After months of training, Yves, Jimmy and I got to put it all to the test in what was a warm up race for us: the Patrouille de la Maya. This is held once every 2 years, and takes place just across the valley from where I live.
We opted to do the longer of the 2 courses, 21.2 km with 1860m to climb and also descend, which equates to 43.5 km of effort apparently. It certainly felt like it!
The weather dawned clear despite the forecast, and the organization of the event was excellent. Before we knew it we were on the start line and jostling for position for the run up to the snow. Running on tarmac with ski boots on and skis on your backpack is quite tough, but thankfully the snow started just 3-400m up the road.
The snow was hard down low, making skins slip quite a bit, and it was tough keeping together as a team in the crowd. Once up above the tree line the sun came up and the views were amazing. La Maya looks like a mini-Matterhorn, and is very impressive. We climbed over the north shoulder of La Maya, then on into the bowl behind which leads up to the Becs de Bosson. Up top we had to take skis off and put them on our packs so we could climb over the ridge to the highest control point. Then it was down a beautiful powder bowl (albeit with some hidden rocks, which both Jimmy and Yves hit, damaging their skis…) and on to the couloir back up to La Maya. Here there were so many people it became a queue to climb up the boot pack on the steep slope. There were fixed ropes to hold onto, and we finally made it to the top where we put on our skis again for the final descent. This was long and varied, with snow varying from ice to breakable crust to slush and mush! All in all great fun, and travelling through stunning scenery. Then once back to the road it was off with the skis and a nice long run along the road to the finish in St Martin.
We finished in 4 hours 34 minutes and were still quite fresh at the end: we hadn’t pushed it, just taken it as a training session and enjoyed the wonderful scenery. It was a great day out, and highlighted what we still need to work on as a team when in competition – mainly simply keeping together. When one person’s feeling good and another’s having an energy slump this is one of the trickiest things to do, but the more we train together the easier it gets.