Much like I can’t believe its the last race post for Trans Provence, it didn’t feel real that we were waking up for the last day in Sospel on Day 6. By this stage in the race, the normality of getting up every day to head into the Mon-Ton’s has absolutely set in, so any thought that this may be coming to an end automatically ended up getting squeezed to the side of your mind.

The only thing keeping it in your thought process was the fatigue that is waiting for you in your tent when you wake up that morning. Sitting there, set to smother itself all over you and whisper in your ear that perhaps you’re a little bit fucked, your arms a little bit hammered, your feet more than a little bit raw and that today you were going to have to dig very deep into some sort of reserves you didn’t realise you had to navigate various parts of the day ahead.

And indeed, today’s theme is all about new limits, on a number of fronts… But I shall come to that, to start with there was normal daily sifting to attend to.

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Why the fuck am I awake?

By this stage in the race, PRO stalking wasn’t really much of a sport any more, as it was just business as usual to be having a rap with them, having dinner with them or just generally sharing tent space with some famous mofo’s. But that didn’t mean that I still didn’t manage to get caught like an awkward meerkat-slash-peeping tom on the Nomad’s video, where I make a pervy cameo in the background there… That’s the one, DN cap sticking out from the tent that is about to collapse with a wet towel on it, #fuckencampinglegend.

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Just couldn’t help myself…

I’ve talked previously about how hard this event is on gear… Shoes falling apart, chains broken, rear mechs getting rock raped, broken rims, you name it and it was going down in plentiful supply. But the number 1 victim on TP? Tires. Keep it rubber side down the saying goes, except when your rubber rips apart thanks to vigorous use – Always a horrendous feeling. Perhaps you didn’t put it on properly? Perhaps it was just an unlucky tear, either way it was always a painful moment for everyone involved. This is the day 5 tally on TP:

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The killing fields – Schwalbe leading the charge

Oddly, while it was now business as usual to be hanging out with the PRO’s on the race, the introduction of a fresh one to the mix had my stalking form springing back into life like a puffed up peacock… Speaking of which, welcome to the party Fabian Barel, 3 time Downhill world champ and EWS round winner, it didn’t take me long in my train driver cap to hunt him down and get that PRO pic happening. Turns out Fab decided to rock up to some of day 5 and 6 to soak up some of the TP lime light and stir shit with the dudes that had been doing the hard yards portaging the fuck out of multiple Mon-Tons.

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“You are zo beautiful!”… “No Fab, YOU are bro!”

Fuuuuuuck… The final day! Far out… Did this mean a slacking off or easier day to wrap things up? AS IF man, why would Ash do that when he had the pick of his local trails to beat us around the face with while we munched on a gnar shaped pool ball in our mouths? Bring out ‘Ze Holy Trail’ and get this last day party started! When your arms are sore riding down to breakfast, you can be assured this profile is going to be a lot harder than it looks:

  • Route: Sospel – Menton
  • The numbers: 43.05km with 1,543m of UP and 2,257m of radness
  • Eventual elapsed time (camp to camp): Around 8 hours
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Middle of the day may be a bit tough

Here’s a Dirty Tip if you’re ever thinking of doing some ENDURO stage racing – Always check your bike first thing in the morning for any weird issues that may crop up. 5 minutes before shuttle departure I just so happened to try and put my loaner LEV seat post down… It wouldn’t budge… At all. Yes, it remained full erect like someone had pumped liquid viagra into its internals.

PANIC! Make no mistake, I freaked out at the prospect of trying to ride one of the steepest trails all week with the seat stuck up more than a Millennial princess. Pushing people out of the way, I ran to the Mavic mechanics like I was actually on fire. Here’s the reason why I’m buying more Mavic wheels:

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“I’m not a dropper post mechanic… But I fix any way Oui?” #legend #mavicrescueagain

I think I still had the shakes when getting into the shuttle to head up to stage 21… So much for being cool and composed on the final day, a near miss with a disaster that would have been hard to explain unless you had ridden down ‘Ze Holy Trail’ and some of its -57% sections. Holy fuck me is right. I tried to not dwell on the fact it was the final Ash 15 second briefing, but there was no denying the sense of loss was starting to creep in and make itself at home when we commenced that final roll out from camp.

