When the 2019 Trans Provence daily data points were initially revealed on line, Seb Kemp neatly summarised Day 4 in the most perfect and eloquent one line description:

‘The unraveling’

When I read that, I could almost feel the physical and emotional slap of the intention that Seb had in mind when so masterfully labelling what by numbers was the longest day of the race.

But it wasn’t just the 62km length that in theory would earn it such a title. Seb also knew that the added factors of the 4,000m+ of descending, increased temperatures as we headed to the coast, day 4 fatigue starting to insidiously creep in and that there’s NO easy way into Sospel would all combine to make this an enormous day.

Yes, it would be an experience in its own right, but while we were in the throes of adding it’s excellence to our good times memory bank, it would also be depleting us as we started to finally see the coast line and that beautiful Med. I’ve ranted on about a lot of shit in this one, so if you don’t mind cutting off the foreplay after a single swipe of the tongue, I suggest we get right to it.

Day 4 – Valdeblore to Breil-sur-Roya: 61.43km’s, 1,919m up and 4,411m down

Semi confessional here, but when I sat down to look at my notes for Day 4 there was a slight blurring effect with Day 5. It took me a while to pick them apart in some ways, which I found odd given how unique Day 5 was (watch this space), but its a pointer to how the fog of Enduro war can sometimes blend moments or liaisons to play tricks on a mind still feeling the effects of Stage 12 PTSD.

The one difference however was the length 4 had in store for us, that and the fact it was going Cool Bus deep on us as well:

Shit is real when you still get a Cool Bus uplift after 50km’s in the bank

I don’t want to call Day 4 ‘transitional’ in nature, as there is no such a day on TP, but naturally it’s an odd day in many ways. We were getting closer to the coast, but weren’t really getting that much closer. We were starting out on a well known climb, but had absolutely no idea where we were going. And finally, the moment we rolled out of camp that morning, we were suddenly closer to the end than we were to the start. Poignant.

Another casual mass start scenario saw our crew reunited for another day of gnar hunting. However, Brownie and The Creator were decidedly unamused by my desert storm hat selection, with allegations that I was committing a significant branding faux pas in the process:

He can handle a lot of shit, but the Andes Pacifico safari cap a bridge too far for The Creator

Shit was about to get wild, as indicated by the wild animals that had already amassed to make yelling noises and hollow promises about photos they still haven’t sent you:

At last, the hunter becomes the hunted

But this isn’t squids in the wild, which would actually be a solid blog post mind you, no, this is the M40 TP flog fest, so we might as well tip us straight back into the gnar grinder with the first stage of the day.

Stage 13 – 2.88kms: 5m up, 402m down

If you’re not really a morning person or generally struggle with opening race stages (My hand is firmly up for the latter), then by Day 4 the first test of the day is definitely starting to feel more awkward than you’d like it to. Lace that with a mild fear/intrigue of the unknown and general baseline excitement that you’re on your bike in France and it’s time to get janky on it as we slice into the second half of the final TP.

One person that wasn’t getting a slow start to the day? YES Gary, going full prone on it to sniper some goodness once again:

Gary with role model body position commitment

Whilst he was busy nailing the shot, I’m not sure I’m nailing the body position… Somewhere Lorenzo Suding has his head in his hands, but on the upside, you’re staring right into an Enduro Product Managers wet dream right here:

“Ohhhhh, yeah… He purchased everything in the google ads we leached into his on-line world” Photo by Gary Perkin

The funny thing about this stage was it felt a lot longer than it’s 2.88km’s advertised. After a relatively tranquilo opening, it got into some tricky turns before it surrendered to some good old mid-stage jank. A slightly awkward trench arrangement, filled with plenty of pedal catchers and the right amount of grass to cover up their conspiratorial nature.

