BMC Enduro Racing Team rider Kerstin Koegler takes us on a trip to the Shimano Epic Enduro in Mons la Trivalle in the beautiful south of France.

My day in early February had begun well. I sat with a large cappuccino in front of my laptop checking out an overview of my first race in 2014.

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Gestartet wurde bereits um 5 Uhr nachts!
The race has already begun by 5 o’clock in the morning!

When researching my first race, the “Shimano Epic Enduro” in southern France, I started to discover gaps in my small knowledge of French, but with the power of several “Online Translator” sites, I managed to find the information I was looking for. They spat out a race distance of 4,300 meters in altitude, 90 kilometers with a start time of 5 o’clock in the morning. Translation errors can occur, so I called my team manager Jane Lamb who confirmed the astounding translation. Bonjour!

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Sonnenaufgang über Südfrankreich.
Sunrise over the south of France.

Thus I found myself on April 5 at the starting line of the Shimano Epic Enduro in Mons la Trivalle in the south of France. There were 8 stages overall covering more than 13 hours of riding – Epic indeed. It would be fair to say that I hadn’t specially prepared for this event but I had brought a certain amount of fitness from my winter season of skiing, cross races and athletics giving me a good conditional basis and I’m originally from MTB Marathon long-distance or cross country riding so it wasn’t too terrifying a prospect.

Die Uphill-Passagen waren lange und kräftezehrend!
The uphill passages were long and exhausting!

At 3:15 the alarm clock rang, it was still dark outside and it was bike time! The pre-dawn start meant it was quiet at the breakfast table, the English brain cells in all three of us were still asleep. My teammate Florian Golay from Martigny and our mechanic Adrien Mantez from the Swiss Jura are native French speakers and my native language is German. Overall it is colourful language combination when I’m with the BMC Racing Team – French, English, Swiss German with English but it usually works quite well.

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We had one last check of kit before heading out for our Epic Enduro day. At 5 o’clock it was as black as night on the track and the first 600 meters of altitude and the first downhill-timed stage were also in the dark. All stages were stony, sometimes large stones, sometimes small loose stones but all quite sharp, always with switchbacks, rock heels and were technically very difficult and demanding. Added to this was the length of the stages, they ran for up to 20 minutes. I can’t complain because I like rocky substrates and my BMC Trailfox 29 likes them too, he played about with 150mm travel and big wheels, especially in the rough passages.

Abwärts hieß es dann: Vollgas!
Down it was then for Florian Golay: full throttle!

After 5 hours and about 1700 meters altitude I reached the first feed zone and received my first update of the scores, I was 39 seconds ahead of Daniele Sapin – two times Transvesubienne winner and second at the Megavalanche Reunion, 2012.

I was confident that I could extend my lead on the second section of the course. Stages 4 and 5 were long and very heavy downhill with a few opposing gradients. As luck would have it I met a French / English speaking driver from the Valais, he accompanied me through the whole race, we motivated each other and he took care of the necessary French translations which made the day much easier.

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Das Arbeitsgerät - ein 29er BMC Trailfox.
The work horse – a 29er BMC Trailfox.

The fourth stage was starting to get a little tiring, there was a good 900 vertical metres of pushing and carrying to complete, some slopes were just too steep and too rocky to ride. Riding in France can be pretty crazy. I struggled with blisters on both feet over the long portage sections. Overall I estimated that there was about 1500 metres of carrying sections. A tough ask for someone 60km and 3000metres in to Europe’s most epic Enduro.

The last two stages didn’t offer any rest either, they were peppered with short climbs that forced me over the front wheel again and again. After more than 13 hours, I reached the finish and learned that at the end of this intense race, I had been beaten to 1st place by Nadine Sapin by only 37 seconds. She is a long distance specialist who can perform on tough terrain over many hours – Chapeau Nadine!

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Kriesten Nelen (Fietsshop Uitge) the third place and the winner Nadine Sapin (Scott / CSPM VTT) and Kerstin Koegler (BMC Enduro Racing)

1st place: SAPIN Nadine France 1977 1:55:19 SCOTT / SP MERCANTOUR VTT 2nd place: KÖGLER Kerstin Germany 1982 1:55:56 BMC ENDURO RACING TEAM 3rd place: NELEN Kristien Belgium 1978 2:12:36 TEAM FIETSSHOP UITGEEST

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Florian Golay took the victory for the men, the last two stages complimenting his amazing climbing skills.

1st place: Florian Golay Switzerland 1977 01:19:57 BMC MTB ENDURO TEAM 2nd place: MAURIN Trocello France 1987 01:21:10 GT / Valloire GALIBIER VTT 3rd place ARNOULD Jérémy France 1987 1:21:32 TEAM IRWEGO COMMENCAL

Das Höhenprofil des Shimano Epic Enduro
Das Höhenprofil des Shimano Epic Enduro.

Text: Kerstin Kögler Fotos: Antoine Bussier/WILDTRACK – Shimano Epic Enduro

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