Ah… Time for some contrast on EuroEnduro! It had occurred to me when doing the slightly weird itinerary that at some stage I would need to taste a Big Alpine Day ahead of TP to remind me what its like in the wild terrain.
Yes, I love the utter fuck out of a good bike park and sweet baby Hesus dressed in Fox ENDURO gear I love that sweet Finale shuttling, but the risk with that combo is that they lull you into a false sense of security about both your fitness and ability to handle the muthafucken jandal when you’re heading north of the 2,000m mark with your bike rammed into the back of your neck.
Sound like a barrel of fun mixed in with a fisting? Let’s find out! The first thing you want on a B.A.D (ok, not the best acronym ever devised on reflection) is good weather, especially when you’re working your way above 2,000m. With that in mind, it was a little bit of a hmmmm when the rain started to come down right on kick off from Roquebilliere:
My guide for the day was Greg from 1001 Sentiers, which translates into the fact that there is literally 1001 trails to ride up in the Maritime Alps. Greg not only knows these mountains back to front, but also organises an Enduro series and in his spare time hangs out with Fabien Barel, Nico Vouilloz and all the other French shredders who grew up being fed Gnar and switchbacks for breakfast every day – So in summary, pretty much the best contact if you want to get stuck into some of the BIG action on offer in these parts.
Greg let me in on a couple of secrets as we were setting off… To start with, this was the first time he had brought a guest on this route (gulp) and then of course, this was only about the third day in 3 months it had rained like this around these parts… I’m now offering my services to drought affected regions who need some relief, happy to come and ride in your hood and bring the H2o with me.
B.A.D meant that shit was getting real from the start – No shuttles here! Well, a bit of a drive up until we ran out of road and then it was old school grind it out action. An hour of pedal climbing to remind my body what it has in store a LOT next week:
It didn’t take long for it to become evident that switching to a 30T chain ring was a rare stroke of genius, or common sense depending on your perspective, but either way I was getting more and more thankful as we made our way up the mountain. I suspect next week that feeling will become commonplace:
Get your Alpine ON! Greg was right on the money with his hour pedalling prediction, and that it was time to jacket the fuck up, whilst the pics don’t show the wind or the rain so much, I can confirm that both were hitting with ample supply. Rather than whinge, it was the perfect chance to deploy my new Royal jacket which hasn’t seen much use in the cHub unsurprisingly. There was still a lot more UP to come:
I needed zero encouragement to not only take a rest from the upwards march, but to also scamper under the limited foliage to get a break from conditions. Haven’t been this cold in a long time, fuck me if I haven’t forgotten both what winter feels like and also how soft living in the tropics makes you. No such issues for Greg, after all this is his office, so it was more like the air con setting was slightly lower for him:
Oh yeah, you know what time it is! Carry time… You don’t have a B.A.D without some Portage and whilst I respect this isn’t for everyone, it is a mandatory feature of Trans Provence, so time that I got reacquainted with how it rolls. Greg models the correct carrying form once it gets too freaky to ride.
The good news about today was I have finally found someone who likes to take more photos on a ride than I do! Whats more, he was a shitload better at taking them that I was, so a double win. Here you can see me doing my best impersonation of an ENDURO donkey whilst appreciating the fact my jacket has a hood that goes over my helmet, its the little things right?
As I put one foot in front of the other up the ever increasing gradient a couple of things occurred to me… To start with, I was exceedingly relieved that I had worked in those stair climbing sessions back at HQ, yes they felt horrendously cunty at the time and I hated their face, but now they were coming in quite handy. Secondly, the realisation started to really dawn how massive the week after next on TP is going to be. A 45 minute carry isn’t small, but there will be much more to come, day after day – Yes, fart noise.
