When you think about the term Odyssey in the modern context there are two problems that immediately become apparent.

Firstly, given we’re now always connected via some form of device, and that life has become more precious than the time when the trails we had passed over on the previous 5 days of TP were formed, it means there are less readily available avenues for many of us to be part of something we could rightfully refer to as an ‘odyssey’.

When you imagine what an odyssey must feel, look or smell like it’s easy to get caught in the trap between making something too planned or controlled, versus surrendering to the experience and taking your chances. Indeed, when you consider the term itself, this is what the Google spammed back at me:

“A long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune”

‘Many changes in fortune…’, hmmmm. I’ve been reflecting on why it’s taken me so long to get these TP race reports written and concluded that perhaps my week lacked these changes in fortune that usually provide a rich database to tap into and allow my fingers to feverishly whack my MacBook into submission.

I think I tried too hard to keep my week consistent and under control to the point that I may have inadvertently neutered it a little. That may sound like an odd reflection given I’m also talking about how flogged out I was beginning to feel, but I can’t help but think that perhaps I swung too far into the ‘race zone’ as opposed to indulging a little more in the adventure. Welcome to my weird as fuck retrospective analysis.

The second problem is it’s hard to imagine, or accept, how it all ends. Instinctively you know the odyssey must end, but at the same moment you want to will it to continue forever – Even if you’ve fucked another brand new MaxxGrip Maxxis tire. Or perhaps I’m looking at this the wrong way, perhaps it’s just the latest chapter to finish in a much longer overall odyssey that continues to unfold? Something to chew on like an original 1990’s Powerbar.

Either way, I respect that these posts have been so prolific that they make Peter Jackson look like a dude who just does short mini-series productions. They’ve become more of a drawn out love letter masquerading as a farewell note than a race report as such, but that feels fitting given this is the end of the road in multiple ways.

For reasons which will become apparent, this final ever Dirty TP race report instalment won’t be too heavily focused on racing… It has occurred to me that the whole series has been a little bit “me me me me – The Creator – me me me me“, and I have not paid anywhere near the necessary amount of homage to the 87 or so other rad fuckers in attendance at the song swan of this magnificent experience.

So to right that wrong, and partly sweep my Day 6 impersonation of a Soviet nuclear reactor under the rugs that furnish the back of the Rodfather’s van, I shall be focused on the ComRADes who surrounded me as the ramp came down and we all proceeded towards something that had for so long felt like a fantasy, a myth and even a rumour, but was now tantalisingly close:

The BEACH

Naturally getting there was never going to be a light beer moment, was it?

Day 6 – Breil-sur-Roya to Menton and into the Med! 43.3km’s 1,444m up and 2,877m down

It’s legitimately been so long since this day that you as the reader are exhausted, and I’ve almost forgotten how to write a race report. Just so happens however that I can still feel almost every single one of the jagged little bumps you see in this elevation chart, like a sentimental map of the first piece of pegging equipment you encounter:

The zero at the end can spell only one thing: Med

As the week wore on, one of the more challenging aspects of the event as fatigue set in was a little game known as “Dude, is that my Megatower?” As it turned out, it didn’t help to say any of the following when trying to identify your one:

  • It’s the green one
  • It’s the black one
  • It’s the one with 36’s on it
  • It’s the one with Assegai’s on it
  • Its got Reserves on it

Some of the more astute among us must have figured this was going to be the Marketing dept’s wet dream combined with Mr Roskopp’s retirement fund looking more like a scene from the Wolf of Wall Street and cleverly adorning their MT with stickers, like the owners of black Samsonite suitcases who have fucking cracked it when once again someone has stolen their shit off the carousel. First world Enduro problems were indeed peaking…

Somewhere, Mr Roskopp sprays champagne on someones face

In preparing for writing this post I had to go back and re-read my Day 6 post from last time. This was partly to make sure I didn’t plagiarise myself, but also partly to try and draw some parallels. Clearly I was a lot less tired and child beaten back then, as the words appeared to flow a lot easier than they do now.

But of course the main difference this time which was slapping us vigorously about our bearded faces was we were about to giggle our way through the last TP daily briefing… Ever. The last wave, on the last day of the last TP ever… Fuck, that’s a heavy breakfast of emotions to stomach as you gather and look to the sky to hear the gnar gospel passed to you from the Donkey’s most persistent, dedicated and curious servant. Even the ASH himself felt the full impact of the significance of this moment:

For the 54th and final time, the word of the Donkey is passed to us by his main Ambassador #noquidproquo

Like most of us, I can’t claim to know what was going through ASH’s head and heart at that moment, but considering this was the final casually vague briefing he was to give, it must have been a significant milestone. Very few of us get to create something truly unique and incredible as we walk this earth, and even fewer of us get to do so and enrich the lives of many along the way. If you think I am begin gushy here, buckle the fuck up as this is just the first lick of the frothing gushy foreplay as this tribute post unfolds.