It was somewhere along here I had one of those massive lazy crank catchers, you know the kind that come that close to totally fucking your day? It felt early in the day to be pulling out a big save:

Starting to get janky enough to make my Go Pro sweat

Just when the awkwardness felt like it was going to reach frustrating levels however, things opened up and it was Braaaap time, or as I’m led to believe based on my infiltration of teenage group chats, it was skrt skrt muthafuckas. Bemusing:

Little bit of main line, little bit of heads up navigation

Some high speed, high commitment blasting played straight into the Megatower’s eager hands, before we dived on and off a few road sections into what I can only describe sounded like riding on breaking dinner plates, the slab plate rock a stark contrast and one that provided oddly more grip and confidence than I expected.

In a rare encounter as I busily ate up the kind of trail I absolutely love, I happened across Brownie and at the risk of totally fucking our rad group dynamic…

Carefully sizing up the risk of ruining new friendships

Squeezed past thanks to his gentlemanly conduct which luckily saw neither of us getting electrocuted whilst pissing ourselves furiously.

Nervously calculating bar width

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 5.11 from Romain
  • The Creator –6.48 for 43rd
  • Dirty Nomad – 7.18 for 51st
  • Fist-o-meter – Ughhh, a rougher start to the day than expected. I didn’t think it had been that slow, but outside the top 50? Clearly I needed to get up earlier. Mind you, The Creator was uncharacteristically outside the top 40, so perhaps just a weird one to kick off. I think a 6/10 fisting wise, but fuck if I didn’t enjoy the end of that trail, superb.

How do you know it’s Day 4 on TP? When you park up after the first stage of the day and start smashing your baguette… As I bit into my glorious French bread I could hear a Donkey bray with excitement the next valley over. That Ass knew how long the day ahead still to come was, whereas this ass didn’t.

Even though I knew I was making a rookie mistake, my calorie debt was calling and I wanted to pay up. Dwell on that point, as it becomes relevant…

Find someone who looks at you the same way Epic Ryan looks at his baguette

Given the length of the day, an eye watering 61.4km’s, there was a lot of tranny we had to swallow. Whilst a nice chunk of this was downhill, that presented some different challenges for some.

For those of you out there wondering about the new Maxxis EXO+ protection levels, I hope this goes some way to answering your question courtesy of Brownie’s research while on a relatively straightforward 4WD road:

Turns out the ‘+’ isn’t located in the sidewall

When shit goes sideways there is always one GC who is first on the scene to help sort stuff. While my thumbs started sobbing profusely at the mention of a cushcore, Epic Ryan took a break from top 15 stage results and beating Steve Peat to get it sorted.

I assume my usual mechanical support role of taking pics while practical people get shit done

Stage 14 – 3.36kms: 31m up, 607m down

Stagezilla Alert – Ok, so I’m calling this one a Stagezilla, a rare accolade, even if the numbers don’t perhaps back me up there. However, this was a very different Stagezilla, this one was a total ambush. What lured us in to such an ambush? Aside from the total blindness of the racing in a new zone, it was this one liner in the race notes:

“Back to more simple adventures in the woods”

That’s all it said… A simple one liner. As we soon found out, the only way this statement could have been more dubious is if it had been plastered down the side of the bus and driven around the country by lunatics.

Not to accuse Ash of being the Sarah Huckabee Sanders of France, but what we wandered into, while highly adventurous, didn’t have a single sniff of simplicity to it. I guess in the context of suggesting to your wife a threesome with her sister is a good plan it may have been simple, but for those of us, like rubes, that took the briefing notes at face value, the opening stanza seemed placid and mundane enough that perhaps this really was going to be gentle:

Simple…

And then… Shit got psycho. Much like when you fuck the air valve on your Fox 36 fork the night before a race because someone told you to run less air pressure, it suddenly got fucking stressful, very quickly. With the straightforward bit out of the way quicker than a business class flight hand job, we suddenly found ourselves puzzling on very steep, very tight and rather grassy sections:

Feeling a lot less simple…

I don’t really want to call this trail fresh cut, but perhaps it was apt to label it as a ‘low traffic’ route. As in, how the fuck does Ash even find this shit? To be sure, it was a little beast, but little did I know we’d only just begun. If this was a simple adventure, fuck me I wasn’t very keen to see a complicated one…

It didn’t take long for me to start the unraveling process and as the perfect exhibit here’s that classic Go PRO shot which says: “I ran out of talent right in the apex of this turn“:

Basically as complicated as fuck

Holy fuck this was hard… I think I was still catching up with the unexpected shock of how hard it was versus the expectation I had when I really started to struggle to make any of the insane switchbacks that were waiting for us ahead. You see the thing about the Megatower is that it likes to go VERY fast and picks up speed effortlessly, which is great obviously until you need to turn in a 90 degree direction, or perhaps even 120 degs?

