Initially it’s going to sound like I’m working for the Breil-sur-Roya tourism council as I enshrine Day 5 on #TP19, but I can’t describe enough how much I was loving being in this new location. Ok, so granted I never made it actually into town on account of my late arrival back each day, but being in one place for 2 nights suddenly felt like the kind of luxury I didn’t realise I needed so much.

Add to that the river (ironically cold after my complaints about the showers from previous days), hot conditions and warm showers and I could have been in the Maldives. If you feel like referring to me as an exaggerating cunt, let us not forget how fucking hard it was getting here. Cue analogy about a starving man and a cracker. Plus, for someone with logistics OCD’s such as myself, not having to move camp for 2 nights was as big a gift as a Donkey could ever give you.

Knowing that our battered bodies need a boost, the Donkey sent us one of his more legendary ambassadors to inject a giant viagra dose into camp life. Oddly however, he looked like a man that had been tortured by being forced to watch a thousand hours of Brexit facebook ads and memes with Coronation Street on constantly in the background, before being made to take an Easyjet flight to Lisbon, with usual lost luggage antics, and then taking 4 days to hitch hike across Europe (replete with a gypsy rimming in a Dutch truck stop) only to arrive after the last keg has been drained:

“All of that and all I got was this fucking free narcissistic riding jersey?”

Anyway, back to my butt plug for Breil-sur-Roya, which is a fairly sweet location to wake up to, even when breakfast is so early you’re still digesting last nights dinner. I think I was mainly stoked as this was the first time all week that I saw a croissant thanks to Jamie Nicoll, what an absolute legend. This felt like a fine substitute given we weren’t getting into the maximum security facility of Sospel.

Reflecting on what might be waiting for us out there in them Mon-Tons

But before you start to lovingly slide your hand down your baguette with anticipation, Day 5 had a different idea. We were off to Italy! Before you can shove a creme rammed breakfast pastry in my shocked mouth, I should really say we were sort of off to Italy… But how the fuck do you get the entire TP field from France into Italy without next level hate? Crazy Ash logistics is how. Well, Ash and his team of logistical wizards, tip of the hat to Andy here.

Of course, this epic logistical exercise required the key ingredients of an early start and then an unknown amount of fucking about standing next to vans talking shit and having nagging feelings we’d forgotten something. Therefore, The Creator and I naturally took the opportunity to get in a bit of PRO stalking, under the thinly veiled guise of ‘Doing a social media update eh‘, some of us were more engaged in this than others, Katy showed the appropriate levels of scepticism:

Katy thought bubble: “It’s 7am and he already has his helmet AND goggles on? And we’re sitting in a van for the next hour…”

Somehow the TP team had bribed, shamed, guilt-tripped and coerced every van, truck or trailer in the Maritime alps of being able to carry a contemporarily long Enduro bike into service to get not only us 88 racers, but also the mountain crew and the sloppy collection of warm squid from way the fuck down there, to way the fuck up there.

This included passing through a number of villages where you marvel not only at their beauty, but also ponder how the fuck are they economically viable?

Road tripping all the way up

But hey, we’re about to pass into Italy, so please leave any pondering of economic viability firmly at the door and instead just surrender to its stunning beauty as the light hum of provincial roads that have been finger blasted by austerity washes over you.

The higher we went, the greater the anticipation grew… As did the realisation that you probably wouldn’t want to buy an Ex-Cool Bus second hand.

The rich aroma of lightly baked clutch

Day 5 – Breil-sur-Roya to Breil-sur-Roya: 54km’s. 1,465m up and 4,534m down

As you can imagine, popping into Italy to kick the day off is an indicator that 5 was going to be well alive. Add to this we were being dropped off at around 1,950m, a key data point in setting the fuck out of this scene. Please feel free to accuse me of labouring the point here in the preamble, but in my defence, look at the sheer endurolithic size of the day:

More shuttles than The Creator can throw an afternoon nap at

The Donkey made his Ass Spokesperson/Helper (ASH) stand on the rock like Enduro Moses to preach to us the word of the Ass, we strained to listen to him over the sound of hundreds of Enduro clips & zips being feverishly faffed with in anticipation of another crazy special day assaulting us in the most positive of ways. THIS is the quintessential photo of a TP briefing:

Seb bows to the chosen one who had been anointed by hooves

Contained within the morning ritual was strict orders about no premature departures, possibly aimed at Peaty in particular… You see, there’s a sequence to these days that must be logistically obeyed in order to stop an Enduro lord of the flies unfolding, rabid racers need someone to bring the structure required to make this all work properly.