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Something about it could be steep… And then it could be quite hot…

And to finish his briefing, Ash clapped his hands and said the words that made me freeze:

“I’ll see you on the beach!”

Holy fuck… Phrasing! Only one thought entered my head when I heard those words:

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French beach – Check… Shitting slightly – Check… About to take a beating – Check

And with that happy omen in my head, we loaded up into the landing craft and made our way to the front lines of another all out gnar assault that I knew was going to be perhaps one of the biggest tests of the week.

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The ComRADes head off to do battle with battle hardened French switchbacks

We were now rolling up the climb I had watched disappear under the wheels of Davide’s van a few weeks earlier thinking how awesome it was we didn’t have to ride up here… ENDURO karma in effect. The fact it was an early sweat fest a pointer to what waited in store later on in the day when we had to climb out of Sospel, but for now I was too busy trying not to think about Stage 21 and soaking up the mint view. Savour savour savour was the message, Sospel providing the goods to make that easy:

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Moving to Sospel to farm Goats… You can milk anything with nipples…

Kick off point for the Stage was of course this old school HQ here, an imposing Hannibal Lector hang out scenario that you can see all the way up the hill as you grind it out to reach the fabled ‘Ze Holy Trail’.

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About to be the scene of much confusion

Being a local, Fabian Barel then gave us a brief history lesson on the fort/ruins before outlining how they were now used:

Yes, and now zay are used for ze Rape Party Oui!

The group shifted uncomfortably and we looked at each other… There was a nervous laugh… Did our ENDURO hero just say what we thought he said? I couldn’t help but snigger of course, assuming he was referring to what was about to go down on Ze Holy Trail. Finally someone nervously posed the question “He he, how do I get an invite to that party Fab?” Eventually Fab must have read the faces around him and the school boy like responses, prompting him to issue a clarification to the group:

Non non, guys, the RAVE party! Rave… duff duff…

International ENDURO incident narrowly avoided and a truckload of inappropriate jokes/high fives later, it was time to get it ON with perhaps one of the most feared trails of the week. For the last day of the TP Race reports, I’m going to change it up a little bit and rather than read the news stage by stage, I will instead focus on a few key moments from the day.

Moment 1 – The importance of not losing your mind

Unlike most races, you never really got that nervous or apprehensive on TP. Perhaps it was not knowing what was coming, perhaps it was the awesomeness of the event overwhelming any fears? Either way, I never got the same nerves or worry about a stage like I did at EWS. Until the morning of Day 6.

This was the first time that I was absolutely certain I knew the trail AND had ridden it recently, some may recall the day 1 EuroEnduro ride where I had to stop several times down here due to my hands/arms getting Le Tired. Why is ‘Ze Holy Trail‘ so bad ass? If numbers give you a stiffy, it drops around 721m of elevation in 2.9km’s… so an average of -24%. Oh, there is a climb/flat section in the middle as well, which gains 20m, so you do the math on what some of the other bits are like.

So, now it was time to race it then? People talk about the fact its better to know what’s coming, but I don’t think that’s always true. In this instance it was a bit like saying it would be good to know what its like to be stabbed repeatedly.

And on that theme, boy did I fuck up the top section… Right from the start it was a mess. I had been relying on getting a bit of a daily skills warm up on liaison stages, but no such luck today and it was therefore a case of heading into the hardest stage of the week perhaps technically cold and physically munted. I adopted the neat and tidy policy of course, but on a trail like this, it feels so painfully slow you start to hate yourself about halfway down, assuming you can still hold onto the bike at that point.

I didn’t run the Go PRO thinking I already had footage of riding down here, which turned out to be an error, but as an upside that legend Gary Perkin was camped out at the entrance to one of the hardest sections on the whole trail and managed to snap me through the sequence, YES Gary!

