Its not often I start with a preface, but the next few weeks will be the gushy unleashing of the Trans Provence stories, I thought it best to set the scene on how we got here, as it definitely wasn’t originally even on the radar, let alone in the plans. Its an example of how a few small events can lead you down a new path to some of the greatest experiences you’ll ever have.
We need to go back to a specific date that set us on the course for this life experience… And here it is:
Tuesday October 14, 2014
Early that morning I went out for one of the final training rides for the Tour of
cuntville Matabungkay. That day something reasonably rare happened on the road – I ate a pile of tarmac shit. Clipping a pedal and sliding out in a round about wasn’t that big of a deal, some lost skin, scratched rear D and ripped bar tape.
Ripped bar tape… Better replace that with new, shiny and until its worn in (like the old stuff), slightly slippery bar tape. It was that new bar tape that my elbow ultimately slipped off on stage 1, doing something I had done a hundred times in training that year. In that second before I hit the ground and got to listen to bones snap, the only thought that I could register was utter disbelief as to what was unfolding.
That event and subsequent lifestyle changes has ultimately led me to a disbelief of a different kind, the one I found on the hours and days of Trans Provence. Disbelief at the beauty of the scenery, disbelief at the amazing trails, disbelief at the new limits I was having to go to and ultimately disbelief that my body was able to produce so much hazardous gas. So thank you cunty round about and new bar tape – You set me on a course that ultimately delivered me to one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.
The only warning worth providing is that as these reports drip feed out to compete for your attention span, you’ll have to excuse me while I strenuously overuse the following cliche superlatives and descriptions, which will include, but not limited to the following:
EPIC, Bro, Brah, Rad, Radness, Gnar, shred, Braaaaaaap, hectic, massive, mega, insane, mad, hashtag, cunt (of course), Banger, Golden, awesome, choice, sweet, legend, carving, roosting, hammer, beastmode.
And so on and so forth. The other challenge is that I can still feel the vibe from the race… Converting that into words is going to be an interesting assignment over the next 10 days or so. Challenging in terms of doing it justice and ensuring that I’m able to convey just how momentous it all was, not to mention how all consuming it quickly became.
But, without further legendary faffery, lets get the show on the off-road with Day Zero!
It… Has… Begun…
I had the option of arriving at Camp Zero the day before, whilst I debated the pros and cons of staying in a Hotel vs Camping, in the end I was SO ready to be in amongst it that I made my way to camp to begin the experience. I wanted the build up to end… I wanted to start the experience and curiously I wanted to get used to #tentlife.
A word on camping… Seriously, can’t remember the last time I had to spend a night in a tent, was it when I was at school? Using the pick-up line that I was “in the Special Forces girl, yeah” aside, my camping kung fu was weak when I rocked into cZero. I can neither confirm nor deny if there was also an emergency raid to the Super U in Embrun to buy a pillow. Case study of my clear Cumpery, the slight incompatibility of the Dirty Fox bag with my home for the next 8 nights:
It didn’t take long for it to dawn on me that wait, this wasn’t the Intercont, nor was it Les Ramparts any more… But strangely, it felt rather exciting. Yes, I was excited by my new HQ and rather than my expected nose turning, I walked around the camp with a goofy grin on my face at the novelty of it all. What’s wrong with you man? Never seen a tent before? Well, actually, not really:
And this is theme that will come out more and more over the span of these reports – I referred to it being like Charlie and the Chocolate factory getting a magic entry into the race and pretty soon I was making like Charlie and finding everything wondrous and amazing as I walked around Camp Zero. Even something as basic as a Santa Cruz sign on a fence made me giggle like a teenager at an Ariana Grande concert – Embarrassing yes, but zero fucks handed over. A note of respect to the Mountain Staff member sleeping in with the bikes, commitment:
With that same excitement as your first lap dance still swilling around in my tummy, I went about the all important business of getting sorted out for what was to come. A combination of time on my hands, nervous energy and previously mentioned excitement had me rearranging and redoing everything 15 times in preparation for the day zero ride. No doubt I looked like Rainman as I danced around the camp in the most inefficient manner, culminating in putting on the coolest number plate you’ll ever zip tie to your bike… EVER:
So, the Day Zero ride, it had a few names, prologue, fun ride, warm-up etc… But ultimately it didn’t count towards the overall results for TP. It was a chance though to have a shorter ride and get a little taste of what was to come in greater volume throughout the week. Hmmmm… Decisions, decisions. There were Pro’s and Cons’ of doing this ride or not. The case for not doing it:
- Save the body
- Protect the bike
- Keep the confidence intact
And the case for getting out amongst it:
- Shake it down
- Get back in the zone
- Wake up the body
Of course, with such champagne problems I didn’t spend 18 hours analysing what to do… But I did ask the locals their views:
Based on that solid perspective and the fact I’d been swanning around palatial boutique hotels most of the week, I decided to make like an excited sheep in a welsh bar and head out to get some. File under ‘Everyone else was doing it‘ as a defence. The ultimate point being I was here to ride my bike, so may as well indulge.