While we waited for the Mountain Crew and squids to preposition themselves throughout the mountains, it was suggested that we partook in the epic Fort porn before us.

We’re talking some late 19th century shit here, which naturally triggered 80 or so Enduro warriors to spend the next 45 minutes anxiously circling around the ruins to try and get the best Bike vs Fort shot possible. Let me tell you, the Gramxiety was palpable here, as the Donkey looked on in disgust:

It’s ok I guess, but no fucken Gelato?

With so many sections and such insane back drops, it was a legit head scratcher on how to best capture this scene to rub it in the faces of people via as many anti-social media channels as you can surrender your privacy to. It was all too much for The Creator, who opted to do something totally weird: Actually go and soak in the moment and history.

The Creator heads off to scout a post shuttle nap location

On top of the Fort porn and insane vistas, let’s not forget it’s day 5 coming direct here, so milling and meandering didn’t need much encouragement. SD cards were being filled up and calorie deficits were starting to hit that level where bad decision making was becoming wanton in nature.

Katy Winton live gramming the Muthafucka down

As will become apparent, I was surprised how low the energy reserves were dwindling. You do one fucking marathon XC stage race and all of a sudden you think you’re an expert in endurance, laced with a certain arrogance about staying power.

As I rode around marvelling about how fucked it must have been for the poor cunts who had to build this place I did take a moment to reflect on the general softness of modern man and the stench of our privilege that now to seek physical difficulty we had to adorn the latest in Enduro fashion and head into the Mon-tons to punish ourselves.

Fairly certain I would have been executed on day 1 if I had been assigned to the brick work detail

For Forts sake, I know I’m seriously labouring the point here, but fuck it, how often do you get shuttled up to 2,000m to mill about in glorious Italian weather amongst crazy fort ruins? Especially when you’re secretly feeling mildly fingered and want to put off the climb to come as long as possible.

To do said Fort justice, I really need to steal this drone shot from the Day 5 video to help you bask in it’s splendour:

Drones – Useful for more than just attacking oil refineries

Ok, enough with the faff cunt, all this prolific fort wanking can’t cloud the fact there were 54km’s to cover from way the fuck up here to way the fuck down there as we essentially surfed the valley all the way back to Breil-sur-Roya and it’s eagerly anticipated river swim and pre-dinner snack. It may sound simple, but by Day 5 your needs have been stripped right back and your hierarchy of needs is naked and screaming for basic shit.

Helping to break up the opening stanza of Day 5 as we finally mobilised was this platoon of the raddest of cunts, rolling out from Fort HQ I was bombarded with story after story which oddly even for this site all pretty much need to remain redacted. Fuck, how good is cruising through the Mon-ton’s talking Tier 1 shit with golden units?

Seb and Smail outline how beautiful the Eiger mountain can look some mornings

It was like drowning in a moshpit of good cuntery and I was loving it. I mean, how often do you get to roll with people who not only say ‘cunt’ more than you do, and in a better accent AND with coordinated cap and riding shorts ensemble. You can’t make this shit up or even buy it.

“Stoop lookin at me hat coont”

I was having so much fun I even wore a full face helmet when riding across flat grass.

Photographic evidence my arms are way too skinny to own a Megatower

Whilst this wasn’t the longest liaison of the week, it did require some precision… Which begs an important question of the audience: Am I the only one who finds that 170mm travel 29er big bangers require just a little extra concentration when the trail gets super narrow and a touch techy? Perhaps it was my gradual surrender to fatigue that was doing it, but I couldn’t help but think the Megatower was feeling slightly claustrophobic on what I can only assume were trails made by extremely skinny ancient donkeys.

