Summer has been in full swing for the past eight weeks and has definitely been the hottest I’ve ever seen it so early in the year: 30-35 degrees every single day from the end of June onwards and not a drop of rain until quite recently. Luckily the lifts have all been running and I’ve been getting some excellent days in all of my usual spots but I know what I like now and big singletrack descents off the back side of Le Tour have consistently put the biggest smile on my face even if conditions have been a little looser than ideal.
Maybe it’s my new bike, improved fitness or riding clipped-in all the time, but something has really clicked with my riding this summer and I’ve never felt so confident and fluid on the trails. I have never focused on speed, more on riding smooth and clean, but I do find myself naturally riding faster recently and feeling the elusive “flow state” stronger than I think I ever have on skis, feeling intense concentration of what I’m doing but at the same time feeling effortlessly in control and performing at my best.
A special moment halfway through July was riding one of the most technical trails in the whole valley non-stop and completely clean, something I have been wanting to do for over two years. I’m not a big one for focusing on a “sense of accomplishment” but managing this really felt amazing; I’m glad Simon was with me to share the moment and capture the photo at the bottom.
And maybe my best day biking of all time was just a few days later, taking five descent variations off the back of Le Tour and a long technical route home; easily over 6000m vertical descent with lots of uphills in between. 9-5.30pm door-to-door on just half a bag of Haribo and plenty of water. I can understand how endurance athletes do it now; I was enjoying it all far too much to even notice any fatigue. That said, I couldn’t quite walk properly the next day.
I’m so glad to have found mountain biking as my summer sport, and while skiing will always be my first love there is something special about biking too. My old housemate Rob put it best last winter while we were trying to explain biking to another friend: nothing can beat the very best ski days but the average biking day is better than the average ski day. There are maybe 5-10 “all time” ski days per winter but lots of “just OK” or not-so-good ones too, but almost all biking days are amazing fun and far less dependent upon the weather or trail conditions.
Unfortunately I took a nasty fall a couple weeks ago and have done some damage to my wrist. Even though I was feeling my most confident ever and hadn’t had any real falls all summer I was aware that I couldn’t get over-confident or push things too hard. But at the end of a long day Sandy and I decided to take the most technical route home from above Lavancher, even though we were pretty tired, and my front wheel got stuck in a hole on a steep section of very chunky rocks. I was more concerned about my head, neck and bike as I dusted myself off but as soon as I got back on the bike I was pretty sure that my wrist was broken.
A very relaxed doctor told me “Not broken, we don’t need to x-ray” that night which was a relief to hear but over the next week things got more painful, so a return visit for an x-ray was the sensible thing to do. Thankfully nothing showed up, so just a bad sprain. It’s two and a half weeks later now, very frustrating not to be riding but these things happen and I’m thankful that this is my most serious injury (summer of winter) since 2006 and even that was only a torn thumb ligament.
Hopefully another week’s rest will be enough to get my back on the bike, taking it easy and wearing my new semi-rigid splint, but I know that I need to be sensible and listen to my body. In the meantime there has been plenty of transfer driving work for me, lining up a bit of web design work for the autumn, taking a few batch orders of beanies for Boax Clothing and of course giving my bike some care and attention to get it riding sweet for whenever I am ready. Town is slowly getting busier now but as long as I am fit to ride in September when things die down I’ll be happy, maybe even in time to get some long-overdue return trips to my favourite spots in Italy. Let’s wait and see.