Trans-Provence 2011: Stage 3-6 catch up as race enters finale

David Arthur David Arthur

As the Trans-Provence stage race draws to a close , we catch up with all the action from stage three through to six.

Day Three

Start:     Dignes -Les Bains
Finish:  Villars- Colmars
Riding  distance 48.64km

Day three sees  Trans- Provence riders have a slightly less arduous day than the epic that is day two. Regardless of that, it’s  still three hard stages including a  brutal bike-a- hike to start the day.

The start of day sees riders gain 500 vertical metres in less than four kilometres,  starting with fire road and then a steep path cut in to the Mountain side,the hard breathing and carrying (and no doubt cursing)  was rewarded with amazing views across Provence and in the distance the second special stage (Special stage9)  of the day

Before any of that Trans-Provence competitors first had to negotiate Special stage 8 – A huge drop in elevation and in a classic Trans -Provence Style most types of technical riding thrown into one huge trail!

From the col an open section led through open loose rock singletrack and switchbacks before plunging in to leaf filled woodland similar to something you may find on a (dry ) day in the south of England.

The riders were then spat out in to open meadow land all to briefly before finding themselves in long a rock chute of singletrack that threw them down to the valley floor,  after cresting one more updulation™ (Trans-Provencers who have been part of the event since the first year are used to Ash’s various way’s of describing climbs without saying the word climb)  the trail finally plummeted down to the timing belise and a chance to breathe.

After the feed station Special stage 9 was  a combination of woodland and rock gardens – before a hard fire road climb that lead to the an open rock river bed through pine forest -  fast and not as technical as most stages and the climb in the middle meant that the stage really suited fit riders not just good technical ones.

The final stage of day three was more of what any one that loves mountain biking  would ask for.  Fast on site flowing open sections through the top stage with a feeling of exposure, before pine forest loam land curled down to a riverside trail and the end of another hard days riding

As always today has been about great trails in beautiful country but day three also passes a major watershed and begins our Journey in to the higher Maritime Alps , as can be seen by tomorrows start of the day with the amazing start of day four with 2000 metre drop form col du champs.

Day Four

start: Villars-Colmars (1180m)
• trailhead: Col des Champs (2080m)
• finish: Guillaumes (793m)
• riding distance: 41.49 km
• on-bike height gain: 965m
• on-bike height drop: 2434m

Many regular Trans-Provencers think that day four is the finest over all day of the weeks riding – starting with the huge decent from  Col des Champs  and including the unique Grey earth stage, if these two trails were all that you rode in a day , you’d consider it a fine days riding, but with two other exceptional trails included it really is a special day in the big Mountains

Special stage 11 is Col Des Champs then. This is a real test of riding – individually each of the many sections would be challenging but taken together it takes a strong technical rider , who can also onsite rock gardens and turn into the tightest switchbacks whilst ignoring the ever  increasing exposure on either side of them, all of this of course is whilst the clock is ticking -it’s  a fifteen minute descent for the fastest riders.

Next Special Stage 12. The liaison stage itself is something quite unique. It’s a slice of exposed rock that cuts it’s way across the side of a Mountain with vertiginous  200 metre drops below you and  an amazing viewing point down across the valley and to the stages ahead.

The stage itself  continues initially in the same vein as the Liaison but with the risk to life removed a little if you fall off! More open rock face switchbacks lead to the lower pine forested trails and beautifully grippy sandy corners – with dust still hanging in the air from the rider in front.

From the feed station a fun liaison stage took riders across the valley floor before the fire road  climb to the start of the Grey Earth.

Special Stage 13 The Grey Earth is unique to this part of the world. What looks like a combination of grey cement dust mixed in to tarmac that has then rolled down a hill like lava, has then set into long flowing ridge lines of incredibly grippy and fast rolling trail. For the riders there’s a suggested line laid out for them but the opportunity to go “off-piste ” and choose a quicker line is there for those that want it..

The final stage of the day is reached by steep bike a hike to open meadowland – before a  steep switchback loam ride propels riders back to the valley floor once more and the chance to recuperate for the next day.

We haven’t mentioned racing much other than results before today .Whilst the Trans-Provence is a race it’s also just as importantly for many people taking part in a chance to ride amazing trails and to be in this beautiful part of the world.

Today however we had our first injuries and they’ve been with the fast guys. Ben cruz is out with either severely torn ligaments or a broken ankle – Steve Jones had a big crash and whilst Nico Vouilloz hasn’t hurt himself – he lost time after tearing of  his rear mech.

For the people that are racing tiredness is starting to show – Seven days of racing is partly a war of attrition.Silly mistakes are having consequences that could either cost the race, the stage, or stop them from finishing the event itself.

Day Five

start: Guillaumes (793m)
trailhead: Bouchanières (1418m)
finish: St-Sauveur-sur-Tinée (500m)
riding distance: 39.22 km
on-bike height gain: 977m
on-bike height drop: 1954m
no. of timed “special stages”: 4

highlight: long, winding, physical descent from Roure

Day five regardless of what old timers at the Trans -Provence may think turned out to be the favourite by some degree with riders so far.

The combination of technical trails and the majority of climbing on roads gave the riders a little relief from the standard bike a hike and fire road climbs to the top.

First trail  of the day Special stage fifteen definitely drops a long way but also has some hard pedalling sections combined with technical moves. To quote Chris Porter from Mojo: “You need the trials skills of Danny Macaskill and the lungs of
Indurain.” We couldn’t decide if that was a complement or not!

A long road climb with opportunities for coffee and cake at the top (which most seemed to take ) led the riders in to Special Stage Sixteen a woodland epic that finally saw them fire through arable fields before reaching the feed station.

Another long road col gradually winded the riders to special stage three – a fast dusty trail that cuts along the edge of ravine and out and along a old road that leads to them through tiny villages and finally into a deep ravine which demands the only carry of the day!

Finally the Village of Roure is reached and another of the classic Trans- Provence trails. zig zagging across open hill side with a enormous sense of exposure on either your left or right depending on which way the trail was taking you held together with perfect switch back corners – faster and less technical than some of the other stages - it definitely has a bit more flow and speed to it.

A final uplift of the day saw competitors reach there camp for the night and much needed rest for day six , the only day that compares to day two in terms of duration.

Day Six

start: St-Dalmas-Valdeblore (1262m)
trailhead: St-Dalmas-Valdeblore (1262m)
finish: Sospel (430m)
riding distance: 47.80 km
height gain: 1430m
height drop: 3358m
no. of timed “special stages”: 4
highlight: seemingly endless singletrack from Granges de la Brasque is
amongst the most varied trail ever ridden by the organisers

Today we thought rather than us describe the day we’d ask a competitor so here’s Steve Jones from Dirt Magazine take on the day , well the week as well:

The symphony of snoring had been going on all night, but it was a pretty big hooter of a fart from my neighbour Rowan Sorrell that silenced the blue swarm of Quechua tents at about 3.30am. I know as I checked my phone.

It was an early start, an 800m climb into what had been described as some of the rockiest most exposed sections of the week. I spent the morning trickling uphill with ten-time World Champion Nico Vouilloz who, after a day of sketchy mechanicals on day 5 had him behind Jerome Clementz on time. “I smell technical singletrack” said Nico clearly smarting from his misfortune the previous day.

But then it’s been tales of woe all around really. Ben Cruz, Andreas Hestler, Cesar Rojo, Marc Beaumont, Rowan Sorrell had all been victims of some form of mechanical. Running third into yesterdays stages Mark Weir cruelly flatted yesterday afternoon which put him back a fair bit and allowed double World Champ Fabien Barel into third as the race entered his, and Vouilloz’s home territory today.

Sven Martin smashed a derailleur before he even got to the first stage, as some of the top runners opted for downhill casings on the day’s sharp, relentless rock sections. Following Nico through the transfer section to stage 20 was pretty awesome, as he picked up,
lined up and carried his speed seemingly without trying as I bashed through seemingly going backwards. Its easy to forget the vintage on display here – this field really is packed full of some of the best mountain bikers on the planet.

The first stage of the day was high-speed stuff, I set off in a vain pursuit of Nico to try and get some idea of the speed. No chance, instead I accelerated into what I thought was a reasonable tempo only for Cesar Rojo to come past me like a demented runaway as if I was
standing still. I tucked in behind the Spaniard soon to realize I was considerably out of my depth.

Nico took a tumble on 21 just before what is becoming an eagerly awaited lunch stop. But not quite to the extent of my riding partner Mick Kirkman who switched himself off in a technical rock section at mach 4. End of race for Mick as Doc told him to take his riding boots off.

