Day 1 – Is this for real?
Breakfast served at 7am meant that shuffles started shortly after 6am. Cereals, porridge and strong coffee were quickly consumed before the first load of riders were shuttled at 8am to the start of the mammoth climb (500m vertical). Almost silence in the bus as we were making our way up.
After the 10km climb we made it to the first timed section – on came the pads, down went the seats and mindsets changed.
For most of us this is where the rude awakening began! After swiping the timing chip at the start we were faced with sweet single track that meandered along a ridge with varied steepness, some of which felt almost vertical at times. Sometimes there were loose rocks, sometimes the rocks grounded, but all of the time it was insane.
Lose concentration for one second and there are sections where you would end up 200m below the trail. This is mountain biking at its best, this is what makes us come back time and time again – I can’t believe this is possible, trails of this calibre normally only last a kilometre or two.
Trying to explain section by section would be stupid, simply because it would sound like I am ‘selling’ this event and also everything is a blur. After day one trails are already just about corners and ‘almost’ situations. It is times like this that I wish I spent more time at Cwm Carn or Fort William, but I haven’t so I used the brakes too much and am too cautious, but hopefully by the end of the week that will all change.
The last timed section was a favourite amongst the riders but unfortunately I pinch flatted almost at the top and took a view that running down was quicker. My times would be compromised either way so there is some catching up to do.
1) Chris Herraghty – 41:11
2) Pascal Kienast – 44:35
3) Ola Carmonius – 45:21
1) Stephanie Tuck – 57:01
2) Ingrid Hohermuth – 57:40
3) Fiona Brennan – 1:03:19
Day 2 – Extreme proportions
Billed as the toughest day of the tour, day two didn’t disappoint. From the shuttle drop off point it was a short climb until it was hike-a-bike time – almost all the way until we reached our first timed section of the day called Les Monges. If anything was to be taken away from the effort put in to get there it was the vistas of various mountain ranges appearing out of the mist – almost breathtaking.
Another wild descent put the smiles back on our faces and the temperature warmed up, which meant all the morning layers started coming off. The final climb (700m vertical with a mix of walking and riding) of the day meant that most riders were conserving energy and mentally preparing for the latter stages of the day. That said some incredible times were set for the second and third timed stages – not surprising considering the competition is wide open.
The final climb can only be described as brutal – it was like a recurring nightmare after each turn presented another 50m climb, it just never ended. It consisted of a short tarred steep section at the start, followed by loose gravel and finally a steep damp forest section until we eventually reached the final section suitably called Donkey Darko. We were tired but the trail ahead was rated by Ash as one of the best the Trans Provence offers, so expectations were high.
The fact is Donkey Darko is undoubtedly the best single track I have ever ridden – it was long and had a combination of fast bits, steep bits, rocky bits and everything else that goes with bliss riding. There were switchback sections that required precision (pretty tough on a 29er!) with little room to fail. There were sweeping sections that could only have made every rider scream out loud – which I did about ten times “THIS CAN’T BE REAL!” It was and we are only on day two!
I had a great day riding with average times posted for the day – but I am hoping to man up and let go of my brakes!
1) Chris Herraghty – 1:32:01
2) Rolf Reimann – 1:33:05
3) Pascal Kienast – 1:34:15
1) Ingrid Hohermuth – 1:56:16
2) Stephanie Tuck – 2:02:54
3) Fiona Brennan – 2:14:27