Given how quickly the Wave 2 herd spread out following the first stage of the day, this would also be the last time we would get to collectively stand around with some completely excellent cunts and watch one another drop in to navigate some French insanity while letting out various forms of “Ohhhhhh” or “Fuuuuuccck“, the start of the final day gave us an excellent outlook for doing just that as well:

Secretly the Romans are desperate for a pedal clipping OTB for their entertainment

It’s hard to say how much of a reluctance there was from people to drop into that first stage on the final day, knowing that it truly would signal the beginning of the TP end in more ways than one.

There wouldn’t be any thoughts or banter of ‘next year’, nor would many, if any, of us get to stand around there in that exquisite location gazing longingly across those valleys, free from a single fuckwit, e mail, tweet or notification to interrupt our visual love making session with an Enduro nirvana. Not to mention the luxury of being deposited into locations like this with relative ease on our behalves:

And yet somehow, we end up in the sea

But enough of this prolific scenery and emotional wanking, it’s time to instead get into some vigorous Master-Biking.

Stage 21 – 3.47kms: 3m up, 638m down

But first stage of the day we must, and once more it was to pound ourselves into an unknown breach, but for those of us that had made the pilgrimage to the Menton beach before, we knew that between us and a date with beer and that fucking sweet ocean plunge things were going to get a little… Rocky?

Day 6 arms appear to be no match for Day 6 Gnar

I know an actual Geologist who would punch me in my soft face with his giant hands if I pretended to know about rocks, but the more coastal we were getting, the rockier and drier it was becoming. Thank fuck for MaxxGrip compounds, even if they were getting eaten by this French gnarscape.

It became suddenly apparent that this was a fucking excellent trail, I suspect I am saying this because it was ramming it’s radness right into my honey hole on account of running down the spine of a ridge. If there’s one thing I fucking love, it’s ridge running… No real exposure, relatively good run off, some open turns… Oh fuck, that makes me sound horrendously conservative, but I’ll take that in exchange for trail this fun:

Excellent margin of error parameters

But as I ran my Maxxis tires lovingly down the spine of this sexy ridge, I wasn’t the only one realising that Ash had unleashed another unknown banger on us to start the day. Mostly I think that Sven was pleased he didn’t have to ride down Ze Holy Trail with a camera pack on.

I was going to rail the high line of that rock berm, but look who ruined it…

I’d love to show you Sven’s view of the above shot, but my on-line harassment scheme has been ineffectual in obtain said image, so you’ll just have to visualise how fucking rad I must have looked Megatrucking down into what turned out to be an extremely rad section of trail, complete with a few “Holy Fuck me into a coma” moments thrown in for good measure.

I would have been happy to ridge run this gloriousness for some time, but as the nature of the trail changed towards the bottom it served as a reminder about just how flogged out many of us felt as we delved deeper into the opening kilometres of Day 6. It’s not often I claim to be too tired for tightness, but colour me fingered as it started to trend that way.

Like a new Gnar DJ starting their set

And let’s not forget we were dropping 638m in the opening test of the day either, decidedly not an insignificant number when relatively flogged. As I turned up the mouth breathing intensity, the gnar and jank responded in kind as my hands and arms slowly started to negotiate terms for our surrender in secret.

Fuck yeah cunt, shreddin slab!

The river at the bottom was filled with a heaving crowd of racers and rad cunts, I say heaving because most were still trying to get out of oxygen debt and/or cool themselves after a run that was piping hot in more ways than one.

In a newly developed fetish for the week, The Creator had become fixated on beating T Mo in at least one of the daily results. He had managed a few stage wins, and while an overall victory was out of the question, he may have just been able to deliver a daily victory.

Well, maybe not as she pumped 17 seconds into him on the first stage of the day, a result that was as shocking as getting a proctology exam when you thought you’d come in to be fed warm cookies. Here’s the real time response to getting T Mowed down by a multiple world champ:

The Creator exploring the outer boundaries of the Fist-o-Meter

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 8.15 from Romain Paulhan
  • The Creator –10.17 for 28th
  • Dirty Nomad – 10.45 for 39th
  • Fist-o-meter – Actually not too bad, turned out this was a stage that stood out in a week of stand outs as being fucking rad. I didn’t know it at the time, but oddly it was the last stage of the week that I actually raced, so to speak. In a sliding doors moment I clawed back most of the time I needed to put me ahead of Sandy in attempting to get back into the M40 top 10, but this was soon to prove stunningly irrelevant. Probably a 6/10 on the Fist count, but likely a 4 if you were hitting it fresh after a morning of bathing in croissants.