Photo by Gary Perkin

Photo by Gary Perkin: Part 1 – Arms already burning

Photo by Gary Perkin

Photo by Gary Perkin: Part 2 – Should so be nose wheeling here

Photo by Gary Perkin

Photo by Gary Perkin: Part 3 – There is a mega tight right and left BANG BANG combo to come…

But it wasn’t all bad on this beast of a trail, I not only rode that section that I had walked down a few weeks back, but I hadn’t yet had any major dramas or issues so perhaps if I could just keep it…

BANG – I can’t recall where or how it happened, but it wasn’t far after I had used all my remaining talent to nail the section where Gary was that I found myself flying through the air and slamming into the ground. The fact that I don’t know what happened probably an indicator that I was simply flogged out and jack knifed into a hairpin only to be spat over the bars.

Shaken, but not overly stirred, I scrambled up and back into it… Even though I was going as slowly and steadily as I could manage I knew it was key to make sure I didn’t come apart at the…

BANG again – Ok… So this one hurt. Like, actually hurt. I’m not sure I even got my arms out to break my fall, which given I had managed to do it again in the apex of a switchback I couldn’t get around meant there was a lot of hang time to feel shocked as I cart wheeled through the air, pausing only momentarily to give myself the worlds biggest dead leg on my stem I think. Hitting the deck again I was properly shocked this time. This one even needed the bars to be straightened up before gingerly trying to carry on.

And holy fuck did I unravel… I already thought I was as slow as fuck and now two big stacks in short succession and I was going full retard on it, coming apart at the seams like an ENDURO Piñata at a New York Yankee’s after work party. Essentially an acute case of composure diarrhoea ensued and I could barely get the bike around the remaining hair pins, thank fuck there is no gPRO evidence of me dismounting to get down some of the lower sections. I was hauling on the Saints and the Nomad was barely coming to heal – It was a straight race between my brakes and arms as to who would fail completely first and need to be replaced. My arms won that battle, stupid little matchstick cunts.

When I got to the end and could barely hold on to the bike to ride it out of the valley, I would have easily told you that it was the worst performance I had put in all week. Slow at the top and then untold time loss with the two crashes. Some 6 hours later I would be re-taught the lesson in cycling I already knew, but had forgotten as I came apart down Ze Holy Trail:

If its hard for you, then its probably hard for everyone else (unless you’re just really shit)

My second best stage result for the week… Which is completely illogical ultimately and more than a bit confusing. In a sport of ‘what ifs’, makes me wonder what it would have been if I hadn’t crashed twice and had to fix up the bars… Ahhhhh…

  • Nosewheelie Nico – 8.50 for 2nd
  • Nomadic Chris – 9.16 for 3rd
  • T Mo – 10.52 for 16th
  • Dirty Nomad – 12.50 for 34th (what the ACTUAL fuck?)

But, I didn’t know all that at the time did I? All I was left with at the bottom was a full face helmet oozing with sweat, the pain of two Nomad’s feeling smashed to pieces and for the first time ALL week – An odd worry about the GC results. Yes, I hadn’t really given a fuck about results, but being 36th all of a sudden made me feel like I had to keep the progress going. Pressure makes diamonds, or as it turns out gets you some time with the Doctor depending on your approach.

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The double Nomad repair session down in Sospel post Ze Holy bitch slapping

The bigger question… Why was I having to try and stop my chin from quivering?

Moment 2 – Finding some new limits Part 1

I was almost one of the last to leave the feed zone… And therefore found myself completely alone climbing out of Sospel for the last time. It was now 35 degrees and I was starting a climb essentially devoid of any shade. Alone.

Within 5 minutes of working my way slowly up this beast, I think I finally started to digest the previous stage. I’m not sure how delayed shock works, but suddenly I started to think about the fact this was the last day and it was coming to an end. And how sore and tired I now felt. And how hard this climb was clearly going to be… And then it all hit me in one giant rogue wave of emotion.

My chin started to shake and my lip started to quiver. Initially I ignored it and clenched my jaw to carry on… But it felt like a losing battle. I thought long and hard about how authentic I wanted to be writing this post up, but felt it was necessary to describe this collapse in order to try and portray exactly the place I was in at this stage of the race.

