1
 no worry, they just only took a photo session..
  • + 1
 I thing they riding the chill mode so they don t need kneepads
  • - 1
 Am I the only that thinks that EVEN for a photoshoot a rider looks better with knee pads when riding enduro?
  • + 5
 i wear my kneepads all the time, even when i dont think im going to fall, just incase..
  • + 11
 Well actually while it was a "photo shoot" we were usually out riding about 4-5 hours for each of these photo sessions. Which means that they were actually real rides.. up to the top of peaks and down to the bottom of the valleys. The guys are actually so at home on bikes that these sessions are just a little playtime in between the races.. no kneepads or packs or anything. To be honest Graves and Rude are such machines that a waterbottle and a couple of spares stuffed in a back pocket is enough for this kind of ride. Weird but true. Me... I'm packing a 20Kg backpack with cameras, spares, jacket and Emergency locator beacon...
  • + 1
 bacon is rescue
  • + 2
 Oh yeah and the T-shirts in the shots are some fancy tech weave thing that Yeti uses in its riding shirts. casual look, but they are great performers on the bike. They don't make me faster, but they get rid of the sweat really well.
  • + 1
 It's more like a dolphin than a whale.
  • + 2
 Pod, pod, pod and pod
  • + 1
 Lucky you. The riding in La Grave is stunning. Winter and Summer.
  • + 2
 It is a gorgeous day.
  • + 2
 those epic pictures...
  • + 1
 I need to move.
  • + 0
 The mountain that killed Doug Coombes.
  • - 1
 OMGZ Richie!!

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