Gerroff my land!
A few years ago, before Alex and I started working for MBUK, we both enjoyed misspent summers out in the French Alps, living the bike bum dream. A challenge we set ourselves one year was to explore every inch of the Portes du Soleil region, and on our checklist was the backcountry around Champéry, a Swiss valley with an infamous World Cup downhill track. One sunny day we assembled a group of mates and went trail hunting, and it didn’t take long to strike gold, in the form of an untouched singletrack gem that snaked its way down the steep wooded slopes.
Don’t follow the signs and you might get more than you bargained for! Photo: Dan Milner
We were a good way down and well into our flow when Alex suddenly skidded to a halt in front of a farmer who was blocking our path. In angry French, he told us that we shouldn’t be there and gesticulated back up the hill in the direction we’d come. Alex, being fluent in French, facetious and not exactly enamoured with the idea of pushing a DH bike uphill in the 30°C heat, started arguing with the man, who got progressively more irate. Eventually we admitted defeat, but as we turned tail, he shouted after us: “You ignorant English f**ks, I’m going to get something that’s going to make you give me your bikes!” We laughed and thought nothing more of it, turning our attentions to the bitch of a push up. An hour of sweating later, we were circumnavigating the valley on our way back to the gondola when, as we passed an old farmhouse, a car screeched up and three men jumped out.
Illustration: Kevin February
One was the farmer we’d met earlier, along with a pair of the biggest units I’d ever seen. The largest guy immediately made a beeline for me, pushed me off my bike, punched me in the head and shouted at me to remove my helmet. Another tried to grab Alex’s bike. I might add that we were in the middle of nowhere – there wasn’t another house for miles and there were certainly no police about. As more farm lads appeared from the adjacent barns, holding tools, it was all about to turn very nasty. Thankfully the wife of one of the men arrived on the scene and managed to calm the situation down. We grabbed our bikes and fled, running up the side of the valley while the farmers pursued us on a quad bike. On a wave of pure adrenaline and fear we somehow made it to the top and breathed a huge sigh of relief as we crossed back over into France. That day was undoubtedly the fastest the pair of us have ever run up a hill and we learnt a valuable lesson – don’t f**k with farmers!
Who are Ed and Alex?
Back when this story was published, Alex was features editor at the mag and Ed was staff writer. Now Alex has switched over to the testing side of things and Ed has stepped up to fill his shoes.
Photo: Laurence Crossman-Emms
This story originally appeared in MBUK issue 350 (December 2017). Subscribe here to get MBUK delivered to your door every month
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