I had to stop, thank fuck I didn’t completely break down in a wailing mess of tears, but I was an absolute mess, and I didn’t even really know why. Was this what it was like when you reach your limits, or have already gone beyond any boundary you thought you had? Or was it the fact that I was on the hottest climb in all of Europe?

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Like a cross between a fanbake oven and a dirt road

I sat in the only shade we would see for the next 2 hours attempting to “Pull yourself together MAN!“, wondering if I had actually lost the plot entirely… But nothing gets you back on your bike and out of your slump than when Kersten the PRO German chick rocks up and asks “Are you ok hairy man?”… Tightening my jaw and straightening up I mustered the only appropriate response: “Yeah, fucken sweet as eh, just taking my pads off“.

And with that little moment, it was time to push on… Literally… Onward to catch up with my climbing buddy Sandy for the mission up the rest of this giant beast of an oven/climb. Thank fuck for dudes like Sandy on this week, so cool to be able to hang out with people like this and share the experience of walking through a nuclear fireball together.

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In spite of the temp, one fucken cool dude

Moment 3 – Finding some new limits, the sequel

If I have my math right, it took me around 3 hours and 15 mins to reach the start of Stage 22… with a max temperature of 37 degrees, and as they say, a DRY heat. So, massive climb, emotional melt down, broken chassis and so hot that part of my soul will never be the same again, sounds like its time to RACE!

Good timing given all the circumstances that I rocked straight into the only stage all week that I didn’t really like… I wasn’t exactly Robinson Crusoe on that front either, as this was one nasty little trail and not one I would be dishing high 5 to. It felt as though someone had spent the previous day dumping little jagged rocks all over an already loose surface so that in every corner you had the feeling like a serious off was imminent. Awesome for shattered nerves and Mister Man book arms, it started to wear me down on all fronts very quickly.

And then I did the one thing that no one ever wants to do: Downhill Portage. Yes, I stopped and got off… Was I angry? Upset? self-loathing? No, none of those, I was simply cooked… If you look at the corner where I blew a mental gasket, its not even really that hard to be honest, I just rode straight into it and couldn’t turn the bike… Or even attempt to turn it. That simple task was like asking me to understand what Dok did his PhD in:

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Oddly, this felt like a completely appropriate approach

See how Nico Lau takes this very same corner in the below video and be quite amazed. But there was more to come, instead of charging, I was collapsing like a talked up English cricket team. What’s more, I didn’t really seem to care either, people talk about switching to ‘safe mode’, but I seemed to have taken that to an extreme, going instead to ‘complete switch off mode’, nice afternoon for a walk in the hills…

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Stride it out… My only defence is I did see PRO footage of someone going over the bars here…

I didn’t even bother sprinting to the finish when I saw it… I sort of coasted in and couldn’t talk. Holy fuck, I had never experienced anything like the kind of zone I was in now. It wasn’t about eating more, drinking more or having a gel – No, this was some new unchartered shit right here, not even my red racing gloves could help me out here in these emotional, mental and physical badlands, I couldn’t even managed to squeal like an ENDURO pig:

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*Panting

At this stage I was only in a race to survive and find water, so the fact I had a timing chip on me felt oddly irrelevant. And I just wanted a Big Mac… Cue results fingering:

  • Nosewheelie Nico – 4.31 for 1st
  • Nomadic Chris – 4.45 for 4th
  • T Mo – 5.26 for 17th
  • Dirty Nomad – 7.18 for 47th

Moment 4 – Surrendering to the OCD

If it wasn’t so hot and I wasn’t so sore, it would have probably been comedic. Those that know me are probably thinking that I was close to a rage monster melt down at this stage, but oddly I didn’t really feel that pissed off and in no way, shape or form did I feel any animosity towards the race. In fact, the fact that it was brutally hard only made me love it more – Kind of like that phase in life where you date high maintenance people who are generally cunts. So, with this heat haze and plot loss cocktail swilling around in my brain, it was time to muddle my way into the penultimate stage of the whole event.

