Bit of a strange one to write up is Day 2, and not just because I’m mostly penning this on holiday, where the relaxation feels like a disgusting contrast to the liaison suffering of the day in question. Adding to the strangeness was the weird aspect of it feeling like Day 3 of course, thanks to my 2015 mind still being out of sync location wise (right valley, wrong day and all), but mostly because <<massive spoiler alert>> it felt bizarre to peak so early into the week.
I think that the blame for the peaking ultimately needs to go squarely on the shoulders of what an absolute rad cunt Day 2 was in it’s own right. I’m sure Ash and the Donkey colluded to make it so, #totallycolluded, but as I will dwell on in this post – This was a fucking day of DAYS. This was the Keanu Reeves of days… This was the kind of day you own a Mountain Bike for… This was the kind of day you always hope to have on a bike, but rarely do. This is the kind of day that may happen so infrequently that you can maybe only count on one hand, or one scrotum if you don’t get out much.
As such, the theme of the Day 2 report is essentially focused on the 4 race stages themselves, which felt like a total contrast to the vibe of Day 1 such was the difference in their personalities. It was also the day that I ended up unwittingly inverting my tortoise strategy for the week, but more on that later as we unpack this beautiful gift that the odyssey bestowed on us.
With so much stealth portage to ram into the Day 2 report, let’s get started with the most important part of getting through the TP week: Nutrition.
Day 2 – Villars-Colmars to Valberg: 48.46km’s, 1585m up, 3,761m of superb down
If you just looked at the numbers of Day 2 and compared them to Day 1, then you might be lulled into the carefully laid trap that Ashington had spent months preparing, out in the bush like Rambo, just a lone wolf hunting out the most mind-popping trails, but also ensuring they had equally savage Portage to match. Then, to help finally give us that false sense of security, throw in a third shuttle for good measure so we thought it might not be that savage:
Camp gossip had already leaked that there may be some beast Portage out there waiting for us, and squinting at the tiny Gram based profile map indeed elicited a cold shiver from my feet.
But as Mountain Biking history tells us for the third time on this blog, all Super Banger days start with a trip to the Champs… Col des Champs that is. Every time I have set foot up here and taken a piss on it’s beautiful scenery, it has gone on to be fucking legendary and I had every reason to suspect that today would be no different:
Sprinkle on an extra helping of Rad cunts…
As much fun as pissing on beautiful scenery and singing happy birthday to Steve Peat was, it was time to get that Gnar train rolling… You can see here as I tried to hide my mild envy as The Creator becomes one of the few people in the history of mankind to survive TP with just a lightweight bumbag, while I am weighed down with an Evoc filled with extra pessimism and self loathing, all expertly captured by Gary as we roll out into a liaison longer than most normal rides.
How fucking good was it? Good enough for a rare triple fisting scenario… Allegedly a Dutch invention, it’s not often I would find myself in such a three way scenario, but you can see by the grin that Seb knew exactly what was up and The Creator has already gone to full placid rabbit mode and was just going to let it happen:
Just a casual 1,000m of descending in a liaison with no racing, why the fuck not… While most races can’t dream of putting trails in like this for their actual stages, here at TP this was known as “the way to get to morning tea.” For a lot of us this was flashback HQ and I spent a lot of time wondering how the fuck we actually raced some of the trail in 15 that we were now surfing down as a squad.
It was enough to make you want to jam a fuck off baguette into your shit talking hole for morning tea. Ryan displays the correct French mouth assault form for our readers here, one handed no less… Yeah, fuck yeah:
That Camp gossip combined with the usual cryptic Ash briefing meant that we already had discerned that today was going to see our down tubes massaging our shoulders a considerable amount. Indeed the Portage Pimp, Mr Smith, had referred to Day 2 as “the wolf in sheeps clothing” in terms of carrying.
While Ryan and I were quick to surrender to grabbing our cranks, The Creator took it as a personal challenge to push his way through this bum bag odyssey:
Yes, as you’ll notice from the above pic, aside from The Creators sworn hatred of packs, was his absolute refusal to put his bike on his shoulders, which given the eye watering heft of the Tranny I can sympathise with. Keep an eye out for the rest of the report, and the whole week for that matter, at his epic pushing form which had the whole crowd humming the appropriate Salt-N-Peppa song.
