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La Thuile, the “cuore della Val d’Aosta” is a wild and unspoiled place. This resort is surrounded by the highest European summits such as the Mont Blanc and the Rutor has incredible scenery for the fourth round of the Enduro World Series. As soon as we got here, we could feel the warm and welcoming Italian atmosphere. Since the beginning of the season, every race is different and challenges the riders on several levels. La Thuile is a mix of pedalling transfers and lifts. With 6 stages and more than 1 hour of racing, it will challenge us both physically and technically, and apparently the weather will challenge us too this weekend.
For this round, the team is made up of all the Frenchies Flo, Alex, Maurian, Antonin and I, and our Canadian Jesse. The whole team got to La Thuile on Wednesday except Antonin, due to professional obligations. Practices were held on Thursday and Friday. Therefore, Antonin will be the only one to race blind. We’ve decided to practice the stages accessible by lifts the first day. We’ went to the top at 9:30 and found out that La Thuile is a wild place… Snowstorm, it is windy, cold and we can’t see anything! Not the best way to welcome us. Nature is sometimes harsh and when racing enduro you need to master these conditions. We practiced stage 3 and 5, which are rooty and rocky with some steep parts in the woods, and stage 6 which is more flow with some long flat sections. The bad point of this day is that Alex had a massive crash and hurt his hand. It was swollen with a large bruise and reduced all his hopes to get a great result here in Italy.
On the Friday, we made it to the top of stage 2 after an hour long pedal transfer. This one is only downhill with many corners on soft dirt. It is like skiing in the woods, we need to get the right pace and keep our descent fluid. Then, we went to stage 1, which is at the very top - two lifts and a last 45min ascent. Cold, fog, rain… we didn't see any of the high summits today. What about the stage? It was going to be one of the most important of the weekend! We have to do it twice over the weekend, it is long, it is physical and it is where you make the difference. Saturday, first race day:
8:45 after a last word with Enrico, I leave the start stage and head to the lift. Another lift, the transfer and we are at top. It is foggy and we can’t see further than a few meters. This round is epic! And we love that! The stage was even more physical than what we thought it would be. On this one Alex and his damaged hand finish 12th. What a warrior! A lot of people won’t even start the race, his hand is so swollen that it looks like a fake one! Flo is 15th, Jesse 19th, Maurian 42nd and Antonin discovering the tracks under the clock is 67th. We all head to the second stage and the longest transfer of the weekend. No more flat and muddy sections…
We are excited to do this one! But it sounds like the weather is more and more threatening. As the girls start, the rain does too. On this track Alex amazes us once again. 3rd “le couteau entre les dents
” but 3rd! Impressive! Flo is also getting the right pace and is 5th. Jesse is 12th, Maurian 41st and Antonin 65th. After a deceiving 8th position on the first stage, I finish 4th on this one in the women's field. The weather forecast was bad and it was right… It was now raining hard and as the Italians would say, yes it is a “giornata da tregenda
”. A pit stop allowed us to change our tires, get fresh water and food. It was time to head to the last stage for the today. It was very windy and cold at the top. The first part seemed very slippery and sadly our Maurian had a bad crash on a rock. He has a sore hip and won’t be able to finish the stage. The rest of the guys were doing well, Flo and Jesse have their best results of the weekend, taking respectively the 2nd and 9th positions! Alex can’t manage with the pain and these harsh conditions, but still finishes 20th. Antonin, still riding blind, finishes his day with a 63rd position. I conclude my day with a 6th position. Sunday, second race day:
We all start at the same time and in the same order as yesterday. Maurian is the only one missing. He has a large bruise on his hip and can’t pedal. Stage 4 is the same one as stage 1 and at the very top the conditions are even worse than yesterday. From the first corners, we can’t see anything and it is very slippery. These harsh conditions make the stage more difficult than yesterday, but Flo still manages to get a better result, he is 5th. Jesse and I also increase our rankings, he is 9th and I am 6th. Sometimes you can try your best, but it is yet not your weekend… It was definitely not Alex’s weekend. He had a flat tire, but managed to finish 35th. Antonin is getting closer to the top 50. We now head to the stage 5, a downhill and technical one. Alex frustrated by the first stage makes a clear run finishing 6th. Flo is 8th, Jesse 12th and Antonin 47th. The sun is back as we are getting ready for the last stage. After a two hour break, it was time to finish this battle! The gap in between the riders is so small that everything can change on the last stage! Flo struggles to the end for an 8th position. Alex is glad to see the finish line after this hard weekend and crosses the line in 12th. Jesse is 16th, Antonin 56th and I cross the line in 6th.
What matters the most after this weekend is our team result rather than our individual results. The Rocky Mountain Urge bp Rally Team is now ranked 2nd. We’ve been 2nd after each round since Chile. We are all in our twenties and sometimes are lacking of experience, but we are passionate and determined. When one of us is down, we all help and to bring that rider the energy to continue. We take care of each other, we move on and we get better. There is a positive atmosphere, enhanced by our mechanics Lilian, Nico and Guillaume that support us (and sometimes it is not an easy task, believe me
La Thuile was hard. It was a real battle where the best riders had to push their limits right to the end. Flo finished 6th and is happy with that result. Our Jesse, after adapting to the European conditions of racing, is back at a place he deserves, a nice 13th position. Our warrior, Alex with the adrenaline of racing manages to deal with the pain and he finishes 17th and exhausted. Well done on one hand! Antonin with no practices concludes this weekend 58th. In the women field, after a battle for the 5th place with Ines Thoma, I couldn’t bring back some time and finish 6th, but I'm very happy with that.
After all these European races, it is now time for us to get ready for our next big adventure. America we’re coming! We invite you to follow us on this trip and share our adventures. Ciao ragazzi, see you in one week at the airport… First stop, Winter Park, Colorado !