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Into the black – Trans Provence Day 4

Like riding in Mordor

Day three of the 2016 Trans Provence took riders into the black rock of the Mercantour National Park.

Photos: Duncan Philpott, Sam Needham, Sven Martin

From their overnight stop in Colmars, riders took another early start to shuttle into the high mountains from where Day Three’s 48km tour would start.

Dropping in to the first special of the day, Stage nine (non-timed), riders took a freefall deep into the valleys of the Mercantour Park, from where the real work would start. Stage 10’s access climb had been the talk of the previous night – it had definitely made an impression on those who rode the event in 2015!

it was an early start at the TP, but the riding was worth missing a few hours in the tent

Beginning with 400 vertical metres of moderate-gradient pedalling, riders were taken in to the higher reaches of the Park and an area of great natural beauty only accessible by one’s own power. Flowering meadows, long grasses, enormous views and nature at its greatest made the climb pass quickly for the majority of riders. Even for those tiring at the mid-way point of the TP race it would all be worth it when things started to point downward.

It was pure Alpine before riders hit the black rock

‘One of the best stages ever’
Nico Lau 

More or less every rider who rolled into the mid-race feed station shared Nico’s sentiment – it was that good.

Things didn’t get any less epic as riders moved down to lower altitude trails for the afternoon. Stage 11 took an altered route through the famous Grey Earth area before a hike-a-bike took riders back to altitude to finish the day with the endless series of tight switch-backs that was Stage 12.

The distinctive grey of Mercantour

While Nico Lau’s lead in the overall race standings remains untouched, Day Three’s result shows that he could have a race on his hands as we move into the second half of the week. Yoann Barelli lit things up and put 12 seconds into Lau, in doing so taking the day’s win. Lau, in 2nd, had American Marco Osborne nipping at his heels just six seconds back in third.

Expect more stunning scenery tomorrow

The previous day’s winner women’s winner Carolin Gehrig had to settle for third on Day Three but the winning streak stayed in the family, with her sister Anita taking the day win. Ines Thoma had to settle for second on the day, but retains her lead in the overall standings.

Day 4 leaves camp high up at Valberg and plunges into nearly 3,000m of descending over 33km to end at Valdeblore.

It may be ridden on established tracks but the TP fells truly wild at times
Dropping in!
Katy Winton flying the flag for Britain - 42nd in the mixed overall
Riding everything blind can lead to looseness
As always, the turns had to be earned, especially on the climb to stage ten
Yeah, it's a race, but there's always time to style it up

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