With only a day to go I look back on an eventful week, its not since last Monday that I’ve had a solid clean run as a mix of mechanicals, wrong turns, and a tweaked shoulder have lost me considerable time.

For the past few days I’ve had to sleep on my back and it takes until about lunch time to get the shoulder warmed for the unremitting pounding of boulder and rock. Still I managed to get going a bit better today (I hope, not seen results yet) and with a day to go simply cannot afford to make any mistakes.

And they offer themselves up many, many times a day. It might be a touch dramatising it to say today was dangerous but as me and Rowan reflected on the days stages the consequences of getting one or two race lines wrong would as Rowan pointed out “chuck you in a coffin.”
It was a day for heads up riding.

Eight hour riding days are now taking their toll on most of us. I’m sat here again with Andreas Hestler at half five at night unwashed, sore, hungry and exhausted and still under pressure to perform. The army of workers busy themselves preparing food, setting up camp,
transferring kit as we are out there on the hill “enjoying ourselves.”

This is a battle, physically and technically and we are all noting short of totally dependant on them. If anyone has delivered this week then it is them.

Also the manner in which Nico has commanded the week has been utterly impressive. Ok there’s one day to go and the race is still open but given the challenges form skilled climbers its been stunning stuff. On the climbs he manages the red line superbly and on the descents he shows totally and completely why he is the rider he is. Everyone around the campsite comments that “he rides so different to everyone else.”

Control, timing, focus. Clementz is up against it but he is such a wily character with skill and race craft of the highest order too. Its only a few miles from Nico’s house, he knows this country well and then again not. The trip has highlighted the true vastness of France in this small corner, yet everyone, including the locals from fifteen valley’s away know there’s a battle heading for Monaco.

Racers, tourists, Trans Provence is a rich and unique mix of the various facets of mountain biking. Its certainly on a scale much bigger than I imagined, the fatigue is bigger than I imagined and the race tempo is also much quicker than I had envisaged. The scenery has
opened my eyes to terrain that is unimaginably complex in places, I really didn’t think landscapes like this existed in France.

Trans Provence Day Six . from Trans-Provence on Vimeo.

Results from stage six

Place    Dos    Surname         First               Day 1      Day 2
Day 3     Day 4     Day 5     Day 6             Total Time

1     35   VOUILLOZ        Nicolas             00:28:    00:30:
00:27:    00:39:    00:23:    00:35:                03:04:
2     12   CLEMENTZ        JÈrÙme              00:28:    00:30:
00:27:    00:38:    00:24:    00:36:                03:05:

3      6   BAREL           Fabien              00:30:    00:30:
00:28:    00:38:    00:24:    00:35:                03:07:
4     25   WEIR            Mark                00:28:    00:30:
00:26:    00:39:    00:30:    00:37:                03:13:
5     36   RYAN            Matt                00:29:    00:32:
00:27:    00:41:    00:26:    00:39:                03:15:
6     27   BEAUMONT        Marc                00:30:    00:33:
00:32:    00:41:    00:25:    00:38:                03:21:

7     30   SORRELL         Rowan               00:32:    00:31:
00:30:    00:43:    00:27:    00:39:                03:24:
8     20   RICHARDS        James               00:33:    00:34:
00:30:    00:44:    00:28:    00:42:                03:34:
9     32   JONES           Steve               00:31:    00:34:
00:32:    00:46:    00:29:    00:42:                03:37:

10     24   MARTIN          Sven                00:37:    00:33:
00:33:    00:45:    00:27:    00:40:                03:38:
11      1   KIENAST         Pascal              00:37:    00:35:
00:31:    00:45:    00:29:    00:43:                03:42:
12     56   MATHEWS         Iain                00:35:    00:39:
00:31:    00:44:    00:29:    00:44:                03:44:
13     38   GRAVERSE        Tim                 00:34:    00:37:
00:32:    00:48:    00:29:    00:46:                03:49:

14     18   MCLEAN          Neil                00:35:    00:38:
00:33:    00:47:    00:30:    00:45:                03:50:
15     19   MOSELEY         Tracy               00:38:    00:36:
00:34:    00:49:    00:29:    00:44:                03:51:
16     41   HARPER          Kevin               00:37:    00:36:
00:34:    00:45:    00:33:    00:44:                03:52:
17     34   HESTLER         Andreas             00:31:    00:43:
00:30:    00:43:    00:42:    00:45:                03:56:

18     42   BROOKES         Rob                 00:35:    00:35:
00:32:    00:51:    00:29:    01:02:                04:08:
19     23   MARTIN          Anka                00:39:    00:41:
00:35:    00:51:    00:32:    00:48:                04:09:
20     31   PORTER          Chris               00:36:    00:36:
00:36:    00:50:    00:42:    00:49:                04:10:
21     54   ALDER           Matt                00:40:    00:41:
00:35:    00:55:    00:33:    00:54:                04:20:

22     57   GROGNUX         Johann              00:42:    00:44:
00:38:    00:54:    00:33:    00:50:                04:23:
23      2   SEVERINO        Alessandro          00:39:    00:42:
00:42:    00:56:    00:33:    00:52:                04:27:
24     10   ZIMMERMANN      Joris               00:39:    00:42:
00:34:    00:56:    00:33:    01:03:                04:30:
25      3   HOHERMUT        Ingrid              00:39:    00:44:
00:37:    00:56:    00:33:    01:00:                04:32:

26     14   WARRICK         Ben                 00:45:    01:07:
00:31:    00:48:    00:38:    00:43:                04:36:
27     16   THOMAS          Alun                00:46:    00:41:
00:37:    00:58:    00:33:    01:00:                04:38:
28     52   VELISS          Lee                 00:41:    00:40:
00:39:    00:54:    00:46:    00:54:                04:38:
29     11   DE RUYVER       Arno                01:02:    00:37:
00:37:    01:05:    00:31:    00:49:                04:45:

30     17   SHINGLER        Guy                 00:41:    00:43:
00:35:    01:03:    00:35:    01:13:                04:52:
31      4   HYDE            Jasper              00:40:    00:44:
00:36:    01:06:    00:37:    01:15:                04:59:
32     58   FULFORD         Giles               00:47:    00:55:
00:39:    01:02:    00:37:    01:00:                05:03:
33      8   COULING         John                00:45:    00:48:
00:42:    01:04:    00:51:    01:02:                05:14:

34     37   BOELEMA         Kara                00:46:    00:49:
00:45:    01:02:    00:39:    01:14:                05:17:
35     55   BƒCK            Daniel              00:46:    00:52:
00:39:    01:06:    00:44:    01:11:                05:21:
36      9   THOMAS          Jason               00:49:    00:52:
01:01:    01:04:    00:38:    00:58:                05:25:
37     28   MAURISSEN       Mark                00:39:    01:09:
00:45:    01:07:    00:45:    00:58:                05:25:

38     39   VAN             Joost               01:07:    00:54:
00:43:    01:03:    00:39:    01:11:                05:40:
39     50   ALLEN           Dan                 00:47:    00:50:
00:50:    01:11:    00:38:    01:26:                05:44:
40      7   THOMSON         Fiona               00:57:    00:57:
00:50:    01:13:    00:45:    01:13:                05:58:
41      5   HYDE            John                00:46:    00:54:
01:12:    01:08:    00:40:    01:18:                05:59:

42     43   VAN DURME       Dietbrand           01:01:    00:59:
00:46:    01:12:    00:47:    01:16:                06:02:
43     29   ROJO            Cesar               00:32:    00:37:
00:38:    03:08:    00:29:    00:39:                06:05:
44     45   VERKEST         Peter               01:01:    01:14:
00:51:    01:18:    00:43:    01:24:                06:33:
45     40   CRCEK           Ales                01:00:    01:23:
00:48:    01:28:    00:43:    01:12:                06:36:

46     44   VAN DURME       Matthias            01:07:    01:06:
00:47:    01:15:    00:44:    01:43:                06:46:
47     49   GUARITA         Bernardo            00:53:    01:01:
01:18:    01:35:    00:47:    01:26:                07:02:
48     46   DARKE           Andy                01:14:    01:29:
01:08:    00:00:    00:59:    02:11:                07:03:
49     47   PATTERSO        Robert              01:04:    01:17:
00:58:    01:38:    01:00:    01:36:                07:36:

50     13   RUSBATCH        Cherie              01:02:    01:39:
00:58:    01:44:    01:02:    01:41:                08:07:
51     33   KIRKMAN         Mick                00:34:    00:34:
00:32:    00:47:    00:27:    05:26:                08:23:

X

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