While JC Superstar was getting his “Lets fucking get on with it” march on, I was settling into my usual faffing mode, which included pissing about with gear, snacks and of course stopping to take 478 totally average iPhone photos of the Megatower leaning up on some shit. If I was going to settle into the long haul, I might as well make it beautiful:
Important note – If you’ve reached this point in the Day 2 report and already feel exhausted that I haven’t even mentioned a race stage yet, well then Sergeant Powell, welcome… to… the…. fucking… party… Pal… But what a first stage it was, hello old friend!
Stage 5 – 3.65kms: 2m up, 563m down
You may sort of remember stage 5 from such extremely radical days as Day 3 on the 2015 edition of TP, as this was a little brother edition of the same stage. By little brother I mean the one that steals your car, ram raids an ATM and then sleeps with your GF while you get arrested for his rampage.
We may not have had to trek up into the Sound of Music set like 4 years prior, but the intensity coming down was all very familiar. Except, I couldn’t work out what was new and what I thought I’d already raced. Somewhere a Donkey laughed with an erection… Again.
Some sections were as familiar as though I’d ridden, and Endurogasimed on them, like it was last week as opposed to 4 years prior. Specific sections were burned into my brain in a manner that my central nervous system retrieved the relevant files from my database with such ease you’d be forgiven for accusing me of mainlining the drug from ‘Limitless’
I’m going to assume that everyone who rode this trail and is reading this will have a little warm tingle, and perhaps a giggle, as they recall it’s awesomeness, which was mostly down to the fact it makes everyone feel goooood about how they ride a bike, no matter where you sit in the food chain. If I went “Fucking fast” down here, can you imagine how Romain or Steve Peat must have felt?
It’s another one of those special sections of real estate that instantly conjures up two questions in your mind: 1) how the fuck does Ash find all this singletrack sex and 2) how is this not a purpose designed & built MTB trail? Particularly when it’s perfect cornflaked corner after corner/repeat as you marvel at the rate it’s delivering fun into your disbelieving face.
I mean for fucks sake, look at THIS?! And for complete context, there was like 8 of these corners in a sequence here:
Stop! Sequence time… Thanks to the power of Gary Perkin, let’s close out stage 5 with a case study in the delicate art of the tag out, which is rivalled only by in-flight refuelling for it’s delicate balance between optimising vs not trying to maim each other. Thankfully for Tom the new XTR brakes are sensational and my fingers still worked and thankfully for me, Tom is a master at tagging out frothing racers:
The last shot in this sequence made it to Pinkbike with a caption referring to my thousand yard stare and general flogged out cunt status, a concern given it was the first stage of the second day. To be noted, the only time I ever appear in Pinkbike and I wasn’t wearing my own brand of narcissistic riding jersey, nice one dick. “Say-la-vee” as we like to say.
- Stage winning time – 5.45 from Romain on the Bronson (27.5 on life support)
- The Creator –6.34 for 27th
- Dirty Nomad – 6.45 for 34th
- Fist-o-meter – I mean, fuck, I tied on time for this stage with none other than T Mo FFS! Clearly those latent memories surfacing from my cluttered brain that came in handy. I didn’t manage to scalp the Creator though did I? A fucking surprise given I had the scent of this place and he was as blind as people who get their news from Fuckbook. But I definitely had him looking over his shoulder as the tortoise rolled on:
I’d spent almost the whole trip Nomadsplaining to JC about the fabled ‘Grey Earth’ that TP is famous for in a tone that made it sound like I was not only the cunt who invented it, but was also the only one that had ever ridden it. Finally then, after exhausting wanking on about this geographical phenomenon, we finally happened across it around six ridiculous hours deep into day 2.
But oddly, in a liaison… Intriguing. Surely in this final fling we’d get sweaty genitalia deep on the royal greyness before we departed this valley? I mean, even the Megatower was gaging for it.
If you’re wondering if it feels weird to be 6 hours deep into a day and to have only raced one stage, then you’d be on the money. It almost became comedic as The Creator and I started thinking about the maths and logistics of having 3 stages still to race. Correction, 3 amazing stages still to race.
Stage 6 – 3.72kms: 16m up, 496m down
Froth advisory warning here – If overly gushy frothing about mountain biking and Bromances makes you sick, then feel free to excuse yourself from this echochamber and return to mainstream websites where there’s an odd linkage between the banner ads they have and the anal tongue dart they’re giving the same bike in the ‘review’ you’re reading.
