Photo Epic: Val D'Allos With Adam Craig and Lars Sternberg

Jul 10, 2014
by Colin Meagher  
When selecting a European rental vehicle it s important to balance cargo capacity economy and handling. Lars Ford Galaxy six-speed was absolutely dialed for a casual Monday drive over the Col du Galibier from Savoie south through the Alpes du Haute Provence. -Adam Craig
  When selecting a European rental vehicle, it's important to balance cargo capacity, economy and handling. Lars' Ford Galaxy (six-speed) was absolutely dialled for a casual Monday drive over the Col du Galibier from Savoie south through the Alpes du Haute Provence. - Adam Craig

Snow eventually melts the further south you go...And our track from Valloire to the Maritime Alps surrounding Val d Allos was decidedly south. -Colin Meagher
  Snow eventually melts the further south you go...And our track from Valloire to the Maritime Alps surrounding Val d'Allos was decidedly south. - Colin Meagher

The French aren t afraid of some engineering challenges. Here we re stopped blocking the cliff-side road trying to get a zoom on what looks like a bitchen waterslide park which ended up being some kind of aqua-neering triumph jumping one river over the next making that hydro-power. -Adam Craig
  The French aren't afraid of some engineering challenges. Here we're stopped, blocking the cliff-side road, trying to get a zoom on what looks like a bitchen' waterslide park (the green tube in the center of the frame), which ended up being some kind of aqua-neering triumph, jumping one river over the next, making that hydro-power. - Adam Craig

Le French Roach Coach Adam s keen eye always looking for the next meal caught this roadside Creperie on the far rural outskirts of Briancon. Turns out we were the first customers at this new location 180 years after this fine family opened this fine eatery. Do you crave sweet or savory -Lars Sternberg
  Le French Roach Coach: Adam's keen eye, always looking for the next meal, caught this roadside Creperie on the (far, rural) outskirts of Briancon. Turns out we were the first customers at this new location, 180 years after this fine family opened this fine eatery. Do you crave sweet, or savory? - Lars Sternberg

Nutella and Jambon is the case that they gave me. -Lars Sternberg digging into the Nutella filled goodness of crepe number 2 at the French crepe coach.
  Nutella and Jambon is the case that they gave me. - Lars Sternberg digging into the Nutella filled goodness of crepe number #2 at the French crepe coach.

The Galaxy was especially capable while dodging baguette-packing German cyclo-tourists on the after-lunch leg over the Col du Vars. -Adam Craig
  The Galaxy was especially capable while dodging baguette-packing German cyclo-tourists on the after-lunch leg over the Col du Vars. - Adam Craig

Val D’Allos is a ‘family’ ski resort above the small village of Allos in the Maritime Alps of Southern France, about 2 hours by car north of Nice. In essence, Allos is the quintessential French mountain village: sleepy summer time hotels, narrow streets, old buildings, and a couple restaurants. And it’s surrounded by amazing, jagged peaks. Which are littered with amazing trails—many of them accessible via the lifts at the Val d’Allos ski area or via a quick shuttle up to the Col d’Allos. These trails pretty much just scratch the surface of what’s available in the area, too—a little race called the “Trans Provence” runs just across the valley and opens up even more ride options.

Arriving in most mountain villages is always a journey back in time. Allos was no exception. Walking the narrow high street revealed old school hitching rings funky old locks in century old doors classic religious iconography and old school cast bronze knockers. it s not a village that time forgot but it s definitely taking a step back to simpler times. -Colin Meagher
  Arriving in most mountain villages is always a journey back in time. Allos was no exception. Walking the narrow, high street revealed old school hitching rings, funky old locks in century+ old doors, classic religious iconography, and old school cast bronze knockers. It's not a village that time forgot, but it's definitely taking a step back to simpler times. - Colin Meagher

What’s really important about Val D’Allos, though, is that it’s the birthplace of French Enduro racing—the first ever French Enduro race was held here back in 2002—the 10,000 Down. The brain child of Fred Glo and a few other like-minded mountain bikers, the 10,000 Down offers racers 10,000 meters of descending during a weekend of racing on the trails at Val d’Allos; it’s a ridiculously good time. The race is usually held the last weekend of June, and from that point on, the chairs provide daily bike access to the trails until the end of August.