My munted attention span getting a serious work out through the ups and downs on the way to SP17. Annoyingly as per usual, The Creator and his colour coordinated gloves had no such issues:

“So help me if that bearded cunt has fallen behind again taking more photos”

He even had time to get artisanal on it with some tight ass shots, highlighting the girth of my Evoc while contrasting my full Batman dress code with a floral arrangement I can only assume was meant to represent our blossoming bromance.

“Does my backpack look huge in this JC?”

If you’re currently thinking “Fuck cunt, we came here for the Fog and Suffering of Enduro war, not a mildly inflated Gram account with your usual cliche’s about GC’s and epic vistas“, then you’re finally about to be rewarded for wading through what admittedly is some pretty heavy liaison foreplay.

Now it’s time to give you what you really want you filthy Endurophile, that moment when you tie the blindfold tightly across your Squad gogs, hear that distinctive BEEP and charge relentlessly into the unknown, likely fuelled by the lyrics of a song you had Shazamed while riding up here in a Cool Bus. Let’s fucken ave it Day 5.

Stage 17 – 3.19kms: 20m up, 411m down

As I lined up behind The Creator in the queue and stared at his bum bag with an irrational dislike it did occur to me that the ASH wouldn’t have orchestrated the greatest uplift logistics since the Americans punched out of Saigon unless there was some trail gold for us to prospect.

It would have been very easy for him to stick to the tried and true Sospel area action, but fuck that, this was the Grand Finale and the BSR Valley had more goodies than a fat enduro Piñata for us to beat the fuck out of it, so it was Megatower time:

PEDAL!

Oooofffff, 17 was a physical specimen for sure. Some solid pedalling up top to get the kind of speed out of it that you thought you should be putting down, just a few percent off being able to not pedal and then punctuated by some little testing moments to keep things lively and take a few more chunks out of pedals and crank ends.

Don’t… look… left…

The goodness

Given what a mission it was to get into this race stage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it would naturally follow the main line down all the way… And indeed many of our brains were wired into that thinking, but of course that’s not TP is it? The ASH was under explicit instructions from his Donkey overlords to ambush the fuck out of our tired bodies and this patch here did the trick nicely:

Narrator: “Too late he realises that he’s in the 10T as his brain is overwhelmed and he can’t decide between changing gear and pressing the dropper remote… The commonly known ‘Amateur head explosion’ case study

I, like I suspect 95% of the field, fucked up this right hander and it’s chaser of a nasty little grass climb. I think I came in here in the 10T and after running hell wide, I was forced into a little mid stage jog. Nothing as impressive as Epic Ryan however, who in the most classic of moves thought the Doc was actually the timing dude!! Click here for the excellent chaos that ensued as a result.

All these little climbs got my inner bandito frothing and I may have been guilty of emptying my load quicker than that first hook up with a work crush. As one might imagine, the squids positioned themselves at a high speed section right after the longest mid stage climb, knowing people would come by either flogged or fast depending on their conditioning. I was amazed I could still stand up.

This banger from Gary suddenly making me realise it might be time to update the wardrobe with some colour. Photo by Gary Perkin

Flip-side – Who ordered the squid salad?

And then a moment of deft Donkey magnificence, we unexpectedly turned on to a section that I am pretty sure had everyone gasping to describe it for the rest of the week, if not year. Like the above mentioned work crush hook up, it only lasted about 50 seconds, and I think we were taken aback by not only its insane speed, but by how completely unique it was in 5 days of riding so far. It pretty much looked like this:

Pure, unadulterated, wanton Endurogasim

That doesn’t really do it justice, and neither did my Go Fuck footage either, but here was a stunning natural slalom line through stunning trees, on a ribbon of trail that perfectly threaded it’s way through trees with a gradient that you wouldn’t even be able to imagine in your wildest Enduro wet dream. In fact, fuck that, it was more like stumbling into the middle of a trail orgy dedicated completely to you.

Let’s not also gloss over there’s not even a hint of exposure here, not to mention rocks seemed to have been banished from this enchanted forest. It was trail cat nip for an M40 racer, even if I was guilty of a few pumps of safety braking given the mind blowing speed the Megatower built up the moment my fingers relaxed on those beautifully sculpted XTR levers. As we carved through these crazy woods having our salad tossed all over the show and letting out cries of delight, it was obvious everyone was going to be talking about this section over beers at the end of the day.

