St Silvestre is the 31st December and as the name suggests this race takes place on the last day of the year. This is something a bit special because it is a bike race on snow. However, you may have noticed that there isn’t that much snow in December and the weather is relatively nice so what the track will look like is always a bit of mystery.
For the majority of people that ride bikes, when there is snow the bike has to stay next to the fireplace. But, with a little preparation, it can be easier and funnier to ride. That is why I put mud tires front and rear to add grip but it is relative (spikes are not allowed). Fortunately this year the weather was looking warm at nearly 10°C and sunny so no need for ski clothes. With that I was ready to head to Villars for the race.
At this time of the year, it’s always nice to see all the friends and buddies before the race that starts in the afternoon, speaking about the new bikes and what is coming for the next year. All the participants stay at the top of the mountains and with the clement weather and the hot wine we could have stayed there the whole day.
Slowly the pressure grew and 20min before everyone went the starting line. There were no more skiers on the piste which will soon see 150 riders going down it the fastest they can. Being in the second rank looks good and will means there aren’t too many ruts in the snow.
10 seconds before the start the pressure is at the maximum and everyone concentrated and then it goes, 3, 2, 1, the mass goes down.
Riding on the snow is always bit special, everything goes fast, the bike slides a lot. With no “track walk“ there are always surprises and a few people crashed in front of me on a pile of “cultured snow“. I just managed to pass them and continued down on the ski track. It’s now the fastest part of the track and you have to aim at the little tunnel on which the little train pass to Bretaye.
After that the snow is replaced by black ice that the volunteers cover with sawdust in some places to make it less slippery. That was the hardest part of the race to pass others racers, trying to not slide on the right or left. We arrived at the end of the icy road to a very dry dusty path and then jumped in a totally straight trail in wooden cut. At this moment I was happy to be on my downhill bike and not on one of the few fatbikeswe saw.
Then it was kind of mx track in the grass field until the small killer climb on a steep road (that looked really long when you have to pedal) where people on enduro bikes had a little advantage. Only 2 people passed us and then after 8 minutes it was the final downhill to Villars, first on a road and then again through the field between Chalets with a small jump and break in the terrain. Everyone was pushing really hard to pass the others until the very end in the train station. I finished 27th.
It was time to grab a beer, enjoy the sun and speak about how it went because lots of things can happen on the snow and the ice when 150 riders are going down at the same time. But fun is always the main thing which stand out.
Finally to finish the year well, we went down some renowned trails from Villars to Bex in some of the best conditions you can have. I hope you enjoyed this little report and if you can try to race on the snow, you should try it, it’s always funny.