Villars-Colmars -> Guillaumes
Day 3 of the Mavic Trans-Provence — here’s the organisers’ write-up and another excellent video.
Day 3 is Mavic® Trans-Provence 2013’s equivalent of an amusement park. All of the good bits but less of the brutal liaison stages. The day’s trails are split between a morning of wet and slippery and an afternoon of something that seems to have been teleported in from the badlands of Dakota. The day finishes with a trail that has fast woodland combined with big rocky sections (and some very short but evil climbs mixed in there too).
Special Stage 9, the first Special Stage of the day, is a variant of a Mavic® Trans-Provence classic. Riders are uplifted to the Col Du Champs (2100m) before a combination of traversing through high alpine pasture before starting the timed stage proper.
Black and green. Dark loam and green deciduous woodland drops steeply along a side of the mountain. Interspersed with with roots and wet rocks. The scent of wild garlic and thyme hit you as slide through corners and slip from root to rock. Then you suddenly exiting on to a very slippery bridge… It’s a memorable stage.
The liaison between Special Stages 9 and 10 combines a vertiginous drop on one side with sliding around on ball bearing shaped rocks into tinder dry forest. Finally you drop on to the road (1100m) before winding your way back up to 1400m.
Special Stage 10 is similar in many ways to 9. Dark forests and loam with occasional complex rock ‘jigsaw puzzles’ to negotiate. The stage has some longer ‘straightaways’ for even more speed.
After the feed station there’s a trail – well more of a set of potential lines to ride really – that needs little introduction to anyone that has followed Mavic® Trans-Provence since its early days: Grey Earth. The grippiest yet slipperiest trail in the world. Once out of the top section good luck trying to pick a go-faster line. The trail then opens on to the side of a huge mountain that looks like a frozen grey sand dune. If you’re having a good day you can ride it with very little braking, hitting natural jumps along the way and hitting some of the fastest speeds of the week.
To gain access to Special Stage 12 requires a bike-hike that feels like penance. From the bottom of a wooded trail you are pushing or carrying your bike for the next 45 minutes to an hour (it depends on how often you stop to sigh). Once you have topped out, you then traverse along the valley before the final special stage of the day.
Special Stage 12 starts at full-tilt through a wood that has quickly become one of the favourite trails of the Mavic® Trans-Provence team. Steep, but not so steep that you are constantly on the brakes, with flattering rutted corners that act as mini-berms as you throw the bike into the next corner. It’s very easy to keep your speed and imagine you’re one of the Pro’s.
Once out of wood and across a pasture field you hit the original start of this Special Stage. It neatly bolts together the rest of the day’s trails into one package. Slidey roots, rocky switchbacks that seem reminiscent of desert trails, short but vicious climbs not the mention the occasional rock garden to negotiate if you thought it was all a bit too straightforward.