The biggest surprise of Day 6 is perhaps just how brutal the liaisons were. You can be easily lulled into a false sense of Donkey security by thinking that given it was the last day and that we were almost there that there would be an end of school term feel to the tranny’s. Fuck no:

Fe Fi Fo Fum, I smell fry sauce…

This may have been the hardest 250m climb I can ever recall doing. The sweat was pouring down my chassis like Fat Donny going full Bukkake every time he watches Fox news. How the fuck did it manage to feel burning hot and humid at the same time?

I had sort of also fucked us a bit by waiting down at the river for 20 minutes for Ryan… Who was actually 15 minutes ahead of us. Everyone in town was unamused by my fuckwittery:

Nana confirms she is not amused by the endless helmet wearing antics

But all that grunt work served a purpose, depositing us directly into one of the more fun liaison sections all week. The Creator wasted no time in unleashing his usual side hit signature style, while I busily shook my head and ran through a list of all the shit that could go wrong. After all, you never want to be that cunt who bins it in a Tranny zone…

“Settle down there Creator, you don’t want to be the fuckbag who crashes a Tranny during a Tranny”

With so much hectic liaison action being pumped into my grill I took a moment to regroup given I had lost track of how far we had to tranny before Stage 22. Whilst faffing about with one of my many Enduro as absolute fuck pieces of paraphernalia, I noticed member of my fellow TP herd negotiating what appeared to be a particularly cunty section of trail, highlighted by it’s rocky outcrop nature which transitioned vertically into exposure you didn’t want to associate with.

Almost as a side thought I noticed there were two schools of approach to navigating this – The full dismount and push around, or the more Danny MacAskill protocol, of carrying speed, going slightly high and hopping around it. While I was pretty clear in my mind you had to pick one or the other, my fatigue fogged brain didn’t quite make the connection that the best time to make such a decision was before you arrived at said killing zone.

To the surprise of no one, I tried to choose both options in a bizarre mix of stall and then attempted dismount. Much like masterbating in a meeting room at work, this was a situation that required either full commitment or no attempt at all. In retrospect I regret being too tired to understand that I was about to make a bad decision when I stalled on outcrop, unclipped my left foot and put it down to find…

Absolutely nothing

Where I thought there would be a size 44 rock to plant my Shimano Enduro AF shoe was simply thin air, and as it turned out, an infinite amount.

And then suddenly, much like a pro-brexit politician that can no longer discern lies from logic, I found myself free falling backwards off a cliff into the abyss of nothingness. The one distinct thing I can recall from this moment was not just the sheer intense horror of the notion of what was happening, but that for some reason I elected to close my eyes.

As a free fell through the French scrub with my eyes closed, I had enough time to ponder I had no idea how long this would go for. When I came to a miracle stop wedged in a tree, my next thought in a millisecond was that 15kg’s of piping hot Megatower was about to arrive on the scene like the next person in line at a gang bang. Sure enough, there it was in the full truck and trailer scenario as it did it’s best to maim me.

Can I lead with “A lot further down than it looks”?

Thanks to my involuntary screaming mechanism which resembles the sound of someone being murdered with a dildo, I squealed loudly enough to alert none other than Chris Johnston and Steve Peat, who came to my rescue in the Thunderbirds version of Enduro by forming a PRO AF human chain.

You may be a fan of Peaty for any number of reasons (For me, it’s his early bike launches), but you can now also add to the list his alarmingly long arms to the list of reasons he’s a rad cunt, as they turned out to be perfect for rescuing amateur human sacrifices who have suffered epic decision making lapses. To be noted in bold font, this was not the kind of countryside where you ever wanted to end up off the side of the trail, exhibit A:

Looking out and reflecting on the fact there were actually worse cliffs to fall off around here

To rub it in just that final bit, I was a mere couple of hundred meters from the start of SP22, which further exacerbating the fuckbaggery of me being the one to say to The Creator all week that “You don’t want to be the one who crashes in a liaison bro…

As I sat around at the start of the stage, I had time to reflect on what was the biggest difference between this edition and 4 years earlier. No, it wasn’t the parcours, or the equipment underneath us. The biggest difference by far was my risk appetite. The Axis of conservatism fuelled by the neck incident, a baby and turning 40 had resulted in a distinctly different inner maniac lining up at the timing stations in 2019.

