That’s what Frankie said… And as it turns out, advice worth heeding. Likewise with the quote that Nicolas Vouilloz once gifted to the world: “Always go as fast as you can, even if means going slow“. So much sage advice to kick off day two of the Trans Provence marathon postorama. What am I talking about? The simple art of relaxing to go faster.
Also known as giving zero fucks, chilling, riding loose, being smooth, being light on the bike – Call it what you like, but if you want to go fast in this game, it pays to learn the concept that less is some times a whole lot more, even if you have no idea at the time that that’s the case.
To expand on this theme for the day 2 report, I shall use this shredder as a lab rat to underpin our case study. Say hello to Rad Ryan everyone:
Colour me sycophantic now, but Ryan is one of those riders that looks like he’s floating across the ground, moving seamlessly with the bike in a perfect symphony of light riding, as opposed to looking like a gorilla trying to break their bike through humping it through the gnar (possibly self reflecting there). Aside from being a smooth operator, he also happens to be the classic model of the type of Good Cunt you meet on TP, its rare to meet someone as positive as this dude and not to mention modest.
He wouldn’t wax lyrical about how his day 2 unfolded, so I gladly will, especially as it helps reinforce the point I’m trying to make! As the story unfolds, he unwittingly created the perfect scenario to outline how the ‘riding relaxed’ scenario works…
How was day 2 looking? Well, after nibbling around the edges of the Gnarburger on day one, we were about to get into the sweet meat of this thing with a step up across all aspects:
- Route: Barcelonnette – Villars-Colmars
- The numbers: 44.52km with 1,660m of UP and 2,716m of radness
- Eventual elapsed time (camp to camp): 8 hours 33 minutes
“I’m quite keen to take that massive day on with a fucked dropper post” – Said no mofo, EVER… Yes, the one thing I didn’t have a replacement for was going to make things difficult wasn’t it? Only thing to do was call in the media Calvary of Sven Martin, with the simple fix of this little clamp coming to the rescue for the day. I could therefore choose to clamp the post up or have it fully down… No messing with Mr In-between here:
With only one big day in your body and legs so far, Day 2 arrives with plenty of freshness still on board, but with the realisation that today will mark the start of the real erosion of your reserves and set you on that collision course with your limits later in the week. There is a sweet inevitability about the burning of your matches as the week goes on, but for the moment its worth enjoying waking up in another golden little village, in France, in awesome weather and ready to take on another big day in the Mon-Tons. Saddle up Wave 2:
Another day, another uplift, load up and get on the road… Unleash your inner Roadie here, as well as some Tour de France frothing as we were heading up Col d’Allos first thing to beat the road works to re-seal the tarmac ahead of the Tour rocking through here on Stage 17 in a few weeks time. Climbing up to 2,243m, its a narrow fucker as well, basically your classic single lane action for reasonable periods, worth a crack Road crew if you’re looking for a new and slightly obscure challenge:
True to form, every time Wave 2 was deposited at the summit of a Mon-Ton we would all fuck off in a million directions to take photos, piss and generally faff around, including the classic “I need to take a photo before I unload my bike scenario” move. To be fair, check this shit out, you’d have to be more than a little bit jaded not to start frothing at the vista’s up in this mofo:
I mean… Really?
And fuck… REALLY?
Without further faffery, scenery porn, vista wanking or general frothing that will soon become repetitive, lets drop into Stage 5, the first stage on Day 2. Where else in the world can you get tagged into a race by a real life Santa Cruz dude, straight from the factory floor no less, Scott Chapin doing the honours to get the day pumping.
If there is ever a stage in an ENDURO race where you wanted a fully functioning dropper post, then this was it for sure… Not that I knew that of course when I set off. The map notes outlined a bit of a climb in the middle, but in my head I had decided I would just stand up and smash that cunt, so no worries… Remember that. BEEEP:
Straight into another classic narrow French natural trail to get the day started, but this time the day after a French Enduro cup round had been through the same area and trails, so a lot more marked up than usual, tape and rad cut lines popping up to compete for space in my brain which was already operating close to capacity hitting terrain I had never seen before as fast as my two little braking fingers would allow.
First stage of the day is always a bit tricky… Getting a physical warm up is one thing, but I for one need a downhill warm up to get the skills flowing and the eye in. I found it was better to work the way into the first stage of the day and then let it off the leash a bit more as the stage unfolded.