Aiding me in the slowing down department was the superlative new XTR M9100 brakes, which if they’re good enough for the World Cup, not to mention Steve Premature Peaty, then they were fine for me. However, I don’t have the arms of a World Cup downhiller and my Maxxis DHR2 MaxxGrip rear tire had transitioned to MaxxFucked, so actually slowing down with any form of grace or style was now an acute issue.

I wasn’t the only one however, no sooner was I shredded by a German pinner, shit started to unravel for him in such spectacular fashion that I found myself involuntarily saying ‘Achtung!’ into my helmet:

Not simple, but screamed with a German accent

That was the only shot of his three crashes in front of me that I caught on camera, but each time his scream of “Shizen!!” got slightly louder and more exasperated as we went down the hill.

Which brings me to an important sidebar on Crashing – I think this is a good time to bring this up, especially with some of the post racing footage I’ve since seen. I spent an inordinate amount of time ensuring I didn’t crash, not only because I loathe it generally, but mainly because I was sure that it was toxic from a race result perspective.

However, it became clear to me that a lot of muthafuckas were crashing a LOT, and still going significantly faster than I. While I knew this anecdotally, it was weird to finally see it playing out in front of me, no matter how many times I caught up post crash, I was then distanced again as I tried to ride in an overly clean and safe manner. It was so affronting I was starting to get anxiety that I wasn’t riding in the true spirit of TP, Ride fast and take chances.

How the fuck were people crashing 3 or 4 times and still killing it? Did I need to just go a lot faster and throw some crashes into my daily routine? Or would I be the first person to try that and then break their ankle in a stream crossing? Time to get back to more simple adventures in the woods.

Where simplicity comes to die

Yes, a simple adventure where you wander into the woods and get stabbed by the head of the Nigel Farage fan club. Or put another way, it was like a combination of every crazy Ex you’ve ever had all rolled into one person who then becomes your boss at work. Yes, that’s not simple. Here was an easy bit:

Makes sense that the slight rises looked like this

It got to the point where people just parked up on the side of the track so they could catch their breath in order to be able to stammer “Fuck this shit” with reasonable clarity. I’m pretty sure up until this point that we hadn’t seen this much tightness squeezed into such a small package. Suddenly a medium length stage felt like an odyssey in its own right. Muthafuckas were bemused:

Day 4 – People’s bodies are starting to scream “Fuck this section of corners”

I can only assume that Ash rode this in his recon mission with a giant stiffy and laughing as he thought of the description that he was going to put in the race book, fuelled by some solid Schadenfreude.

Even the 50m to go sign didn’t bring much relief as this Stagezilla piled on some final indignation with a couple of sections to punish tired bodies and mashed minds, best illustrated through this Go PRO angle which as you may guess, means a mid-stage dismount was in progress:

The run of shame

You know shit has been real when people at the finish, including the timing crew are calling out “It’s almost over!” like it’s your first un-lubricated rectal exam. I was extremely relieved to be able to dish out some Bromance fives at the end, even if holding my arms up was problematic.

The calm demeanour of a Placid Rabbit who has just put a minute into you

Spare a thought for Brownie, who ended up off the side of a cliff within sight of the finish, which I not only caught on video, but managed to upload to the Gram for his wife to see and absolutely freak her out. How good is the intercunt?

The beastiality of this stage aside, check out The Creator absolutely slaying it into the top 30 on a seriously fucking hard stage, or as you might say: Real Mountain Biking. JC loves a simple adventure, so no surprises he fucking nailed it.