If you were out for a day of riding, you’d finish this section, attempt to hide an extremely aggressive erection from your friends and after overly vigorous fist pumps you’d be in unanimous agreement to push back up and ride it again and again, with anyone objecting being instantly deleted from the GC Group Chat (AKA – GCGC).

Not to exaggerate here, and this could be said of a LOT of the trail we rode, but it felt bizarre exiting that section knowing that not only had I just ridden something incredible, but in all likelihood I’d never ride it again… There wasn’t a lot of time to dwell on such musings however, as this muthafucka was full gas to the end:

The chaser was delightful

A section hoof crafted by the Donkey trail gods themselves, followed by a Mach 3 blast to the finish? You fucking bet some unusually vigorous fisting arrangements were being unleashed haphazardly at the finish. If there was one man ready for it, you know who…

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 5.39 from Randy O
  • The Creator –6.48 for 36th
  • Dirty Nomad – 6.57 for 41st
  • Fist-o-meter – In spite of some of the climbs scattered throughout the stage, plus the pedalling required at the top, its really only a 3/10 fisting wise. If it hadn’t been for that mind blowing and superlative ending I suspect more fists would have been allocated, but the pain from those sprints was definitely washed away with the glory of “That fucken insane section in the trees!” If you ever find yourself in the town of Tende, then you need to head north (I think) into the Mon-Tons to try and find this promised land… You will not be disappointed with the greatest that your quest uncovers.

Speaking of Tende, which is French for ‘Middle of fucking nowhere‘, we still had many antics to get down and hopefully eat pastries.

Mega antics in fact

I can also confirm that if you scour the intercunt you’ll find approx 88 photos from June 20th 2019 that look pretty much exactly like this on here, it’s almost like it was purpose built for such behaviour:

“Nah, just go back up and get one more eh”

By the time you get to Day 5, it’s a fucking big deal to arrive in any town or village large enough to have an espresso machine operational in it. It’s also well into the zone where you order both a large milky coffee, even though its 30 degs and a Coke at the same time, even though its probably too early in the day for your first sugar low. While I may have run out of nutritional fucks to give, I still knew when there was a camera around.

Loic tries to hid his disgust that I’m likely wearing a counterfeit SC jersey, sourced from “When I lived in Asia eh” Photo by Gary Perkin

We can also safely assume that Tende will never ever again see this many Megatowers assembled in it’s town square while it’s cafe’s were viciously overrun by the horde of Enduro foreigners. If there’s ever a Frexit, then it likely started here. Given what we had to ride down to get here, it seemed like an extremely fitting place for a Megatower convention.

General Megatower, mountain and PRO frothing starts to boil over

If you feel like we’re procrastinating and fucking about here in Tende to prolific levels, you would be absolutely right. Everyone was dancing about the fact we had to tackle an hour long climb in 30 deg heat to get to Stage 18.

I can’t even really be fucked describing how hard that was, but at an average of 8%, I was learning first hand that the 2.5 DH casing MaxxGrip Assegai I’d put on the rear for some fresh rubber had more in common with an anchor. Fair to say I was short on conversation as my face became a sweat waterfall and I frowned at my slow surrender to fatigue… But before we can dwell on that, we had some jank to attend to.

Stage 18 – 3.68kms: 5m up, 618m down

Well, I say jank, but I suspect under normal conditions it wouldn’t seem as janky as it did on the 5th day of riding, after an hour of climbing and in toasty hot conditions. Whilst not that much longer than the opening stage of the day, it did pack 200m more in drop, which meant it was going to be action packed… Plus, it was significantly more forested in nature:

“How do you like my tightness?”

Admittedly I did get sucked in a bit at the top, which seemed faster and more friendly than its true personality would ultimately turn out to be… Those of you who went through a ‘Crazy person’ fetish phase will feel some warm familiarity with that concept. It was definitely an interesting stage, with plenty of random shit coming at you.

