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Trans Provence – the first three days

Get ready to add a new item to your bucket list

Fancy racing over five days from the heart of the Alps, through the Côte d’Azur and finishing on the sapphire shores of the Mediterranean  The Trans Provence could be the event for you.

Photos: Duncan Philpott, Sven Martin, Sam Needham

Now in its seventh year, the route 2016 takes in 18,000 metres of descending as it winds its way from Embrun to Menton with the race decided over 24 special stages. The crew knows these mountains like the back of their hands and this year’s route could be the best yet

We’re already three days into this year’s event and here’s all the best photos, videos and action so far:

Day Zero

The race kicks off at Embrun, in the heart of the Alps
There is racing on day zero but it's a relaxed affair...
... A very relaxed affair

Day Zero at the Trans Provence is simply a chance for racers to get acclimatised to the surroundings and prepare for the week ahead. There is one stage on offer and this year it was a slop fest, just to ensure riders had to clean their bikes on the last night of relaxation before the race itself!

When we say relaxed… that’s the altitude equivalent of 1.5 Fort Bills
Earned

Day One

So much for a 'summer' holiday. The riders weren't expecting this.
The turns had to be earned with a hike up through the white stuff
To be fair these conditions aren't to dissimilar from Barnoldswick in June
There was fun to be had on the special stages below the snow line though
Nico Lau is back and defending his Trans Provence crown, he's doing a pretty good job of it so far
The catering is wolfed up by the riders at every opportunity
Those snowy mountain do make for a great backdrop though
Always good to see Matti Lehikoinen back behind bars, he ended the day fourth
A river crossing on one of the special stages was a particularly sadistic touch from the race organisers

Covering 38km through snow, mud and dust, from peaks to valleys and comprising over 2,500 metres of descending and nearly 1,700m of climbing, Day One of the 2016 Mavic Trans-Provence certainly got things rolling in the true spirit of the event.

Waking to a fresh coating of snow on the mountains, racers left Camp Zero knowing the day was not going to be easy. But with four special stages that took in just about every trail condition possible and one or two classic obstacles – including a battle across a raging mountain stream – and ending with a high speed ridgeline blast into loamy fresh turns to wrap things up for the day, the effort was more than worth it.

Racing this event is all about playing the long game, and sometimes those who are leading early in the week won’t necessarily be at the top of the results sheet at the end of it… however, you’d be hard pressed to bet against class act and race leaders after Day One Nico Lau and Ines Thoma.

Things were tight at the top though, and Nico’s early lead will be hunted hard by second-place Francois Bailly-Maitre, who took a dive into the river yet trails Lau’s time by only 12 seconds. The USA’s Marco Osborne is racing the event for his first time and was looking absolutely on fire on course; he sat in third after Day One.

Ines Thoma is racing ‘for the adventure’, but it doesn’t seem to have affected the German rider’s speed. Carolin Gehrig sits in second, 15 seconds back from Thoma after Day One. Her sister Anita Gehrig has a further deficit of 30 seconds, finishing third after the first day.

Day two

Not a speckle of snow today, just pure Alpine meadows
Marco Osbourne lost time today but stayed third overall
Some of the stages featured gruelling climbs to be sprinted up
Yoann Barelli is one of the few not opting for a full face helmet
But he still picks up serious style points
There aren't many races that can compete with the TP's variety of terrain
Unfortunately a puncture scuppered Matti Lehikoinen's chances

The morning shuttle took riders up the twists and turns of the staggering Col d’Allos road, which snakes its way uphill as it clings to the vertical mountainside, summiting at 2,200 metres and ready to start the warm-up traverse.

From the first special of the day – Stage Five of the weeklong event – things got tough, fast. A combination of what in the past was two separate stages, both were linked into one monster for 2016. It was a demanding way to get the day started – classic TP. And things wouldn’t get much easier, especially on the arduous 650m climb from 6 to 7. It would most certainly be worth it though – at 11m 28s for stage winner Nico Lau, and carving its way though the stunning forest before rocketing across the 45º lower slopes, Stage Seven made for the sort of trail that racers will remember for life.

The day’s route finished with a final loop out into the wilds and a ‘short’ five-minute stage to bring riders home to camp in the Villars-Colmars valley.

In the men’s racing the top of the results sheet showed Nico Lau once again forging ahead from the rest, taking three of the four stage victories. The one remaining stage win went to a flying Gustav Wildhaber, who took second place on the day with Francois Bailly-Maitre in third.

Lau extends his overall 2016 TP lead from Bailly-Maitre, and he goes into Day Three with nearly a minute buffer over his compatriot.

Ines Thoma remains at the top of the women’s results sheet, although it looks like she may have a fight on her hands as Carolin Gehrig edged beyond her to take the day’s win and solidify her second place in the overall race standings. Gehrig now sits only seven seconds behind Thoma.

Day Three will take riders on another journey through the pristine valleys and passes of the area as they tackle the longest day yet – 48km riding with over 3,000m of descending as the event moves towards Valberg.

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