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 8.00 from Randy Osborne
  • The Creator –9.54 for 26th
  • Dirty Nomad – 10.56 for 39th
  • Fist-o-meter – I’m pretty sure this is a 10/10 double fisting from my perspective, due in part to the ambush qualities it entailed, but also due to it just being straight up little beast hard. More than likely fatigue helped make that assessment, but even fresh some of the insanely steep, narrow and tight grassy switchback turns would still have fucked a few faces. My favourite post stage quote, best read with a German accent was: “I came here to ride my bike, not to die“, eloquently summarised. Highly energetic oral sex was naturally applied to the lolly container at the feed station:

The Creator holding resolute in 32 deg heat on the ‘No helmets off’ policy

But we couldn’t sit around all day eating lollies, getting heat stroke and bemoaning our bike handling skills – There were cliche photo spots from 2015 waiting for us to assault them. Peg me into a coma if this isn’t one of the most photographed spots in the history of TP:

The boys soak in what I think was the first sighting of the Med for the week

Stage 15 – 5.24kms: 25m up, 733m down

Given the bludgeoning on the previous stage, my senses were heightened and trust levels at an all time low, so probably about the right settings to head into a stage longer than 5km’s long. And lets face it, we should all know by now that anything with more than 700m of elevation drop is going to be something worthy of the Dirt spank bank…

And Stage 15 was right on point for that from the very first pedal stroke. Named ‘Peiracava’, which I can only assume is French for “Fucking rad“, it didn’t take long to work out that this was a special piece of real estate. Oddly, and I say this having never lived in Canada, but the top section felt very much just like that:

Whistler type vibes?

I was rolling on the powerful cocktail of having punched out a power turd at the top of Col de Turini, and fuelled by 1,000 individual Haribo lollies that I gorged on in 30 deg heat, so I knew that the clock was ticking on a massive sugar crash to come. Better get the fuck on with it then and enjoy what was unfolding before us, a legitimate banger.

Possibly the most random screen grab of the week

Initial suspicions were quickly confirmed that this was pure Enduro erotica, I respect I made this assessment fairly early on in the piece, when I was still in the ‘Canada’ section, but it was clearly a fucking cool trail.

Getting out into the open and amongst the ruins only added to its sexiness. Speaking of, why was I starting to see little puffs of dust here and there? Could I smell the faint scent of fresh and wounded rabbit?

Trying to avoid a caption that’s laced with a pun about being ruined

Suddenly, I could see The Creator ahead, but was it a mere illusion? I thought I was gaining, but the layering of the festival of switchbacks before us meant it was taking me so much time to get to where I’d seen him that it was appeared to be fake news.

But wait, surely I was gaining?

As I passed through Checkpoint Sven, he confirmed that I was indeed gaining on JC Superstar, which was all the encouragement I needed:

Sven – If you’re reading this my inner narcissist desperately needs this pic for the Gram please

I threw the Megatower relentless and harder through the turns as my pursuit fever started to build. A puff of fresh dust here and there willing me on in my rabid rabbit hunt. The Squid Squad were indeed out in force, Gary taking a break from carving on his exquisite new HT2 to bring us…

This can only mean that shit is about to get more interesting

This banger – If someone can tell me what the utter fuck is going on with my body positioning there, that would be appreciated as I have no fucking idea what this is about, other than pure Day 4 flog being involved:

Am I… Sitting down? Taking a shit? Either way, how the fuck am I supposed to turn right here? Photo by Gary Perkin

As I started to seriously reel him in, my mind was already wandering in it’s famous style to what I might shout when I arrived on his back tire… “Riiiiider“, in extremely high pitch of course, or perhaps a more classic “On yer left cunt“, no, a touch aggressive… Perhaps something about delicious rabbit pie? I was legitimately salivating at the prospect.

As I drew him in, I was furiously counting my chickens, and whilst not a single crack had appeared in an egg, fuck me if he wasn’t RIGHT there and he was WALKING… It was OVER:

“Inform Lord Donkey that we have them”

I was intoxicated by the prospect of the inevitability of what lay before me… This was going to pound my famous 2W stage win into the back of the mattress. He was going to have to yield, he was going to have to lick the dirty ring like a surrender monkey… I could already imagine the next shuttle uplift victory dance. I was even giddy at the thought of my Gram caption for the day… It was feeding time and the Megatower was famished.

