The latest from Atlas

Monday, 25 August 2014

Alanna Columb on Tour

Howdy everybody!
Guest blogger: Alanna Columb

I'm going to be guest blogging on the Atlas news page over the next few weeks, keeping you update with my MTB races in North America and Europe.

Well, I have been abroad now for three weeks, I have raced my first two World Cup events and have just arrived in Whistler for the week of Crankworx.

So I’ll start with my first race in Monte Sainte Anne, Canada - a track well renowned for being one of the hardest on the World Cup circuit. On the Wednesday leading into it we did a track walk, it was everything I thought it would be and then some. Rough, fast and long! On the first day of practise I set out to find flow and learn the track as much as I could to bring me up to pace. As this track has been around since the early 90's many of the other competitors have had a lot of experience here. I got two flats in practise which made things a little more difficult. Qualifying day, I headed out for a practise needing to dial in a few lines and determined to hit the final jump that only one girl was hitting, the current World Cup leader.

First time I hit final jump was nice and smooth, the second time into it I squashed the first jump and had a better landing allow me to pedal into the final 45ft double. This however caused me to lose my flow; I didn't pop off the lip enough and cased the landing giving me a hell of a fright – I thought I had injured my ankle. I headed back to my room to check out the damage, put the ankle up and iced it. Luckily there wasn’t any instant bruising or severe swelling so I was just dealing with a tweaked ankle. 

Track at Monte Sainte Anne
I went out in the qualifying just wanting to put together a clean run and protect my ankle. My run was smooth, I caught with the girl in front of me which held me up a little but hit the final jump cleanly and qualified 8th. I was feeling good as I knew I had easy seconds up my sleeve. Back home I iced up my foot and got ready for race day. Because I had qualified in the top ten it meant I was on live stream coverage. This was awesome as it meant everyone at home could watch my run. Unfortunately though in my run I picked up a front flat in the fast open section. It was just 30 seconds before the TV picked up my run. I was devastated, to say the least, I was on form nailing my lines and riding fast. That was the end of my first world cup this season . . . DNF. I was gutted.

We left Canada and drove the seven hours into the New York state, and arrived in Windham for my second World Cup. Windham track was fast and one lined with big jumps, also running about half the distance of Monte Sainte Anne track. I had heaps of fun in practise going fast and jumping big. About half way down on one of the fastest parts of the track was a fifty foot road gap into a step down. Oh, it had you smiling all the way down! I went out into qualifying with the same game plan as Monte Sainte Anne - just to ride smooth and consistent to see where I was at. This didn’t pay off however on such a short fast track times were super close I had a far too cruisey run, qualifying me in 16th. I knew in my race run I had to let her get loose, ride fast and smooth. Feeling super good going into the final I knew I had the speed to be on the podium. But this didn’t prove in my race run. I was fast in sections but coming in too hot and losing speed and that proved to be too costly on this track. I had a disappointing run landing me 12th for the Windham world cup.
Ready for the Red Bull Berm Burner

After the race I was feeling frustrated and needing to blow off a bit of steam so I borrowed a bike, helmet and stole my friend Jarna's shoes off his feet and entered the Redbull Berm Burner (a pump track race). I thought I had entered the pro women’s class turned out to be the pro men! Still, I qualified for the finals but was bumped out by the former and current champ. After competing in the pro men class I went on to win women’s field.

I’m here now at Crankworx and I will be competing in three races, the dual slalom, pump track challenge and the Canadian Open DH. I will use this week to work on bike set-up, focus and prepare for the final World Cup in Meribel, France.

Thank you to everyone for your support so far and I’ll be updating you all with my next instalment soon.

Checking out the track at Monte Sainte Anne

Track walk at Monte Sainte Anne

Monday, 18 August 2014

Amy Abroad: French Craft Beer at La Fer Rouge

As an English speaking tourist in French speaking country my quest for some great French craft beer began with some dodgy vocabulary and grammar. “Bonjour, je suis looking por le tres bon French biere?”, which roughly translates to “Hello, I am looking for good French beer”. Luckily, most locals I conversed with spoke some English so once I’d made myself understood I was pointed in the same direction by every person I spoke to.|
Le Fer Rouge.

Le Fer Rouge is located in the town of La Chapelle d'Abondance about 7km down the road from
Châtel. We decided to head there for some dinner and as we pulled up outside, first impressions did not disappoint. Le Fer Rouge is a beautiful, traditional Alpine brasserie and once I saw a large sign reading Biere Mason/Microbrewery and saw the mountain bikes parked outside  I realised I'd hit the jack pot!

The interior was rustic with old beer signs mounted on the walls and the lounge area was filled with mismatched antiqued furniture and wooden tables. Our French bartender explained the range of beers available on tap and proceeded to serve us sample half pints of each. Between rounds I bombarded her with questions about the bar. She had some answers but informed me Monsieur Mouthom would know more. She disappeared leaving me confused about her whereabouts and then, all of a sudden, a man in a white coat was tapping me on my shoulder. He introduced himself as Benoit Mouthom, the owner, brewer and chef of Le Fer Rouge. What with my aforementioned bad French there was a bit of a language barrier, however Monsieur Mouthom could speak some English and asked me to slow down my sentences. We proceeded to have a great chat and he was happy to answer my many questions.

Born and raised in La Chapelle d'Abondance, Benoit Mouthom travelled to England many times as a young adult and developed a taste for English ales. The diversity of beers inspired him and made him think of brewing his own back home in France. Turning this dream into reality proved to be extremely difficult as there were no suppliers in France for the correct machinery, hops or malts. It was also quite difficult for him to convince the banks that he was serious about becoming a brewer and that it wasn’t a joke! In spite of these setbacks in 1994 Benoit purchased Le Fer Rouge and set about building his microbrewery business. 