Ruined

A good time to commit to some precision

I’m not sure if it was the trail or that we were 4 hours into the day, but I kept getting caught out by the corners here. Suddenly what looked straight was a hard turn, or more open than you expected… Or it was just vague enough a trail to give you mild navigation anxiety. The further we got down the hill though, the more the jank dial started to get turned up notch by notch and rock by rock.

Feels easier to go left… But naturally the right is more janky, so that must be it

By the time the boulder lined switchbacks showed up at the bottom, I was fucking hanging… Which is to say, this felt like a very difficult kind of beat down. I couldn’t get my arms working to muscle the MT through the increasing tightness and I was having to bleed speed as I ran out of gas.

You know when you’re fucking on it and you just fly through everything with relative ease? Well, this was the opposite of that as I felt every single rock and root ping through my soul. Like a heavily drunk wank, I wanted to go much faster, but just couldn’t manage it in the slightest. I just wanted to get to the end without being made into a Donkey snack.

No country for lazy cranks

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 8.23 from Randy O
  • The Creator –9.54 for 29th
  • Dirty Nomad – 10.37 for 49th
  • Fist-o-meter – I had to sort of stand around at the end of this one and contemplate a bit that I was feeling oddly more fucked than I had considered I would be at this point, whilst I will give this a 6/10 fisting wise, it’s probably time to delve into this aspect a bit more.

Sidebar – Relative levels of hardness

I think part of my arrogance here was the confidence I’d got from doing the Pioneer. After all, nothing could be harder than that right? A fucking huge 6 days on the XC bike with insane elevation each day blah fucking blah blah.

However, the more I pondered it, the more I reflected on that fact that I think Trans Provence was actually harder. Da fuck? With all the lounging, shuttles and shit talking? How is this insane notion even being typed out by your fingers? Well, it’s all relative right… Pioneer was 5 to 6 hours per day, riding a pretty solid tempo, but never really going deep into the red zone for fear of complete unraveling. Yes, there were many dark moments, but you were trying to keep shit manageable.

You then had the rest of the day to recover, eat, massage, chill and hopefully sleep. Now, throw in that we got some cheeky nights in a motel as opposed to a tent and recall the last 2 days were ridden easier and I have laid my case for such an outlandish statement.

But let me go ON, and on. Trans Provence was the opposite of that. On average we were more in the realm of 9-10 hours elapsed time out on course, climbing about the same as a Pioneer day and then having to go FULL GAS (please say out loud in an Austrian accent) 4 times per day for an unknown period of time. In an epiphany it occurred to me that these all day adventure missions were wearing out my soft office ass. Forget being on my bike for this long, I wasn’t fucking used to being outside for this long each day.

This revelation also reveals why Monsieur Lapin was taking a giant rabbit shit on my tortoise strategy. The arrogance placed in my XC level fitness was being sodomised by the fact that The Creator does spend all day outside doing shit. While I may be listening to someone from ‘procurement/Risk/Finance’ about how I allegedly need to follow their new fuck head process, which they don’t understand or can’t explain, The Creator is running around forests with marking tape creating, riding or trying to outrun DOC Rangers on his eBike.

While I may have been riding fit, The Creator was, wait for it, ‘adventure fit‘, something I hadn’t really considered… Which is fucking weird given I’d done this before. By Day 5, this was starting to shine through.

Meanwhile at the Feed Station of carnage

Real talk, it was now hot as fuck and I’ve willingly confessed to feeling somewhat flogged. As I milled around the feed station which was masquerading as an oven, it was clear though that I wasn’t in the worst shape.

Seb appeared and started making some gollum like noise, more hunched over than usual when he’s trying to drag his enormous scrotum out of a tent with fucked zips. He muttered something about his hand in between speaking in tongues and while my mind tried to work out if he was now possessed by some sort of Gnar Devil, it was when I saw not only the blood but also the size of his hand that I involuntarily took a step back.

“Dude!” I exclaimed as I stared at his clearly broken hand… He did some sort of jackal like laugh and his trademark sigh before resuming speaking in a form of gibberish which made him sound like an English MP. I think he was trying to get organised to ride on, and it ultimately took an intervention where people said “Sebastien” to get him to see sense. As a rule of thumb, when people use your full name, shit is usually fucked up.