As The Creators ‘Podium Champagne’ scented cologne filled my nostrils and my passing fantasies became more ridiculous, I didn’t notice what was happening. Like an Imperial Captain prematurely announcing his first catch of the day, I was about to get front row seats to a class act of desperation.

It took me 7 minutes and 45 seconds to finally catch that bunny and when I had my garden hoe above his head, he turned and said: “Not fucking today Mr McGregor… You cunt

Wait… WHAT?!

For full disclosure, and to accurately document my horror, what I didn’t know of course, was The Creator had a flat rear tire… Yes, the muthafucka had already not only laid it down twice, but was also now riding it on the Panzer insert and Enve M70 rim. Given what was about to happen next, I am fucking glad that I didn’t have this piece of information at the time.

And now, to unveil the true extent of the Horror, it’s over to The Creator himself to tell the great rabbit escape tale/tail:

“Early in the stage I had 2 lay downs pushing wide in corners. The track had an endless number of super tight French switchbacks and I could hear you slowly reeling me in corner by corner. As we descended into this creek crossing my mind was twisted between thinking damn it if he catches me and passes I’m never going to hear the end of it and how do I navigate this chasm into the creek.

I spied this foot wide rock bridge and had to dismount to make it across it. Incidentally Randy came into the creek so hot he had to huck the gap across it, which must have been 20ft. I glanced behind as I got across and you were right there about to get on the bridge. Fuuuuck! So I laid down every Watt I had in the 100m climb out of the creek and then threw out the caution sign and put the hammer down. It was time for the Rabbit to light a fire.

The track character changed from switchback sequences to following the creek but the surface remained rockier than Geezers love life. After about a minute I got a rear flat tyre, but the red mist wasn’t going away. I knew I had both the Panzer foam insert and the Enve rubber rim protection. So I didn’t back off the pace at all.

The back wheel was making a hell of racket bouncing off rocks, but the flat tyre traction was insane. The stage lasted maybe another 3 minutes. At one point I was going so quick and bouncing so much I couldn’t see. I had to chuckle and slow the pace. The stage got really narrow towards the end, maybe 300mm wide track. I got to the finish and counted to 25. You got me on the stage, but only by 3 seconds. I was pretty stoked to pull that time back, when I thought for sure you were going to pass me.”

What… The… FUCK. Yes, I knew something was up when we got halfway up the climb and he was getting away from me, this was impossible naturally given that’s MY territory. Ok, don’t panic, just keep cool and he will eventually stop struggling and let it happen.

But then as it opened up again and got faster and faster, panic set in, especially as it became clear as fuck that I was in the middle of snatching defeat from the jaws of glorious victory. Suddenly, there were no puffs of dust in front of me:

Sweat is now running down the inside of my squad goggles

You know that scene in Chernobyl where they work out they aren’t getting a higher radiation reading because the detectors only went up to a certain level? Yeah, well, that was the sort of panic realisation that was unfolding in my central very-nervous system.

What was in front of me was just some of the highest speed self-loathing I can recall encountering on a bike. I opened the Megatower up full tap, secretly not giving a fuck if I snapped a wheel in the process… Then I recalled I was riding on Reserves, so I wasn’t even going to be able to do that. Loser. As shell shocked as I was, I was still aware that this was a fucking amazing trail to be smashing down.

Too late, they decide to not spare the horses

Finally the longest 6 minutes of my Enduro career came to a shameful end, as I rolled in I could already see The Creator vigorously fingering his rear Michelin like a Te Awamutu teenager.

