Oddly, this story starts, and will ultimately end, on the boardwalk next to the Mediterranean. For starters however, it’s September 2016 and I’m strolling down the ENDURO famous Finale Ligure boardwalk from the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, casually attempting to stalk some PROs whilst simultaneously managing my anxiety generated from the Gnar I know we have to deal with in the race weekend ahead.
As I ponder annoying the fuck out of the Fox guys again, I spot a familiar figure cruising through the crowd… Ash. You only need to attend one Ash daily briefing on Trans Provence to forever be able to spot him at a moments notice. Indeed, I wondered if my nostrils picked up the scent of danger before I had seen the Singletrack Sorcerer of Sospel, and as my fight or flight coding tried to work out what to do, I had flashbacks to 18 months earlier when Ash cried “I’ll see you on the beach!”
But like a fat Marmot I froze and I soon found myself chatting to Ash about what special suffering he had lined up for the class of 2017 to come. I outlined to him I was thinking of signing up again, when he winked and whispered like a gnar version of a Bond villain; “Wait until 2018, it will be much better...” Naturally he didn’t let any more detail drop than that, and given that was the year of my 40th, it made total sense to hold out for 18 and try to get a crew together to get back to slay the Donkey.
You can imagine my horror then when the 2018 edition was vaporised from the calendar and no TP event was run. File under ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’, I could feel a collective mortification from the Gnar fiend community at the concept we would have a year that there was no Trans Provence. Most people would have preferred a year without sex, but a deeply troubling question floated out there: Was this the end?!
Well, this is where the roller coaster starts to really crank into gear. To try and explain this, plus bring some sense to this Mission Briefing, I have decided to drop the top 10 reasons why this upcoming trip to the Mavic Trans Provence 2019 is going to be feral in terms of it’s radness. 10 points because, well, it’s the 10th TP innit? Roll tape…
1. Its the last one – The frothing relief the TP user community felt when 2019 was announced was quickly replaced with the same horror you have when you wake up the morning after work drinks and realise you told your boss you once masterbated in their hand cream at work, but can’t recall if it was a joke or not, when it became clear that this was the… Last… One… Ever.
Naturally our selfishness had already determined that we just wanted Ash to keep pouring his heart & soul into this week each year for our enjoyment, so there was bewilderment that he may want to do other things with his life! Its almost as confusing as finding out political campaign lies written on the sides of buses aren’t actually true!
Jokes aside, I don’t want to say this is an end of an era, but based on my limited TP experience (1 tour and 1 race), it’s clearly going to be the end of an experience and world that is incredibly special to many people and definitely the pinnacle of what it represents. There’s no way I can capture what this event has meant to people over the past decade, or do justice to some of the experiences people have had… It’s clearly going to be an emotional send off. I mean, it’s where this blog was born and more importantly, the only time that Das Wolf and I have been the same height as Herr Doktor:
2. It appears to be an all new edition – This is partly speculation on my part, but from what I can discern so far this won’t be the 2017 route rebooted and it appears that a lot of new ground will be thrown in for even the stalwart TPers through the magnificent Maritime Alps.
Ash has basically been a one man Russian troll factory over the last 6 months, fucking with our brains on what we might encounter, including alleged 5,000m+ descending days… And while the final numbers aren’t quite that eye watering, we will still contend with an average of 3,800m of descending per day.
For those that have been to Rotorua, that’s basically 10 full runs from the very top of the hill down Tihi and Te Mounga to the shuttle pick up per day, for 6 days. T Rex arms will indeed be lit, one way or another.
3. The riding will be fucking insane – Like this one even needs to be said… In fact, it really doesn’t, so how about my words getting fucked and you just watch this video instead so you can bathe in the glorious, sultry dialogue of Seb (Holy shit this is trail porn!):
4. Its going to be Mega – When the Megatower dropped I was initially genuinely conflicted… The Nomad 4 is not only highly evolved and tested in Gnar combat, but by taking it to France it would ensure that my entire TP lifetime experience was Nomadic in nature. The 2013 tour on the Nomad 2, the 2015 Race edition on the Nomad 3 and then finally the close out on the N4.
What a fairytale… But then along came Megatron to take a giant piss on the face of the happy ending. I will confess to actually sitting on the fence a bit here, even though I knew the MT would be ready for deployment prior to Trans Provence. Surely I didn’t have time to run it in, and surely it wouldn’t be that much better than the Nomad 4 that I would feel compelled to take it… Fuck, I couldn’t have been more wrong on all counts. Plus, it’s hotter than a bogan wedding in Bali:
…And I can’t wait to get it onto the terrain of TP to give it exactly that. Unleashing this weaponry on French Gnar is going to be quite the experience as I learn what it’s really capable of. Place your bets now on how many Megatowers will be present at TP19, I can count 10 off the top of my head thus far. I promise to report back with a more nuanced ride report than the gushy froth fuck that I dropped in the first look rant.