You don’t think about this on the way up, but the reward is always worth it, yup, trekked all the way up that mofo right there:
Ok… So its cold, quite windy and I’ve just ground up a massive climb. Any complaints? Any issues? Any drama? ZERO. No matter which direction I looked in, the vista’s that filled my eyes were insanely beautiful. In fact, it was one of those situations where it actually looks like a giant mural or Hollywood backdrop – But this is as real as it comes:
If you crave to be unplugged from the Matrix or away from it all, then its very hard to beat a big alpine day. You can get a similar experience on a road bike with the big mountain passes, but there are still cars, people, roads and buildings. Up here all that’s eliminated, its just you, your rad machine and scenery that is masterful at overwhelming the senses. As I would say in French, ‘Trays Bee en‘.
Regular followers know that one of the greatest infringement violations you can commit is food photos, but today demanded an exception from my own hypocritical policies given the spread that Greg had arranged, talk about the host with the most! He even carried it up the hill, Bravo!
You could literally stand up here for hours drinking the scenery in like you’re at a long lunch being served the best Majito’s you’ve ever had. Greg caught the moment well, this is the exact point where I contemplate never going back into an office building ever again:
No resting on my Donkey laurels though, there was more elevation to be gained. I’m not sure at which stage elevation starts to impact your ability to breath, so lets be dramatic and say I was struggling a bit once we got over 2,200m. Either that or my fitness isn’t as awesome as I thought it was – Regardless, watch for this scene to be repeated a lot in the coming weeks:
When you venture into this sort of terrain you need to be prepared for the cold, sure, that’s a consideration, but ultimately the thing you need to be ready for is how long it takes on account of all the stopping for maaaaad vista shots. Sure, you get home with an iPhone filled with 476 photos that look vaguely the same but with slightly different angles, but its worth it when you get back and load them into the scenery spank bank, example:
You’re also given the opportunity to feel insignificant up here…
Not deep & meaningful enough for you? Ok then mofo’s, let me dig deep into my oversized Fox gear bag of cliche’s and come up with something even more poetic to the point of being Fuckbook feed vomit material – This was a place you could soar like an eagle, literally, like in a squadron even:
Oh man, its just a full Alpine-slash-outdoors-slash-nature gushfest innit? Just can’t help myself, its this pristine mountain air and a rare vacuum where no cunts exist, so embrace it. Add into the mix a sense of tingling achievement when you get the full view of where we had come up from:
Greg the guide has an excellent ability to not only ambush you with some photo taking action, but do it in the absolute best spots to not only paint the picture of how BIG the terrain was, but also make you appear significantly radder than you were at that particular moment, which he nails here perfectly, what a banger! Pedals level, looking down the trail, if this doesn’t bring out the inner narcissist then nothing will!
The sun was coming out, the portage was done and things were warming up… Plus we had started a bit of traversing/descending before getting to the main course of shredding for the day. Stoke factor was high, give it a shout out Greg my main mountain mofo:
Let the vanity rage today… Its not often you get decent pics riding your bike in inaccessible alpine areas that you never knew existed, which I think is a pretty good reason to load shoot a few into today’s Dirty Post and lets face it, bit of an upgrade on blurry Go PRO footage right? Greg knows how to nail a good Alpine porn shoot that’s for sure…
But let’s get down to business shall we? It was time to start the final traverse and then blend into the BIG DH. Narrow as fuck, rocky, exposure and a long way down – Traversing requires a LOT of focus and attention, there is no relaxing that’s for sure. I lost count of how many times I stalled a bit and almost began the trip down the side of the mountain… Again worth noting that you’re rolling on 100% natural trail here, ain’t no one coming up with a rake or shovel to make trail play nice:
Just when you thought I couldn’t get more gushy about this awesome zone, how about we add the most noble of all animals to the mix, no big deal, just some mountain horses chilling, fuck me, was like being on the set of ‘Dances with Wolves’, except better as Kevin Costner wasn’t around. No Wolf either, he was passed out in a Taxi somewhere back in the cHub, last seen near corner of Orchard & Orange grove minus a set of DX Downhill pedals (perfect segway):
With the 1000m drop descent now kicked off, Greg got busy giving me an impromptu French switchback lesson, something he is able to perform at ease and is unsurprisingly rather effective at getting around the endless supply of tightness around these parts. Greg pointed out that its basically compulsory growing up here to master switchbacks, part of being issued with a French passport.