I actually got a charge on in places on Stage 23, it was pretty rad… But my LEV seat post wasn’t. It was now solidly refusing to go down unless it was engaged at the most perfect angle and had no bump forces affecting it, in other words, impossible.

99% of the time, you would ride around this issue the best you could, but in my irrational state it became the focal point for a mind that was at the limit of its shunt. I obsessed about it constantly, refusing to put it up for the climbing bits and then actually stopping, yes, fucking stopping mid stage to put it down by hand. It most likely looked as bizarre as it did comical, especially when maybe, just maybe I referred to it as a total cunt, possibly loudly. This was of course in between riding like a complete fuckbag.

As I lurched into Stage 23 without the Go Pro recording, there is only one pic from the stage, snapped by Rich Norgate and I think it sums it up perfectly, like a fucken ENDURO zombie…

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Dear Met: Turns out the helmets aren’t as well ventilated as the brochure suggests

I look drunk and like I’d been molested by Gnar in that photo, which trended in line with more hung over results on 23, ably aided by my OCD dropper seat post melt down:

  • Nosewheelie Nico – 8.39 for 2nd
  • Nomadic Chris – 8.52 for 5th
  • T Mo – 10.08 for 21st
  • Dirty Nomad – 11.47 for 46th

Moment 5 – And then it was the end

This was actually hard to believe… I arrived at 24 alone and while it, as per usual, took longer than expected, it was suddenly upon me. I sort of stood there looking at it and not quite believing it was here. As soon as I beeped in to the stage, the end was going to be speeding towards me as fast as I could possibly pedal and then it would be all over.

I sat on my bike and held the timing device… Trying to soak it all up… That final moment of pre-stage calm before the last push up the beach to take the bunkers. The magical sign said it all… I think I even had the giggles as I had stopped post 23 and eaten EVERYTHING in my pockets. Every gel, every bar, every bowel ruining energy product that will no doubt leave me dribbling on myself in 30 years. But right now that overloading of shit and a defiant internal anger to get to the beach had me ready to attack the final stage.

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I love you and I fucking HATE you Stage 24 sign

Riding like there was literally no tomorrow, because let’s face it in this overly dramatic drama queen final day, there really wasn’t. I don’t think I sat down at all through the final stage. Fuelled by that ridiculous cocktail of GU products and assorted chemicals I was like a deviant gnar junkie on one final bender, crazed by the knowledge I was soon to be locked away in cunt rehab and deprived of this sweet feeling of suffering and self inflicted ENDURO torture. I even ran up the small hike a bike section aptly named hecklers rock…

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Crazed

The ultimate sting in the tail? How about some of the most awkward concrete steps you’ve ever ridden your bike down, perfectly spaced out to just be the wrong distance apart and lethal if you slowed down. The diagonal fucker seen just ahead of my front wheel especially feral and I think this was the one that caught out Rad Ryan and deposited him down the bank to the left… ouch. I almost went over the bars on each one, but it was the ultimate case of zero fucks given as I rode that rampaging Nomad down towards my date with the final BEEP…

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No thanks, I’ll take the stairs… Or, they’ll take me…

And then suddenly, around the corner… Blind, like it had begun 6 days earlier at the top of that amazing Mon-Ton, it came to an end… Seb flashed into my view and held up the timing thingy and the realisation started to force its way into my overheated brain:

I had fucking MADE IT! 

Its impossible for me to describe what its like getting to the end of Stage 24… I was one of the last to get there, so there wasn’t a crowd waiting to hoist me aloft and start chanting my name like we did with the Nico Lau chant, but that didn’t matter. The final beep was done, me and my Nomad had made it through 24 of the most insane, immense, fantastic and straight up fun stages of racing I think we will ever experience together. The feeling of elation was only matched by the fatigue and the realisation that I knew it wasn’t over until we go to the BEACH.

And then I started to hug everyone… Thank fuck I managed to do so without another emotional melt down, but Dirty Uncle Seb was a prime candidate to unleash that “I’ve just finished TP!” embrace on like a rabid dog:

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“Get in here you Dirty fuck”

Like a Dirty tickle me Elmo, everyone wanted a piece of the hugging Nomad, German PRO girls in bikini’s (no, I wasn’t hallucinating) appeared out of nowhere to get some of the action, basically this is what its like to be Peter Sagan every day.

