Trans Savoie – Done and Dusted

The inaugural Trans Savoie 6 day enduro race is now over and what a week it was. My intention was to provide a daily update throughout the event, however, even if there was a wifi connection, all I wanted to do each evening was collapse into a pathetic heap of aching uselessness.

So now I’m back, rested and with my feet up on the couch, I thought I’d put together a couple of posts with all the pictures I took over the remaining 5 days. I did not fancy carrying my Nikon DSLR around with me all week so all but a few of the images are taken on my iPhone 5.

Day 1 was just a taste of things to come. As the week progressed, the stages began to get more technical and much longer in both vertical drop and length. The trails varied enormously from bike park downhills with berms and jumps to smooth flowing open alpine singletrack, steep forest switchbacks and impossibly technical rock fields.

1600m of vertical in one go is no joke and after 25 minutes of continuous rough downhill my arms were destroyed. This changed the game from racing to a challenge of survival – could I make it to the bottom without my hands being thrown off the grips or arms and legs buckling under the constant pounding? I was literally bouncing down the hill on two wheels with about as much finesse as a dog wearing roller skates.

Day 3 included the “Transavalanche“, a 200m wide field of boulders with no obvious path through. You had to pick a line and hope that it spat you out in the right place to join the trail on the other side. There were some big climbs to contend with throughout the week which were tough but gave everyone a chance to rest their arms and take in the sweeping mountain views.

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Each evening we returned to whichever campsite we were staying in to find our tents erected and our bags waiting outside (I feel sorry for whoever had to deal with my bag, there were enough spares in it to serve a small bike shop). The Trans Savoie team of volunteers did a great job to make sure everything was ready for us upon our return, including food and drink and instructions on where we would be heading for dinner.

The campsites were generally pretty good and the supplied equipment (bed, pillow and tent) all did the job, even for a lanky chap like me.

Each evening we ate in a local town hall or gymnasium. The grub was cooked up by a team nice people from Ski Bug and was always served with a smile, thanks guys! Stories of the day were shared over dinner followed by a briefing on the next days riding and a rough video edit from the media team. The first three videos can be seen here and I’m told there will be more to come.

Riding a wave of success from day 3 (if you can call a couple of crashless runs a “wave of success”) I was keen to up my game on day 4. The previous nights briefing had informed us that stage one would probably be the most technically challenging of the whole race. The start was followed immediately by 3 or 4 easy dusty turns which just served to lure us all into a false sense of security. Beyond the crest of the hill, the trail steepened into a boulder strewn trail of technical switchbacks. This kind of trail is not new to me by any means, much of the riding in Switzerland is like this. However, racing a trail like this is a whole different kettle of fish. This was true for all the trails we rode; as soon as the racing element is introduced, everything becomes physically and mentally much harder

The rest of day 4 just got better and better with some tough climbing and breathtaking views. Mont Blanc was looming on the horizon as we ascended the final climb to stage 4 which turned out to be my favourite, and the longest of the whole week. A fast, open, naturally bermed trail that flowed so perfectly it was like it was made for bikes.

Day 5 mainly consisted of slightly shorter (but still super fun) stages to prepare us for the onslaught of the final day…1700m of climbing (although it felt like 17,000m), hike-a-bike and a huge final descent. What a way to end. That evening was spent stuffing our faces with cheese and beer and exchanging stories with our new riding buddies.

Overall the week was excellent and despite the blood, lack of sleep, burning thighs, finger cramps, jelly arms and blisters, I had an awesome time. I’m grateful to those that spent so much time to organise the event and of course my fellow participants…a diverse group of people from 18 different countries varying greatly in both age and riding ability, all there for one reason; to enjoy riding push bikes. Simply brilliant!

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Lunch stop on day 5.