The town and the ski area may be small by mega resort standards—Val d’ Allos only offers 1000 or so vertical meter descents back to the village of Allos, and a handful of trails to ride. Nor are these pure DH trails—a 150/160mm travel bike is all one needs in Allos. Why make such a big deal over riding at Allos, then? Because the trails that do exist, while few in number, are fun as shit. And then there are all the other trails in the area—the ones that descend the Col back into town, as well as trails that are part of the Trans Provence (for beta on those trails, just stop into Sylvain Barbotin’s bike shop in the village of Le Seignus above Allos and spend a few minutes talking ride options with him). Even better, Allos is relatively unknown, and remains largely free of the crowds that can swarm a place like Whistler or Livigno.

Adam, Lars, and I had come to Allos with a simple, three-part plan: ride the chairs at Val d’ Allos for a day, grab lunch, and then shuttle the pass at the end of the day and the next morning, then pin it for an Italian Super Enduro to be held in Medisimo, some eight hours away…

We pretty much scored on getting lift access to Allos the regular chairlift operations will not be available for the season due to new chairlift construction however volunteers were able to use the old chair in order to mark the tracks for a French Enduro to be held the weekend following our visit... translation we were able to score a free bump to the top. Seen here are course volunteers loading the chair. Lost in focus is the man behind the scenes Alex Balaud seen in the lower left frame with a load of stakes across his lap double checking the track lay-out for the race on a mapping program. This man has the pleasure of wandering the Alps creating the brain-melting courses that gave birth to this Enduro thing long before North Americans grew aware. In the main image are Lars and Adam checking out the terrain ridden during the previous year s EWS race. Farther down the chair line and just out of sight is one of Balaud s helpers a teenager wearing a Fedora bumping Jay-Z for us all on this private lift ride. -Colin Meagher
  We pretty much scored on getting lift access to Allos: hitching a ride to the top with the volunteers marking the tracks for this year's edition of the 10,000 Down Enduro. Seen here are course volunteers loading the chair. Lost in focus is the man behind the scenes: Alex Balaud, seen in the lower left frame with a load of stakes across his lap, double checking the track lay-out for the race on a mapping program. This man has the pleasure of wandering the Alps, creating the brain-melting courses that gave birth to this enduro thing long before North Americans grew aware. In the main image are Lars and Adam, checking out the terrain ridden during the previous year's EWS race. Farther down the chair line and just out of sight is one of Balaud's helpers, a teenager wearing a Fedora, bumping Jay-Z for us all on this private lift ride. - Adam Craig

Part one of the plan ran like clockwork. We caught up with Sylvain and Alex early in the day as they prepared to start marking the tracks for the 2014 edition of the 10,000 Down. For us, this turned out to be a stroke of incredible luck: the main chair to access the bike trails is going to be replaced this summer, and would only be running for the trail crews for the 10,000 Down and the racers the following weekend—there will be no public access for 2014. But with Sylvain and Alex’s help, we managed got the free ride up to the top to savor some of the goods we had sampled during last year’s EWS race. We rode hard all morning, reliving memories of last summer’s racing, sniping photos, and generally having as much fun as three single track connoisseurs can have when they’ve got an entire bike park to themselves.

We ve already made it farther than Ben Cruz did last year Ed note at Allos last year Ben Cruz found out exactly why the French maintain a mandatory back plate policy for gravity races... On the start of stage one of last year s EWS race in Allos Cruz clipped a pedal some 4-5 pedal strokes out of the gate--i.e. going FULL GAS--and the resulting yard-sale saw him not only carcass hard but cartwheel down the mountain. Cruz broke his back plate in the crash which effectively forced the Marin County local to DNS the remaining stages . -Adam Craig
  We've already made it farther than Ben Cruz did last year! (Ed note: at Allos last year, Ben Cruz found out exactly why the French maintain a mandatory back plate policy for gravity races: on the start of stage one of last year's EWS race in Allos, Cruz clipped a pedal some 4-5 pedal strokes out of the gate--i.e. going FULL GAS--and the resulting yard-sale saw him carcass HARD, not only cartwheeling down the mountain but breaking his back plate as well. Cruz opted to sit out the remaining stages in an effort to heal up from the beating). - Adam Craig

If Cruz had only made it around ONE turn he d have been home free on this the second straight. -Lars Sternberg
  If Cruz had only made it around ONE turn, he'd have been home free on this second straight. - Lars Sternberg

