Photo: Michiel Rotgans

By Andreas Hestler

The Trans-Provence, now in its third edition, has been stated as the ‘Definitive All-Mountain MTB Race’. It has been flying under the radar for the last two years, but it would seem that the secret is now out. The field this year is deep, talented and motivated, as much for the singletrack riding as for the shared camaraderie of the whole experience. Fifty-eight intrepid adventurers will journey from Gap, France to Monaco on 26 timed downhill sections. The average day is approximately 25 miles long, and within this distance the riders will swipe their timing chips and test their technical skills–repeatedly.

Who doesn’t want to go to the South of France for an all-mountain adventure slash race? Shuttle up the first climb of each day, descend anywhere from three to four timed sections per stage and repeat for 7 days, until arriving in Monaco.

Day 0 –

After an amazingly long and uneventful flight (19 hours) to Nice, France, I was picked up at the airport along with Tracey Mosley and a few other Brits by the organizer of the event, Ashley Smith. As we were whisked deep into the mountains, my sleep-deprived brain was absolutely floored by the beauty surrounding us; steep striated rock, with arid Tahoe-like vegetation. All this had me believing I was driving to Big Bear or Mammoth, if not for the French Villa's and extremely old road infrastructure I could have been somewhere much closer to home.

We arrived at ‘Camp 1’ in the late afternoon while Fabien Barrel, Mark Weir, Jerome Clementz and Nico Vouilloz followed soon thereafter. It was nice to come in early, spend some time with the crew of the Trans-Provence and generally ease into the whole experience.

Glamping – ‘glamour camping’. Like car camping only much better; gourmet food on tables under electric lights, music, beer and a lounge, we were just beginning to understand what the Trans Provence would be all about.

Day 1 – Rochebrune to Clamensane – 42 kilometers,

1363 meters Up

1686 meters Down

Waking up early to the sounds of church bells ringing is not a normal experience, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and pause… …and again, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. I roll over to check the time, and wadya know it's 5 am, yikes. Jet lag rears its ugly head, but not for long, and I drop back into a peaceful slumber.

Next thing I know, it’s seven a.m. and the camp is stirring. The first wave of shuttles goes up at 8:30 and the second wave at 9:30. There’s time to consume a great breakfast, enjoy some coffee and pack our bags before our shuttle.

I am nervous, we have all heard a lot about the day, but nobody has been here before. This fact is very exciting–no advantage for anyone, a level playing field. This is a big part of the excitement of the Trans Provence; it is new and fresh for all.

After the shuttle, there is a one hour gravel road pedal to the start of SP 1 (special stage), we mill about a bit and then drop in, my riding buddy for the day Whistler resident, Matt Ryan. Running along a ridge, undulating and moderately technical, the ups leave us gasping and the downs begin to challenge. One steep chute eats a number of participants, and we finish our first taste of the Trans Provence gasping, amazed and with our nerves thoroughly worked out.

Photo: Michiel Rotgans

SP 2 is a brief affair, and we are beginning to understand what the unique vibe of the Trans-Provence is. Everyone is yapping away discussing the last SP and postulating the length, depth and technical challenge of what lies ahead. Many of us managed to scare ourselves on the first downhill (SP 1) and hedge thoughts of reigning it in a bit. Groups of friends are starting to form up and figure out how to most enjoy the character of the downhills and the transfer segments. SP 2 falls under our all-mountain steeds, it isn’t as long as SP 1 but has some amazing berms, whoops and challenges.

The feed zone is next and the energy is high. Leaving lunch, we head to the last SP of the day, which was described as a luge run. There is much animated chatter and many huge smiles, 'That was awesome…did you see the line by the tree, near the…and oh yeah, but I dabbed and…it was soo rad!’

The sun is setting now and dinner is waiting on the patio. The mountains are glowing with a pink hue that seems extra special today, maybe it's just the jet lag, but perhaps there is something different going on here at the Trans Provence, in France.

Current leader, Nicolas Vouilloz. Photo: Irmo Keizer

Stay tuned for Hestler’s continuing coverage of the Trans-Provence.

Results after Day One:

Nico Vouilloz 28.19

Mark Weir 28.48

Jerome Clementz 28.57

Matt Ryan 29.09

Marc Beaumont 30.15

Fabien Barel 30.34

Andreas Hestler 31.29

Steve Jones 31.44

Rowan Sorrell 32.22