Skills Weeks Update
For the last two weeks Basque MTB have been hosting Ed Oxley, from Great Rock, for our Spanish Mountain Bike Skills Holidays. We offered our first skills holiday back in 2011 when Ed came out to the Basque Country for a week. This year demand was high and we quickly sold out our first holiday and decided to run a second one immediately afterwards. This year we changed a few things, we also had a driver so offered more uplift and rode some of my favourite trails. Over the fortnights mountain biking we enjoyed around 20,000m of singletrack descending with around 70% uplift. We also ate more calories than we burned and drank too much wine! Good times.
We already have advanced bookings for 2013, including some repeat customers from the 2012 holidays, so we will definitely be running two weeks in 2013. If you are keen for something before 2013 then Ed and I are planning something very special this October.
Here are some comments on the 2012 mountain bike skills holidays from this year´s guests. (More can be added at the end of this article.)
— Gary White (@GaryDonosti) July 25, 2012
— Paul Garvey (@HopeValleyPaul) July 19, 2012
— Graeme Jones (@DufferMTB) July 21, 2012
Read on for all the photos and stories from our Great Rock Skills Adventure.
For our first week´s holiday we had five visitors; Phil and Liz, Graeme, Paul and Chris from England. We were also joined for some days by Ralph and Linda from Switzerland. We picked everyone up from the Bilbao airport first thing in the morning and went straight for a big lunch in the Basque style… nice wine and fish! That night we ventured into the Hondarribia for a get-to-know-each-other meal and to sample the world-famous “Hondarribia Blues Festival”. Ed and I decided to cycle to Hondarribia, so since I live in France we cycled round the bay and took a little ferry across the river and into Spain. It dropped us and our bikes right at the main stage for the blues festival. It was a great night out with everyone, enjoying Hondarribia´s fantastic food and the blues. And some wine! The journey back was slightly hampered because the path to the ferry was blocked by thousands of dancing Basques! Luckily just as we were about to miss the last ferry the band took a break, the dancers parted, and Ed led the way through, much like Moses leading the Hebrews!
The first day of our holiday it was a little bit damp in the Basque Country so we drove a little south into Spain to enjoy some mountain biking in the sunshine. The first day on the skills weeks is always just mountain biking, no skills work, to let Ed see what he is going to work on for the rest of the week. So it was today. We rode, and rode, and ate, and rode some more! It was a long and tough day which we finished off with a beer before driving back to the Basque coast. That night Ed and I sat up late into the evening discussing what trails we were going to use for the rest of the holiday and what skills Ed was going to do on them.
On day two we rested everyone´s legs with an uplifted day on “Celtic Flo” and “Cross the Streams”. These are loamy trails cut into the forest, with steep bermed corners and tight switchbacks. Ed spent a long time looking at cornering technique and body position on these trails. It was great to see some of the things Ed showed me, which I believe changed the way I ride my bike, start to sink in for the other bikers. We shuttled all day in the van, giving everyone a couple of thousand meters of descending for very little climbing.
The third day of our holiday was a day of two halves, the first half was an uplifted run down “All Along the Watchtowers” and for the second half we took a small boat and then biked along the coastal trails into San Sebastian. Of course, when we arrived on the beach in San Sebastian we stopped for beers and pintxos!
On the fourth day of our first skills week we did a big trail on the border of Spain and France. If you have been on a mountain bike holiday with us before you might have done Carlos´s Ridge, Nutcracker or Cheeky Larun. These trails are very varied, from super steep and technical to fast, flowy ridgelines and just about everything in between. We used two big uplifts, to give us around 1000m for free which gave Ed more time to work on pumping and flowing over big rocks and generally keeping your flow in difficult terrain. Ed was also floating among the bikers at this point, offering advice on an individual basis. Everyone was riding so much better now and for me, riding at the front of the group, it was impressive how fast I could go and still have the whole group right behind me!
Day 5 was another day of uplifted mountain biking. We shuttled on “All Along the Watchtowers” all day. Ed did a lot of work on drop offs and got everyone riding off moderately sized steps in a way they wouldn´t have previously. Everyone was really carrying speed now and using the trail and bike instead of fighting against them. The speed was higher because people were carrying more speed, instead of braking so much for each obstacle. It was fantastic to see the change.
Sadly it was here that Elizabeth had a fall and, despite initially feeling fine, the pain increased and we decided to visit the hospital. There was a minute fracture in her wrist and she would have to miss out the last day. Elizabeth had already missed the first half of the skills week due to a chest infection so it was a real pity. Elizabeth is made of tough stuff though and was back on her mountain bike within a week! She has already booked again for next year!
The final day our of mountain bike holiday we had already planned to take everyone on a big mountain adventure. The mountains here are perfect for really epic adventures because of their big ridgelines and accessible summits. We were doing a point to point, following a system of ridges from one village to another. Ian, our driver for the week, dropped us off in the morning at around 750m and then came and picked us up in a different village that evening. Almost the whole day was on singletrack with a massive descent to finish off. Sadly by the time we finished there was no time for the celebratory beer, (which we had certainly earned), because we had to rush back to make it out for our final night´s meal out! We ate and drank quite late into the night in a fitting end to everyone´s mountain bike holiday.
Saturday was changeover day and it was time to say goodbye to everyone. It was a great feeling for both Ed and I when Graeme, Phil and Elizabeth asked to book again for next year! As we dropped everyone off our next group was arriving and so we welcomed Liz, Pete and Dave for their holiday in Spain and the Basque Country! Andrew was already waiting for us at the accommodation, he had arrived the week before for a family holiday before his week of mountain biking. We were also joined by Mark, who was driving down through France, and Gary, a local guy who lives in San Sebastian.
For the first day of mountain biking we followed the same plan as the first week, just biking and no skills training. We chose to do an uplifted run down All Along the Watchtowers in the morning and then ride into San Sebastian in the afternoon. As always we followed the singletrack to the beach and this time half of the group stripped off and ventured into the water for a swim. The swimming was followed by a big of light oggling and then we retired for sidra and pintxos before taking the train back to our starting point. Again Ed and I formulated a plan for the week that evening.
For the second day of the holiday we decided to go big. Big mountains. The biking here is tough but it was obvious that we had a skilled group and Ed was wanting to work on pumping and keeping speed, and control, on rocks. We used a big, 700m uplift so we only had to climb the final 320m to the summit where we had the most fantastic picnic of cold meats and cheeses. The descent took all afternoon, with some stops for skills coaching from Ed.
The next day we wanted to work on cornering and how to use the body to steer. We decided to do some more uplifted biking on Celtic Flo and Cross the Streams where there are plenty of great corners. We stopped for a big, proper lunch where we enjoyed dishes like Hake stuffed with Crab for the fantastic price of €12 each. In the afternoon we did another run before calling it a day as some people were tired and we had a big day planned for the next day.
For the fourth day of the holiday Spain was hitting us with some heat. The temperatures were meant to hit 30 degrees which left me with two options for mountain biking comfortably; either we hit the coast or the high mountains. We decided to do the big mountain epic that we finished the last holiday with. If the skies were stunning in their moody epicness the last week, they were stunning in their epic blueness this week. We made good time and were just getting to the end of the trail when Mark had a fall on some of the contour singletrack. It was obvious immediately that he´d broken his collarbone. What a pity because I had just commented to Ed a few minutes earlier that he was riding so well. We rushed down to get the van and brought it up to take him to the hospital. What a pity but at least his spirits were high.
For the penultimate day of our skills holiday we again used the van for uplift. We rode “All Along the Watchtowers” and all of the variations that it offers. Ed worked on the drop off technique. It was a similar story to last week, everyone was carrying so much more speed and instead of the trail features being obstacles, which broke the flow, people had some new techniques to deal with them and were carrying speed. This is what I like about Ed´s skills courses; he oozes real word skills training. It´s stuff that changes the way you mountain bike, for the trails you ride. You´re not going to go away having done a 12 foot gap jump, but then again how many times will you come up against that? You are going to go away pumping, flowing and carrying speed with control. That is how I felt after Ed´s course I did back in 2010 and it is what I have seen watching the people on our Spanish skills holidays. I am not just bigging up Ed to sell our skills weeks! Ed does skills days in many locations, at home in England or he also goes to the excellent TransProvence country and Greece. I´d love it if you came to the Basque Country of course! For something really special check out what we are offering this October… skills training across the South Pyrenees on trails which are Spain´s best kept secret! We are offering this at a special price of €900 as this is our first year but due to the logistics we will probably have to increase that for 2013… come on and join the adventure!
I just wanted to say thanks, first of all to everyone who came on our skills holidays this year. It was great to meet you, ride with you and watch your progression. Secondly to Ed for visiting the Basque Country again, drinking all my wine and converting me to French food and B52´s. Happy times! I´m going to sign off with this great video from Pete, at Mountain Bike Rides, which goes a way to summing up the week.
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