800 odd miles later and we made it, Bournemouth to Val D’Isere in about 19 hours! I left work at 2300hrs, Adam my boyfriend, chauffeur, mechanic and supporter for the week was just setting up the sat nav to show the amount of miles we had to do. It’s a long old drive, I love the Alps and am pretty excited to get out here for the second time in as many months.


Adam had also got lumped with the arduous task of packing the van so I spent a good part of the journey to Folkstone to catch the Channel Tunnel train with my finger crossed! As soon as we crossed the water it was way too late, if anything was forgotten I would have to make do without. I am pretty lucky though, Adam will be driving from point to point so my kit will go with him. I have read in the race briefing that this is not supposed to be a luxury trip, other racers have a one bag allowance so with my one van allowance I reckon I have a lot more pairs of shorts than they do!


Ad and I had a quick nap once off the train then drove in shifts, one driving one sleeping down the never ending motorways through France. I was so glad to get to the first base camp in Val D’Isere, it could have been anywhere and I would have been happy to just not be driving! We arrived at about 1930hrs Friday evening and there was no missing the venue, I could see the row upon row of one man Vango tents from the road. After leaving my chauffeur to book into the campsite I headed off to track down the trailAddiction team. I quickly found Ali and Serena in what looked like an end of day, post dinner de-briefing. Serena gave me a quick tour and pointed out my tent which was available to sleep in if I needed it, good job otherwise it was squished in the back of the van for me! Base camp number one was a great little campsite with the best hot showers of any site I’ve ever stayed in, perfect!


Ten hours of sleep later and Saturday dawned cloudy and a brisk 7 degrees, it’s pretty chilly up here at 1800m in Val D’isere. The sun soon shone though, burning off the cloud to leave that lovely, fresh alpine feeling. After checking with Ali about where’s best to ride or avoid (so there’s no cheating!) I headed off to the main lift for a couple of runs to get ‘my eye in’ for the week ahead. I didn’t manage to find anything near as techy as I needed to but I had fun and wiled away the hours until it was time to sign on at 1500 hours. This is also the time the rest of the competitors started arriving, I picked up race number 31 and then proceeded to sit in the sun and watch 100 other people arrive and assemble near on 100 other bikes – so there is an upside to self-drive after all!


Registration at 1500 hours denoted the start to the week, now I am officially signed on, everything has a timescale and a schedule – from briefing at 1730 hours to dinner at 1830hrs to the start of racing each day. I like it, everything is clearly laid out and easy for competitors to know what’s what and who’s who. Race briefing was an interesting and slightly stomach churning affair! Serena went through the camp information then she let Ali loose on the microphone to give us some facts and figures on the race ahead and rein us all in a little bit! The Trans Savoie is recognised worldwide with 100 riders from 23 different countries, this along with over 50 volunteers makes the Trans Savoie a massive event. If you think organising 5 stages of a normal enduro race is logistically hard, think what it takes to ensure 100 racers get round 4 stages a day, for 6 days in the middle of the Alps!


Ali then went on to tell us – “this is not enduro”…… now, hold on right there – not enduro? No, he says its “big alpine enduro” – think expedition rather than race. The emphasis here is clearly on making it through to the end, being self-sufficient and supporting each other. It sounds like it really will be an expedition, Ali said he doesn’t give penalties for outside assistance simply because you will be hard pushed to find someone to help you, bonus points if you do! Out on the trails I won’t see anyone other than 21 marshals and 3 doctors, well hopefully not the doctors, I’ll be avoiding them! Overall there are 150 people here, Ali says that’s “150 new friends for all of us”, now that’s sounding more like enduro!


So the bit that got my stomach going was when the talk got to the trails, apparently out there are features in trails that only the top 10% will ride, now I don’t need to tell you, that’s not me! Hope its obvious when I get there, Ali said if they have marked the tough bits of the trails with exclamation marks on a white sign so if you see one something techy lies ahead. He also said that not all tough bits are marked, only the really tough ones. He has a formula he uses when deciding what to warn racers about and when not to, it simply goes like this – Risk of rider leaving trail and falling off edge a very long way = Technical feature + Sign. Good, I’ll be looking for those bad boys like a hawk looks for dinner then!


Dinner post briefing was excellent, three courses and more than enough to fill you up. Tomato soup, beef stew and profiteroles on the menu tonight for those that want to know. The remainder of the evening was spent by most of the competitors chatting over a beer or making final bike adjustments ready for commencing racing in the morning. I went to bed apprehensive, Donny’s just told me that stage 1 kicks off with a bang and if you make it down you are pretty much laughing for the rest of the week, ahhhhh… don’t you just love pre-race chatter, nothing like it to calm the nerves!

Words: Rachael Gurney

Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of ENDURO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality mountain bike journalism. Click here to learn more.