5. Its like a 2015 reunion crew – This is something to get excited about, it appears that the TP finale is crammed full of the 2015 alumni, which is excellent as we were flooded with rad humans. The Gram keeps slapping my grill with news of yet another 2015 crew member confirming their participation, so a handy little reunion lined up for us. Here’s a little smorgasbord of some of the GC’s we can expect to see pop up again mid June for a reboot:
6. It will be rammed with GC’s – 2015 love fest aside, it’s also quite clear that many other rad units (Seb Kemp, Chris Ball, Marco Osborne and most of the Santa Cruz crew, just to name drop the fuck out of a few!) will be making the pilgrimage to Sisteron for the Camp Zero froth frenzy, so much so it’s starting to look like a bit of a who’s who of GC’s you’d like to sit around and drink beer with after a day of insane Mon-ton shredding. Speaking of which…
7. Unleash the Creator – Just to round out frothing about the best of cunts, by a special stroke of awesome, JC Superstar, AKA The Creator, AKA the reigning 2W Masters champion, AKA Visage de Lapin (As he will be known in France), is joining the fray after I lied to him and said most of the climbing is van uplift and yes, of course they had artisanal Kombucha in the camp each day, passed to you by a masseuse dressed in a French Maid’s uniform.
As you can therefore imagine, he can’t wait to get to France to start that nervous voyage where he will spend most of the time wondering if what he is saying & doing will end up on line (including sleeping). Life these days, you can’t even innocently spray down a tranny anymore without it being taken out of context.
8. It’s France – 2018 was my first non-France year since 2010, so I was a little Le Gutted when I didn’t get the chance to head there to eat croissants and talk to people in english with a heavy French accent. As such, there’s no better way for the Dirty Empire to strike back than getting into some of the best parts available.
Expect more of this shit coming to Gram posts near you soon, most likely as you scroll through your feed while in a meeting rammed with fuckbags reading PowerPoint at your face while you mutter ‘Cunt’ under your breath. Here’s a warm up:
9. Its the best format ever – Saying that something was the “Best week ever on a bike” automatically piles a lot of pressure on any reboot. It’s like when you hype up a night out and it flops, as opposed to just letting it organically end up in an Orgy in Rodfather’s basement/dungeon.
But there is a lot to love about this format… Untimed liaisons, a community as opposed to ‘a field of racers’, a chilled out journey & experience as opposed to a ‘race weekend’ and I guess for me the best part after Pioneer is not flogging myself into utter fuckwittery on massive climbs. I know Ash has referred to this as a ‘Rally’ instead of an ‘Enduro’ and that’s an excellent way to sum up how it feels. Put it this way, the only Go PRO footage muthafuckas will be sitting around looking at is after a hectic day out having blind endurogasims.
10. Is it a Race, or just radness? – I hadn’t really thought about this until I read the compulsory race information, but it referred to the fact that while this is indeed a ‘race’, it’s also one of the best excuses to ride through some amazing terrain with rad humans. It can often be difficult separating out the two when the timing chip beeps and the red ENDURO mist descends across the eyes, helping us to make bad decisions, but I have a feeling this year is going to be different.
Indeed when I reflect back on the 2015 vintage, I don’t recall the actual racing aspect as much as my brain drinks in the overall experience – The Vistas, the camaRADerie, The locations, the French cokes, the amazing trails, the laughs, diving into the Med, the endless supply of fistings (the good variety)… I can’t even tell you which was my best stage result that week, which for a cunt that maintains a spreadsheet on that shit (Sorry Mark, I know it’s fucking creepy), says a lot right?
So yes, there will be racing per se, but the overall balance of this whole thing is tipped heavily towards the radness. Which is lucky, because…
How’s the build up been?
Utterly fucked to be honest. If I think about the last 12 months, I appear to have generally dodged all the usual bullets that life fires at you in an attempt to fuck with your amateur cycling build up vibe, which is where you train and stress like you’re a pro, but the only thing PRO about it is you spend the same as their entire team budget on your shit.
However this glory run of race prep for Pioneer, 2w, Karapoti and EWS Rotorua appears to have come to an end in April this year. April and May have been mega cunty from a training perspective, across just about every metric you can imagine. It was one thing after another to the point where I started to get a bit of “Uggghhhhh fuck this” fatigue setting in. I don’t think it helps also being at the 12 month mark since the Pioneer prep began, it feels like I’ve been endlessly ‘training’ or trying to build up for something on the horizon.
Oh fuck cunt, poor you… Yes, some major ENDURO First World Problems here, but it does mean Trans Provence will signify the culmination of a massive 12 months before a break kicks in.
Not to pre-empt how the 6 days of awesome will unfold, but it feels a little like I will be sliding towards the ‘complete’ as opposed to ‘compete’ end of the spectrum. Don’t worry, I know there’s enough in the tank to get through without getting skull fucked by angry Marmots, but as I can recall from my mild PTSD, this is a massive 6 days on the bike. Will it feel as massive after Pioneer? I think so, but in a different way and I look forward to sharing those thoughts. Everyone is frothing to go…
The whole Mega Mission kicks off with a week in the Aosta Valley beforehand so I can fatten up Monsieur Lapin on Italian food and Vino Rosa, while I also work out how to get the most out of the Megatower (Shock testing anyone?). It will be Zero Dark Thirty for a few weeks I suspect, so check back in some time in July when I drop some TP19 low down posts.