Stage 22 – 1.83kms: 0m up, 271m down

The shortest stage of the week then, which as it transpired, couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Not that I was thinking about racing when I heard the timer beep me in, and even less so when I got around the first corner and found narrowness and exposure my heavily fingered confidence couldn’t process:

Appears more hazardous than a money laundering Bank

There’s really not much to say to be honest, and for those of you that read day 6 from 2015, you know what eventually is coming here… The ultimate pegging of any riding mojo, the face fuckery of your Enduro Ego and the MTB equivalent of turning up to a BBQ with Steve Bannon as your +1. Yes, I’m talking about the most dreadful scenario of them all:

Downhill Portage

Or more to the point, highly irrational downhill portage. You can probably accuse me of being a yellow vest here, as it was almost a protest response in some cases, and I simply didn’t have even a gel wrapper of a fuck to give either. At the mere whiff of anything that felt above Grade 3 and I was off… Which I super fucking awkward and weird when everything appeared to be Grade 5, or trending 6:

Shred, or be shredded

This wasn’t racing, in fact it was hardly even riding… It was a rearguard action as I beat a hasty retreat towards the beach not seen since the summer of 1940, except possibly more buffoonish.

I can confirm the longest 50m in my MTB racing career

Indeed, it took so long for me to weirdly tripod and downhill portage my way to the end that The Creator had to bring forward his usual post lunch shuttle nap to fill in the time given he had savaged his way to another top 30 result, while I had essentially the Enduro equivalent of erectile dysfunction, exhausting:

The lengths people will go to in order to not participate in a certified DN melt down

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 4.01 from Romain on the Bronson
  • The Creator –5.24 for 28th
  • Dirty Nomad – 8.47 for 72nd
  • Fist-o-meter – Should have maybe been a 6, but ended up an 11 based on how I treated it. A legit patented Dirty Nomad melt down of ridiculous proportions. Not unlike losing to England in any semi final of any World Cup. It wasn’t racing and it wasn’t even trail riding really… Sort of a weird mix of orienteering and bike packing? All done while choking on the thick stench of ones own cuntery. Au revoir M40 top 10, I enjoyed the week of being cock teased by you.

If you ever wanted a case study into the exceedingly Good Cuntishness of the people on this event, you needed to look no further than the cafe that I ended up at post stage. It had now been taken over by 30% of the TP field, much to the delight of the Italian proprietor, and as riding jerseys were aired out and cokes were sucked back, I was set upon by many of our ComRADes.

Whether furnishing me with ice packs, shoving a coke in my hand or generally checking in to confirm just how much I had cunted myself, the spirit of Enduro wasn’t just alive here, it was rubbing it’s ample bosom in my face, which also happened to have a thousand yard stare plastered across it.

In no particular order I had a donut, some ice cream, a coke, some pain killers and a legit Italian cappuccino shoved in my mouth and told to get back on that beautiful carbon horse and get my ass back to France. And guess what time it was? Yes, time for another death march liaison into the Maximum Security facility of Sospel, which as it turned out, was impregnable from all angles.

And it was at this moment that I realised how much irrational hate I had for that bum bag

I’m not sure what I was more upset about, having a road climb in 30 deg heat on the heaviest and stickiest Enduro tires in the Maxxis catalogue, or the fact that The Creator was on the cusp of getting through Trans Provence without a back pack OR ever taking his helmet off OR ever carrying his bike on any part of his upper body.

It felt like everything I knew was being questioned to its very core. We need to break up this crisis with a gratuitous MegaBanger of yet another random French valley:

No wonder each day took us 11 hours

For those keeping score at home, it was now 36 degs… Which absolutely lends weight to my bias that Sospel is French for “If you want to come and visit our village, we will absolutely fuck you up getting in here” I was so baked, and given I didn’t have to ride tomorrow, I was more than happy to take my chances with a potential algae bloom river scenario in order to chill the fuck out.

“Its ok, Giardia would be an upgrade right about now”

By the time we finally did make it to Sospel, it had become clear that muthafuckas were taking this cooling down business even more seriously than getting gastro from a river. It’s not often you see someone with the confidence to dominate an iced lollycock with such conviction, but 80 hours on the bike in a week does crazy shit to a rad cunt… And in terms of Radness, here’s the Moby Dick of it:

“Wad ya fookin lookin at?”

As part of turning a 6 hour day into a 10 hour one, much lying about in the shade was unleashed in Sospel. There was a distinct end of school (forever) feel about that final tent stop in the centre of Sospel. No one was in a hurry to load up and shuttle out. While no one said it directly, you definitely got the sense that the reluctance to move was not just the heat, but the realisation that once we left this final Trans Provence feed station ever, that it was indeed into the very final chapter of this odyssey.

I’m not sure I realised it that acutely at the time, but it was the last call for TP water, the last handful of epic Haribo load outs, the last chance to have that weird citrus fruit drink which was both refreshing and sugary to the point of giving one the shakes. This was it… Once we rolled out from here it was 2 stages and the beach, the dragging of the Enduro shoe clad heels was understandable.

This was welcome relief for The Creator, who not only got to finally hit his regular helmeted afternoon shuttle nap, but also got to finally get away from hearing the cliff diving story for the 69th time

No one understand this super power, but scientists believe it’s source is the immoveable helmet

I did recall this climb of tears, mainly as we had to ride up the whole fucking terrible thing in 40 deg heat 4 years earlier. No one was going to debating getting a shuttle halfway up, especially given the heat seemed to be a consistent element to this beast.

