Trans-Provence 2015 – Day 3: Villars-Colmars to Valberg
Even amongst very good days, Day 3 Mavic TransProvence 2015 stands out for a couple of reasons. First and foremost it was an incredibly long day some competitors didn’t get back until 7pm. The other memorable reason (for the race organisers) were the almost embarrassingly gushing complements about the trails ridden today (even though we did have to tear their legs off first to get to them!)
DAY 3 /// VILLARS-COLMARS to VALBERG
- Distance: 50.5km
- D+: 1921m
- D-: 3209m
Day 3 saw the Mavic TransProvence hit the stunning Val d’Entraunes. Or, as it’s
otherwise known the TP Crew, the Valley of Endless Trails.
Since the very first Mavic TransProvence the race has always passed through this valley.
Whilst it can hardly be said that the alps lacks trails to ride, Val d’Entraunes seems not to
just offer a seemingly endless seam of trails, it also seems to produce ones that magically
suit the modern mountain bike. It’s as if paths worn by hundreds of year of use from valley
to valley and up to the high pasture in summer for grazing were actually waiting for two
wheels to be rode very fast down them.
In the early days of Enduro back when it was a unique discipline to France those races
also recognised the Val d’Entraunes as a ripe area ripe for bikers that don’t mind digging
deep for the ups for the reward of something fast and justso technical on the way down.
Today was a day of two quite distinct halves. Actually it would probably be better to
describe it as a really, really, really big bit followed by two manageable chunks. Total
height gain for the riders today was 1921 metres and a lot of it was made up of one big
chunk of around 1.5km of vertical gain. False summits aplenty and some ‘challenging’
navigation as the wind decided to remove some of our course marking to make things
even more interesting.
A lot of competitors took over 4 hours to get from the bottom of Val d’Entraunes up to the
start of special stage 10. It’s fair to say that some of the Mavic TransProvence crew were
waiting a little nervously at the bottom of the stage for the rider to reappear into the valley.
A big traverse without a pay day can make people a little tetchy.
We call this trail Narrow Wide. The verdict? “The best trail ever!” (interspersed with
expletives) was the general summary shouted out by hyper pinprick eyed racers. A huge
downhill section split into three distinct sections. Starting with lush tall grass in a forest
hiding a perfect ribbon of singletrack (a very distinct thing to this valley) where trusting
that there was no hidden rocks in the grass meant warp speed traversing. We like to call
this ‘faithbased riding’. Then into a rockfest before spewing into oak leaf and dustfilled
natural berms. Riders with spit flecked mouths shouting at each other about just how
good it really was, in range of expletives both colourful and sometimes distinct to nations.
But hold up. Let’s wind it back little.
Before all of this giddy jabbering these very same riders had been dropped at the
stunning Col Du Champs and had already ridden trails the like of which most folk will
rarely get to experience. Col Du Champs tracks seemed to get wiped from people’s
memories due to Narrow Wide. Narrow Wide seems to be one of those trails that re-
calibrates your expectations.
In case that wasn’t enough, following Narrow Wide was the classic Grey Earth that the
valley is known for and is arguably the coverstar of the TransProvence. Grey Earth
terrain looks like tiny, tiny marbles, grips like almost nothing else on the planet and is
incredibly abrasive if you decide to crash so don’t. This year we gave it a reboot with the
inspired name of ‘New Grey’.
By the bottom of New Grey, people seemed to be at a loss as to which trail so far was
The Best One. Whatever. Plenty more whooping and happy swearing (which made to
postrace video interviews hard to do but heyho).
Racing eh? Some people can clearly really ramp it up when they want to. There’s still 3
more days and 12 more stages to go. Anything can happen. It usually does.
For a lot of competitors they’re just happy to see ‘what’s next’. What else are they going
to add to their ‘Best Trail Ever’ list.
Join us tomorrow for more new trails. There are rumours about a ‘Red Earth and Mars’…
Either way there’s going to be more whooping, more trails, more racing from some of the
best allround riders in the world and a whole a lot of folk who are just like the rest of us
riding as fast they can against the clock. In between, of course, traversing one of the most
beautiful parts of the world.
Until tomorrow then.
Words: Trans-Provence PR Pictures: Sam Needham