I’ve just finished up the Trans Provence adventure about a week ago. This was my sixth time going on this journey, so as you can see, it is obviously my all time favourite event and the highlight of my season every year for sure. People often ask me why on earth would you keep going back every year? My answer to them is that first of all, I love the challenge, I love the adventure and I love riding sick new tracks. The Trans Provence is a hard race, it is no walk in the park and that is why I am so attracted to this event and other similar multi day races like the Andes Pacifico in Chile and other “like minded” events.
The challenge is to keep your bike & body intact for a week of pretty insane, technical and very exposed trail riding. You have to be so focused and really on it for 6 - 7 days, so you can’t just race like a crazy lady from the start, as you’ll never make it through the week. It’s not just about going as fast as you can whenever you can, there is so much more to it, so many variables that will affect your week, and you cannot go to one of these events with the mindset of, o yeah, I’m going to win this race. O no, this race is not over until the last stage of the last day, as there are just so many things that can go wrong. There are different elements that can affect you than at a normal race, for example things like dogs on the tracks, possible hikers, getting lost, signs that may be down, tummy issues, fatigue, crashes and massive mechanicals far from anything, so you really need to be wearing your sensible cap at all times and have fun with it. These are adventure weeks, not race weeks. You give your everything of course, but you just have to wait and see how it all ends up after 6 days. This was my first race back after breaking my hand, so I was pretty happy to be able to hang on and get on to the 5th step with these fast ladies.
When people ask me why I love these multi day stage races so much & why they should try one, I usually start babbling on about the points I jotted down below:
- A multi day event is completely different to the usual one or two day bike races that we attend. They are WAY more relaxed, way more fun, people actually drink a beer or two (or more) and you have so much more time to enjoy and appreciate everything around you, including WAY more bike time.
- You get to know the people so much better, as you spend A LOT of time riding together, eating, camping, laughing and competing together, usually leaving as good old friends after a week on the bike. You get to meet & ride with people from all walks of life, not just the usual bike racers like at the majority of other events. I love this part, where you meet so many interesting, different people. After a few days of riding with someone, you may find out that he or she is a rocket scientist, or a multi millionaire or a rally car driver - whatever it may be, it is usually pretty interesting and refreshing to meet all sorts of people. Jeff Calam in the photo below has done 5 Trans Provence adventures with me, we’ve become great friends over the years, always having a mini battle amongst ourselves - it’s always been pretty close, but this year he beat me - think it was his new 29er wheels ;) He’s also waited for me on the low days, fixed my bike, talked my ears off, forced me to eat and we’ve high five-d way more than what you’re allowed to due to very high stoked factors!
- You have to learn to rough it. Camping during these events are the best, but I love to camp, and that is not the case for a lot of people. Sometimes it can be some people's first time ever camping! Even a small thing like camping can make a significant impact on your whole week and affect your results, as people can’t sleep as well as they are used to, the snoring keeps them awake, it might be pouring it down, everything is always damp and the roughing it part can get them down after a week of tent life. This is what I love and what usually makes me feel a wee bit stronger towards the end of every week compared to most others.
- You have to keep your bike & body in one piece. You’re only allowed one big bag at most of these events, and that includes your spares, so you only bring the basics, whatever you can fit into your bag. That is the whole point of these adventures. If you get to wash your bike and lube the chain after every big day, you should be stoked. These events are not meant to be all professional, where bikes get stripped down after every day and rebuilt, the bikes should be roughing it like we are. Why? This is where we learn to help each other. Share parts, figure out a plan to fix a broken frame, camaraderie and basic tools is what gets your bike (and yourself) through these weeks and trust me, your bike will never ever get as thrashed and beat up as during a week like the TP. Your riding will also improve like crazy as you just get thrown into the deep end and you learn to react, race blind, navigate and pretty much just hang on to survive the week! My trusty Roubion survived the week, a little battered and bruised just like the owner, but man, what a bike ;)
- You get to see the most amazing places and ride the most amazing, varied singletrack. The scenery, the trails and the culture we get to explore during these weeks are one of the big draws for me. You go to a new area or country, you don’t have to rent a guide and you’re not having to stop at every intersection to double check the map and the route. All you have to do, is sign up to one of these events, and follow the route and the maps that you’re given - genius. What a way to explore an entire region or area. Take the time to look around, take photo’s, stop in the little villages to eat an ice cream or drink a coffee or beer or both. Soak up the atmosphere, the local food, the language and embrace the culture. That is what I love about these adventures.
- You learn a lot about yourself during events like these. They are not easy and you’re not always going to feel great and have amazing race runs. It just doesn’t work like that, so you adapt, you learn and you accept it for what it is. Suffering makes you stronger to handle everything in your life in a better manner and suffering with other people really creates a bond between you that will in turn develop into great friendships. Below was Day 1 of this years race. A completely unexpected storm hit us the night before the start of the race, it poured the entire evening and this is what we woke up to. It was a tough, long, hard day, but one I will never ever forget. These hard days are the one’s that become the most memorable one’s - and the blue butt cheek I still have from a massive crash on stage zero!
- You can eat, eat, eat and then eat some more, and us girls like to do that. Everything tastes better after a big day on the bike, you get to have dessert every night, you stop for ice cream, beer, pizza, chips, pastries and the occasional coke along the way, mmmmm, that’s why we ride bikes after all? Right ladies? Just remember to reign in the “bad habits” after the week ends and you stop pedaling for 8 hours a day ;)
- You get to disconnect from the real world for a whole week. Usually these events are pretty remote, with very minimal WIFI and cell phone signals. Most of us are pretty antsy at first, but after a few days, you feel so liberated and free to not have to check your phone. Only pulling out the phone to take a picture of something beautiful or of a friend that is actually with you - real life, imagine that! Who cares what the rest of the Facebook or Instagram world is getting up to when you’re busy having the time of your life - or hanging on for dear life like I am in the photo below. Red earth day was WILD.
DO IT NOW. Find an event that may suit you near your home or that is in some foreign country that you’ve always wanted to visit, convince some of your friends to do the same and signup! It will be the best experience of your life and you will never regret it.
My apologies if you get hooked on signing up for these adventures and become a total multi day event addict like I have become & it will leave you grinning like I am above ;)
Will I be back for my 7th Trans Provence next year? Gosh, I’m not sure just yet, but never say never...