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“Ja! You made it cry baby!”

And some random Swiss guy I think… Not sure, but he got the ultimate surprise when he went for the high 5 and I embraced him in the dirtiest sweaty hug he’s probably ever had the misfortunate to experience. It was a rampage

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“Vhat are you doing to mein body?!”

Turns out that standing up business and overdosing on sugar shit worked wonders! My third equal best stage result of the week then, and after the day I had been through, not a bad way to finish up just quietly, not that I was thinking about results at that point in the day:

  • Nosewheelie Nico – 3.20 for 3rd
  • Nomadic Chris – 3.26 for 6th
  • T Mo – 3.56 for 21st
  • Dirty Nomad – 4.16 for 36th

Rolling out of the final stage, there it was… Oh yes… Fucking MENTON baby! The place I needed to be ASAP:

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Relatively tempted to straight-line it at this point

Don’t get too excited though, getting down there wasn’t that straight forward, there was still a TP style labyrinth to get down there and partake in that sweet sweet water. Also noting that I was also still totally alone with about 98% of my comRADes already hitting the waves and tasting that sweet victory beer, there was no time to hang about.

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Just cruising the back streets of Menton of course

Some slight navigational nuances aside, I was stoked to finally see THOSE famous stairs that were the last hurdle to getting to the board walk… I’ve never enjoyed riding down a set of stairs so much in my whole fucking life… Nor have they ever been so classy as this lot…

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Like a scene from ‘Navy SEALS’, just get to that ocean…

Moment 6 – Left or right?

I was too fucked to read my map or remember basic instructions, so of course went left… Like, all the way left in this photo just about. Turns out it was right… In my defence, when we finished the tour a couple of years prior, the meet point was on the left, so I got the chance to log a few more absolutely fucking unwanted miles on this massive Day 6.

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“Fuck yeah, definitely left other Barry”

An undisclosed amount of time later, I finally rolled into rad civilisation like a dazed survivor of the first wave on Omaha beach. It was clear to me pretty quickly that I was the last gimp to the party basically, so had some catching up to do….

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Finally I rejoin the herd

As we can see here, I had some problems letting go early on, here I don’t really want to pass my timing chip over to Jono, who is quite keen to get on with having a few beers. I’ll never let go Jono, I’ll never let go! Potentially I didn’t want to see the GC damage at this point, which I was sure was going to be epic in its own right…

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Fight me for it

Actually cunt, not too bad… Thanks for all the unnecessary stress…

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Yes, I’m the only person still walking around with a full face helmet on in 34 degree heat

Finally I had a beer thrust into my shaky hand and I started to try and take in the scene around me. Bikes stacked up, people embracing, high 5’s being dished and more fisting going down than a busy day on Porn hub. It was awesome to see the rad crew you’d been rolling with all week and start to share the realisation that you’d made it and even more than that, we had shared the most incredible life experience that was more than just about shredding on your rad machine.

Full respect again to the TP Mountain Crew, these legends have the longest days of all, first to go and last to come in each day, just the coolest cats out there. Thanks gang for making it golden for us:

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Rich in da beach house

There was only one thing left to do – Get drunk on one can of beer and get in that fucking water for fucks sake.

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The oddest priorities in the world – Get in the MED!

Moment 7 – Finally getting into that fucking water

Possibly the only time in my life I’ve given zero fucks about my shark phobia, I would have probably still gone in even if we had sighted Jaws, it was time for the sweetest moment and the one that had dangled in front of us all week as we sweated and baked across those incredible Mon-Tons. Lets do this!!!!

