Juliana Bicycles

My 2015 Trans-Provence Journey

Anka's look back at this year's race

It’s been a few days since the finish of the Trans-Provence, and I’m still trying to process and remember everything that happened over the past 6 days of the mega adventure called the Trans-Provence. Crossing too many big mountains to keep count of, clocking in and out to race 24 stages filled with crazy, techy, rocky, switchbacks, and moving mountain trails with far too many stories – good and bad, resulting in my adventure of last week rolling into one big blur of amazing memories that has left a perma-grin on my face since we finished up in Menton on Friday. Bear with me as I try to explain bits and pieces of this journey to you. All photos courtesy of Sven Martin. 

I don’t think one can really grasp what this adventure rally is really all about until you can experience it. It is so much more than a race; it is an adventure (yes, very overused word – we need to come up with a new one), but it is a journey on your bike with many personal battles fought along the way. Everyone embarks on this journey for his or her own personal reasons and that is what gets you through the week. The focus is not solely on results, there is so much more to this. It’s a very personal challenge. I love this week, as you get to ride and get to know people from all walks of life. Usually at a race, you just mingle and ride with racers, but at the TP, you share the week with “real” people. People who have other lives, crazy cool jobs, mothers, fathers, posties, rocket scientists, doctors, rally car engineers, and such, the list goes on and on and that is what I love. You actually get to know people a bit better and learn about their reasons for embarking on their weeklong journey. It’s a week filled with ups and downs, with amazing stages and mess ups, crashes and clean runs, flat tires and major mechanicals, highs and lows, tired legs and sore bums, consoling and cheering, encouragement and anger – so many emotions at the end of each day, so many stories told over dinner and way too many high fives to keep track of.

We rode for 6 days starting in Embrun and finished on the beach, or in the Med in Menton, France. We covered almost 300km, raced 24 stages, climbed 8946m and descended 17407m. We hiked, carried and crossed sketchy traverses and spent about 30 hours in the saddle. This year was a bit different to the years past, as it was very early on in the season, and I felt that this one was the toughest one yet, due to the heat this time of the year, and also just not being as strong and fit from riding and racing all summer just yet. Different, but I think I preferred it. It gave us more light for those long days in the saddle, we didn’t have to wake up in the dark, our laundry had some time to dry at the end of the day, there was no heavy dew, which meant dry tents, it made the mountain staff’s jobs a bit easier and we could access so many new trails and routes that would usually not be rideable in September, and we didn’t have one rainy day. Lucky us! Another major bonus was riding through all the spring flowers – at least for those of us who didn’t suffer from crazy allergies. The only negative things were the flies. They were relentless and annoying and no matter how hard you tried to ignore them, they were constantly trying to fly up your nose, into your ears, and just being pesky flies.

The racing went really well, as this is just the kind of riding, racing format and weird, awkward, dry, rocky, sketchy kind of trails that I just love to ride. My Roubion held up like a champ and was the perfect bike for a weeklong journey like the Trans-Provence. Another negative about racing the TP this time of the year: my poor bike already feels roosted and it still has a whole season ahead of it! You can’t go into a race like this one knowing or saying to yourself that you’re going to win, it’s just impossible, as there are so many things that can happen, way too many variables, way too many crazy, blind tracks, so you really just have to take each stage by stage and each day by day and see what happens. It’s probably the type of race format that levels out the playing field the most, as anything can happen. When Tracy Moseley shows up to a race, you pretty much know that you’re not going to win unless she has a serious mechanical or crash – and no one wants that to happen, so to me, it’s usually just a great opportunity to ride and learn as much as I can from my good old friend. We had a wicked week riding with all the ladies (and guys), and Canadian downhiller Claire Buchar killed it on her first adventure race – we even tied on two stages?! How crazy is that?  In the end it was Tracy who took the win, myself in second place and Claire in third. I have to mention though, that I did manage to get one stage win last week – I beat Tracy by 1 second and she had a clean run – so that makes me a very happy girl and it's something I’ll remember for a while. There were more new trails this year than ever before, and the funny thing is that I always did better on the new ones and got beaten on the ones I’ve raced on before? Besides my second place overall finish in the Women’s, I also finished 23rd in the overall, which I’m pretty stoked about. Like I said before, this one was definitely the hardest one I’ve done and every single person who made this journey should give yourself a pat on the back – bloody well done! To Tracy & Nico – you guys are legends.

Some memorable (good & bad) highlights of the week:

  • Stunning new trails and mountains we passed & crossed over.
  • Spotting the media crew in many strange places along the trails and their never ending cheering.
  • Wildflowers, butterflies and lavender.
  • The liaison across the national park where we had to walk our bikes on day three.
  • Drinking cokes (something I never do, but craved all day long).
  • Seeing Sven jump out at one stage with a tire dangling across his chest and a point and shoot in the other hand.
  • Seeing Jamie Nicoll with no tire at the one stage finish.
  • The scary scree traverse on Day 1.
  • Taking a stage win.
  • Eating crisps for breakfast, lunch and dinner (and anywhere in-between).
  • Seeing Ty Hathaway on the side of the track covered in tire sealant.
  • Toilet talk.
  • Not being able to experience this with my adventure buddy, Sven.
  • Having a bad helmet hair competition at the end of the day with the girls.
  • Losing all your inhibitions.
  • Scott Chapin down in the ditch on the very last stage of the week.
  • Sending Rachel Walker off in an ambulance.
  • Making new friends.
  • Seeing the familiar faces of good friends at the end of stages – cheers TP mountain staff; Seb, Smail, Julia, Norm & Rich.
  • The cool dog with the crazy teeth, which crossed up and over a whole mountain range with us on Day 5 from Valdeblore to Lantosque.
  • Seeing the sea for the first time.
  • Jumping in the Med.
  • Frozen Yogurt.
  • Matti prancing around in his very small, very euro bikini bottoms at the beach for a very long time.
  • Watching the footage and videos after every day – goose bumps and teary-eyed - how lucky are we to do what we do and for having bikes to show us the world.
  • Not seeing Chris Smith’s smiling face at the start and end of every day & sharing the day’s happenings over a glass of red with him – you were missed.

How many times can one undertake this adventure? This was my fifth time and it will never get old. Will I be back for more next year, I don’t know, how long can you keep doing these things? As of right now, I cannot wait for the next one, but who knows what life will throw at you. Thank you Ash, Melissa, and everyone involved with the Trans-Provence for creating this adventure journey for us. This is why I love riding my bike and this is what it’s all about. You guys rock!

Time to get back on the bike now after a few days of R&R on the Mediterranean eating way too many gelatos and drinking way too much wine, but hey, you have to embrace life, live it to its fullest and be grateful for everything and everyone. Usually the end of this race means that it’s time for us to head back home to New Zealand, but not this year, I’ve still got 3 months of racing and traveling waiting for me, so best I get out there and get pedaling.

Posted on: July 05 — 2015 | All News