Mavic Trans-Provence 2012
Last weekend Joe and I headed out to France to race the Mavic Trans-Provence. The race started in Gap and finished in Monaco, 7 days of racing, 26 special stages, 320 km, 10,000 m of ascending and 15,000 m of descending.
I had been really excited about this race all summer. I couldn’t wait for the combination of racing, adventure, rad people, tent life, good food and amazing singletrack.
Race organiser Ash and his team met us at Nice airport. We built our bikes and along with Ed Oxley and the American riders headed in the shuttle bus to the camp. It was about a 4 hour drive along windy mountain roads. We found our tents and crashed out straight away.
The camp had an awesome set-up; 80 tents for riders and staff, a tent ‘kitchen’ and another tent with food and comfy seats and a charging area, and Mavic and Mojo were there for tech support. Breakfast was a buffet with eggs or pancakes, and diner each night was a delicious three course meal.
We had Saturday at camp to chill before the race started on Sunday. We tuned bikes, went for a spin, swam in a lake and lounged around as much as possible. It was great to see old friends again and meet new ones too. I didn’t really know what to expect, but everyone who had done it before said it was one of the best weeks riding and racing they had ever done. As there are only 70 racers, I felt really fortunate to be part of it.
Each day we rode between 32km to 50km, with 3-4 ‘special stages’ of 3-6km long within each days epic ride. It was really fun hitting the stages blind, anticipating what was coming and riding as fast as possible. Known as the ‘definitive all mountain mtb race’, it definitely lives up to it’s name.
Day one started with a 2 hour fire road climb in the hot sun. The first stage was brutal, lots of climbing and very pedally. It was a bit of a shock to the system, but after that the other stages didn’t seem so tough. Riding between the stages was pretty chilled as there is no time limit. So we could stop and eat and take in the views as we went. It was an awesome day, incredible riding and fun times getting to know everyone we would be adventuring with for the week.
Day two was a well gnarly day of riding! We started off with a peddle up a glen that reminded me of home in the Scottish Highlands. It was really beautiful and wild, with a farmer across the valley herding hundreds of his sheep.
The dark clouds started rolling in and it quickly became wet and wild, with only a few metres visibility, hailstones, thunder and lightening! Most of us only had a waterproof jacket so we were all freezing cold with stinging faces and legs from the hail stones. It was pretty surreal sheltering behind a rock at the top of the mountain with lightening and hail, putting on knee pads with Nico Vouilloz and Anne Caro. I put my knee pads on and set off right away, I just wanted to get off the mountain and not get even more frozen. There was a thick layer of hail stones and water channels everywhere so it was hard to see where the trail went. I missioned down with no grace whatsoever, in full on survival mode, numb with cold, but made it to the bottom. I didn’t care that my run was slow and sketchy, it was a relief just to be at the bottom. Boom!
After stage two we got to the lunch stop for some much needed coffee, lots of sweets and flap jack. I couldn’t believe we were only a third of the distance through the day! Jerome rolled in for Lunch, laughing with no shorts on and ripped lycra, and shared the hilarious story of how he rode down all hanging out after they got ripped off in a crash. Jerome then gave out lots of t-shirts so we could all warm up with a dry layer on. He’s one in a million.
The next 25km included about two and a half hours of hike a bike, lots of amazing singletrack, and jaw dropping views. Special stage 7 was a sweet long descent, fast and flowy and fun through pine trees, lots of switch backs, rock gardens, and just fun! What a great finish to an epic day! We all rolled into town and had a beer, all looking like we’d been dragged through the mountains for 10 hours, which we had, and everyone stoked to be down in one piece. It was awesome to have shared so much with everyone, and the camaraderie was great. The day 2 video is a taster of what went down that day…
So much happened in the first two days, it was hard to believe we had another 5 to go! I was pretty exhausted physically, and mentally from not enough sleep.
The days did get easier though, I think our bodies got used to long days of riding up and down mountains carrying really heavy bags. Having a couple of sports massages during the week was great, it felt like luxury and definitely loosened things up for the next day.
Each day the trails and land scape changed loads as we travelled towards the coast. It got rockier and more techy so everyone was changing tires on day 4 ready for the spikey rocks. I only got one puncture on the second last stage on the last day, a bit annoying to loose time on the stage, but it was nothing considering the amount of miles raced over the week!
By the last day we were all stoked to be getting to the sea and finishing an epic week. Swimming in the sea and a good party was in sight! It was also a bit sad it was all coming to an end and we wouldn’t get to continue spending the good times adventuring and racing.
On day 7 we had a flattish ride to the start of the stage. It had been raining loads during the night so the ground was really greasy and slippy. The start of the first stage looked pretty sketchy and slick. I planned to hold back a bit and not wreck myself on the last day, just keep it smooth and maintain my position of 5th. Most of the riders had gone, and as always the same bunch of us were chilling at the back with the course sweeper and the doctor. Sven doggy sprinted out the start and after 10 seconds we heard a horrible noise. It didn’t sound good and made us all stop and run to see what had happened. Luckily a few of us were still to set off, and it was close to the start so we could hear the crash. Anka, the doc, and a few of us were there immediately, then the others of our group came back to see what was happening after no one came in for a while. Having just had head-on total tree domination, confusion, and a previously broken neck, we kept Sven still and supported his neck. We wrapped him in about 4 survival blankets, cut off his race top to see a big bent arm, gave him some morphine which the Doc was carrying, phoned Ash and got a chopper on it’s way, and shared jokes and laughs until Sven doggy was winched up to the chopper. Jerome interviewed Sven which was funny, he just got on with the job in hand, interpreted for the docs, he was great once again! It was definitely the most capable and nicest group of people to share the experience with, and the whole thing was full of constant jokes and banter which was awesome. Sven was delirious and hilarious… It’s Joes fault he told me to take the sweet inside line, Do they know I’ve broken my arm Anka? Where’s my baguette? Sven had surgery that night for a dislocated elbow and fractured ulnar.
After all that we decided just to ride as a group and not ‘race’ and chase seconds, just get to the finish and enjoy riding together. We got caught in a thunder storm at the bottom of the long climb a third of the way round, as most people will have been getting to the finish. We sheltered for a bit then rode up the climb quicker than we had all week, keen to get to the finish.
On the last stage 100 metres from the finish Seb, Chris and JC all had a sequence of crashes, resulting in John injuring his ankle and getting lifted to the finish and across the line by fireman Paul Smail. What a day!
Jerome went with JC to the hospital. Two men down and Jerome away too, we rode to the beach and all ran into the sea for a swim. Paul Smail stripped off into some creepy leopard print pants for the occasion, and Seb and Chris busted out a cigar. To experience the whole thing with such a great group of people made the whole week really special.
Amongst all this there was as race going on, so many top riders battling it out every day and studying results sheets each evening. Joe finished up in 8th, and I finished up in 6th. It was a long week and I was happy with how I rode. I just keep it smooth, I felt good and strong, no mechanicals or injuries, it was great! The riding and scenery was unbeatable. The Trans-Provence staff were really organised, dedicated and just great. Ash has the set-up dialled.
1. Anne-Caro Chausson 2. Anka Martin 3. Rosara Joseph
1. Nico Lau 2. Nico Vouilloz 3. Jerome Clements
The Trans-Provence is hands down the best event I have ever done!
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