I know I bitched about there being no easy way into Sospel, but that pales in comparison to getting out of it. Much like dating a crazy hot person, if getting in seemed a challenge, getting out will most likely totally fuck you up. Even with a shuttle to take the edge of it, this came as little comfort if you’re the tallest man in Enduro like Lyle, seen here trying to follow the Pons Holdings HR safety guidelines by trying to stay at least 50m away from me should I start asking him a series of cliche questions about Santa Cruz:

Actual fact, when you’re 7 feet tall, it’s even hotter

Stage 23 – 3.44kms: 10m up, 434m down

I apologise in advance if you came this far down expecting to hear about some racing, as that’s not what was going down here. I rolled into the stage at walking pace and it really didn’t get much more exciting than that for the next 3.44km’s.

The main downside to this, aside from taking a massive shit on my overall results, was that many months later it makes it extremely hard to write about, not helped by general parental exhaustion and zero time to craft an appropriate overview. I can say that last time I was up on this point we turned right. Turning right turned out to be a horrible cunt, so I was pleased when we turned left and found a trail to be far more palatable:

Out of focus and out of race pace

Which is not to say it wasn’t a gnar ninja in it’s own right, I suspect you won’t find any trails off the top of this 1,100m point that want to massage your ball sac, but there were plenty of sections that did want to tear it off and feed it to you:

JC was right, should have brought the rim protectors

The race notes did reference something about the Gully of Chunder Death Gnar, which was both as impressive as it sounded in person, but then disappointingly tame looking when reviewing the Go Pro files and screen shots. I understand that a few anchors were thrown down here, while I continued to be an Enduro Viagra advertisement with some more DH Portage.

Given I could almost smell the ocean salt, I was more concerned with not fucking up my swimming form than being a role model Enduro racer. I definitely impersonated a ship off the coast line here:

Trench warfare

The nice thing about now self relegating myself to the role of a ‘trail rider’ was getting to take in more of these delicious trails. I did think through the point that I didn’t know when I would next be back in France gorging on ancient singletrack, so I felt a determination to soak up all it’s glorious variety. Such as…

Sweet Grade 3 relief…

Trending Grade 5 to 6 around the corner

As I Mega cruised to the end of the penultimate SP ever, I realised we were absolutely into the final countdown of everything TP, with that end of stage stoke from the Mountain Crew being at the top of the list. If there’s one consistent aspect to all TP’s, it’s that this crew are some of the best people you could ever hope to find on a trail. Thanks for being awesome team.

23 down, 1 to roll

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 5.55 for Randy Osborne
  • The Creator –7.24 for 29th
  • Dirty Nomad – 9.25 for 70th
  • Fist-o-meter – Difficult to measure objectively when you’re sedately trail riding your way like a tourist to the coast. I usually lose 2 mins in a whole 2W Enduro to The Creator, so while this wasn’t the hardest stage encountered the fact I had lost the plot harder than the whole GOP meant it probably came out a 7 on the Fistometer scale.

But what was fuuuuuucking hard was that final liaison to the FINAL TP stage ever. I’m going to exhaust both you and I as I try to find every possible way to build tension to the end here, including running out of ways to slap into you vigorously that this was the final Donkey song. And he was going out with a swift kick to the genitals with the climb we had ahead of us.

Such an occasion requires the task to be broken up into breaks where mildly redacted humour comes into play, such as asking the team for their best impression of the Donkey as he ejaculates when someone goes over the bars in a switchback so tight that unless you’re French you shouldn’t have bothered with. Some solid efforts here given the fatigue and heat:

Heee-Whore

How did I know this was a fucking gnarly liaison? For the first time all week I looked up and through drips of sweat rolling off my eyelids I saw I remarkable sight – The Creator finally broke and hoisted his Tranny high into the air, resting it across his shoulders and at last surrendered to the Donkey literally within spitting distance of the Med.

I was too moist and finger banged to get a pic of such a milestone, so you’ll have to make do with Loic and Lyle (The L&L show) filling in to demonstrate the kind of pump we were under here:

“Or you can just use spit”

For such a momentous occasion we really need to get the low down from the man himself, with The Creator giving us a run down:

“The climb up to the last stage was the longest and hottest of the week. 35degC minimal shade. The trail gradually steepened until riding and even pushing was no longer an option. Sidebar: in my mind pushing uses less energy than carrying as some of the weight of the bike is being carried on the wheels, so I try to push where possible. Also the (only!?) Downside of using a hip pack rather than a back pack is there’s no padding around my upper back to rest the bike on when carrying. So long carries are a little painful!