Would I come back to regret not lying by the pool by day 5 or 6 on TP? Only time would tell and besides, live in the moment Brah! Not to also overlook the fact it was a MINT day, so worthy of burning a few matches on before hitting the pool:
In true TP fashion it was straight into a 9km, 700m climb up to the stage… Welcome to the party PAL. Straight away you could spot those with first day fever skipping off ahead up the climb. My thought was to get up and down with minimal energy expenditure and drama, boring yes, but we were on the cusp of the biggest mission ever undertaken, yup, it was going to make Dirty Mega March look like a pedicure & pikelets outing by comparison.
An hour and 30 minutes up for 9 minutes down, about the standard bartering situation in these sensational mountains. And there was no messing around with the ‘Fun ride’ course either, it was wake up call time. No Go Pro footage I’m afraid, so I’ll have to describe it in as much detail as my horrified brain will recall.
This was the first chance we got to timing ourselves in with race chips we’d be using all week… And much like the experience in Roubion the week prior, as soon as that little beep sounds, there is suddenly a big gap between the trail riding you’ve been doing and having to race blind down a set of lose, narrow and super steep French switchbacks.
And here was an important lesson to be learned for the week – I tried to race it. Is this an odd comment to make? Its a race after all right? Yes, but this is where the good riders understand the difference between how you race blind and the importance of being smooth. The harder I tried, the tighter I felt. Relaxation was thrown out the window and mistake lined up behind mistake giving each other high fives as I blew corners, struggled with grip and ‘dad braked’ my way down the run.
Oh man, bring back the guy from Finale! Where the fuck had he gone?! When my NZ tent neighbour, Ali, passed me half way down my mental capitulation was complete and I awkwardly bumbled my way down the rest of the run so I could get back to do a bit of head scratching.
But hey, fuck all that, I made the daily TP video! Pretty much the most important part of any day, even if I was losing the front end a bit here and butchering the corner, if we still-shot this it looks like I’m carving it:
Like most people you have meeting’s with at work, I was looking for any excuse other than reflecting on my own personal performance to help gloss over riding like a wooden donkey on the prologue, the ultimate scapegoat? My rear brake was rubbish, but how to get it sorted now I was in camp?
This was my first encounter with the brilliance that were the Mavic race mechanics… These guys pissed excellence and without them, I would hate to think what the DNF rate would be for the race. Broken a rim? No worries… Ripped a tire? Easy, need a brake bleed? Can do so while eating a baguette, #legends #GC’s. These guys were feral about fixing bikes on the spot:
Camp Zero was now filling up fast with new arrivals of Brits, Aussies, Americans, Canadians, a few Kiwi’s, some rad Swede’s, Norway’s finest, plenty of famous media dudes and PRO’s! The process had therefore commenced in earnest of having polite initial conversations with people who in a few days time you would be comparing farts with and calling them cunt. Gotta love it… From: “How was your flight? Did you get a warm face cloth?” to: “Fuck cunt, epic fart, you must be millimetres away from shitting yourself there“, everything escalates quickly on TP.
I also managed to feature in the video hitting the buffet for seconds of course… A theme of the week here, the mission is to consume as much food as your plate can manage over the seven days, lucky then I’m a PRO in that department:
For those that would rather see the actual PRO as all fuck video of Day Zero, here it is for your viewing pleasure. Other than VERY late nights, I’m not sure how these dudes got such a quality edit out in such a short space of time every day on TP, mad respect:
Note Sam Flanagan (one funny motherfucker right there) talking about the need to ‘regulate‘, bear that in mind as a key theme over the reports to come… So, a slightly creaky Day Zero in the sleeping bag and it was time to gear up for the official Day One… The phoney war was over, it was about to get VERY real.
As we lay around camp zero that afternoon indulging in the swimming pool, sun and final vestiges of relaxation, it was impossible to anticipate what was to come… Insane mountains, epic steepness, rad trails, traverses of doom, creek beds of death, stunning scenery, hours of hiking, new friendships forged in the summer heat of the maritime alps, rabid marmots, lord of the flies, crazy rock shredding, a shitload of braaaaaap, more fist pumps than the NBA finals, high end kit destruction, the desperate search for water, emergency repairs at the Mavic truck, the balancing act of blind racing, the utter joy of riding some of the best trails of your life… It was all waiting and even though in theory we knew it was out there, ultimately none of this knowledge would prepare us for the experience to come. So, in summary, more than just a little bit excited then.
Stay tuned as we commence the journey into the rad underbelly of Trans Provence, on the way to finding some new limits.