In summary today, I struggled with fatigue and rode like a lemon. In actual fact I may be being a little bit harsh, I managed the day without hitting the deck, I only did one running leap off of my bike and I tripped over less today than on other days! The sun was beating down, hotter than yesterday as we moved from Bozel to Beaufort, base camp was relocating so our stages today took us from one camp to another. In total we rode 6 stages and descended 3694m, with the days’ distance set at 36km.
The day started bright and early to be ready for the coach to pick us up. We were supposed to be loading our bikes on those ‘non-enduro’ trailers at 7:30 to leave at 8:00am. As is expected with over 100 bikers to get ready this did not go to plan, I think the coach actually managed to leave at about 8:45am! The coach dropped us at the stunning Lac de Roseland, possibly one of the most beautiful and inviting lakes I have ever seen, I wanted to dive right in and swim. The day was already heating up well and it was only just gone 10 o’clock. With Mont Blanc watching over us in the background we began the 5.8km climb to stage one. I am beginning to take Ali’s liaison times and distances with a pinch of salt though, they are usually longer!
I have just had to watch my Go Pro footage back to remember stage one, there has been so many stages that they are starting to slowly blur into one. Now I have remembered, stage one started with a rocky chute, most was rideable for me with some of the most technical parts walked. These parts were usually steep switchbacks with a drop in the middle, something I’m not that confident with and would take me a while to figure out a good line. The lower half of this stage was in the woods and the light changed dramatically, you were thrown from bright sunlight into darkness and over slippy roots, or into a dappled patch of sunlight where you expected roots and there weren’t any. Once into woods for good for the last third of the stage, it was brilliant fun, it was easy to pick up speed but use the banks to turn – natural berms!
Another 4km liaison on the road took us to stage 2, I saw many riders beginning to wilt here. It was mega hot and many were starting to feel the strain of a weeks’ worth of riding. The Trans Savoie is a race that you need to prepare for properly and many probably could have done with a few more miles on the bike in preparation. I am certainly in this group, the fitness needed for this race is on a totally different level to any normal races! None of the stages today were particularly long, stage two being only 1.12km in length. It descended 330m and was by far the most technical stage of the week. This stage was full to the brim of roots and rocks, I did a lot of ‘hike a biking’ in this stage, I just couldn’t get going. Those with the skills to ride this technical stage loved it though, a real sense of achievement!
Each day there is a cut off time which you have to be at a certain part of the course at in order to be able to progress to the next part of the day. For example today, you had to be at the lunch stop by 13:30pm. Due to the coaches being late and then a long queue at stage one first thing in the morning I had to really motor on to make the cut off, up another seamlessly never ending road climb – the theme for the day! At the time, I wasn’t sure whether we would be given an allowance for the delays but I didn’t care, I wasn’t going to miss out. Into a chair lift for the first time took us up to stage 3, this was switch back heaven or hell, depending on your mindset! Nothing too testing apart from those tight corners. I found myself realising how tired I was as I over shot a corner and went straight on into the bushes. Time for some new brake pads also I think, lucky I have Uberbike Components supporting me, keeping me stocked up!
Another chair lift to stage 4, this stage had a bit of everything. Switchbacks, loose fire road corners, plenty of exposure and a load of mud to finish. A large gully, funnelled you into the muddy section, I guess the rain has collected in it and then sat in the flat bottom bit turning it into a bog! This is where I had my ‘run’ off of the bike, saving myself from a second day with hands submerged in mud!
Yet another 4km climb on the road took me to stage 5, second to last one of the day. This stage was by far my favourite, a good job because the climb up was testing! I ground up the hill (mountain) in the granny cog, just waiting to see the group of riders gathered around the start of the stage. Eventually they were there and not a moment too soon! The ground was really drying up by now, it was after 4pm and all the roots were bone dry, a good thing as this was another wooded stage with plenty of features to keep you on your toes. Only getting overtaken once down here, I had a good run. I decided to go with the flow and pedalled straight off to stage 6, getting ready to go as soon as I got there. This stage had 8 road crossing so must have been a nightmare to organise and get marshals in place. The stage took a rocky, well used route down to the campsite, mainly straight with corners as you cross the road, treacherous with muddy tyres!
I was glad to be back at the campsite, I was pretty tired but the atmosphere there soon made me feel good again. There was a real party mood as racers cleaned bikes in the sun with the music going, the camp was in a beautiful setting, mountains looming in the background. It’s easy to get hung up on how you have ridden each stage and which can then have a knock on effect for the rest of the day. In this game you have to put each stage behind you, nothing is the same here so the best way is to wipe the slate clean on each stage and go have fun!
As always, last thing – the results. The top three stay the same, from 3rd to 1st is Martyn Brookes (Whyte), Gary Forrest (WTB Enduro Team) and Jamie Nicholl (Polygon). The top 6, bar Jamie, are all riders from the UK, with 15 riders from the UK inside the top 30! Ladies results are also the same, I’m holding second with Lisa in front of me and Alice behind, not far though! Last day, it’s all to play for, I’m going to go steady. There are two very long stages and liaisons tomorrow and I just want to get home safe!
Words: Rachael Gurney
Due to WiFi images on location photos are from last years race, but you get the idea, it is epic, sunny and hard work!