Stage 6 started like any other, blind folded and ready to experience 50 shades of Carter as I attempted the impossible chase down terrain neither of us had every experienced. However, this time something new happened… The tortoise could smell rabbit pie. No, not due to my bonding with the Megatower finally starting to go next level, this was not a meritocracy. Indeed The Creator had made a navigational error which let me firmly back in the game. It was time for some French 2W action:
Masterbation aside, I am fairly fucking useless when left to my own devices on either a race stage or during an interval session. You can therefore taste my anticipation when I was able to get on The Creators wheel and unleash some quality riding plagiarism as we dropped a feral Truck & Trailer routine.
With every corner taken at speed my risk management protocols strenuously disagreed with, I could feel the endurogasim building:
Racing aside for one moment, there were two things going on here. First of all, fucking hell we were going fast… Like, mad cunt fast. The Creators self loathing at his Nav error mixed in with a strong dose of not wanting to be overtaken meant he was going full gas, blindfold or no blindfold.
Heaped on top of this was my absolute fever to be on his wheel, with some unusual determination not to let it go. The tortoise was out of the shell, naked, erect and shit was getting insane.
Secondly, this was fun. Well, fun doesn’t really do it justice… This was transcending fun. This was now in a realm that you don’t get to experience that often on a bike. It was like an alignment of so many rad MTB planets to produce 5 minutes of the greatest riding I can recall doing in a very long time. Perfect trail, epic speed, massive levels of froth and a comRADerie that saw us both pushing the limits like an angry step child in the middle of a sugar crash. Yes, the Endurogasim was unleashed with such force that temporary blindness was an option.
With screams of delight usually reserved for the back of Rodfathers van, we tag teamed the time out mountain crew member and began to yell into our echochamber of stoke using the limited vocabulary of; “Bro, fuck yeah, sick, dude, Holy Shit, fuck man, did you see that?!” and so on and so forth while alternating between high fives and fistings usually reserved for a German birthday party.
Absolutely fucking pumped… As I stood around shouting at The Creator like some drunk cunt on a plane with noise cancelling head phones on, I could have honestly gone home happy at that point. What a trail, what a stage, what a rush and what a fucking great time. The bulk of this froth-a-thon can be seen here if you have 4 minutes to vaporise.
This was a case study in why people not only love Trans Provence, but speak of it in almost cult like tones. I was therefore happy to have the warm glow of a zealot.
- Stage winning time – 6.41 for Romain
- The Creator – 8.09 for 37th=
- Dirty Nomad – 8.10 for 41st
- Fist-o-meter – Ha, the fucking results irony here! 4 people tied on the same time as The Creator, so while I was only a single cunty second back, I didn’t really get the payback for what we laid down. However, not a single fuck was allocated to the results here, this was a moment on a bike that shall forever be in the Dirty hall of fame: Stage 6 you beautiful muthafucka.
Speaking of beauty, by now the liaison wolf had shed it’s fluffy uniform and was unleashing it’s true self on our tiring bodies, but the scenery was exceptional as per usual and with what we had already experienced so far on Day 2, we were eager to march on.
And by march, I really do mean stride that shit out. While I faffed with helmet attachments, snack compartments and an overly convoluted nutrition plan that may or may not be in a spreadsheet somewhere, the rabbit of this story just wanted to get the fuck on with it. Note the classic look back here which translates to “How the fuck has he got so far behind so quickly?“:
When I quizzed The Creator on his SAS selection course style approach to liaisons, he gave me the following response, which gives insights into not only the mind of a Masters Champion, but also the conundrum one faces when racing blind:
“I generally like to start off the day near the front of the field, so if I have a problem like a flat tyre or mechanical, or just feel tired, then I can slip back through the liaison pack and still not be at the back of the field. Being at the back of the field psychologically makes me feel slow and racing is all about mental confidence and feeling like you’re riding fast. However with TP, the riders are often cutting in the race line and so it can be an advantage to be towards the rear of the field. This was one of the many mind twisters of TP.” The Creator
And with that shocking revelation, let’s move on to another!
Stage 7 – 2.62kms: 2 up, 422 down
Given the theme of the Day 2 post is about the glory of the trails themselves, it’s a little odd that I had to sit and watch the Go Pro footage to remember this stage. In no way is that on account of it’s personality or quality, I just think after the fucking exceptional nature of the first two, this middle child was always going to get slightly overlooked, probably aided by the haze of being around 8 hours into the day by now (For comparative purposes, that’s about the amount of actual quality work I do in a month).