Shamefully I asked where this disaster occurred, hoping the answer was the last 200m of the stage, but alas the reality was more jarring. The Creator had essentially endured a 10 minute rim job, so quite mind boggling how he managed to hold out. Luckily then that I escaped a century of humiliation by the narrowest of margins…

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 11.18 from Romain
  • The Creator –14.04 for 41st
  • Dirty Nomad – 14.00 for 38th
  • Fist-o-meter – Absolutely zero celebration here, I should have not only dined on Rabbit pie mid-stage, but also made a pair of luxurious slippers from the hide at the same time. Alas, I let glory slip through my low attention span fingers once again. Probably a 5/10 fisting wise here, but this trail was definitely in the top 3 for the week I’d say, an absolute champion that must be ridden if you ever find yourself kicking around Col de Turini with an Enduro bike. Shout out to Brice, TP medic, who took a break from committing eBike homicide to reopen this fantastic trail. Alarmingly, this was my penultimate stage result in the top 40 to just quietly, slightly alarming given how many were still to come.

The Creator set about sorting that tire situation out, and he be goddamed if he was going to take his helmet off and ruin his perfect record just because it was 32 degs and people were passing out in the background:

“Got… To… keep… my… fucking… helmet… ON!”

Even more impressive, he did 2 full tube changes… Try that at home with the rim protector strip kids. Special mention there going to his gloves, a built in reminder to fist a brother and avoid that awkward high 5/fist pump hybrid fuck up.

In line with our transition to the coast, the temperatures were starting to nudge towards the early 30’s and as we finally rolled out of the end of the stage in what felt like last place, Julia gave us a knowing glance and intimated that the next liaison, aside from being baking hot, might just be a little… Cunty? That inference obviously not applying to the vista’s per se:

Ummm, guys, is that a beautiful gentle road to Sospel down there?

15km’s may not sound like much on a Mountain Bike. Indeed, for most of us it’s a casual 30 mins on a, dare I say it? road bike, and perhaps an hour on a Mountain Bike if you’re fucking about in the forest. But, as we were about to learn, not all 15km’s are created equally and this trail was a case study in such a scenario.

Initially, it seemed cool to stop and look at the scenery, go “Ohhhh” and “Ahhhh” and take too many photos, but in hindsight that was perhaps a less awesome game plan. Mind you, I suspected we wouldn’t be back here any time soon, so why not indulge. As you may note, The Creator pushed on:

Fuck knows how those helmet pads are smelling right about now

But as we pushed on (He still refused to carry) deeper and deeper into what appeared to be the SAS Selection process, it suddenly became clear that we were in the jaws of a trap the Donkey had carefully laid for us. There’s a reason they never needed to build forts around Sospel in Roman times, because muthafucken Romans all died right here on this trail trying to get there, thus making fortifications redundant.

It did occur to me as we transitioned from rad and rideable single track, to some slightly dubious off camber shit to finally picking up our bikes (well, everyone except The Creator), that I’d never been involved in an easy way into Sospel. Yes, I suddenly recalled ridiculous behaviour getting into Sospel in 2015 as well, leaving me with the impression that perhaps they’re just not that into outsiders?

It might lack creativity, but I’m going with: Steeper than it looks

I’d spent the week awaiting a liaison that would really fuck me up, so it was slightly perverse and also apt that I didn’t see it coming until I was drinking a protein shake where the main ingredient was Donkey seminal fluid.

As fucked up as that sounds, I probably would’ve actually hit that offering right about this point, as the ghost of my 10am baguette stop came back to not only haunt me, but also call me a total fuckbag. This was a suboptimal spot to have the munchies. It was even worse to not have something substantial to feed said munchies. At least the conversation was solid.

The group discusses whether or not Ash is the Robert Mugabe of Enduro

What stung was the knowledge that running in parallel with us was a road that all the squids were now gliding down in a van most likely eating pastries with Sven deleting any photos he took of me in disgust at what I do with my arms when I ride a bike.

No matter, I was busy finding superlative new vistas to take great shots of my old cunt grips (OCG’s) in. Splendid:

“Bro… Are those like… Padded wings?”

