Avalanche Bloggers: Mike Thickens at Ae

I’m going to be featuring a few blogs from tame Avalanche Cup/Euro Enduro racers in the future. Here’s a take on the recent Ae Avalanche Enduro from Mike Thickens,  a North Wales local who’s been racing all over Europe, taking the Junior MaxiAvalanche European Cup outright in 2009 and coming 11th overall. He’s turned 18  this season and has moved up to Senior, racing against big names like Karim Amour and legend Nico Vouilloz.

Mike’s not shy of saying what he thinks and there’s plenty to go off here, including his take on “that” line  choice…

Jon.

Here goes:

So the first race of the season is out of the way, always good to get the first one out of the way.

Mike Thickens taking Junior Avalanche Cup

At Flims, Switzerland 2009, taking Junior Championship

I’d headed up to Ae Forest and Dumfries the weekend before the race to ride and get the trail in my head again, but as usual in Ae forest it was raining and that made for a pretty wet ride. I was riding with Clive (Forth), Skinner, Robbie and a few others. As we were riding round we got to the dreaded step up which Skinner had resurfaced for the Enduro – I hit it and kept it low and smooth, racer style. We went back Sunday night – I had some work to do in the week!

Come the race weekend Charlie Williams met me at mine then we cruised up in the van. We got there on Friday afternoon, so we put a quick lap in, leaving Saturday free to practice the Qualifier Stage and then do the qualifying run.

On Saturday I’d just lined up for the qualifying run when I heard that the two-racers-at-a-time set up would be the fastest first and second riders paired, then the third and fouth, so I knew I had to pin it to make sure I got a good partner for the race run. Finishing my qualifying run, I thought it had gone well and had a quick check at the screen – I was 2nd, but with over 290 people to come down before the end, I didn’t think I’d stay there! Results came in and I had kept 2nd – just behind Glyn O’Brien, so it was a Welsh and Irish pair heading it up for the race on Sunday.
On the first stage, Glyn went just in front and almost missed the straight line choice that hadn’t been taped as I went for it, so we came pretty close there. We crossed the line super close, which I took as a good sign that I could keep up.

Stage 2 passed all good however Stage 3 wasn’t as smooth. When the Marshall on gave us a 30 second warning we got on the line, ready to go. He was was standing behind us and then just said “go”. We looked at each other and thought “no countdown then?” then just realised we better gooo! The timing system wasn’t too exact anyway…

Mike Thickens on home turf

Pinning it on home turf in North Wales

So we were on to stage 4 and I had my special line ready at the end. I headed off first on this stage, hit a couple of couple of corners then that step up jump – I didn’t keep it low and properly sent it over there, even Glyn (a Red Bull Rampage man!) said I’d gone big – I was proud haha. Nothing exciting in the rest of the stage until the last two switch backs where I had a funky line to take advantage of lack of taping at the end. I know a lot of people were annoyed and pretty angry at the line but having no official rule book I’d gone off what Olivia Edwards said eg “ stick to the track as much as you need to“.

I was applying the Maxiavalanche rules from last year which state you must stay within the tape – and there was no tape on the contour across or the inside of the corner and the next bit of tape was at the finish line, so we cut that out and back section by firing directly down the grass, into the corner and back on the trail. We had it down as racing and all good fun but a lot of people thought it was wrong and not inside the rules. I have to say that even Nico Vouilloz was not impressed. He did admit that he hadn’t spotted that line – surprising considering he is a Mega Avalanche winner and if you have ever ridden with one of those boys in the woods you really learn what choosing lines is are all about! In the end Clive, Glynn and myself were given 15s penalties for taking that line.

Stage 5 passed smoothly – it was my by far my favorite stage – pedally, jumpy flowing and fast – I did think it would have been that little bit better without the chicanes but I suppose they are there to slow you down after all.

On Stage 6 Glyn went just in front – he’s the DH man after all. I managed to keep up and we got to the switchback just before where you drop onto Omega Man trail. The Omega Man has big, fast jumps and is pretty scary in a open face helmet, especially hitting all the funny off-camber drops at race speed. Glyn double punctured landing the last one and he ended up flying past the finish line into the timing guys! We were done, but now we just had to wait for another 299 people to go and then the standard French delay for the results. Whilst riding back I discovered I had blown the rebound on my Lyriks -  I am now informed they suffered from hydraulic lock and I’d fired the circlip and lower bit of the leg that holds the rebound cartridge in clean off. Oh well – there’s a new set on the way now.

Mike on the podium with Nico V at the Ae Avalanche

Sharing a podium with some big names..

All in all, I was pleased, it was a good result – 4th in the 1st race of the year. The training has paid off well but I didn’t win, so I need to train even more, although it was very cool to be on same podium as mountain bike legend Nico – a 10X world title holder, something to remember.

Next up it’s the Kona Mash Up in Afan on the 12th June..

Big thanks to Scotby Cycles for supporting me with bike parts and sorting a new set of forks out for me – legends.

www.mikethickens.com

www.mtbskills.eu