The next 2018 World Cup round that we will be looking at is the new course at La Bresse, France. The last time La Bresse was a World Cup round was in 2012 and it featured a very natural and old school course with one big climb and descent based around the town in the France’s Vosges mountains. This years’ course shifted over the hill to the ski resort of La Bresse.
The Vosges mountains are filled with natural single trails and the hope was the natural feel would continue over into the new bike park venue. Thankfully it did, as did the massive climbs! The first climb sent riders straight up the ski slope on an access road. It was rough, steep and very exposed though did feel cool to ride with the spectators watching. In the race, riders turned right for the first two laps to do a shorter course in hopes of minimising any bottlenecks, it didn’t work but it’s the thought that counts.
The real course went left and after a short descent entered a very technical rooty climb. This would be the definition of a natural trail, with big holes and small rooty steps to overcome. This was made extremely difficult by the overnight rain that soaked much of the course. The women’s race had it the worst as it had not fully dried but by the time the men’s race came around it was almost manageable. It was a very cool section that required power and precision, much like the expert climb in Nove Mesto, to overcome.
The top section of the course was the most pivotal piece. If you watched the live stream, you would know about the top climb as it was the one no rider could get up. In practice it was dry and barely rideable, unless you really hammered it, so in the wet there was no chance and it turned into a run/walk. The toughest piece was the 1.5m between the top of the climb and the descent.
In the race, this little section was littered with mud and large rocks, right where you needed to remount before hitting a steep chute into a muddy right-hand corner. Remounting, clipping back in, dropping into a sketchy chute that would be tough even with a clear roll in, after just running up a muddy slope, after just riding to the top of the course, pretty much XCO racing summed up in one section!
After the chute came a very tricky descent. The first part was a rock/root garden. First you needed to cross a rock drop, then go into a section of off-camber roots into a very tight righthand corner on a wooden berm. This was a tough section, but hitting it cleanly meant a lot of time and energy was being saved. The next section had a lot of riders, even the top riders, walking. It was slightly obscured on the live stream, but this tight left-hand corner was very sketchy.
The drop in was covered in roots with big holes between them where the mud had washed away. Then you needed to line up perfectly with a wooden berm that had started to disintegrate, sweep around that then drop into an off-camber rock garden. I managed this corner once in the race but decided to walk it for the rest of my laps, so I could hit the rock garden cleanly as that was where a lot of time could be lost. The margin for error was so small on the corner and the risks were large, but then again Nino Schurter did win the race and he was one of only a few who rode it every lap …
The final section was a very flowy piece of trail that was awesome to ride even in the mud. Overall, the course was very cool to ride and race with a great mix of climbs and different technical challenges and trails. The biggest plus for La Bresse and France was the massive crowds. The Nove Mesto crowd still takes the cake as the most vocal, but La Bresse was a close second and I can’t wait to race in France again in 2019!
Bike – Norco Revolver FS 2 Custom
Suspension – Fox
Gearing – Shimano 11-46/36t
Components – Shimano/Pro/Mt Zoom
Wheels – Stans Podium SRD
Tyres – Maxxis Ikon 2.0
Power meter – Stages + Stages Dash computer
Made shiny by – Krush