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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!)



  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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).

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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.

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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.

The day 3 results can be found here. Full results here.

Words: Trans-Provence PR Pictures: Sam Needham