I don’t know how long the carrying section was, but with the heat it seemed to go on and on. I had the Giant of Enduro Lyle pacing in front of me, so I was determined to stay with him. That view of the med from the crest of the saddle was surreal. The ocean alluring blue tantalising with its coolness. But also one final monster stage to go. This is typical Ash, the biggest of finishes for the craziest of events. The top section of track was so loose and rocky I was kinda glad the course markers had convinced Ash not to run the full top to bottom stage. Even starting part way down, it was still a really cool stage. There was a section that must of had fire, the dirt was loose, the trail full of blown up holes, but steep and fast. I remember loving that last stage wanting to just let the bike run, run for the finish and to the sea.”

Unbe-fucking-lievable, we were at the top. The last top. The last TP ‘Top’ ever… The final time I would stand at the top of a heat drenched French Mon-ton with the finest quality race plate you’ll ever have on your bars and wonder what the absolute fuck was coming next. Given I only had 3 week long sordid interactions with TP I can’t claim to have as rich a history as some, but there was no denying the momentousness of what this view represented:

“See you on the beach”

Also unique to this final TP moment was a rare moment of benevolence from Kim Jong Ash, who took pity on us and chopped the top section of this final hell descent out of the actual race stage. Early in the week a message had filtered back into camp from someone who understood what we would be riding down which simply said: “You’re going to need counselling after the final stage

Given that probably applied to me before the race even started it wasn’t such a shock, but that did sound particularly ominous and as we started to navigate it, it became readily apparent as to what the fuck was up… Or more accurately, down:

JC floating to the final test

Outside chance we were last to the beach due to copious amounts of overly elaborate photography moments

Hopefully those two shots help tell the story about A) how fucking high up we now were and B) how much drop we had in a short distance to get our broken asses to that fucking luscious water.

Stage 24 – 3.31kms: 11m up, 670m down*

*Fake news to a significant degree given the stage was given a substantial hair cut. And thank fuck for that just quietly, as I was proper drilled by now. If we had raced the top section I am pretty sure I would have pulled up in the middle flat section where we ultimately started from, laid down in that grass and cried myself into a solid therapy session for sure.

By the time we got to the start line it felt very thin on the ground, mostly due to the common theme of my fucking about all day and while we weren’t the last people to drop in, we can’t have been far off. If the last day was meant to be savoured, then we were certainly indulging in that aspect.

Did I stand around at that start line feeling overwhelmed by nostalgic emotions and the poignancy of the moment? Alas I am too shallow for that, I didn’t even wait the regulation 20 seconds behind The Creators departure before rolling into the last SP ever. After some ham footed pedal efforts, we were quickly reminded of the ultimate way point we were aiming for:

Significant ridgeline porn

As last shakes go, this one was right in my honey hole on the basis of it being down the spine of a ridge line mostly again. If I’ve learnt anything from TP19 it’s that my penchant for exposure has diminished faster than Fuckbook has wrecked the basis of truth and fact, and that nothing beats the glory of railing down a French ridge with your heels down.

I can’t really tell you too much about the last stage, not because it was nondescript, but more that I was preoccupied with the fact it was the last one and soon it would all be over. While it was slightly less emotional than 2015, the finality of it was looming large at the 50m to go sign came into view alarmingly sooner than expected.

As I squeezed that XTR brake lever with my last vestiges of energy and came to a back wheel skidding stop, it felt hugely appropriate that I would finish my TP experience with the one person I had shared every single mission here with. My first pedal stroke in 2013 on the tour was next to Julia from the Mountain Crew, and to see her standing there at the last play of 2019 couldn’t have provided a more appropriate way to close out my TP experience, it’s symmetry is almost poetic:

The smiles and embraces confirm that we have indeed made it

Taking a moment to soak in the realisation that I made it to the end and didn’t wear glasses in a full face this time. Photo by Gary Perkin

As you may be able to tell from my 1,000 yard stare eyes just there, I’m processing the fact that I made it to the end relatively unscathed, despite my best liaison cuntery efforts, and that it was indeed the end.

No more beeps, no more charging into blind stages without a clue as to what is waiting out there to assault the senses, no more blue tents, no more amazing French locations with equally amazing radical cunts, no more nursing the ego and sanity through another insane valley, no more melt downs on the way to Sospel, no more Haribo that is perfectly warmed in 36 deg French sun, no more begging the Mavic mechanics to help you with something that their faces say “You really can’t do that yourself bru?“, no more wonderfully vague and chilled ASH morning briefings, no more organising your kit into OCD piles in your tent next to your sleeping bag when you should be fucking asleep, no more uplift shit talking with your crew and/or the Cool bus driver, no more loading your Evoc pack to bursting point only to realise you’d forgot your fucking baguette, no more heading out for the day and being that cunt that forgot your timing chip, no more killing a brand new Maxxis tire in 3 days, no more cold showers and trying to dry your genitals with a hand drier, no more faffing about with 50 pieces of Enduro AF kit as you ruin people’s patience, no more being charted into amazing trails through incredible valleys through the hoof of the Donkey, no more glorious river swims, no more begging for more porridge like you’re a crack whore because you’ve taken a second look at the day’s profile and no more French fisting:

A fisting so vigorous that it blew the doors off my glove

Somehow the combination of the end being in sight and The Creators radness rubbing off on me hauled my sorry Dirty ass back into the top 50 for my last TP Stage EVA.

