The Transprovence race is now in its 3rd year but I only found out about it during the Urge event I did in Cabo Verde back in February when I spoke to Mark Weir and Jerome Clementz as they were signed up to do it. I emailed the organiser when I got home and managed to get the last two of the 50 spots available. It was going to be our end of season holiday for myself and my boyfriend James ! As James has spent most of the year watching me race it was going to be a chance for us both to race and take part in adventure together. The concept of the event was amazing, 7 days of riding from Gap to Monaco with 10,000m of climbing and 15,000m of descending and during the course of the week there are 24 timed stages which were meant to be predominantly downhill…..but we soon found out that Ash the organiser loves the climbs and even more the hike a bike carry sections !! It was going to be the most unrelaxing holiday we could have chosen !!
The journey started with a transfer from Nice up to the start just outside Gap. Having to pack just one bag with all the kit and spares you might need for the week ahead, your sleeping bag and pillow was already the first challenge for me ! Once packed we then had a 4hr drive up to the start through some of the most beautiful scenery but also one of the most windy roads ever. I had the back seat which was a bad choice for any feelings of car sickness ! Once we made it we entered the campsite and found our tents which would be our home for the next 8 nights ! Having done a similar type of event earlier in the year at the Cape Epic this was so different in the fact that there were 58 riders and around 30 staff compared to over 1500 people at the epic. Camps at the TP really had a family feel and super social nature. Pretty much as soon as we arrived it was dinner time and the food that came out of an outside camp stove kitchen was just amazing. We ate so well all week it really was 5* camping. The following day we had a free day in which we sorted out all our stuff, the boys all talked rubbish and tried to mess each other’s heads up by challenging their choices of tyres, bikes etc! We also couldn’t resist a free afternoon and a few of us went out for a short 1 hr ride that turned into over 2.5hrs with a big climb and some navigational errors to find the overgrown trail back down to the campsite ! I am not sure that warm up ride was such a great idea as the week progressed !
Day 1 took us from Rochebrune to Clamensane, 46km with around 1200m of climbing. It was a pretty tough introduction to the week as the first climb was a long one 10km with 600m of climbing and then we were into the first stage which was by far the toughest of all week. Only 100m of climbing in it but most of it was so steep you had to push and carry, then it dropped into the steepest chute where slowing down was not an option ! It really was a wake up and I did think if all the stages are like this, this is going to be a pretty tough week ! Thankfully the rest of the days timed stages were super fun and mostly downhill with some amazing toboggan type flow.
Day 2 was one of my favourite days. It was a long one 58km but we rode through some beautiful scenery and spent much of the day on a long open ridgeline with views for miles and miles. The final downhill was around 7km long and had so much speed and flow it was just amazing, the perfect end to a long day. We then had a 5km road spin into Digne-Les-Bains for our camp for the night. Day 3 was a little shorter at 44km but it started off with a pretty brutal 600m climb with a big carry. The steep hike took its toll on my legs as the pedal on the first timed stage was hard and I never seemed to recover. After the first stage we then had a 15km liaison stage which looked ok on the map, but it took a lot longer than I expected and I soon ran out of water ! Luckily the food station was at the top of the climb and I took some time to fuel up. The final 2 stages of the day had lots of climbing in and during the stages I really was questioning the choice of our holiday ! James however was loving every minute of it and took over the lead in the expert men’s category, pretty impressive as he has not raced for about 2 years ! It was also time to try and do some much needed washing and there were no dryers so all washing was hung out in any available tree and along every tent guy rope you could find !!
Day 4 was yet another beautiful day and we now had travelled into the Maritime Alps Region and the first stage was at the start of the day and I certainly felt the lack of warm up as I sprinted up yet another short steep climb before descending some pretty gnarly trail to start off the days timed stages. By this point in the week my body was beginning to hate me and I was full of cold and feeling pretty worse for wear. I just settled into a steady pace and just got the riding done. We had some more amazing special stages and ended in the lovely little campsite and village of Guillaumes.
Day 5 was up there with Day 2 as one of my favourites. The further along the week we got the more rideable the climbs were and the more incredible the scenery became. The highlight of day 5 for me was finishing our 3rd stage in the beautiful village of Roubion. It really is a village clinging on to the edge of the cliffs, so beautiful. We had the most amazing liaison stage that traversed the mountain across from Roubion giving us endless views down towards the Mediterranean and a tiny ledge like singletrack along the way. I could have spent all day on this trail taking pictures, it was stunning. The final descent of the day was fast and rocky and switchbacked its way down the mountain to end up at a bar for a much needed beer !! Racing doesn’t get much better than this!!
The final 2 days were just more and more beautiful scenery and more and more challenging terrain. The closer we got to Monaco the more rocky the terrain became. The final descent on day 6 was nothing less than gnarly ! After a long hard day of riding we plunged down a super steep rocky descent into a beautiful canyon. Some of the exposure on the way out of the valley was immense. This is definitely not a trip for anyone who is not good with heights !
The finish line seemed to come around quickly and before we knew it we were diving in off the pier into the sea in Monaco.
Then with wet chamois we had our final battle with the Monaco traffic to head along the coast to Menton and up the final steep climb to our final campsite. The routine of life on the bike and life in the camp had almost become normal and filling my Osprey bag to last the day had become a daily ritual ! This was one of the most amazing trips I have done, such a fun group of people, some of the most beautiful and varied trail riding, a true all mountain adventure. It also resulted in a successful holiday for both myself and James as we both went home with a bottle of Champagne and two new sleeping bags as winners of our categories !! The end of a great season and great holiday. Massive thanks to Ash and all the TP crew for putting on the event and also to Mark Maurissen of GT and Chris Porter from Mojo for their tech support. They were a great help all week. Next stop whilst we are on the south coast of France is the Roc D’Azur..