By 1998 his product had been perfected and he was ready launch it. Le Fer Rouge, which means The Red Iron, was the first microbrewery in The Alps and the 35th brewery to open in France. At first, as well as bar sales, Monsieur Mouthom sold his beer to local grocery stores. Over the years demands grew so high and as the brewery itself is so small he decided to only brew for the bar and focus on Le Fer Rouge business alone. Monsieur Mouthom buys all his malts from England, but his hops and yeast come worldwide from countries such as USA, Australia and Europe. I thoroughly enjoyed the beers on tap at Le Fer Rouge and below are my tasting notes for the five beers that are brewed on site.

Ale Très Pale “La Gourgandine” 3.8%

Has a high fermentation and is influenced by North American styles, hoppy and floral.

Blanche “La Potion Magique” 3.8%

This spicy wheat beer has strong hints of a smoky sweetness. It has an aromatic, citrus nose and a fruity vanilla-banana mouth.

Bitter ou Real Ale “La Frasses” 3.8%

Expect to be hit with a hoppy, bitter ale, giving way to chocolate-caramel flavours and an interesting hint of liquorice at the end.

Stout “La Forgeronne” 3.8%

La Forgeronne or "The Blacksmith" is dark, creamy and smoky. This roasted stout was definitely my beer of choice!

Blonde au Chanvre “Flower Power” 3.8%

This blond beer is infused with hemp and was also one of my favourites.

After a lovely evening of chatting with Benoit Mouthom, drinking his tasty beer and eating his delicious food it was time to part ways. I shook his hand, wished him well on future business and said au revoir. Talking to Monsieur Mouthom made me look forward to trying some more English Ales again. So when I return to England I’ll be ditching the mountain bike and will be off on my motorbike again to search for some more!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Things you didn't know about beer: who invented beer?

Op uw gezondheid! 
Toasting the original brewmaster next time you raised a glass, in a word, would be impossible. It's pretty difficult to attribute the invention of beer to a specific time in history let alone a person. Mythology offers up some interesting cheers-worthy chaps though...

  • According to Flemish legend it was the mythical King Gambrinus who invented beer. King Gambrinus is celebrated in folklore as an icon of brewing, beer and general joviality. Some stories talk of him having magical brewing powers and legend has it that when he died, his body disappeared and keg of beer magically appeared in it's place. Nice.

  • A famous brand of Czech beer is named after Gambrinus.

  • And speaking of the Czechs. In Czech legend is was the Slavic god of hospitality, Radegast, who invented beer. Radegast also has a Czech beer named after him along with a 1990s Russian black metal band and also a Polish folk metal band!

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Amy Abroad: Dans les Alpes!

Head six hours north from the French Riviera and you find yourself driving dizzily through the bendy roads of the French Alps. As the passenger in a right-hand drive vehicle, on the right-hand side of very narrow roads it feels strange to be so close to the centre line and yet not in control of the car. Traffic whizzes by so close it makes you reach for the safety handle but the mesmerising mountain scenery is a welcome distraction from the white knuckle ride!

Approximately 1,200 kilometres in length, the Alps stretch through eight European countries and are the most visited mountains in the world with 120 million visitors annually. With so much to explore we have narrowed down our adventures to one area and have rented a cosy apartment on the French-Swiss border in the alpine village of Châtel. Positioned at 1,200 meters above sea-level with a surrounding population of 1,500 this traditional French village is a bit quieter than the neighbouring town of Morzine and is the perfect base for mountain biking in the Portes du Soleil area.

Portes du Soleil is dubbed ‘The Gates of the Sun’ and is the largest sking and
mountain biking area in the world. It consists of twelve villages, fourteen valleys and 1036 square kilometres of terrain. The entire area is connected with 201 lift systems including cable cars, gondolas, chair lifts, and T-bars. In the Summer months this extensive lift system scales down to 20 bike
equipped lifts but still provides access to 800kms of MTB trails. Within these 14 valleys there are 5 bike park specific areas similar to the Skyline gondola. The largest of the bike parks is Pre La Joux in Châtel, with 21 DH trails, 8 north shore zones, 2 pump tracks and 1 massive freeride slopestyle area with jumps sizing up to big dream at Wynyard bike park!

During the 8 weeks we will spend in Châtel a few Atlas regulars will be sharing our small flat so we can get our bike on together! These include Dave Zee for the entire 8 weeks; Queenstown Bike Taxi owner Jono Head for 3 weeks; former Pinewood Lodge handy man Mikael Alftbergl for 23 days and Shotover Jet driver Andy Patchett for 8 days. Last week, we headed out for a day trip to Peisey-Nancroix for some mountain biking and a few beers with the staff of Trail Addiction. Dave Stamper; previous Vertigo bike mechanic; Chris Lebiecki, Around The Mountains tour guide, and Tim Ceci, owner of Vertigo, all spend their Queenstown winters overseas here in the Rhône-Alpes region working as mountain bike guides for this rapidly fast growing company. It was very kind of them to spend their day off showing us around some of the awesome local trails.

At the end of a MTB day a beer is always in order to celebrate the fun we've been having on our bikes. We finished off with a few rounds of Kronenbourg 1664 which is a 5.5% pale lager that’s smooth, light and refreshing after a busy day biking. I must also note that Kronenbourg 1664 is most widely promoted French beer. My next mission is to find, sample and blog about some smaller French craft beers that are kept under the radar by the locals.