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ohhhh… I’m so close… ohhhhhh

I may have fucked up Go PROing two of the four stages on the final day, but I had leaping into the Med well sorted now didn’t I… Aside from the fact underwater screen grabs don’t make the most compelling material, at least it will help spice up the eventual Dirty video tsunami (you fucken bet I have a shit tonne of footage to come):

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Let the healing commence

Holy fuck… It felt about a billion times better than it looked or I expected it to feel… A fact I repeat seemingly endless in a raging kiwi accent on the video in one of those moments where you recoil and think “Fuck, do I really sound like that?!” Zero fucks given though at that particular moment, I was in the Med, floating and absolutely finished for the week. This was the most excellent ending to a race you can possibly dream of.

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Is it actually real?

I bobbed around like a cork that had been used in a dog’s ass and then chewed by said dog for good measure… Munted, but relaxed beyond reason. Given I was the last one in pretty much, I was a bit behind the schedule and after all, there was a race to be prized. Day 6 results then?

  • Nosewheelie Nico – 25.20 for 1st
  • Nomadic Chris – 26.19 for 2nd
  • T Mo – 30.22 for 17th
  • Dirty Nomad – 36.11 for 41st

Being the last day, it also saw the final closure on the General Classification for the race, which I hadn’t really worried about until the final day (No BS), through some small miracle in between imploding, I managed to hold on to 36th, which sounds pretty average, but for me felt like a top 10 to be honest. I didn’t have an expectations, but I figured anything in the top half of the field would have been good.

  • Nosewheelie Nico – 2.41.38 for 1st
  • Nomadic Chris – 2.46.35 for 2nd
  • T Mo – 3.09.07 for 16th
  • Dirty Nomad – 3.33.22 for 36th

Mention of the GC is a super smooth segway into the mandatory podium shots… And yes, for those of you sharp with stats, I was the ONLY New Zealander to not stand on the podium out of the 5 of us in the race. Yup, the Kiwi contingent pretty much cleaning up, proving its not the size of the dog in the fight, its how fucking rad that dog can get around mad switchbacks:

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Clockwise from top left: Ali takes the top step for Masters, Flying Finn dude nails AM, Nico takes out PRO men and T Mo bringing it home in PRO women

Massive respect to Ali Quinn, the third ambassador dispatched from my home town of Wellington in an attempt to win Masters men and take the worlds raddest chopping board back home for a life time of free beers. Third time a charm, as he held it together in spite of many tales of woe (including the Mavic guys building him a bespoke frankenstein rear mech from spare parts after he killed his down Ze Holy Trail) to take the top step:

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Yeowwww! Welly represent

And then of course, as is apparently tradition, it was time to head to town. Yes, I wanted to eat a Royale with cheese and collapse, but the herd had spoken and who was I to say no?

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Just the usual post match function

Moment 8 – Chur for the beers Nico

With the first bar not interested in serving 60 or so rabid ENDURO soldiers who had just liberated Menton, it was back down Med side to bask in the hospitality of Nico Lau and Cube bikes. You only need to finish half the sentence of “Do you want to have a beer with Nic….” and I’m in there quicker than a Goldman Sachs Exec on the scene of a Debt Crisis. No wonder then that we soon had the “Nico, NICO LAU” chant humming along the table…

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“Guys, is that bearded one creeping around behind us for more photos?”

I did a lot of rad things that week on TP, but I think this is perhaps my crowning glory moment, looking like a crazy person/the unabomber hoisting aloft my strange tasting French beer and totally getting in the race winners Instagram photo. We all get our 15 seconds of fame, so I was banking the utter fuck out of this… I don’t need to worry about anything else on my ‘life to do list’ now, spanked this one out of the French park:

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Possibly mildly ecstatic

As I sat there with a goofy grin on my face providing borderline people watching commentary for Uncle Seb and discussing how insane the week was with comRADes, it was still sinking in that I was here in Menton, physically intact and had finished in the top 40.