On the cusp of starting that little mid section climb, I was surprised to see Rad Ryan track side in full picnic pose, that safety helmet unmistakable… Crash? Flat? Worse… Broken fucking chain… Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa x Billion:
Seriously, that couldn’t have happened in a worse place as the climb was now upon us. In line with my “Stand up and smash the cunt” strategy, I rose up like a Welsh Assassin about to uncoil a stinging attack on the terrain and mashed on the pedals furiously to show this fuck who was boss.
For about 10 seconds
Yeah… So, turned out the 50m of elevation gain was pretty much rammed into one spot… Collapsing down into my seat and panting worse than George Michael in a public toilet, I resorted to wading through treacle with my knees coming up around my face in the low rider set up. There is no doubt it looked beyond ridiculous, not to mention as slow as fuck. It wasn’t just up though, it was cunty up, off camber, sticky and slow, with plenty of opportunity to stall or get caught up:
I’m not sure how long this punishment went on for, but it was like some sort of horrific XC Bandit flash back, except with a full face helmet on and your seat 15cm’s lower than what would be considered the bare minimum you’d want. Would the nightmare end? How much more time could I piss out the end of my horrendously slow effort? And then it was not only over, but we were deposited back into a field of flowers, which I have included a shot of in a semi obvious attempt to appear artistic…
Stage five was loooong, like fuck, over 15 minutes for me, so a pretty decent start to the day and the lower half was mental. I could have sworn it was a completely different track from the top, with a mix of this sort of thing here (which is actually a corner if that makes sense?), which by the way Sven yelled at me to take the high line:
Onto this type of arrangement, which was basically asking you to go as fast as you could possibly manage in an anatomy sizing test across some absolutely rad terrain, I mean fuck, this is Dirty Nomad wet dream material right here folks, look at it!!!!
And if wide open gnar wasn’t enough to get your day cranking, it then gave way to just being plain fuck off fast… Like, ‘I’m going to stop pedalling now as there is a nugget that wants to pop out’ fast, or if I want to use rad language, it was fully hectic man, blurry…
I got to the end frothing like a maniac, also out of breath and with little bit of drying spit on my race beard. Turns out I was also out of composure and then did myself proud with raving all over Ash about how awesome the stage was like a full on Froth monster, as you can see here, Ash was highly amused by all this, whilst pondering why I would break the golden rule of not wearing glasses with a full face helmet:
A funny stage, from feeling slower than a customs strip search inspection in places to feeling so fast that parts of my brain started to melt out my ears and got caught in my helmet, I think I paid the price for the climbing debacle in the middle results wise:
- Nosewheelie Nico – 12.31 for 3rd
- Nomadic Chris – 12.44 for 5th
- T Mo – 14.01 for 19th
- Dirty Nomad – 15.29 for 44th
And how did Ryan fair with the broken chain? An agonising 21.54 for 77th place after having to run a rather large portion of the track before doing an Aaron Gwin for the remainder of it. It would be enough to make anyone give up for the day… Which is how he looked a bit as we repaired his chain at the end of the stage.
Off to find Stage 6, its not often that I go to Church, but when I do its at the top of a super rad and rocky section that we boosted during the liaison…
I think this was the ONLY time in the whole week that a liaison stage was shorter than I expected it to be… Which leads me to a good point and Dirty Tip if you want to come and race here. Always always always just expect that liaisons between stages are going to take a lot longer than you think. If you accept this brutal fact, then life will be easier. If you make like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank and try to fight that shit, you’ll end up broken.
Indeed, at times, some of the most challenging moments of the week can come on a liaison stage, take day 1 for example. The climbs and portage can test you in a very different way to the blind racing action.
But for now, it was back on in stage 6, another quality number being dished up to continue the good times:
This stage had a warning about a bit of navigation in it, not to mention a hard slightly uphill start that felt dreadful – My ‘stand up and slap that fuck’ approach again not really working out that well for me, but as the steepness returned, things start to click a bit more. Here is a classic example of what it means when it says in the race notes:
“Heads up for navigation”
So, racing in as fast as your central nervous system allows, there is an arrow, do you: A) go hard left down the most obvious trail B) hit the skinny trial you can sort of see in the middle or C) hold your speed and boost it up the bank on the right where you can see the matted grass with tire marks? Make a call QUICK muthafucka:
Well, turns out its B, but as this shot shows I may have taken a little bite of C before realising at the last moment that we needed to break hard left and hit that line and oh yes, we main lined that shit across, feel free to give it a Brraaaaaap:
As they say, its always better to lose 10 seconds than 10 minutes by making sure you’re sticking it in the right hole. Speaking of which, its was fucking ON from that point onwards… It was either full gas in a forest…
Or full gas out in the open on this loose action. Did someone call for variety? #nailedit, seriously this is all the same run over around 6 minutes! How crazy is that? Genius shit:
If you’d asked me at the finish how it went, I probably would have said it was a bit of a write off given how shithouse the top section rolled, but something must have clicked here:
- Nosewheelie Nico – 5.12 for 1st
- Nomadic Chris – 5.27 for 3rd
- T Mo – 6.19 for 26th
- Dirty Nomad – 6.32 for 36th
WHOOP! There’s a surprise, I had thought this one was a turd, shows you what the fuck do I know, my best stage result so far in the race. But how did Ryan get on? His day was effectively fingered remember thanks to that broken chain. 5.43 for 8th overall… Ehhhhhhhh?! Check that the fuck out, beating PRO’s man, that’s what that’s about.
