The annual French Enduro gruel fest, the Tran-Provence has begun! 2011 TP winner Jerome Clementz starts the 2012 race with a win on day one!
A relatively relaxed start to the week with a later start the normal (8.30 am!) saw our seventy riders start Day 1 of the Mavic® Trans-Provence with three Special Stages today and around 45km of riding.
After an uplift out of the valley, pedalling proper starts with the now legendary first climb to Special Stage 1 – the climb, an innocuous enough fire road that gains height steadily but nonetheless sees 600 metres of height gain and tops out at around the 2000 metre mark, it’s certainly a wake up to the system.
Stage one has been modified from last year and missed out the lung busting carry or push, instead choosing to shorten the stage, (old hands at the event are disappointed that the newcomers don’t have to suffer in the same way) but still starting on slightly uphill singletrack (this is Enduro after all) before plunging in to a leaf and wood littered shoot that starts steeply and only continues to steepen as it makes it way down hill.. A real case of do or don’t and make a choice at the beginning! Dismounts can and do end badly ( this is the Special – Stage that in 2010 saw world record round the bike racer Mike Hall break his ribs) Commitment is the key!
A short liaison stage led riders to a brand new Special Stage two for 2012, which started with steep switchbacks and ends in singletrack that crisscrosses a stream – There were a number of crashes including Geoff Kabush using his face as a rudimentary brake! …and while no serious injuries occurred the alarming view of Anka Martin riding into the feed station bleeding from around her eye after getting caught with a branch is reminder of how a small thing can potentially end your race and that this is a race that has a long way to unwind before it reach It’s final destination at Monaco .
Apart from a new Special Stage for competitors today, also new for this year we were joined at the feed station for the first time by our title sponsor Mavic alongside Fox, providing free support for all .
While Fox were turning around some very quick rebuilds of forks for competitors, Mavic neutral support were also busy repairing drive trains bleeding brakes as well as of course dealing with any wheel problems a rider might have regardless of brand. Mavic’s large yellow truck and it’s house hold name status in France brought out some of the local villages more colourful characters mostly to have a nose around and including a man on a chopper motorbike in leather chaps who later appeared trying to chance his arm and get a free repair of some seriously vintage Mountain bikes!
What happens when you leave a feed station at the Mavic® Trans-Provence? Well, it normally involves something steep and not in the direction that most people prefer, this year and this feed station is no different – a big climb again like this morning via fire road finishes the climbing for the day and leads to today’s final Special Stage – Special Stage 3.
Open woodland singletrack gave way to more leaf filled gullies before finally driving steeply down the side of the mountain in increasingly tightening switchbacks before firing you out over a muddy stream the last blip of a timing chip against the timing balise and day one was over for another year.
Tomorrow sees the first wave of riders leaving at 7am and arguably the toughest day of the event.