Not that it didn’t go out of it’s way to make a name for itself at the start:
Oh for fucks sake, another absolute banger was unfolding before my front Assegai, DH casing of course, as we marvelled our way through a trail that made the mind wander towards the question of how the fuck did Ash find all this shit? Let’s not forget this was the same valley or area that TP regularly passes through, yet this was all virgin SP territory.
It was clear that Ash was the Heisenberg of Enduro, dealing out to us the trail version of ‘Blue Sky’ and injecting fucking rad times straight into our brains like spoilt gnar brats:
I vaguely recalled there being something about watching the road at the junction, but as exceptional as the new XTR brakes are, trying to slow down a Megatower when it sees a section of trail like this is as fruitless as it is the enemy of fun. I can guarantee you most rad cunts would have got to the end and said “What road?”
From it’s upper section high speed antics it progressively dialled in a bit of jank and switch back action at the end, just enough to make you feel both alive but also like you were working hard for your froth. I may have tied myself up in knots a few times, but the end result was an extremely rare but glorious moment to behold: The first time thus far that the tortoise dined out on rabbit pie…
- Stage winning time – 5.46 for Romain (Again)
- The Creator – 7.14 for 39th=
- Dirty Nomad – 7.13 for 37th=
- Fist-o-meter – I have to say, the narrowest of stage results over The Creator was also the most unlikely of the day so far. Having unexpectedly been made into Tortoise soup on the first stage and that tantalising outcome on stage 6, I didn’t think 7 would have given me a rare stage win in the Tortoise V Hare roadshow. Probably give this one a 3/10 given how it only really tried to pump you at the end.
Of course I was still oblivious to such a momentous outcome as we started that final Portage up to finish the day off. What I was well aware of though was the fact we hadn’t yet seen any legit Grey Earth in a race stage… Something that puzzled me more than why anyone would willingly make Boris Johnson the leader of their country.
I’d asked Ash about when we could expect to see some GE at the previous food stop. Responding with the kind of devilishly cryptic response that we come to crave from Ash like wanton gnar sluts suffering from acute Stockholm Syndrome, he just smiled and muttered “Grey Earth-esque” as he looked away into the Mon-Tons like a man that would only ever speak about 3% of what he really actually knew.
I rolled out of there feeling that warm glow you get from being lied to in an abusive relationship and heading back for another pounding that I had not only asked for, but actually paid for.
As we commenced getting finger banged by the final Portage of a day that wanted to hit the 10 hour mark, The Creator had started to look away when I started my usual Grey Earth sermon/wanking every time we saw this geological phenomenon. The refusal to make eye contact while also eating a clear indicator that he held little respect for my oracle like knowledge on shredding the grey.
Under normal circumstances I would have some medium to high levels of whinging to deploy on a day where I had to carry or push my bike for more than 5 hours, but refreshingly I had a totally different mindset this time around. I was exceedingly conscious of the fact that this was the last time I was probably going to get to experience this. Sure, I will carry and push my bike again in the near future no doubt, but in the context of TP, this was likely the last time I might get to come to these magical valleys and burrow deep into what they have to offer.
My map reading skills and sense of adventure don’t operate at a level where I could hope to return here solo or unaided by the TP course crew in future missions, so I felt an absolute duty to not only soak in all the goodness the landscape had to offer, but to actually enjoy every single millimetre of the experience, no matter how stretching the girth of the liaisons became. The upside of course was once this was accepted as the default behaviour, it became a lot more manageable to navigate, aided of course by some stunning views and features along the way.
Just when we started to discuss how much of a solid day this was turning out to be, it started to absolutely cunt down… I’m talking biblical build an Ark rain shit, but with hail for good measure.
As hail stones pelted my face and I pondered my logic of leaving my rain jacket in the shuttle on such a roasting hot day, I got to witness Brice the medic smiling as he rode past trying once more to commit homicide to his eBike… I presumed he was smiling in the hope that the legit thunderstorm would help him kill it. If you want to hate eBikes even more, wait until someone creams past you in a hail storm at 5 times the speed you’re going, smiling at you like they have a stiffy.