Always apparent whilst cruising the Alps the jagged teeth of the young mountains. It s easy to get caught up in the views see inset and get ground up in those teeth... -Adam Craig
  Always apparent whilst cruising the Alps, the jagged teeth of the young mountains. It's easy to get caught up in the views (see inset) and get ground up in those teeth... - Adam Craig

We looked down on this turn from our memories of the 3rd stage last year... at that time all we got was a snapshot run and then a race run but we all craved a another crack at this trail. Today was our day. Fresh loam to your dome. -Lars Sternberg
  We looked down on this turn from our memories of the 3rd stage last year... at that time all we got was a snapshot run and then a race run; but we all craved a another crack at this trail. Today was our day. Fresh loam to your dome. - Lars Sternberg

A lot of protection is compulsory in French Enduro. They ve got your back covered. Literally. Casual Tuesday might have found us a touch under-prepared... -Adam Craig rolling hot into a scree field on last year s EWS course.
  A lot of protection is compulsory in French Enduro. They've got your back covered. Literally. Casual Tuesday might have found us a touch under-prepared... - Adam Craig rolling hot into a scree field on last year's EWS course.

Adam assesses his ability to accelerate away from an acutely advanced aggravated and overly articulated loamy accoutrement. -Lars Sternberg
  Adam assesses his ability to accelerate away from an acutely advanced, aggravated, and overly articulated loamy accoutrement. - Lars Sternberg

Deep in Lars Allotian Dreamworld was the perfect natural double packed in by the cows we have to thank for this trail. Turns out it s a little longer and flatter and not really there--i.e. in Never Never Land. May as well pull for it anyway the flowers sure are pretty. -Adam Craig commenting on Lars bunny huck on one of the trails that made up stage 3 at Allos last season... The trial was littered with pumpy rollers and fun berms before diving into the Larch trees that lined the track all the way back into the valley. This particular roller looked inviting enough to go for the air instead of pumping through... suckerlip
  Deep in Lars' Allotian Dreamworld was the perfect natural double, packed in by the cows we have to thank for this trail. Turns out it's a little longer and flatter and not really there--i.e. in Never Never Land. May as well pull for it anyway, the flowers sure are pretty. - Adam Craig, commenting on Lars' bunny huck on one of the trails that made up stage 3 at Allos last season... The trail was littered with pumpy rollers and fun berms before diving into the larch trees that lined the track all the way back into the valley. This particular roller looked inviting enough to go for the air instead of pumping through... #suckerlip

Things get steep in the woods but so long as one is always on the lookout for opportunities to open up that line things will continue to roll. -Adam Craig rolling into a bit of a tech line midway down what was stage 4 of the EWS back in 13.
  Things get steep in the woods, but so long as one is always on the lookout for opportunities to open up that line, things will continue to roll. Adam Craig, rolling into a bit of a tech line midway down what was stage 4 of the EWS back in '13.

It s perfect here. -Lars Sternberg
  It's perfect here. - Lars Sternberg

Um here s that part our boy Josh Carlson never made it to last year. A touch farther down the hill was yet another bad spot to fall off from... This turn s for you Frother. --Adam Craig commenting on the section of trail above this line where teammate Josh Carlson made a bit of a pilot error last season and took himself out for the remainder of the 2013 race calendar.
   Um, here's that part our boy Josh Carlson never made it to last year. A touch farther down the hill was yet another bad spot to fall off from... This turn's for you, Frother. - Adam Craig, commenting on the section of trail above this line, where teammate Josh Carlson made a bit of a pilot error last season and took himself out for the remainder of the 2013 race calendar.

Riding in Europe will force you to expand your defiinition of epic riding a ribbon of brown pow here will genuinely make one feel small. -Colin Meagher
  Riding in Europe will force you to expand your definition of epic; riding a ribbon of brown pow here will genuinely make one feel small. - Colin Meagher

Fortunately I had plenty of Jambon to work on while Lars inflated his non-downhill Baloney Skin. -Adam Craig... One thing the trails in the Alps are never short of is sharp rocks and unexpected square edge hits. Run tubeless and carry a few spares just in case...
  Fortunately, I had plenty of Jambon to work on while Lars inflated his 'non-downhill' Baloney Skin. - Adam Craig... One thing the trails in the Alps are never short of is sharp rocks and unexpected square edge hits. Run tubeless and carry a few spares, just in case...

