Note – This post is a recap of the Trans Provence Tour in June 2013, not a real time update!
Touch down in France on 1 June was achieved after perhaps one of the more painful travel experiences, courtesy of our good friends at Emirates airlines.Indeed, they managed to get the first ‘c*nt of the trip’ award dished out pretty early at the Airport, where Emirates first tried to charge me $1500 SGD for excess baggage (yes, I don’t pack light, but I was the same weight going to NZ the week before and SQ didn’t charge me at all and only $200 on the way home).
The Gravity team sprang into action and after pulling every lever we could (repacking, pooling of weight, discretion allowance and the famous intense Wolf customer service stare down), we managed to get it down to $1500 between me and the Wolf, a massive cost hit before we left the ground, but we are now working hard through negative promotion to pay that back to Emirates over the course of the trip – Starting at the departure lounge:
Not withstanding the fact that it took us 28 hours door to door to travel to the start of day one, when we stepped out of Nice Airport we had that awesome hit of “We’re in mother*cking FRANCE!” which you usually get when arriving, obviously exacerbated by the fact we were hauling behind us Evoc bike bags filled with fabulous carbon MTB technology. For Dok and I it was a nice familiar feeling from last year, but for the Wolf his last trip to the promised land coincided with puberty basically (the famous event that left him coated in that fabulous pelt he now displays), so fair to say there was a lot of excitement and a wondrous glint in his eyes.
Our group of 14 on the tour consisted of all Euro’s, which I love as I got to hone my piss taking euro accent by being immersed in them… We have some epic Austrian shredders (the Austrian assassin team), a German BOSS, some Dutch dudes, a weird Belgian dude, some mute Germans and a dude who took a wrong turn and instead of going to an XC race has ended up on an epic All Mountain adventure. We have obviously named him Fraser.
The guides were awesome, 4 of them in total and all English (no one is perfect), as you’d expect, they are funny, have it all sorted and f*ck me, they know how to ride! Upon meeting the group we had a 4 hour drive north into the mountains. By this stage the only fun to be had was watching the wolf go into swaying mode as he battled with consciousness after being awake for something insane like 36 hours (excited kids and wolves seem to be in the same bracket when it comes to watching movies on planes instead of sleeping). Dok and I regretting we didn’t have a marker pen close to hand to decorate his face. Case in point:
Day one riding – Warning: XC nerds may find sections of this report disturbing, geek discretion is advised:
Right, enough of me faffing about with inane trip detail, a bit more about the riding! We started day one basically in the boonies at a small place/village called Clamensane, with the excellent start to the day of Van assisted uplift up to around 1500m! An even bigger bonus was the gate was open at the end of the sealed road, so we go an even better uplift up the mountain. I know at this point any XC nerd type person will be bemoaning the fact we didn’t spend an hour grinding up a fire trail, but we were more than content to sit in the van and tell fart jokes or do massively inappropriate impersonations (lets face it, 95% of what is being said on this trip falls into the inappropriate category):
From the drop off point we continued on further up into the mountains, riding steadily up before it became a push… and man, do I mean push! A learning from day one is that there is a large amount of pushing and walking with our bikes… More than even I expected there to be, to put this into perspective, my Garmin had a total elapsed time for the day of 9 hours and 17 minutes, but only 3.16 of moving time, so a fair bit of hiking. But, with the epic scenery we have been seeing, it’s not really an issue, case in point:
After an epic first climb, we came to why we were so excited about being here – The first real downhill… Holy f*ck, we were not disappointed, but it was a massive eye opener at the same time! The steepness, the rocks, the epic nature of the terrain all combined to provide a full on debut into the Trans Provence DH action. It quickly became apparent that purchasing Shimano Saint brakes was a very astute move, as the bikes took some serious stopping and speed built up quicker than an HBD block in Punggol. It was pretty clear we were thrown in the deep in and I was having flash backs to Whistler 2 years ago where you always have that ‘oh f*ck’ moment on the first big DH.
The format of the day became pretty clear quickly: Ride up climb… get to point where riding is impossible…. Trek/hike/portage with bike… ride EPIC downhill, get to bottom and dish high fives and say F*CK a lot, liberal use of the C bomb was also employed, in fact those two words now make up 90% of our sentence structures, ably assisted by the loose cat guides. To categorise the downhill’s we did it pretty much runs likes this:
- DH1: Scary as f*ck, first drop in of the day always going to be tough, but man, this was a tricky start, lots of rocks, some fast single track and big drops to the side
- DH2: BOOM – now this was a good one. Wolf voted it his favourite of the day, it was a super sweet DH single track through the trees with some epic flow and cool switchbacks, this go the fizz on massively just before lunch
- DH3: Shorter, narrow as f*ck, but a lot of fun… you did NOT want to look right at all, as going off the very narrow single track would have been a massive disaster, again quite rocky with not much room for error.
- DH4: Donkey Darko – This was no question the BEST run off the day by most accounts… It took a LOT of riding, pushing and trekking to get there (in fact, at one point it did feel like a death march, especially when we all ran out of water, by all I mean the entire group), but the guides kept assuring us that it was worth it. They were not wrong! This DH was fantastically good… The top was tough, steep, narrow and rocky with some epic switchbacks (one of which I f*cked up and almost got run over by the Dok), and the lower half being super fast and flawy through the forest, with some great jumps and lots of carving, an awesome end to the day. Here are the boys before the drop in:
If you have a lot of time, here is how it went down riding on board with Herr Doktor:
For those of you that love stats, some rough details from the day (everyone was banned from uploading to Strava I’m afraid):
- 47km’s of riding,
- 1590m of climbing,
- 9 hours 17 mins elapsed time and 3.16 of moving time (yes, there is a bit of faffing around, but the Garmin doesn’t seem to want to register all the portage sections as moving time, its moving, but just f*cking slowly).
Gear of the day awards went to:
- Shimano Saint brakes – Best brakes money can buy and massively critical for this type of terrain
- Evoc Enduro FR packs – These seem to be ubiquitous here and are awesome pieces of kit
- Goggles – Granted its borderline from a fashion sense running goggles in a non full face helmet, but f*ck its the business for these downhill’s
Would be fair to say it was an epic start to the trip and a day that no one will ever forget!
Back to the future – And how did it look for the people who had to race this day yesterday in France in the actual TP race? Appears they didn’t get quite as good weather as we did, which made it MEGA epic for them: