enduro race

My love affair with the Trans Provence & why YOU should sign up for a multi day adventure race at least once in your life.

Iโ€™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 โ€œlike mindedโ€ 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 canโ€™t just race like a crazy lady from the start, as youโ€™ll never make it through the week. Itโ€™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, Iโ€™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, weโ€™ve become great friends over the years, always having a mini battle amongst ourselves - itโ€™s always been pretty close, but this year he beat me - think it was his new 29er wheels ;) Heโ€™s also waited for me on the low days, fixed my bike, talked my ears off, forced me to eat and weโ€™ve high five-d way more than what youโ€™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 canโ€™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. Youโ€™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 donโ€™t have to rent a guide and youโ€™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 youโ€™re given - genius. What a way to explore an entire region or area. Take the time to look around, take photoโ€™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 youโ€™re not always going to feel great and have amazing race runs. It just doesnโ€™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 oneโ€™s that become the most memorable oneโ€™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, thatโ€™s why we ride bikes after all? Right ladies? Just remember to reign in the โ€œbad habitsโ€ 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 youโ€™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 youโ€™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, Iโ€™m not sure just yet, but never say never...

Cheers Ash & Melissa for another wicked event! Huge shoutout to Sven Martin & Duncan Philpott for all the hard work out there getting all these bangers :)

Cheers Ash & Melissa for another wicked event! Huge shoutout to Sven Martin & Duncan Philpott for all the hard work out there getting all these bangers :)

Peace out, 

Anka

Float planes, bear spray, wedding bells & Crankworx shenanigans!

We just got back to France after a whirlwind 2-week trip out to Canada for the annual Crankworx festival. This 10-day festival is usually a pretty busy time due to all the events, races & social activities, but this year it was crazier & busier than ever it seemed.

The week kicked off with our dear friends Steph & Jamesโ€™s wedding on top of the mountain, which was beautiful. A magical setting for a wedding, and a first for me, attending a wedding in kneepads, body armor & a smelly riding jersey. Vows were read from the book of Dirt, and sealed with some good old aged whiskey & champagne before all the guests rode down in procession behind the bride & groom with their new matching D3 TLD helmets & her veil blowing in the wind as she hit the jumps all the way down to the valley floor.

The week ahead was filled with commitments. Sven had a ton of events & photo shoots to do, and I had a few days of Ladies clinics & media rides lined up that I was doing for SRAM. We also had a ton of friends that were out to play from Oregon & from New Zealand, so it was great to catch up with everyone, just a pity it all happened at once. Needless to say our food & drinks expenses were astronomically high, as I think Whistler is the most overpriced resort town ever when it comes to food & drinks, I have no idea how people can afford to live there & eat? (and drink loads of wine..).

I ended up racing the Enduro race, which didnโ€™t end up so great for me as I missed my start to the second stage, due to the liaison stages being far too short to reach in time, then on my way to the third stage, I ended up getting lost and not being able to find the start in time. The fourth stage was the only proper enduro stage that started on a new Alpine trail called Top of the World, which was a great trail, but due to me missing a stage, I ended up with a DNS. Apart from the final stage, this race was definitely a Super D race & not what I would consider an enduro race, which is such a pity as this mountain, has such potential to host the most amazing enduro event. Hopefully it will be a bit more enduro style next year, but all in all a good training day out on the bike.

Rebecca Rusch invited me to help out with her SRAM Gold Rusch Ladies rides & clinics that she was hosting, along with Lindsey Voreis, Katie Holden & Lorraine Blancher, which turned out to be a huge success, helping the ladies out there to tackle the Dh & XC terrain. We also had a Ladies Lounge on the top of the SRAM truck for all the ladies to get together, hang out, watch the A line race & of course drink wine in the hot sun in the middle of the day. Isn't that what athlete's are supposed to do? Check out what this Queen of Pain gets up to - she is one BADASS lady & runs an amazing women's program. http://www.rebeccarusch.com/

Of course riding the bike park in Whistler is super fun, but every year I try to ride something new that is outside the bike park, just to get away from the craziness of the festival. These rides usually end up being the highlight of my trip, and yes, this year the out of park trails once again proved to be my favorites. I finally rode Khyber Pass trail, which is the perfect trail bike trail, from the top of the world all the way down to Creekside. Our SRAM media ride was on the Yummy Numby trail & parts of Comfortably Numb, which was another amazing trail, offering a bit of everything & it definitely made you work hard for that after ride beer. Another new one for me was the Golden Boner trail, super fun & I love the name!