We were now experiencing the MTB version of a Hard Brexit, including all planning for such an outcome being based around “being more positive“, speaking of being positive as you walk blindly off a cliff, I suspect Ash would say on the bright side that at least it was mainly downhill… Yeah, about that:

“Honestly guys, it was like WAY steeper than in the photo eh and like everyone was walking it eh… Basically fucken Rampage man”

And then, as if someone flicked a switch, The Unraveling was upon me. I was semi aware of the fact that I was throwing a legit tantrum, but much like when I was 5, I was powerless to stop it. Fuelled by hunger and worn down by an army of the most hateful switch backs I can recall tripping over, it was the final straw when I lost my balance and the Megatower fell awkwardly on some sabertooth rocks.

Like a less muscular version of the Predator I screamed “Cuuuuuuunt!” into the valley like that jagged rock had pierced my skin as opposed to the perfect finish on my frame. As I screamed pointlessly into the French wilderness, I realised Trans Provence had got me once more. My rabid insanity pinged far and wide across the oceans…

At that moment Seb Kemp was retreating to the comfort of his couch in Whistler, comfortably attired in his dressing gown made from the skin of cycling journalists who originally said the new VPP config looks a ‘bit shit’. As he opened an artisanal craft beer that was so exquisitely niche you can’t actually purchase it, the hairs stood up on the back of his neck… as he took the first sip, he knew the taste and aroma was unmistakable… “Ahhhhhh, it’s The Unraveling! It is upon us!!!” He exclaimed as his shone brightly and he licked the taste of carnage from his prophetic lips.

Back on the path to Hell/Sospel it was not a time for your Enduro-as-fuck shoes to do this then either was it, several ‘cunts’ were allocated to this moment and every subsequent near rolled ankle moment as my sole & soul gave way repeatedly.

Vertically fucked and laterally cunted

Meanwhile in Sospel, the Donkey was so overcome with joy that someone was finally be offered as a sacrifice to The Unraveling that it urinated in excitement all over the fresh watermelon which Mel had lovingly carved for us in the hope we would one day arrive in Sospel.

To be honest, I actually didn’t think we were ever going to get to Sospel, but figured we had to be close as I could smell Matt Wragg’s faux outrage in the wind. For a laugh, here was me riding in a rare section:

This photo likely in the wrong order because, get this, I’m still riding a bike here! Ha, liaison gags

Was this the hardest liaison of the week? Hmmmm, I think so, while some may have been more physically taxing, this was by far the most cunty, but annoyingly had stunning scenery to match. A festival of switchbacks which we could sort of ride some of the time was then finished off with a jack hammer section of insane trail clearly designed to kill wheels and what remained of anyone’s arms.

Shit must have been going seriously sideways as when I got startled by a barking dog as we navigated this demonic piece of trail, I involuntarily screamed back at the dog “Fuck up you fucking cunt!“, which points to shit really coming unglued when you start yelling at animals in their own backyard.

Somewhat less pumped than 2 hours earlier

So, about that 1 hour to cover 15km’s? How about 2.5 hours in the end… I’m not even sure how the maths works on that, but fair to say that we were now in the flow phase of unraveling. These are the moments on TP that you know are coming to test you, this was not one of those occasions that I passed. At the time you’re mouthing “Fuck this shit“, but now it’s all part of the giant puzzle that makes the whole thing a next level experience.

Just think, still one uplift and climb to go.

Stage 16 – 3.28kms: 10m up, 600m down

Exhausted at this point? Fucking oath… This post almost feels as drawn out as the day itself. All you really need to know about this stage was that it was 10.5 hours since we had left camp, real talk… As in, actual data point.

Since then there had been tantrums, insane riding, way too much sugar at the wrong time, probably not enough food, a shit load of laughs, liaisons that wanted to maim us and just generally a massive day on the bike in glorious French Mon-tons. I felt therefore that it was ok to forgive myself for totally fucking up the first corner of the stage as there was zero chance I was going to navigate this with any style:

Stand back while I fuck this right up

It didn’t take long to work out that instead of engorged hardness, I was dribbling flaccidness as I made heavy work of the opening part of the stage.

I think I was already obsessing about the coke at the end, followed by whatever delicious pre-dinner delight was on offer chased down with some of Sapaudia brewings finest offering. The fading light a reminder what a fucking massive day we had on our hands here.