Results:

  • Stage winning time – 3.04 for Loic Delteil and Martyn Brookes
  • The Creator –3.53 for 30th=
  • Dirty Nomad – 4.22 for 49th
  • Fist-o-meter – Riding wise probably only like 2 on the fisting front, but from an emotional perspective and the fact the fat donkey was singing, more like a 10/10 overall. Check out the muthafucking Creator, fully weaponised until the very end with another top 30. As I wore out, he wore in, proving that adventure fitness and the right temperament beats Banditry and a weak mind every time. The stoke of a huge trip riding together was still mega strong…

Embrace the unbridled finishers stoke. Photo by Gary Perkin

Until I tried to go in for the mega awkward embrace when the view over Menton became too much for me…

One of us is loving this “We made it” man hug a whole lot more than the other

As I dribbled into Menton proper like the Rodfather trying to take a road side piss, others were hitting town in a more stylish and deliberate manner.

Zero chance Joe is just going to roll down the stairs to the beach

And at last, we arrive at the final destination… That small piece of real estate we knew was the end game from the moment we got the e mail confirming our entry. At times it felt like it was in another galaxy, but as our carbon hoops rolled along those last few meters, expectations were exceeded by the welcoming committee of Great Cunts lined up and ready to dish some of the hardest earned fives in Mountain Biking.

What a reception committee

You know its been legit when the Oligarch of Enduro is smiling and dishing high at the end

Given how much I have droned/wanked on about getting into the Med, you might rightly expect me to rush straight down there, climb gingerly across the razor sharp rocks and flop in like a beluga whale. Not a chance when there were far higher priority narcissistic matters to attend to first…

Bemused at my futile attempts to find the exact matching section of sea wall

If you’re thinking “Bet the cunt was just trying to recreate his 2015 finishing photo“, then pokies jackpot to you, 4 years makes quite a difference, but I will leave it you the reader to think through how many standards have changed, all while I have managed to keep the same head tilt rolling.

The beer has been significantly upgraded between 15 and 19. Also made it through with a matching wheel set this time

Given the wholesale M40 Domination at local 2W events, there was some significant head scratching going on for The Creator and we decided to instead stand around and analyse data instead of getting some sort of rash from the Med. You can tell it’s really the end as The Creator finally took of his helmet, signifying this shit was in the can.

“But if you look at the photos I just look so much faster than what this print out is saying”

While we fucked about with free beer, results hands wringing, the mandatory “I made it to the Med” photos and the laborious process of comparing photos to see what was Gram worthy, hordes of frothing GC’s were already dominating the shoreline. I rammed a LOT of shit into my Fox gear bag, which was famously hated by TP staff, but not for a second did I have the foresight to pack a pink lilo for the end, fucking respect chaps:

The radness orgy getting off to a solid start

Fucks sake, enough dragging this out longer than Brexit, it was time to get in that fucking water, wash off the suffering, embrace the cleansing and have The Creator to use his serious face to say “Yes cunt, I did just finish Trans Provence wearing only a bum bag on a 140mm trail bike

The finger of righteousness

Let’s hear it directly from the Rabbit’s mouth shall we?

“Swimming in the Mediterranean washing away a week of French dust was an exquisite feeling. An incredibly challenging week without major injury to body or bike.

Then I sliced up my feet on the sharp baby mussels on the rocks getting out of the sea. Shiiiit that was painful. Hobbling around the prize giving drinking a beer from Ash’s brewery Saupadia Brewing, feeling elated and sad at the same time that the race was over and shitty I’d got all the way through without injury only to hurt myself at the beach. I wasn’t the first kiwi to spill blood on the beaches of France. Did I gun down the Queen Mother of Enduro Tracey Moseley on the final day? I can’t even remember, let’s just say it was a real mix-up of emotions.”

Well said Creator, well said.

It would be easy, but unwise to say that you could go out and do these trails yourself… But I don’t subscribe to that theory in the slightest, mainly as I know I would get lost and then sexually assaulted by Marmots on Day 1. For all the incredible trails, vistas, moments, valleys and experiences that we have relished and/or been subjected to over the history of Trans Provence, we have these amazing people and their team to be endlessly thankful to for what they’ve gifted, bestowed, subjected, enabled, opened up, inspired, tortured, discovered and explored for us, to us and upon us over the last 10 years.