Well, what a wake up call this action was… Gone is the softer and finely sculpted flowy turns and trail of Finale, in its place a raw, rough, ragged and Femdom type situation that instantly puts you on the back foot. It did take me a few minutes to reset and relax to be honest, its rad, but it also stings the senses to start with. There was PUMP though now that we were hitting the big down:
By now we were fully getting into the shred action and it felt endless… almost a kilometre of vertical drop in store and no idea what was around the next corner…
The thing about the big mountains is that they don’t give a fuck – They don’t care what suspension settings you have, what your form is like, how tired your arms are or where your confidence levels are at. They know they’re loose as fuck, steep, fast and littered with more rocks and roots than your eyes and brain can work together to process what a good line looks like. The mountain is just waiting up there, happy for you to come and have a go at it, smug in the knowledge no one in their right mind would have the balls to come in here and do trail work. So, just fuck up, hold on and let it rip:
It was a mix of flat out super gnar mixed with loam and general looseness, leading into rock side bombs waiting for you to fuck up. This is what talent looks like when approaching aforementioned difficult section:
And this is what running out of talent looks like… I can neither confirm nor deny if this was a French nosewheelie attempt or just a fuck up:
On and on and on… It just kept amping along, we are talking about a 35 minute downhill here, which included sections where the Saints had issues slowing things down. T Rex arms getting a mega work out and I think this is the moment I was wishing a little more time in the gym would have been useful perhaps?
Originally we had planned to come down a different side of the mountain and end up in another valley, but the weather at the top and the wind direction had changed plans to lead us down here. Greg had described this descent as the more ‘Playful’ option and he wasn’t wrong… The bottom part was like an oiled cheerleader (so I hear), super loose and a shit load of fun. Loamy, but with some decent rock formations that meant you had to reign it back in from time to time, as you can see from this shot, the trail awaits ahead for you to go FULL gas again:
I think in the end it was around an 1,100m drop perhaps? Either way, a big DH and the kind of action I was looking for ahead of TP. Earn that turn and then cut it loose on a mega hairy natural downhill that wants to throw everything in its arsenal at you. Invigorating.
And finally, here’s something for the Roadies – Don’t say I never do anything for you gang, some French road love for you.
For people who like maps and elevation charts, this is how the day rolled. The highest point for the day was around 2,223m. Don’t try this loop alone kids, unless you’re super confident in your adventure and navigating abilities. Make it easy, get a Greg Dawg, get a Greg:
Fuuuuuck – Another mega post, but at least its the weekend so assuming you’ve camped out in the shitter to escape everyone to read this, I shall cut to the summary so you can get back to either being massaged or kicked in the anatomy:
- Croissant count – BANG… 6, yeah doubled the cumulative tally, but hey, the fuckers were warm and a big day was ahead so how was I supposed to not nail 3? Superb form
- Cunt of the day (COTD) – The weather I guess? But in a way, it actually made it feel a little more, dare I say it? Epic! Plus, I got to test out my new jacket…
- Gear of the day award – Bit of a tie today, as two products got a work out and performed admirably: Shimano SMH-200 ENDURO shoes and the Royal Matrix jacket. The Shimano shoes proving that they are golden for the ENDURO portage action and the Royal kit stopping me from getting hypothermia up on the ridgeline. Win/Win
- Dirty Tip – If you want to do this ride and to be fair, its a bit random and obscure, then get Greg the guide hooked up. Obvious tip really, but the main piece of advice is do it in a group to bring the cost down. It wasn’t cheap, but that’s as I was rolling solo, so make sure you rustle up the gang for a day like this
- Trail of the day – Only really one entry today, the big bad ass run off the top of the ridge back down into civilisation. It was heavy, it was raw and it wanted to force you to the ground and assault you. Having a Wendall Sailor style arm wrestle with it for 35 minutes was thrilling, exhilarating and of course; Rad.
So, back on the road and to Roubion to hit a French ENDURO race! If you thought this location was remote or random, wait until you get a load of Roubion… Stay tuned!