It’s Saturday, one week before The Blast #2. Fabrizio and Jarno meet up to do a last inspection of the trails to make sure there are no big surprises. As we drive up the road towards Pila the patches of snow next to the road are getting bigger and bigger. One hour later we are plowing through 15cm of fresh white powdery snow, on the road that leads to SP1… Fast forward to Thursday, and the snow has disappeared from the trails, and the sun is out! Riders are finding their way to Hotel La Chance, a luxurious biker friendly hotel situated at 1800m right next to the famous Pila Bikepark. Everyone dumps their luggage in their room, and meets up at the bar for a well deserved drink.
There are worse places to be…
Friday morning and the lobby smells like fresh coffee and croissants. Although bitter cold outside (just above freezing) the sun is up early radiating a beautiful glow over the Aosta Valley and it’s surrounding peaks. The buffet breakfast boosts a huge selection of cakes and croissants, toast, eggs, bacon, yoghurts, fruits… Everyone gets a plate full as today a good 1200m of climbing and more then 2000m of descending is planned.
Jarno ”Mullet” Veerhoek going off the main line on SP1
With the nickname-plates mounted to the bikes, it’s off to the first Special Stage. After 15 minutes of pushing the pedals on a double track road leads everyone to “The Canyon”; a high speed rollercoaster ride with banked turns taking you down almost 700m in less then 4 minutes! With no practice, all the riders face the trail with the same challenge.After SP1 it was time for a solid 700m vertical of climbing. Painfull but with some Italian Pasta as a reward at the top, no one complained.
Greg ”Johnny 2×4” with his dog Sophy on the liason to SP2.
Refuelled with Gnocci and Pasta, it was off to the San Grato Church, with a wide open liason to SP2.
Waiting in line!
The view at the start of SP2 was really nice, giving a great overview of the Aosta Valley. People are pretty laid back in this region, the start was practically in someones garden!
Bart ”Gargamel” Vlaanderen ripping it up on SP2.
SP2 really woke everyone up. Nicknamed the Rocky Balboa, it was full of rocks, rocks and more rocks. Ah and did we say it was long? A good 5 minutes of arm pump had everyone in agony at the finish line!
Pila Aosta Freeride track as SP3.
Before heading over to the bar, there was still 400m of climbing to bedone to reach SP3. This was a section of the famous ‘Pila Aosta Freeride’ a trail which goes from 2600m all the way down to 500m over 14km’s! To ride that beauty, you need to stop by later this summer, as the peaks still have more then a metre of snow on them at the moment.
The only way is up!
After a good day of riding, it was beer o’ clock! The remaining 1300m of climbing was done comfortably by shuttle vans and trailers. One person still didn’t have enough though, and decided to ride back up. If that isn’t crazy enough, he made an Italian Roadie go home crying when he overtook him on his Enduro bike! Amael aka ”Kapooya” is a MACHINE!
Bazinga smashing it on the pedally bit of SP1!
Day two started a lot better then forecasted. Although cold and grey, there was no sign of the snow that was predicted. SP1 was short and pedally flow trail, ending up in a farmers field. Unfortunately the farmer had removed a bit of the Race tape we marked the trail with, so several riders missed a left hander and ended up in a field of potatoes. Everyone made it to the finish line in the end though, so no soldiers MIA.
”You want-eh more-eh sugo? more-eh pasta, si?”
For SP2 the riders were sent across the valley, to the south facing side. This meant less trees, riding in between the vineyards and almost 2 hours of climbing to SP2. Almost at the top it was Pasta o’clock, with some true Aostanians serving you as much pasta as you could eat for 10 euro’s! Espresso included of course.
This trail was one of the highlights of the weekend. Long, tough, dusty and rough this track is used frequently by some of the top DH racers in the region to train in the winter months.
Amael Donnet aka Kapoooyaa. Not only a Machine on the climbs but also smashing it on the downhills.
The long trails and big rocks did make for an exciting situation for the ‘overall title’ with ‘Mullet’ getting a pinch flat quite high up, he had to keep it pinned riding on the rim to not lose too many seconds!
He wasn’t the only one who had trouble to keep the air in his tires, also Fin Fang Foom had his tire go boom on this special, and on the next putting him out of the competition for the overall title. With fresh innertubes mounted, it was another 400 vertical meters of ascending, to the start of SP3.
Racing with a view!
The final special of the day had some amazing views. Too bad no one had time to really enjoy them!
”Can anyone borrow me a tube” was a much repeated sentace this day.
Fixing flats at the finishline started to become some kind of ritual. With that flat fixed it was time for more descending to end up at the bar! The sharp edgy stones made alot of victims this day. Minion DHF Double ply is the way to go sometimes, even for Enduro!
Bueno apetito indeed!
The hungry wolves were happy when dinner got served twice according to good Italian custom. First a big plate of Pasta or Risotto as a starter, then the main with meat, vegetables and potatoe mash. Thankfully we had some of the local Aosta Valley wine to wash it all down.
A slightly dehydrated Johnny Utah on the last Special Stage of the weekend.
Sunday morning was a tough one for some. After dinner it was time to test the local spirits in the bar. Genepi, Grappa and appearantly someone shouted Tequilla shots in the end. Coffee, croissant and off they went. ”Mullet” still in the lead even after his flat tire adventures, as ”Stifler” had a bit of an excursion on SP1 from day 2.
All the way from Chile! Hernan made the trip to The Blast, combining it with a business trip. How cool is that!
The last Special of the weekend was a familiar one, the same as SP1 of the first day. Having ridden the trail once before, it gave the riders a bit of an edge to push it a bit harder. But also increasing the risk of crashing as a result of ”you think you know where to go, but you don’t” This left Fin Fang Foom ragdolling when he hit a treestump as he tried to cut a corner, and ”Loose Louie” became ”Lost Louie” when he missed the entry to the singletrack on the part of fire road halfway the special.
New product idea, Camelbacks for dogs!
Time was flying and with all riders finished, it was up to the organisation to calculate the times. Stifler clocked fastest time of the day, in a whooping 3’07 . Mullet was only 6 seconds off the pace, with another flat tire! Holding the French Flag high was Hannibal, in third spot with a very respectable 3’30” on the final stage. This is exactly how the overall results were too; 3 Hannibal, 2 Stifler and winner of The Blast #2 Mullet with a total of 24 minutes of racing time.
Are you bummed you missed out on this awesome weekend of riding? No worries, you can book the same trip by using our local guides! Check here for more info.
Of course many thanks go to all the riders that showed up from Belgium, France, Holland, Switzerland, UK, Germany and Chile, to Hotel La Chance for the excellent service, food and accommodation, to Fabrizio, Bubba and Francois for sorting out the best trails of the region and to our sponsors!
Photos: Guus Bouwmans, Igor Verstegen