Beginning of August, 2016: My co-worker Michael and I loaded into my Jetta and drive ourselves across the Québec border to the land of syrup and language laws to find some mountain biking and to attend the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup Downhill stop in Mont-Sainte-Anne.
The drive went pretty smoothly. Michael almost ran into some problems at a Couche-Tard trying to get us some lemonades and timbits, but he ended up with lemon slushies which was a pretty good lost-in-translation moment. Our final destination was Vallée Bras-du-Nord near the town of Saint-Raymond, a coop specializing in outdoor recreation. We arrived in the late afternoon after spending the night in my gracious little sister’s backyard the previous night. Our campsite setup was straightforward and ultimately resulted in my being able to sleep in a hammock for the duration of our stay, something I’d highly recommend to anyone.
Our first day we decided to get some mountain biking in right off the bat. We decided on the sentier Nielson (sentier is french for trail), a roughly 10km black-diamond trail to get our blood flowing. What we didn’t realize is that the 10km part starts after a fairly arduous ~6km uphill slog along a gravel road to the trailhead. After whining our way to the top, we were treated to what seems to be the marquee trail of the place.
For anyone interested, you can watch a video of some of the trail that was made by someone else but will give you an idea of what it was like. The trail runs along a stream and had a lot of woodwork, technical downhills and short, punchy uphills that Michael enjoyed and I tolerated.
We made our way down the trail and were pretty knackered and fully in need of some ramen noodles by the time we rolled back into our campsite. Promptly passed out in the hammock, woke up and rode down to the river to get some water and cool down a bit. Also, thunderstorm!! Then we took to the trails for a bit, took our time a bit because tired.
The next day was hiking day. We asked the girl behind the counter what trail to take with the directions from Michael that we want to go “up” which was some of his best communicating with the Québecois people. So we struck out on what would become a 5 hour trek to the top of the local mountain overlooking the Chutes Delaney. Michael fell on a slippery slope and broke his camera a bit. He was mad and I was sympathetic. I think it’s okay now though? Michael?
The night after hiking we chilled and drank some beers and a thunderstorm rolled in and we got to fall asleep as lightning was tearing the atmosphere a new one all around us. It was magical. Vallée Bras-du-Nord is a great place to spend a few days. Oh, and a guy gave us pie because we told him how long it takes to get to the start of Nielson so he got a ride.
The third day we biked more. We biked a lot! One of the highlights was our semi-accidental trek out to Chutes Delaney (Shoot Delaney en anglais). I had to convince Michael it wouldn’t suck even though I had no idea what it was actually like, and when we came to it there was just a huge waterfall cascading down from way up, with rocks scattered so you could more or less make your way all around it.
So then we biked on this trail with tons of berms and it was a good time and we packed up and left.
The next day was off to Mont-Ste-Anne for mountain bike mayhem! Except once we got there and the announcer started speaking english he mentioned that “today is all about cross country” which caused us to exchange that “oh shit” look between the two of us. I fished out my phone and looked it up and sure enough, the downhill comp had been the day before. Oh snap. Well, we’re not pessimists, we’re optometrists so we decided to make the most of it and watch the U23 and Elite women’s xc race before heading home.
We hadn’t much more than suited up and rolled to the booths area when holy snap we see Emily Batty being interviewed in the Trek tent. If you don’t know who Emily Batty is, yes you do, she got third at the race we were at and she’s the Canadian who finished fourth in the Olympics, good for her. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to starstrukk, and that’s saying something.
So we shot a bunch of video (I may edit together at some point) at the race since we’re good little photographers-in-training and then we hit the road and went back to ethnically diverse and full of fat people Southern Ontario.
Trip Rating as written as an EBay feedback: GOOD TRIP WOULD TRIP FROM AGAIN A++++++ FAST SHIPPING