Ok, some of my friends say that when we go surfing I always come out of the water saying I got my best ever wave. They claim I just forget how good the last one was. Well that may or may not be the case, but I can categorically say that so far the TS (Trans Savoie) has been the best weeks riding of my life!
Words: Phil Shucksmith
Photos: Mick Kirkman and Ronan Dugan
Day 4 was nothing but genius. Everything in one day. The top of stage 1 was pure insanity, since the race briefing the night before the racers were slightly on edge. Unbelievably steep, unbelievably rocky. I don’t mind saying that I chose to walk a few of the corners because I thought I could clamber faster than ride. There were a few, literally a few who claim to have stayed on the bike the whole way down. Hats off to them, that is some impressive trials skills to pull off under race conditions. The second half of the track put all wrongs to right with over ten minutes of absolutely flat out loamy forest trails. I passed a photographer on a set of switch backs only a few turns from the end of the track and started to pat myself on the back for how good I must have looked though those turns, then bang, down on the floor on an easy flat turn! Just goes to show you can’t afford to lose concentration for a second and especially not on some vanity daydream!
Stage 2 was a 9km mix of flat out gravel turns and bike park berms. It was not in itself the most interesting stage but it was a nice change to get off the brakes and let the track take the strain for once.
Stage 3 was the pedally one, there had to be at least one in the week I guess and as far as pedally stages go it was not the worst as at least you were pedalling to go faster rather than just to stay moving. There were some amazing sections of naturally bermed sandy turns nestled in waist high grass which made for a moment of bliss amidst the mayhem as the inside handlebar and goggles brushed through the grass on the inside of the turns.
Stage 4 and 5 were what riding should be. They had hero written all over them. I don’t think there was one person who didn’t come down both of these stages without thinking they had nailed it. The average speed had to be not far off 30mph and definitely hitting highs in the 40’s. Its hard to describe what made them so good. I think it was because they felt hectic with plenty of roots and rocks, whist actually being easy enough and with enough straight line visibility to comfortably go breakless for large sections at a time.
It was time for a change at the top and today it was Francois Bailly-Maitre who took the top spot winning 3 out of the 5 stages. Nico and Jamie were in close pursuit in 2nd and 3rd place. In the women’s Meggie Bichard took a well deserved turn on the top spot with Monika and Kerstin in 2nd and 3rd.
This has been the most awesome guided tour of the French alps and the best thing is that it is not over yet!