• start: Villars-Colmars (1180m)
• trailhead: Col des Champs (2080m)
• finish: Guillaumes (793m)
• riding distance: 41.49 km
• on-bike height gain: 965m
• on-bike height drop: 2434m
Many regular Trans-Provencers think that day four is the finest over all day of the weeks riding - starting with the huge decent from Col des Champs and including the unique Grey earth stage, if these two trails were all that you rode in a day, you'd consider it a fine days riding. With two other exceptional trails included it really is a special day in the big mountains.
Special stage 11 is Col Des Champs then. This is a real test of riding - individually each of the many sections would be challenging, but taken together it requires a strong technical rider who can also onsite rock gardens and turn into the tightest switchbacks whilst ignoring the ever increasing exposure on either side of the trail. All of this of course is whilst the clock is ticking - it's a fifteen minute descent for the fastest riders.
Next Special Stage 12. The liaison stage itself is something quite unique. It's a slice of exposed rock that cuts it's way across the side of a mountain with vertiginous 200 meter drops below you and an amazing view point down across the valley and to the stages ahead.
The stage itself continues initially in the same vein as the Liaison, but with the risk to life removed a little if you fall off! More open rock face switchbacks lead to the lower pine forested trails and beautifully grippy sandy corners - with dust still hanging in the air from the rider in front.
From the feed station a fun liaison stage takes riders across the valley floor before the fire road climb to the start of the Grey Earth.
Special Stage 13, The Grey Earth is unique to this part of the world. What looks like a combination of grey cement dust mixed in to tarmac that has then been poured down a hill like lava, and has set into long flowing ridge lines of incredibly grippy and fast rolling trail. For the riders there's a suggested line laid out for them, but the opportunity to go "off-piste" and choose a quicker line is there for those that want it.
The final stage of the day is reached by steep hike a bike to open meadowland - before a steep switchback loam ride propels riders back to the valley floor once more, and the chance to recuperate for the next day.
We haven't mentioned racing much other than results before today. Whilst the Trans-Provence is a race, it's also just as importantly a chance to ride amazing trails and to be in this beautiful part of the world.
Today we had our first injuries and they've been with the fast guys. Ben Cruz is out with either severely torn ligaments or a broken ankle - Steve Jones had a big crash, and whilst Nico Vouilloz hasn't hurt himself - he lost time after tearing of his rear mech.
For the people that are racing tiredness is starting to show - seven days of racing is partly a war of attrition. Silly mistakes are having consequences that could either cost the race, the stage, or stop them from finishing the event itself.
Top ten Men overall after four days .
1 ) Jerome Clementz 02:04:22
2 ) Nico Vouilloz 02:05:25
3 ) Mark Weir 02:05:42
4 ) Fabien Barel 02:07:42
5 ) Matt Ryan 02:10:23
6 ) Marc Beaumont 02:17:08
7 ) Rowan Sorell 02:18:55
8 ) James Richards 02:24:12
9 ) Steve Jones 02:25:14
10) Andreas Hestler 02:28:29
Top five Women after four days
1 ) Tracy Moseley 02:37:34
2 ) Anka Martin 02:48:56
3 ) Ingrid Hohermuth 02:58:01
4 ) Kara Bolelema 03:23:51
5 ) Fiona Thomson 03:59:31