Naturally given we had just walked through rivers and hail stones to get here, all expectations were set that we’d be getting well finger banged on our first legit wet stage for TP19…
Stage 8 – 2.74kms: 0m up, 440m down
Put down your Shorty’s and step away from the compressor… The worst fears about a munted stage 8 were completely unfounded as we dropped in to not only find it dry, but oddly dusty… Like, roost dusty. I would say there was rejoicing, but to be honest the top of this thing was so fucking fast there was no time to think about that shit.
Given I was the cunt that didn’t have the energy to think about cleaning their Go Pro lens, these shitty screen grabs partly reveal that this was as close as we got to racing on grey-ish earth all day. It wouldn’t be correct however to categorise that as a disappointment, as once again Ash had reached into his suitcase of radness and pulled out a fucking ripper for us.
As I said at the start, today was very much about some of the most awesome trail I could hope to ride and we were finishing the day with the cherry on top being used to massage our Enduro G spots.
My SD card could no longer cope with the girth of Day 2, so luckily for us all thats the last screen grab I can subject you to, which is sort of a shame as it doesn’t really tell the full story. After a top section which was full gas courtesy of it’s long straights, some blind senders, rock slabs and solid elevation drop, it turned on us quicker than a drunk Fox news watching uncle at Christmas, giving way to probably the tightest and steepest switchbacks seen all day.
Faster than you can mutter “Le Fuck“, my arms and then my brain ran out of talent as I death gripped my way to the end, very mindful that Monsieur Lapin would be bringing his Turtle soup nicely to the boil as a result of my mini capitulation and his ability to carve these corners at a vastly superior rate.
- Stage winning time – 6.09 for Romain for the clean sweep on the Bronson
- The Creator – 7.35 for 29th=
- Dirty Nomad – 7.50 for 42nd
- Fist-o-meter – Ohhhhh, got to be a solid 7/10 this one. The top section lured me into a full load shoot, before the lower section dismembered my ambitions with such efficiency that it would make a Saudi embassy envious. Having kept it relatively tight in the battle of the bros, this was a blow out, but in the context of what an awesome trail it was, there weren’t many fucks to give, especially when we got to sit around like a couple of beavers trying to recover.
Final Day 2 results:
- Day winning time – 24.21 for Romain Paulhan
- The Creator – 29.32 for 30th=
- Dirty Nomad – 29.58 for 37th= with Emily Slaco
- Fist-o-meter – Not to spoil the plot twist here, but this represented my best overall daily result for the week. 8th for the day in M40 as well. Yes, results wise this was the peak… Which raises not only an eyebrow, but an important question about my strategy. Wasn’t I supposed to Day 5 or 6 to become Endurozilla and smash up the result sheet? Why was the tortoise going off the strategy script to peak on Day 2? Stay tuned as this undramatically unfolds over the next few days…
- Favourite moment – Hard question to answer to be honest… So fucking many from a day that was filled with so much excellent shit that it almost wandered into birthday rim job territory. 4 sublime stages, incredible views, the most excellent of cunts to converse with and just a mega day on a Megatower. I’d have to give the nod to that approx 3km’s where The Creator and I flew in tight formation through stage 6, as that was some genuinely next level full gas radness.
While the final stage of the day was spared that epic thunderstorm, the camp wasn’t… And neither was my now hated giant Fox gear bag. As we set about the usual TP tradition of completely fucking up the Valberg changing room and shower block against the pleas of the signs begging us not to, I reflected on what a magnificent day it had been as the cold shower cascaded over me like some sort of rite of passage.
Usually for me, a wet gear bag, wet towel and cold shower after 10 hours on the bike would lay a solid foundation for a First World melt down possibly culminating in “Don’t you know who the fuck I am” being screamed, but those 12.73km’s we had raced on Day 2 had such a mind altering effect that short of a Donkey urinating on me while braying, nothing could take away this warm feeling of stoke.
Last time I walked into a Church I’m pretty sure all the candles went out, which is to say I’m clearly not a religious person, but most of Day 2 was as close as I suspect I will ever come to having such a moment. This is absolutely why we have these bikes, why we seek out these mountains and why we find ourselves addicting to this ridiculously wonderful lifestyle. I hope that this gushing rant is backed up by the video from Day 2:
2 Days down and effectively 20 hours in the bag on course… Ok, so this finale was even bigger than I had expected and by now we had worked out that the extra shuttle uplift really meant a longer overall day. Four more monster to come? This was definitely off to a head start in reaching it’s odyssey status.