Stoked no one was around to see my body position on this turn

The middle section of 16 was a lot of fun, like an illegal natural bike park feel to it, and oddly my wheels left the ground a couple of times. Actually, I think I was just relishing being able to ride my bike again for a change without stalling every 10m and losing my shit in a Hanger episode.

Due to a full SD card I can’t really convey much about the end of the stage, mainly as it appeared to not only go on forever, but many sections appeared to be almost complete replicas of sections we’d just ridden, the ultimate deja vu of Enduro. It was narrow, sidling and didn’t have a lot of margin of error if you were pinning it, so my biggest surprise was that I didn’t lose more time to The Creator. Would be a great trail to come back and ride again, assuming an easy way into Sospel is ever designed.

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 8.52 from Romain
  • The Creator –10.43 for 39th
  • Dirty Nomad – 11.21 for 52nd
  • Fist-o-meter – After the mission of getting there and the time of day I’m a bit hazy about this stage, so I think a 5/10. Its probably one of those trails that feels banger when you ride it fresh, but we were about as fresh as the Rodfathers reusable condom made of sheep skin (Allegedly it works 100% of the time on 69% of occasions). It was shady narrow at the bottom, one of those situations where a slight understeer in the wrong spot and you’re climbing back up a bank.

11 hours and 6 minutes after we had rolled out of Valdeblore camp, we rolled into new territory in Breil-sur-Roya, replacing the usual Sospel stop over. It was the first day I didn’t have survivor guilt when I saw the Dark Cloud crew, mainly because they were all in the fucking river with a beer when we rolled in, looking at us and mouthing “Those poor cunts“. Log this as a fucking legendary BIG day then.

Final Day 4 results:

  • Day winning time – 33.38 for Romain on the Bronson
  • The Creator – 41.29 for 32nd
  • Dirty Nomad – 43.35 for 42nd
  • Fist-o-meter – Two stages in the 30’s bookended by two stages in the 50’s… No, not a Tupperware party orgy, but my fantastic inconsistency coming to the fore. My second best daily result for the week just quietly but <<Spoiler Alert>> alas my last visit inside the top half of the field for a daily result. Check out The Creator who was knocking on that top 30 like a woodpecker on meth. I think an 11 hour day where you fuck a shoe and have a temper tantrum on the side of a trail a solid 9 out of 10 on the daily fist-o-meter. Rad, but a monolith to be sure.
  • Favourite moment – The platter of water melon Melissa had carved for us in Sospel when we finally rolled in like the last dudes to be rescued from Dunkirk. I macked on that shit like it was a Big Mac. Riding wise, Stage 15 was absolutely excellent, a total banger, even if I almost let a shaved rabbit slip through my presumptuous fingers. When people ask you why you mountain bike, you simply refer them to ‘Peiracava’ as the case study.

Given how much Sospel hated on my face to get into it, being in Breil-sur-Roya was a nice change up. Certainly it was an excellent place to bring together the largest number of Megatowers in France/probably Europe all at one time. I was too fucked and lazy to organise one big Mega shot, but use your imagination here and just extrapolate out a bit to get the vibe:

Date night in Breil-Sur-Roya

In other tech news, the DHR2 MaxxGrip was starting to smell like a semi slick after 4 days of Maritime turmoil, with it becoming more and more reluctant to slow down a rampant Megatower on steep and loose shit, which basically describes all the stages.

With more insanity to come in the final two days ahead, it was time to put a bullet in this softy and go FULL Assegai, 2.5 in DH casing naturally, with more MaxxGrip lunacy baked in:

Maxx Finger blasted

11 hours to ride it, about 1,100 hours to write the fucking blog post and respect if you made it this far without scrolling while whispering “blah blah cunt” under your breath. Your reward is therefore my 6,000 words summarised in a 3 minute video. Enjoy:

 

43rd overall on GC after 4 days… Scraping into the top half of the field by the last hair on my furry hot pant. Heading to Italy for Day 5, would I hold? Or would I melt like delicious Limone Gelato? Let’s see what’s up…

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