Of course, neither of us had any idea he was ripping the leaderboard to pieces, so on the circus moved to refuel and head up to Stage 7. Another whopper climb on the menu, all pretty much rideable, but a decent 1 hour 40 grind from memory.
Was a bit hard to remember though given the heat was now on full beat down mode and I got excited and rode the first half with Tracey Mosely, which consisted of me managing to get one small question out with my limited breath and then listening to her talking for 5 minutes, a good system given she was cruising. Eventually I snapped and took odd photos of the climb:
I feel another Dirty Tip starting to protrude… Yes, you have to ride these liaison climbs totally at your own pace. Its super hard to ride them with someone faster obviously, but its equally hard eventually to ride them with someone slower. By the end of the race you literally need to set it your optimal speed and just tractor away. The hard part is when you strike a social moment with cool units (which is most of the people in the race) and you want to keep the vibe rolling and lets face it, how often do you get the chance to climb a 700m climb with a legend of the sport like T Mo?
Ah, the ‘Queen stage’ of the day and another long one… I had heard it was an absolute ripper as well and the notes certainly made it sound pretty epic. Big climb under the belt, third one of the day, sun pumping, feeling STOKED as fuck to be in France on my bike and about to drop into another special trail that I knew would be epic.
Was this making me the least cynical I have ever been in my life? Absolutely… Its like some sort of drug that just keeps going on and on and never seems to wear off. Not even the additional faff of dealing with a cunted seat post seemed to be a problem, it was just on and on… Speaking of which, we’re already slightly chaffed balls deep into Stage 7 by the time I am finished droning on with acute inspirational masterbating. Just in time to avoid missing that HARD right where I was lucky enough to run into the media boys about to set off:
Ok, so this one was a work out… About 6.5 or so hours into the day and a big long stage… But also one that demanded a LOT of concentration, not that the others didn’t, but this one was again mega fast, but narrow to add a bit of toe sharpening for good measure. And yes, exposure was starting to creep towards the edge of the comfort zone, keep it tight everyone, keep it eye wincing tight:
Lucky or unluckily depending on your attention span in this Postzilla, the Go PRO died halfway down this beast of a descent and so no more robot footage today I’m afraid. A shame considering the most indecent exposure was actually in the last stretch of the stage down to the finish… If you lean forward and squint in you’ll be able to see a rider making their way down this traverse, which take my word for it, was narrower than it looks and left NO margin for error, if you did make that mistake, it was going to be an ambulance ride at best. Long, slow, but powerful fart noise there:
Do a 5 minute downhill run as fast as you can and you’re usually gasping for breath at the end, so triple that and add in the heat, over 6 hours into the day and you can imagine getting to the tag out of this one was a welcome relief, in the oddest way given the trail was so awesome you don’t really want it to end – Like an S&M session that may have just gone a little bit out of control and you’ve forgotten that days safe word. Results wise?
- Nosewheelie Nico – 11.22 for 1st
- Nomadic Chris – 11.55 for 4th
- T Mo – 13.26 for 24th
- Dirty Nomad – 14.34 for 42nd
And Rip it the fuck up Ryan? 12.27th for 10th overall, what?! the Case study in giving zero fucks and just having fun seems to be gaining momentum at quite a pace… We’re talking about one talented dude granted, but neither of us had a clue he was killing it and making a hat from its fur.