Boner Trees Bone-Air. -Lars Sternberg getting a bit of airtime amidst the grove of bent trees on what was track 4 of 2013 s EWS race here in Allos.
  Boner Trees = Bone-Air. - Lars Sternberg getting a bit of airtime amidst the grove of bent trees on what was track 4 of 2013's EWS race here in Allos.

Part two of the plan was a lunch stop at Auberge les Gentianes… anyone care for the 15-euro ‘le plaque du jour’ ? Don’t mind if we do... But that was where our carefully crafted plans derailed: how were we to know that we were settling into a five-course meal? Incipient food coma from that feast meant retiring to the comfort of our rooms at le Plein Soleil hotel to digest a bit before stepping up to part three of the plan: shuttling up to the top of Col d’Allos for the sweet, 45 minute, 1200m ride back into town for dinner at the hotel.

Easy to forget that we still happened to be riding on a mountain that operates a summer bike park and has miles of French style trail to get your rip on. One of many in this Alps region--so many that sometimes it s hard to choose... We d like to think this one is particularly good but it might be par for the course. Hard to imagine -Lars Sternberg... Post rip we hit up some damn fine lunch back down in the village and then topped off the hydration bladders for a final rip on the day down from the Col d Allos high up in the valley. -Colin Meagher
  Easy to forget that we still happened to be riding on a mountain that operates a summer bike park, and has miles of French style trail to get your rip on. One of many in this Alps region--so many that sometimes it's hard to choose... We'd like to think this one is particularly good, but it might be par for the course. Hard to imagine! - Lars Sternberg... Post rip, we hit up some damn fine lunch back down in the village, and then topped off the hydration bladders for a final rip on the day down from the Col d'Allos high up in the valley. - Colin Meagher

Unfortunately, during “nap time”, the weather had started moving in. With a sharp eye on the looming chaos, we pinned it for the pass, hit the trail, but as we got to point of no return—either return to the car or drop into the valley—the weather gods weighed in with thunder, lightning, and an ominous curtain of rain sweeping right for us. A two second pow-wow saw us turn tail and pin it back to the shelter of Lars’ Ford Galaxy—pretty much just as the weather hit us. That kind of weather—thunder, lightning, and torrential rain—in a high mountain pass is never fun, even within the confines of the Galaxy; we were the only vehicle descending the Col on the singletrack roadway back into Allos proper…

The original plan was to knock down the trail from the Col d Allos back to town... But between lunch a short snooze and getting up to the pass somewhat ominous weather had moved in... Our attempt was stymied by the grim weather. At the tipping point a qucik conference was held and the decision to roll back to the Galaxy Mothership was made vs. chasing an epic descent back to the town of Allos. Dodging the inclement weather in the Alps can be complicated and at times the closest solution is the safest. This fine piece of singletrack is located just off the tip of Col d Allos bearing south. It s a slight bit of work to arrive at the point of no return which we didn t quite make today. Sometimes settling for the out and back has to happen. -Adam Craig
  Dodging the inclement weather in the Alps can be complicated; at times the closest solution is the safest. This fine piece of singletrack is located just off the tip of the Col d'Allos, bearing south. It's a bit of work to arrive at the point of no return--which we didn't quite make today. Sometimes retreating has to happen. - Adam Craig

It s hard not to get lost in the views in the Maritime Alps above Allos. -Colin Meagher
  It's hard not to get lost in the views in the Maritime Alps above Allos. - Colin Meagher

Adam scurrying for shelter. -Lars Sternberg. The lightning was cracking and the curtain of rain was coming in fast as we opted to turn tail for the shelter of the Galaxy. No high alpine ride is worth a lightning bolt in the ass. -Colin Meagher
  Adam scurrying for shelter. - Lars Sternberg. The lightning was cracking and the curtain of rain was coming in fast as we opted to turn tail for the shelter of the Galaxy. No high alpine ride is worth a lightning bolt in the ass. - Colin Meagher

Mere minutes away from the car but seconds away from the oncoming deluge Adam Craig and Lars Sternberg going race pace to get to shelter. -Colin Meagher
  Mere minutes away from the car, but seconds away from the oncoming deluge: Adam Craig and Lars Sternberg going race pace to get to shelter. - Colin Meagher

Post ride recovery fare... In typical Fench fashion this was merely the first course on offer at Le Plein Soleil hotel s restaurant. -Colin Meagher
  Post ride recovery fare... In typical Fench fashion, this was merely the first course on offer at Le Plein Soleil hotel's restaurant. - Colin Meagher

