Can you say VTT? Presuming that your first language is English, you’re probably sounding out the letters as “vee tee tee,” and you don’t have any idea what they could stand for. If your first language is French, you would pronounce the letters more like “vay-tay-tay,” and you just might know that they stand for Vélo Tout Terrain.
That’s mountain biking or cross-country biking to you and me, since vélo is French for bicycle and the rest could be translated as “all kinds of terrain, or surfaces.” Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of it in the Greater Daglan Area (GDA).
The reason is that over the weekend, the GDA played host to the Coupe de France VTT 2012, with races taking place on a series of hills south of Daglan and just outside St. Pompon. For months, the French championship has been advertised in huge letters on a hill a few kilometres south of us. Here’s the hill and the sign on Friday, as riders from all over France were getting organized:
Since my wife Jan and I don’t know much about mountain biking, and definitely wouldn’t know any of the riders, we weren’t keen to visit the races themselves. But on Friday, we did drive over to the main site to have a look. Here’s the outside of the building where registration was taking place:
And here’s a peek inside the building, as riders line up to register for the events:
Outside, in a series of parking areas, cars, vans and campers were pulling into place and unloading the bikes they were carrying. Here’s one such area, with bike riders checking out their bicycles and getting ready to give them a test run:
The activities were all centred around a major campground, which provided the main building, some facilities for drinks and snacks, and lots of places for the campers and caravans to stay. There were also several areas for exhibits (by bike manufacturers and so on) and for sales booths. Here’s one that was offering a wide range of products for the riders:
Among the goodies on sale were purple tee-shirts promoting the event, selling for 10 euros:
Now of course, you’re wondering about the actual events. As it turned out, there were quite a few cross-country events and short-track races (which I assume were like BMX races). Here’s an overall map printed on an aerial photo of the area; it shows a number of the courses,with the toughest sections marked in white at the top of the photo.
And here’s how one of the hill sections looked on Friday, as racers tried out their bikes — and their legs. If you look closely, you can see a bike or two high up on top of the hill, and headed down the steep track:
This downhill track is part of what the bikers like to call zones techniques — that is, technical areas. (I have always been amused by the term “technical” in mountain biking, since my own phrase would be more like “terrifying” or “difficult beyond comprehension.”) Just imagine if you were in the place of this young rider as he bounces down the solid-rock path:
Or check out this rider, who’s made it down the hill, only to race along a flat bit of ground — and then dropping over a small cliff:
Finally, a few random observations:
- This seems to be (as you might imagine) very much a young person’s sport. We did see a few riders who appeared to be in their 40s, but the vast majority looked to be in their teens or 20s.
- There was a much higher proportion of young women participating than we had expected. Nice!
- Based on our strolls through the registration areas, where several riders were grouped together, I’d say that a more diligent use of anti-perspirants would have been in order.
- Finally, I’m not sure that the whole event did an awful lot for the GDA in economic terms. Our sense is that all the campers were quite happy to stay in one spot, with the parents drinking beer or wine, the young riders gulping soft drinks, and all of them happily eating sandwiches they brought from home — rather than visiting any of our area’s cafés and restaurants. On Saturday night, for example, Le Petit Paris in Daglan had not one single diner. Not one.