Results weren’t really the aim of the week, but it was a nice bonus none the less. The bigger prize was honestly getting to meet some awesome units who have inspired me to keep rolling on as many adventures as I can manage. None so more than these two dudes, the aptly named Nomads. I absolutely had to get that Dirty Nomad vs The Nomads shot happening:

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More Nomads than you can shake a set of Enve’s at #legends #GCs #sureyoudontneedathirdbandmember

Speaking of Nomads… How amazing was this bike over the week? Full review to come now I have put some decent miles on it, but suffice to say that there is no other bike on the planet I would rather own or ride at the moment. Even with mismatched wheels. Thank you bike for being a fucking legend cunt:

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Dear Rob: Basically the best bike EVER, happy to race it all year round on the EWS circuit if you need me to. Love DN

Dirty Tip – Turns out that its quite a climb up to the camp ground in Menton, so bear that in mind when you start to get shit faced down in town, plus it pays to know where to go, so also not something to overlook. Respect to Matti, who gave zero fucks and drove that tank home barefoot. Fuck yeah.

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PRO as fuck

So then, to the final video of the week and hopefully this goes some way to backing up what I have tried to describe above. My own vids won’t quite match the level set by this PRO action, so enjoy it while you can folks!

And to the final wrap up then of the usual daily report action.

1. Dirty Nomad Vs Camping

I was too tired to even realise I was camping and my arms could no longer zip up my tent, so I just sort of collapsed and let insects eat my carcass. Camping ultimately the winner overall.

2. Stage of the day 

Hmmmm… Clearly not stage 22! 23 would have probably taken the crown if I was fresh and 24 was sort of too short to gain this award, so oddly I am going to give it to Stage 21: Ze Holy Trail. Yes, it fucked me up, but it also taught me some important lessons and not to mention, my second best stage result of the week, however that works?

3. Dude of the day

So many on this final day:

  • Sven for calming words down stage 21 when I was losing my mind
  • Gary for the encouragement
  • The French Doc for patching me up
  • The Mavic dude #1 for fixing my fucked seat post and the Mavic dude #2 for bleeding and fixing my rear brake
  • Kersten (not a dude) for telling me to get on with it when I was pretending to be Coco the cat
  • Sandy for the walk and talk – Rad dude
  • Julia (not a dude) for sweeping me up again
  • Nico Lau for the beers bro
  • The Nomads for the photos
  • Ash for just being a legend again
  • Everyone who let me embrace them even though I was delirious and possibly reusing that Dirty Nomad ENDURO jersey for the 3rd time?

So, once again Trans Provence delivered a day like no other. Not just in cycling terms either, no, this was quite a different day. I got to explore all sorts of boundaries and limits and was subjected to emotions which I wouldn’t say were an everyday experience when you roll out on your Mountain Bike.

What I did get though was something extremely unique and whilst I don’t want to turn this into a cheesy Fuckbook/LinkedIn poster, it can only be summed up as an incredible life experience and adventure. There’s a reason it all sounds a bit cliche, but I can absolutely promise you as you tag out of that last stage, or go down those stairs into Menton, or stand on those rocks about to jump into the sea – None of it feels even the slightest bit that way. All you feel is that its been an insane journey and one that’s vaporised any expectations you could have ever had.

The most massive Dirty Thank you to Ash Smith and the whole epic TP team for having the balls to put this race on, I shall expand on that point in the wrap up posts (you bet I shall spin this out a bit more). What you do and what you have delivered is the pinnacle of the sport IMO, be as proud as fuck. But for now, that’s it from the TP Race updates. Thanks for reading, I know these have been crazy long but I felt that they needed to be this way. Even if they weren’t read, it was the only way I could do these days justice. I will now get back to a shitload of video files and of course the BIG question:

Where to from here?

6 Responses

  1. john

    Great recount! It was a great adventure, and truly loved reading your experience. Cheers!!

    Reply
    • Dirty Nomad

      Hey John! Thanks for reading dude and glad you enjoyed it… It was a seriously cool week for sure!

      Reply
  2. Mac

    Awesome write up amigo. I think i had a complete mind fart as i seem to have blanked out a lot of those stages but reading your story brought it all back. I think those random beer / shot combos that Nico Lau bought us on the promenade were the best tasting i had all week. Fuck it. Next year my entry goes in again. Fuck ayeeeeee

    Reply
    • Dirty Nomad

      Hey Mac, thanks dude! Stoked you liked the reports and that it brought back all the good times!! Fucking A man, get back into it next year for sure! Such an awesome week on the bike.

      Reply

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