David Warren reports back from Monaco having completed his Alpkit sponsored Trans Provence adventure.
Day Six – A tough time on the saddle
We always knew day six was going to be tough. The fact that the start time was an hour earlier clearly meant that we were expected to be in the mountains for longer than usual.
Today we started riding from the campsite and headed straight up a 700m climb which was plagued with wet roots and rocks from the rain the night before. Fortunately the weather was on our side all day so when we reached the summit we had magnificent 360 degree views of mountain ranges, small villages and ‘almost’ the sea. The bonus for cresting the mountain was a few kilometres of riding along a trail that was cut out of the mountain and provided some very interesting riding with exposed sections and loose stone – I almost felt on top of the world.
The big talk of the day was the next two timed sections, which unbelievably in 2009 was one timed section. Due to the trails’ distance (9km) and altitude drop (1200m) the organisers decided to give us a break in between, so that we could get the most out of a colossal descent.
Each trail was epic in its own right but the two together were something indescribable. So far on this tour I would personally rate the second run as one of my favourites, simply because the top section was steep and rocky, the middle section was flat and required pedalling and the bottom section was littered with steps and switchbacks and had a kind of urban feel to it, so we had a mash up of everything. I could almost imagine hundreds of spectators lining the trail clapping and shouting encouragement at riders as they blast through the run. In my opinion this run could be on the world circuit. At the bottom I had a throbbing head, legs, arms and I was pretty exhausted – so it must have been brilliant.
Where else is this possible? Day after day trails just keep impressing and offering a variety of challenges to EVERYONE!
Saying that, today I was faced with the first eyebrow raising trail of the entire tour. It was our last timed trail of the day called Granges de Cuous and it was purely insane. Ninety per cent of the riders pushed down certain sections because it was extreme in all ways. I had absolutely no control of my bike (when I was on it) because my tyres would grip the gravel, which would then start sliding with the bike! This is normally when panic set in and I did everything possible to get my feet our of the spd pedals to save myself a cliff dive. Even walking with my bike proved something of a challenge with no grip at all. It was intense and after a full day in the saddle my brain was overloaded with fight or flight fluid trying to get me down safely.
The camp is clearly very tired and definitely looking forward to the ride down to Monaco. Any exposed bare skin now has grazes, bruises and cuts from falls, trees and shrubs. One more night in a tent and then time to crack open the champagne (I mean beer) in Monaco.
Winners of the day were (GC):
1. Chris Herraghty – 4:19.20
2. Michael Watton – 4:35.57
3. Ola Carmonius – 4:40.22
1. Ingrid Hohermuth – 5:28.06
2. Stephanie Tuck – 6:01.42
3. Heather Hudson – 6:31.01
Day Seven – Scruffy man’s rampage
This whole week we have been looking forward to the dive in the Mediterranean Sea once we reach Monaco. By the time we reach the final destination we will all be grubby and sweaty from the 32km of trails we need to conquer before we hit the streets of Monaco. I personally couldn’t think of anything more fitting then a bunch of mountain bikers mixing it up with the rich and famous in this rich man’s paradise.
The day started with a dreamy climb up to St Simeon, our first timed section. Dreamy because the climb was on decent fire road and the gradient was easily manageable. We were entering new territory with St Simeon’s trail, which descended almost 700m in about 3km’s distance. The gravel was definitely changing and provided less traction than any of the other days’ trails. In fact, this was a characteristic of the day.
I had considered myself quite fortunate over the week as I was still in one piece and I didn’t have to deal with any major mechanicals – I spoke too soon! Within 20m of the first run my valve was blown clean off my wheel so my tyre was flat within seconds. Soon after replacing the tube I used my last CO2 canister and managed to break another tube valve. After fitting my last tube I cautiously made my way down the run and was confronted with a reasonable size drop which caused another pinch flat. The pinch was on the seam of the tube and the patch didn’t seal the hole properly, so I then had a slow puncture – it was almost comical given that all I wanted to do was get to the end so I could celebrate.
Again we had an amazing climb of about 700m straight after the first run, all of which was on tarred road. The scenery was amazing and for the first time we could see the Mediterranean – it lifted my spirit almost instantaneously. Once we reached the second timed section of the day we knew that it was all downhill from there – literally.
The next two timed sections were sketchy and loose. The vegetation was also completely different with plants like roses and cacti scattered everywhere. Steep sections, steps and switchbacks (the theme running through this report) provided the entertainment before finally reaching the final checkpoint. It was a moment to savour – we had come so far and endured everything the Mediterranean Alps could throw at us.
The cherry on this amazing experience was riding down to the beach in Monaco jostling with Ferraris and Lamborghinis and using back alleys with uncountable steps (some marble) to find the quickest way to the beach – it was a memory I won’t forget. Although Sam, one of the riders, almost had a head on with a Lamborghini – that would have been a story for the grandkids! A couple of beers later and it’s time to get to the campsite and prepare for the after party!
The Trans Provence 2010 winners were:
1. Chris Herraghty – 4:54.37
2. Michael Watton – 5:11.32
3. Ola Carmonius – 5:16.57
1. Ingrid Hohermuth – 6:12.29
2. Stephanie Tuck – 6:52.24
3. Heather Hudson – 7:25.12