Sherpa Tenzing and Marco Pantani would be proud, yet for all the climbs and carries, physicality and athleticism, it was superior technical ability, matched with ruthless composure and head’s up riding that won this event. Interpreting unfamiliar territory whilst dodging ground–level buckshot, it was breathless stuff…
From Dirt Issue 118 – December 2011
Words by Steve Jones. Photos by Steve Jones and Sven Martin
The naivety of Camp Zero would soon be flushed out with the first day’s climb and subsequent Special Stage 1. Each day was roughly a mix of 6000ft of climbing punctuated by four special stages along the route. Pick off the transfer stages before dumping a load of bullets into the timed descents. Exhausting variations in remote mountains.
The less than simple itinerary form Gap to Monaco would have been testing in itself, this was hardly a sightseeing trip, but to lace it with what only can be described as a twisted idea on what can actually be done at speed on a bike drew deep into the reserves of the field of professional mountainbikers and amateurs alike. Late September in the Alpes Maritimes was no place for the timid.
Largely downhill, the stages were on average 8 to 15 minutes long, a couple having up to 120m of climbing within the stage. At times it was considered that the climbers would dominate, they didn’t, such is the all–round and all–mountain brilliance of the pro field that the ebb and flow somehow went the distance. It was a good mix, pain and danger uniting in a rocky horror show at sixty clicks. Seven days of it, ultimately separated by thirty seconds.
Somehow this event transcended the stereotypes that the sport often burdens on itself. No monotony of an XC loop or the sterility of a weekend working out a downhill track. We were racers, tourists even, working things out as we went along. Nothing was for definite as we hit stage after stage unseen. Amidst such danger every single rider drew strength from our only real certainty – that was our daily camp, food and shower.>>