Following a fine post ride recovery meal--Lars and Adam are after all pro racers so a gourmet meal can only be labeled as a recovery meal--we headed out to the local watering hole Auberge les Gentianes to tip back a few cold ones with Sylvain Barbotin owner of the local bike shop as well as take in a some World Cup football with the locals. Word of warning... if the local hooch genepi comes out to play make good your escape as soon as possible 3 shots of that had us reeling... -Colin Meagher
  Following a fine post ride recovery meal--Lars and Adam are, after all, pro racers, so a gourmet meal can only be labeled as a recovery meal--we headed out to the local watering hole, Auberge les Gentianes, to tip back a few cold ones with Sylvain Barbotin, as well as take in a some World Cup football with the locals. Word of warning... if the local hooch, genepi, comes out to play, make good your escape as soon as possible; 3 shots of that had us reeling... - Colin Meagher

The anger of the gods continued throughout the night and well into the next morning before clearing off. We were eager for redemption with another attempt on the trail from the pass, but Adam’s ridden those trails in the wet before, and the high clay content of the dirt up in the high pass would have meant anything but a good time without a full day to dry out. Based on that assessment, and knowing that riding the pass would also translate into an 8 hour drive to Medisimo, Italy with three filthy dudes plus our equally wet, filthy bikes and gear sardined into the Galaxy, we opted to save that trail for another day. But we will definitely be back…

Adam Craig with a final look at Allos as we headed up the pass. The previous night s rain had pretty much drowned the trails. A second attempt on the Col d Allos was out of the question the high clay content of the soil as well as an 8 hour drive to Medicimo for an Italian Super Enduro race said that our time in Allos was over. It s an amazing place we ll be back. -Colin Meagher
  Adam Craig with a final look at Allos as we headed up the pass. The previous night's rain had pretty much drowned the trails. A second attempt on the Col d' Allos was out of the question: the high clay content of the soil as well as an 8 hour drive to Medicimo for an Italian Super Enduro race said that our time in Allos was over. It's an amazing place; we'll be back. - Colin Meagher


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26 Comments

  • + 8
 They say a picture says a thousand words. When you love mountain biking as much as I do, that's a lot of time admiring the photos! Great article. I miss the Alps.
  • + 4
 Ford! Stop being so cheap! Give them the car next time! No better advertising dollars than this.... We all want one now....
  • + 4
 Epic trip. Epic pictures. Must. Have. Trailbike!
  • + 2
 Le plein soleil restaurant: french recovery meal... With Belgian energy drink.
Feeling a little under the weather today, I'll get a few of these energy-packed glasses
  • + 4
 Thanks guys! The car was a Ford Galaxy...
  • + 4
 Excellent!! What kind of car did you drive btw Wink
  • + 3
 Waoooo, , comment ca decoiffe ! Trop bon Wink
  • + 3
 Very nice report !! And amazing picture! Smile
  • + 1
 Just once, I want to see Adam Craig getting some air. C'mon dude, you can do it! Your buddies are always hitting jumps. I know you want to.
  • + 1
 XC rider.
  • + 1
 Actually he is a decent DH racer and can air out of half-pipes.
  • + 1
 I've been beaten by him my self. He's fit as a fiddle, lightning fast, and a great bike handler. He's courteous, professional, and a generally pleasant person. He's also primarily an XC racer and Lars 'n Bars could out jump him one handed. I'm not hating, it is what it is. I can't jump worth a crap either.
  • + 1
 Thanks, that certainly settles it!
  • + 2
 Great article, great pics.. It makes me very uncomfortable sitting behind the desk and working. Props for Colin for the pics
  • + 2
 Living the dream guys...some day I'll make it over with my bike.
  • + 1
 Spectacular. Great stuff, PB. If Adam or Lars are busy next time you send Colin to the Alps, I'm available.
  • + 1
 Awesome, good inspiration for my month long Alps trip that begins in a couple weeks. Allez
  • + 1
 Great Article and pictures!
  • + 2
 Dream Trip Smile
  • + 2
 Rad photos!!!
  • + 1
 Would love to go there, at least once in my life...
  • + 1
 Great article gentleman!
  • + 1
 love that bent trees pic
  • + 1
 ahhh....california

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