John Oldale, Mark Scott and Kathi Kuypers take a break from jagerbombs and back-flips in search of empty alpine singletrack.
Words by John Oldale / Images by Ben Winder
“We wanted to have a look beyond the tail-whips that were being thrown down”
Crankworx is without a doubt one of the most well-known and largest mountain biking spectacles on the planet. Combining the world’s best riders and plenty of drinking establishments is a guaranteed concoction for success. But the problem is the locations. Whistler, Rotorua and Les 2 Alpes are some of the most stunning settings in the world. Surely there has to be more to the area than simply gazing at it through the dreary eyes of last night’s Jagerbombs as the top riders do their thing? Are those back drops anything more than just decoration for the riders to perform in front of?
Mark Scott, Kathi Kuypers from Trek Gravity Girls and myself set off to try and find out. We wanted to have a look beyond the tail-whips that were being thrown down in the town of Les 2 Alpes. We wanted to stop just looking at the back drop and actually ride it.
“The first challenge was to blag our way up to the Glacier which sits at a casual height of 3200m”
We’d been to Mountain of Hell and the Enduro World Series in the area already so we knew vaguely where to look.
The first challenge was to blag our way up to the Glacier which sits at a casual height of 3200m. It turned out that we didn’t need to blag anything and the gatekeeper of the gondola was more than happy to let us up. 20 minutes later we were stepping out onto glistening snow and sunshine. The entire way up we were all pressing our faces against the window of the cable car to check for a way down the moon-like landscape.
“The trails had perfect dirt. They were dusty as hell and well built. What more can you ask for?!” Kathi Kuypers
“we had successfully completed 17kms of descending and just over 2000 vertical metres in essentially one run”
Having raced here a few years prior Mark immediately took us away from the bike park and off to a hiking trail that was used as a stage in the Enduro World Series. The hiking trail was a classic French alp number with dozens of switchbacks. Mark who was fresh off the Trans Provence had his Euro-Enduro-Switchback flicks dialled, and it was pretty impressive to watch him disappear into the distance. When we got to the bottom of the trail, we had successfully completed 17kms of descending and just over 2000 vertical metres in essentially one run.
“The trail was immaculate…”
But it wasn’t over there. Mark suggested we go and hit up one of the best pieces of singletrack in the alps. Two chair lifts later and a short 15 minute climb we were at another summit. This time there was a little less snow and a bit more grass and cliff. The trail essentially ran along the top of what looked like the world’s biggest cliff (cunningly hidden by the long grass) before snaking its way into the pine trees below. The trail was immaculate with natural berms and rollers adding to the flow. 10 minutes of pure delight before we were back into town just in time to grab a cold Kronenbourg and kick back and watch the flipwhips unveil.
It turns out that there is more to Crankworx than Jagerbombs and flip whips. That backdrop is ready and waiting for you. Stop just looking at it, get out and explore.
Thanks to John for the words and Ben for the stunning photos. John is a 7ft half Kiwi/Half Brit that lives to make fast racers even faster. Ben Winder is a young-gun photographer from the Forest of Dean that has taken almost as many photos as he’s had troubles with his van.