Trans Provence ends - the donkey carries on...
Day 6 Trans Provence is when the mountains finally finish and give way to the expansive blue of the Mediterranean. It's a natural and indisputable end, it's part of what makes this journey the unique journey it is, a feeling of completion, because you really can't go further. And so here I put my helmet and goggles on, focus one more time to do my best, ride fast and stay upright, the clock starts, minutes later stage 24 done, the end, I breath out, I'm part sad, part happy and on down through old streets and cathedral stairs to the beach we roll.
This was my 6th and last Trans Provence, last not because I’m going anywhere, but because this is was the last TP being held ever. After ten years of bringing an event to the table that has it’s roots deep in the essence of mountain biking is, it’s raw trails, spars marking, with big days, pushing and carrying bikes to high places to descend through ancient walking trails build for people and donkeys, with the tightest switchbacks and eroded corners you’ll ever find. Here we are racing blind, meaning, we have never practiced or seen these trails, even after my six years of racing, this year's TP repeated only 3 past stages out of the 24 used, that’s how crazy rich in trails the Provence landscape is. Imagine, hundreds of years ago, a terraced rocky landscape, gardens and orchards for food, animals grazing the high pastures, stone houses dotted all over and trails linking people to neighbours and produce to valley markets - maybe subsistence living at its best.
Camp 0 - The far North of the Provence, has more of a high alps feel akin to the Haute Savoie region, tall grey peaks and green mountain sides, but over the six days things get hotter and dryer with the land taking on more hues of white, orange and pinks as the Mediterainien feel takes hold and the first glimpses of the sea come hazeley into view.
We sleep in tents, eat either in halls or al fresco, watch movie edits from the day before's action. Ash never says much about what to expect the next day, except things like, this one gets a bit technicle, a bit exposed or you’ve got a bit of a carry here. Real discovery it is...and boy can those carries be rather long and steep and hot, in temperatures usually around the mid 30’s.
My race this year went pretty well considering I don’t screw my race head on much anymore, I generally don’t race at all now, spending more time as an adventure athlete, discovering new places without a timing chip, engaging with new riding communities and industry journalists, but this event is an easy exception, having an ethos of getting people out on an unknown journey in nature while riding bikes.
On day 3, stage 9, I punctured on some sharp rocks costing me dearly as I road the flat tyre to the finish, but that’s the game here, riding hard but preserving bike and body to make it to the end. It was good to work hard and to get back a little closer to my old race speed for the week, so a top 10 overall against the other pro boys was fine with me.
Standing on the coast and then diving off the rocks and slipping into the blue deep salty water after you have given your best, literally with blood sweat and tears, is a truly worthy moment!