It was the pinnacle and while it’s not about trying to match it, I have a strong suspicion it will remain unparalleled for both tangible and very intangible reasons. Chapeau you rad people:

“I’m not really a hugger”, whispered ASH, “But I guess this warrants a squeeze”

Actually, how about I fuck up momentarily and let Anka explain it all better in this wonderful piece of art:

Let’s not forget there was also a race within this narcissistic 7,000 word echo chamber that I have inflated. If you can get your head around this, the overall was decided by a scant 13 seconds by Marco Osborne over Romain Paulhan, but perhaps the bigger surprise there is that Romain was on a Bronson and not one of the 28 Megatower’s present, horrifically confusing.

Luckily we had Peaty mega representing on his way to some solid M40 domination:

Peaty through an unlocked back window to pull off a solid M40 debut

Final Day 6 results:

  • Day winning time – 21.33 for Romain the Radness
  • The Creator – 26.58 for 28th and a mere 21 seconds behind T Mo…
  • Dirty Nomad – 33.19 for 62nd
  • Fist-o-meter – So, yeah… Both fists and a couple of feet for good measure by the looks. On my best TP day racing wise I was 23.1% slower than the winner that day. On day 6 I was 54.6% slower, which sums it up nicely. While I can’t really call that racing, I think we can say that just getting to the beer at the beach without the aid of a French ambulance was mission accomplished.
  • Favourite moment – Probably that Italian cafe when you realised that you were surrounded by a community of people who genuinely look after their own, thanks to everyone who was rad and helped me getting going again. After that, probably a tie between all of SP21 (until I became exhausted near the janky end) and diving into the Med, I don’t think there is a feeling in Mountain Biking that matches the cleansing feeling of surrendering to its abyss. Over to the Official Day 6 video to try and fill in all the other awesome moments I have missed:

And now, really the end

Fucking kudos if you have made it this far down without getting cramp in your thumb, I have wanked on harder than Putin watching the Impeachment Hearings live, but just a final few points to close this huge tribute post out. Firstly, thanks to this rad dude for a huge Euro mission and constantly having to temper his Marine Corps marching style. Legit, this is one of the only photos I have all week where there is no helmet on his head:

Going for the solid beer & coke double maaaaaate

The Creator rode like an absolute weapon all week and not only didn’t falter, but like Godzilla, he actually seemed to get stronger as he was subjected to more punishment. I wrote his TP obituary when he turned up with a lightweight bum bag, and didn’t that just make me look like a total cunt. Big ups to JC for smashing a huge week.

Shout out to ‘Epic Ryan’ *Trademarked, as well, always the first GC on the scene to help anyone trail side all while casually beating PRO’s like he’s on a casual trail ride. So good to ride with him again after 2015, another week spent wondering how the fuck he can manual like he does.

Final Overall results:

  • Winning time – 2.49.18 for Randy Osborne… An insane 13 seconds victory margin
  • The Creator – 3.25.26 for 30th overall and 7th in M40
  • Dirty Nomad – 3.42.09 for 50th overall and 13th in M40
  • Fist-o-meter – 81 finishers and only 6 retirements, given the number of huge days on the bike I’m surprised it didn’t claim more DNF’s, a testament to the Mavic support team I suspect and the fear of missing out on the final ever TP which drove people on given there was no ‘Next year’. Ultimately the race was harder than I was expecting, mainly as it felt like we were out on course longer than the previous edition I had done. The third van uplift on some days in theory sounded easier, but it was a slight false economy given it really meant for a longer elapsed time. Some people only turned up for a couple of days and it completely fucked them, so it must have been hard:

The definition of hardcore: When your tent is put into solitary confinement at a camping ground which has already seen some shady Euro shit in its time #sexybeast

The post TP hang over was real, I wish I hadn’t been so broken to embrace the partying more than I did, but much like this post I had clearly overdone it. Just to close things out, some final ‘Creator sleeping in Vans porn’ for you (I accept that’s relatively niche), I call this special the “Weekend at Bernie’s” scenario, somehow this is counted as a restful sleep for The Creator:

For those muttering ‘cunt’ under your hand while reading this at work, rest assured that I checked to confirm he was breathing first

So the final question then, aside from why the fuck is this post so long is as simple as it is complicated, but in the absence of the pinnacle it’s one many will be asking in the month ahead:

“What happens next year?”

Until then, how fucking cool is Mountain Biking?

One Response

  1. Andrey

    Oh man, thanks for bringing us along for the ride and the happy sad tears.
    Beaut emotive writing; makes me want to get out and ride – now!
    Hope there are more ankle grabbing expeditions awaiting…

    Reply

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