As Seb was black backed and dragged grunting into a waiting Cool Bus to be taken to a black site, Randy was busy telling stories about his mates broken wrist surgery in a French hospital where he could feel the whole thing. Between these two experiences, I could feel a new emotion starting to creep in which I had wanted to hold at bay: The Fear.

Stage 19 – 4.79kms: 14m up, 758m down

Stagezilla Alert – Probably not overly useful then that The Fear started to insidiously invade the side of my mind around the same time we hauled up to the Queen stage of the day. How did we know it was going to be a Stagezilla? The race note:

“More of a wild feel than SP18. Epic Trail from the top flanks of the Fontaine Froide Valley, right to its floor. Not overly difficult but a lot to take in as it’s long”

The give away there is both the ASH describing it as ‘Epic’ (fuck) and the fake news about it not being overly difficult (fuck x 2). My assumption that it was going to be a wild beast was richly rewarded. But, of course, it had some new stuff… It was pretty much 90% off camber to start with:

Some bad ass weed eating work went down here

And naturally it had the first scree slopes to navigate… Also off camber… And they magically became less scree and more boulder the longer you spent trying to surf them:

Steeper than it… Cambers?

Rockier than it looks?

I had to spend a bit of time going through the Go Pro footage to try and find shots that showed what a raw beast this trail was, but also to try and work out why I was so slow on it. I have a lingering feeling that I knew at the time I was losing the battle with fatigue at a hugely inconvenient moment on a trail which demanded a lot from you.

It would possibly even be fair for an Orange cunt to refer to me as ‘Low energy’, there wasn’t a lot of pumping and hip movement to be found that’s for sure. This was a beauty as well as being a beast however.

Even the trees getting into the off camber game

This scenario became problematic as the further down we got, this beast became monstrously fast, not to mention loose, which meant you needed to be right up on the muthafucka to tame the wild.

I remember laughing at one stage where the Megatower was going so fucking fast, that I could feel I had totally missed the braking point for a corner which looked like it was 500m away, and in spite of the greatest braking technology Japan has ever produced and a brand new rear tire personally chiselled from rubber by Mr Minnaar, I was unable to resist heading off into the natural run off area provided for us, nervously laughing like a White House lawyer reading a whistleblower complaint.

The whole unclip and three point turn scenario

Super fast, steep, straight, crazy tight hairpin turn: REPEAT… Holy fuck, you should hear the epic panting going on in the video of this stage. It was as spectacular as I was flogged and it also felt like it was actually going to continue to go forever. If you love mountain biking you should make it a life goal to come and ride this trail FRESH.

Letting it rip while paving the way for being unable to make the next turn

Clearly a lot of work had gone into reviving this trail, the ASH ultimately confirming that the local authorities had even got in on the act to help the donkey with sacrificing us to this Stagezilla. Chapeau to all involved, the efforts resulting in a banger.

There would have been much joy when they collectively realised that we would arrive at the narrowest and most exposed section towards the end when the flog-o-meter was pinging off it’s limiter and master alarms were screaming out indicating the Enduro version of a Chernobyl style melt down may not be far off:

And of course, just because this was the queen stage of the penultimate day, it naturally finished in a tunnel. Rip your heart out of your chest and eat it now all other Enduro races. Take note of the sly smile of the ASH as he surveys the special mix of Enduro agony & ecstasy he’d helped to orchestrate, both of which are the key ingredients in a legit odyssey of course.

Of course it finishes in a tunnel

If that’s a bit blurry for you, then allow me to get a close up of the Architect of Enduro Anarchy as I POV way my in to register TP’s own #metoo moment, by ignoring firmly crossed arms to go for a big old ‘this appears to be random as fuck’ embrace of The ASH, no small feat given his body language screams “I’m not to be hugged

The ASH bemused at my rantings while slowly tightening his crossed arms in anticipation

14 minutes of off camber beast madness will do weird things to an exhausted mind, but not half as weird as what it will do to your racing ambitions.