As the weekend of the Slopestyle approached, and the crowds got thicker, the brake bumps bigger & the lift lines longer, I decided that it would be a great time to get the hell out of there. They were expecting around 70 000 spectators to show up on Saturday to watch the Slopestyle, and the thought of that was just a bit too much for me. I needed to get away from all the people, the busyness, the parties & the socializing, so Jerome Clementz & I decided that it would be the perfect time to catch a float plane & head into the wild Southern Chilcotin mountains for some sweet singletrack trails & some much needed peace & quiet with the grizzlies. I have been wanting to get on a float plane since our first visit to Canada many, many moons ago, so I was as giddy as a 10 year old going to Disneyland for the first time. In the end it was just 3 of us who ended up going (Jamie missed the plane & Dan was afraid of the grizzly bears). Jeromeโ€™s friend Ben came to the rescue with extra sleeping bags, mats & cookers, and so we set off with ghetto packs, bear spray, a big air horn & foam mattresses strapped onto our packs with luggage straps & enough food & beer for 2 days in the wilderness. Now this was the Canadian experience that I have been looking for.

We set off in Benโ€™s big old Ford truck (or Chevy...), on Saturday morning, as we had a bumpy 3 hour drive on a dirt road to get to the Tyax resort where the float plane was going to pick us up. Our plan was to get dropped off at Warner lake, ride to Spruce Lake to camp and then head back over Windy pass, down into the Eldorado basin & then up the Lick Creek pass to descend the long downhill singletrack (1800m, 17km) back to the Tyax resort on Sunday. The 25min floatplane flight was amazing. A dream come true for me, and something to check off that has been on my to do list for many years now. Unfortunately due to the wind conditions, we were not able to land on the turquoise water of Warner Lake and we had to get dropped of at Spruce Lake. Of course we were a little disappointed, but then again, we have to save something for next time. We got our small two man tent set up (for the three of us), unloaded our food into the bear bins and set off for a late afternoon exploration ride. We were out there, it was wild and you could feel it. Senses were on high alert as you came around every corner expecting to see a grizzly bear & we sang our way through the thick forest sections, just incase our presence came as a surprise to whatever was living out there. The wild flowers were stunning, and the variety of different landscapes & geology was beautiful.

Back at camp we got a fire going, and got all our food out to prepare for our camping feast. Our beers were chilled in the lake while we went riding & we stayed up late eating, drinking and speculating who had won the slopestyle that day & watching the most amazing lightning show in the distance. Of course this storm was heading straight towards us, and as beautiful as it was, we werenโ€™t quite sure how waterproof Benโ€™s little tent was going to be. Some of us were planning on sleeping outside, but that changed as the storm just kept building and eventually it came crashing down right above our tent. It was a small tent, and the three of us were crammed inside with all our packs to try and stay dry as the rain came pouring down for hours on end. Of course the weather has been hot & perfect for 10 days straight up in Whistler, but Murphy had other ideas for us. We stayed dry for the most part, waking up a bit damp & tired from not being able to sleep. It was so tight in there, if one of us turned, we all had to turn in unison!

Our start to the day was a bit later than expected, but it was great to just relax and enjoy the morning. We had a big day ahead of us, and it was pretty slow going with all the gear, which forced us to do a lot of hike a biking on the technical climbs โ€“ good training for the upcoming Trans Provence race. The weather was perfect. Calm, clean & crisp after the storm and it was hard not to stop everywhere to take some shots. Once we got up to Windy Pass, we felt the need for more adventure and so made our way up to the shaley top of Spruce peak. Definitely worth the extra slog, just to find your own lines & make turns down the shale mountain all the way down to and through the Eldorado basin. We had one more pass to climb up to before the final descent back to the lodge. It was all so worth it, as the singletrack back down was pristine. Natural, fast, flowing trail. Nothing better than hitting a trail for the first time, pinned, not knowing what was around the next corner. It was bliss (except for my foam mattress bashing every tree I would lean into, and my pack pushing my helmet over my eyes).

All in all, a great little 2-day adventure away from it all. We got home late Sunday evening, just in time for a sushi dinner with a bunch of friends to catch up on the weekendโ€™s happenings in the park & to start packing up to head back to Europe. It was a great 2 weeks, but I was ready to get back to France for some cheap wine & food. I canโ€™t wait to get back out into those mountains next year, and hopefully Sven will be able to blow off some events to come and experience this beautiful playground with us. Cheers to Jerome & Ben for organizing this awesome ride & for letting me cram into their small little 2 man tent with them!

Next stop: Leogang for the World Champs!

Peace out

Anka x.