On the way up to Stage 8 I ran into Ali, who was busy shredding the house down in the Masters grade, at the bottom of the climb, he was in Wave 1, so just about to head back to camp after completing 8. Hesitantly I asked about the climb… “half an hour?” I enquired with a slightly begging optimistic tone. You could see Ali’s face make the quick assessment of how to describe it, be honest or tell me what I wanted to hear…. “Ohhh, ahhh… Ummm… Its pretty brutal, perhaps an hour?“
Oh man…. I stood in the sun, no wind and about 7 hours or more on the clock already. It was definitely starting to bite. Crucially, and another reason to love French villages, a water fountain was ready to rock at the bottom of the Mon-Ton and here’s another Dirty Tip – Always and I mean always, take the chance to top up the tank in this race. You can run out of a lot of things, like balls and things to talk about on a liaison stage, but running out of water would be an epic melt down. Fuelled up, onward they cried:
Ok, so this one did really start to hurt and it did take pretty much the full hour of riding, pushing and the occasional time out to make it to the start of stage 8. You reach a phase in the day where you really don’t want another gel, or Gu sticks or bars or even lollies that you’d acquired from the feed station. You’re just gagging to have a proper meal again, like a Royale with Cheese…
I got to the start of 8 feeling quite fingered and whilst I did take a break, you need to be careful not to let the body go totally to sleep, after all, you need to switch from long, hard slog, back to ravenous, crazy race mode for the final time in the day, just over 8 hours since you started. About time for a photo shoot then:
Stage 8 was a bit of a blur to be honest, it asked the question a lot with its twisting and tight nature, as well as some fast open off camber sections to keep everyone guessing. I do recall it being searing hot – Any time you have the sweat coming down your face and into your eyes in your full face helmet is a good indication that its crispy.
I also remember butchering the end of the stage, an awkward and freshly cut section that was perhaps harder to ride as it was the easiest terrain we’d been on all day, oh the irony! But the main thing with 8 was that I felt simply tired, so it was now time to adjust to racing not only blind, but with fatigue starting to make its way into the frame.
I did stop for a one of the sweetest tasting coke’s I’ve ever had on the way back to camp and to hand in the timing chip to see what the damage was…
- Nosewheelie Nico – 6.01 for 1st
- Nomadic Chris – 6.13 for 4th
- T Mo – 7.06 for 27th
- Dirty Nomad – 7.22 for 41st
And Ryan’s final effort for the day of just riding for fun? 6.24 for 6th overall. Typo? Match fixing? Timing error? Fuck no – Just radness unleashed upon hapless French single track. Yes, SIXTH overall for the stage… Beating PRO’s for fucks sake! What the Actual fuck!!!
I accosted Ryan in the dinner queue with exclamation spilling from my pores stammered “Seen these results cunt?!” he was oblivious to his own epicness and with enthusiasm brimming over, I gladly waved the results sheet at his head whilst stuttering out his stage results in my best groupie frothing form. How had he done such wonders? I demanded answers!
“I just relaxed and didn’t worry about it after breaking the chain, just had fun”
And there it is… That one sentence sums it up perfectly. We all know its the key to riding well a lot of the time, but its also the first thing to forget when the race fever takes over instincts and limbs. A massive red hot Kudos to Rad Ryan for smashing out such golden stage results, on a 140mm travel bike as well… Gulp. And to the day then?
- Nosewheelie Nico – 35.06 for 1st (GC: 51.42 @ 2nd)
- Nomadic Chris – 36.19 for 5th (GC: 53.05 @ 4th)
- T Mo – 40.52 for 22nd (GC: 58.50 @ 19th)
- Dirty Nomad – 43.57 for 39th (GC: 1.04.25 @ 42nd)
Solid day scraping into the top half of the field, our usual spot to curl up in like a Dirty Goldilocks. For those that scrolled all the way down to watch the vid, bravo and here it is to summarise in 4.44 what can take 20 minutes to read:
And to tie up its wrists with a silk scarf, the usual hot topics:
1. Dirty Nomad Vs Camping
If I get my tent zip stuck one more time I’m actually going to melt down and cut a hole in the fucker… No one likes getting their flaps jammed, especially when on the verge of pissing yourself. My tent seemed determined to test my resolve.
2. Stage of the day
Ohhhhh… Tough one! The second half of Stage 5 was mental, so good. I would say Stage 6 though as that was my best result so far, but ultimately 7 was so bonkers it has to take the Banger of the day award. Not often you get to ride a trail like that flat out, no stopping and without regard for what may be coming next.
3. Dude of the day
Need I type it? Rad Ryan for not only bouncing back from a broken chain which ruined his GC chances, but a cracked rim to add to the mix. Did he lie down in the luscious French grass and cry about it? Non… He instead had fun and inadvertently kicked some fucken ass YO! Damn. Notable mention to Sven Martin for the Reverb clamp, basically a life saver on a day with more than its unfair share of pedalling.
So, 2 down and 4 to go… Yes, the realisation was now dawning the body was feeling it… and Day 3 promised to be one of the biggest of the week, so standby for the mother of all portage’s to come!