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 9.09 from Marco
  • The Creator –11.28 for 27th
  • Dirty Nomad – 13.49 for 60th
  • Fist-o-meter – Let’s go with 8/10, while it wasn’t the most technical stage around, it was a wild beast and you needed some solid mongrel in you to get the most out of it. This may explain why Peaty ended up 2nd on the stage, only 3 seconds off the stage win, but earning the M40 burglary award as consolation. Having said this, check out The Creator in 27th, whilst he exhibits little to no outward mongrel, his inner competitive chimp combined with his 100% pure MTB soul to ride the fuck out of this off camber stageosaurus. I can only explain my WTF 60th place with a full confession the fade was now in full effect.

Stage 20 – 2.42kms: 2m up, 544m down

ASH had mentioned to us when we cornered him for the Dirty 60 second post stage Gram bang debrief that only about 6 people had ever ridden down stage 20 before. I can therefore safely assume that I was likely the first dumb/tired cunt to pinball off the tree in the first turn and end up on my ass, saying “Le cunt” whilst simultaneously admiring the beautiful lines of my pastel coloured Megatower.

Reflecting on the fact that I really need a new Santa Cruz bottle cage

When I did eventually get back up and carried on while my mojo dribbled out of multiple orifices, I was quickly met with the realisation that The Jank had fully returned. With obscenely low volumes of traffic, it was a perfect breeding ground for rocks and long grass to make beautiful bank love, spawning quintessential pedal clippers, all correctly laid out to ruthlessly suffocate something we once used to call ‘flow’. Lazy mind + body = Lazy cranks…

Amateur protocol – Clip a pedal on the first rock, ram your front wheel into the second one. Voila.

The deeper we wove our way into the woods for mild to heavy complicated adventures, it became relatively clear the last muthafuckas that came down here were likely barbarians, not even the Romans would have found this shit.

If this was indeed made by Donkeys, it was likely where they came to for sneaky high-mounting hook ups.

Aim for the spots that are slightly less grassy

Even the hairpins were so new they were exceedingly vague about which way they wanted to go, take this example, which appears to have just been randomly sketched in by the Raddest of landscape gardeners simply loving back wheel. I secretly wanted it to head off slightly to the right here, as opposed to this hairpin left scenario:

Yes, really… A fucking left turn

Or here we have a chicane where the distance between each corner is the same length as the wheelbase of my Megatron. You can almost taste my face being fucked courtesy of my inability to nose wheelie turn. Did they not understand 1,000 years ago how modern Enduro bike geometry would mean you arrive at these pockets of jank at a speed which may have been incompatible with your ability to navigate the complexity before you?

Looking back on this screen shot now, my inner Lance wishes I had just French cut this section to death:

The French passport application form

It may have been effectively a brand new ancient trail, but faster than a corrupt PM can give his mistress a tax payer funded job, the pack of frothing TP Enduro lunatics had locked their back wheels and skidded in a few sweet lines.

I can confirm that a MaxxGrip 2.5 Maxxis Assegai is excellent at such a task, even if it’s DH casing was fucking terrible actually getting you to the start of the stage. I can confirm there were a few sections in 20 that were sweaty eye brow raising steep.

Steeper than it looks? Fuck, we really need a new cliche

The staggering fatigue mixed in with some residual fear from the previous stage had the taste of an excellent cocktail for indicating that my 2015 phoenix rising performance was looking decidedly unlikely.

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 6.01 from Joe Connell
  • The Creator –7.29 for 31st=
  • Dirty Nomad – 8.36 for 56th
  • Fist-o-meter – Perhaps I should say ‘Fade-o-meter’? I had clearly been punched in the fart box here, my preferred top 40 comfort zone now a fanciful dream of the past. As I started to drown in my tortoise shell from donkey urine being mercilessly flooded in, The Creator was parading about with his Energizer Bunny hard on, knocking on the door of the top 30 and having a “I can beat T Mo” fantasy, which probably ranks alongside the teenage equivalent of “I can shag Samantha Fox” syndrome. I think this born again ancient trail situation was a 7.5/10 fisting.

Luckily I arrived just in time to see Epic Ryan unleashing an unscheduled Tranny bashing, showing his clear disdain for aftermarket narrow wide chain rings.

