Tall Tales | White Lightening World Cups with Vero Sandler.

Tall Tales is a collection of our favourite crazy bike-related stories from our favourite riders, racers and industry legends.

Everyone has that story that they wait until the end of the night to pull out when the anecdotal oneupmanship starts to get into the final round. Tall Tales is a collection of our favourite bike-related stories from the best in the business.

This week’s Tall Tale involves Vero Sandler, and seeing how many Kiwis and their kit an ageing VW van can carry over Alpine passes.

Photo by Ale di Lullo.

2012 was my first year out of high school so me and a few mates from back home in NZ decided to save up all the pennies from our summer jobs and send it around Europe racing some of the World Cup circuit.

My mate Reece and I borrowed an old VW Transporter off some family friends of mine in Germany to get us from race to race, we named the van White Lightening. White Lightening was on its last legs from the get go… Its starter motor was faulty so every time we wanted to start it up we had to do a rolling bump start. This turned out to be quite the stitch up considering I’d never driven a manual before and was constantly stalling the thing.

It had two seats up front and none in the back, so we put a 3-seater sofa we ‘found’ in there to cater for the extra Kiwis we managed to acquire at each stop along the way. By the time we got to Val d’Isere for the World Cup we were at maximum capacity.

The morning after the race it was time to pack up and head back to Morzine where we were based for the summer. Since Brook Macdonald has just won his first World Cup the whole Kiwi contingency, myself included, went pretty large that night and were feeling extra rough.

As we were loading up the van three extra Kiwi boys proceeded to inform us that they were stranded without a ride back and asked if they could catch a lift back with us.

The slog back to Morzine took us over five hours (unlike the three hours predicted by Google maps). Despite being on the verge of death, White Lightning really was a trooper the entire way. We had five people stacked on the sofa in the back and three people crammed in the front. The middle person had no seat so had to sit on a bag. There were bags tied to the roof and the passenger beside the driver had to operate the gear stick as there wasn’t room for the driver do so. Even for us Kiwis this was a new level of sketchy set ups.

It was boiling hot, we were severely hungover, and on top of that our brakes stopped working an hour from Morzine. Of course brakes are an essential bit of kit, but if you’ve ever been to that area you will know that they are more vital than ever in the Port du Soleil.

Somehow the driver and ‘gear stick guy’ managed to co-ordinate their jobs well enough to get us back safely on pure engine braking for the last hour or so.

It’s safe to say White Lightnening had a well earned rest after this trip, mainly because no one wanted to go near it for a while and no one could afford to fix it.

We did eventually repair a few bits on White Lightening but on the van’s return home to Germany, apparently we hadn’t done enough.

Safe to say our family friends weren’t family friends for a year or so after 2012. Sorry mum.

You will be able to track down all of the crazy stories in the Tall Tales series here.

Why not check out our Wise Words interview with the same Vero Sandler here?

Read all our other unique content on our Features page here.