“Hopefully it will bend back”

When he wasn’t being the first GC on the scene to help those in mechanical need, Ryan was casually and humbly reminding some of us (Just me really) that there’s riding your bike, then there’s a real bike rider. Why does every Ryan I know who rides a bike exude a casual elegance and ooze effortless style? Perplexing and impressive:

Think this is cool, should have seen him ride up the stairs onto the bridge…

Done for the day? Ha… Fuck… By now you should have learnt that this TP Finale wasn’t structured in such a fashion. I was absolutely gagging to sit at the end of the final stage and gorge on a vomit combo of Haribo and beer, but the tour of Breil-sur-Roya was far from over.

I didn’t realise though that we not only had the longest 10km’s of our lives to get back to camp, but some of the gnarliest exposure I can recall all week as part of a filthy tranny designed to shock & awe in equal measure.

Thought bubble: “There’s a LOT that could go wrong here”

Here we can see The Creator show casing his “What could go right” approach to life, surfing the looseness a few inches away from what turned out to be pretty much a free fall scenario. As I pointed out, this section was fairly binary: You were either on the trail, or in a body bag.

Thought bubble: “There’s so much that could go right here”

Gary does a much better job of capturing the section in question as I roll out thinking about how much I couldn’t wait to get back and clean my fluffy tail. Squint in to the middle of this shot to see the trail running down the exposure line and quietly mouth “Fuck me” in a manner that evokes an enquiry response from someone around you as to whether or not it’s a valid request.

Gary floats in the air while I obsessively look where I want to go. Photo by Gary Perkin

Real talk – I was an enduro chalk outline by the time we navigated this much harder than expected liaison back down into Breil-sur-Roya at the end of yet another monster day. Steve Peat talked about wanting to scope the bars in the village square, but I could only think of getting back to my tent to lick my tail and hide my results slip from The Creator…

Good luck with hiding… Just a casual results check with a legend. And Steve Peat. 

Final Day 5 results:

  • Day winning time – 29.20 for Randy
  • The Creator – 35.39 for 28th
  • Dirty Nomad – 39.59 for 52nd
  • Fist-o-meter – So, two notable things about the daily result here. First, The Creator finally stretched his legs and vaporised me off the side of the French Mon-tons. It had remained relatively close, but a 4 minute 20 blow out on Day 5 sunk my battleship. My tortoise hand book incorrectly calculated that by Day 5 Monsieur Lapin would start to fade, while I would be able to fall back on my marathon XC vibe to boil that bunny. Sensationally incorrect. Secondly, The Creator was a mere 11 seconds off beating T Mo for the day, which would have won him a much sought after Dirty Lap Dance. If you like numbers, then the Dirty Boffins in the numbers department confirmed I was 36.3% slower than the fastest time for Day 5… Ughhhhhhh
  • Favourite moment – The whole concept of being dropped at the top of an Italian mountain, with historic fortified ruins, so you can surf your way down a luscious French valley filled with Le Gnar back to a camp filled with free flow beer, sounds like such a fantasy it would be easy to dismiss it as pure fiction. But that was Day 5 in a nutsac. Naturally while the overarching story is my real favourite, the end to stage 17 shall forever be enshrined in my cycling mind as a piece of greatness that instantly made it a reference point for any future riding. Drinking that coke in Tende also rates a mention for great Day 5 moments, as does the excellent GC crew we rolled out with to start the day.

If these 6,000+ words have fucked your face harder than Chris Ball tea-bagging you with an E-EWS series press release on a Tuesday, then take a break and enjoy Day 5 where 11 hours of elapsed time on course is rolled into 3.5 minutes:

 

So, one day to run and I found myself parked in 11th in M40, 15 seconds behind Sandy in the battle for the top 10. Surely I would be able to Mega my way into the Top 10? The final push to the beach was on… The only question remaining is would it be the Dunkirk or Normandy version?

Hopefully I can let you know without another month passing before the final instalment in this blog post series so gargantuan even Peter Jackson is thinking “Fuck cunt, this is way over the top

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One Response

  1. Daniel

    Best. Day. Ever! Would love to relive the entire gopro footage of each stage so hope you’ll upload it someday?

    Reply

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