A combination of distance and hard technical riding, plus two large carries and more than 2000 meters of climbing over a distance of 50 kilometers tests the endurance and riding skills of the pro and expert racers alike.
The stage itself sums up the Trans-Provence attitude. Every kind of terrain you can expect to meet over the seven days of riding is compressed into a 400 metre drop - a steep rock and mud chute drops you into open meadow, with numerous options of line choice after traversing round a ridge lower in the valley. The trail then drops into the grey pumice stone of the lower valley before singletrack through woods and into a streambed completes the stage.
A relatively short pedal or hike, depending on your ability or fitness; a bleep of your timing chip against the balise (timing device) and Special Stage 5 begins.
The hard effort of the climb is rewarded by loam and pine needles - woodland never rode so good! After Special Stage 4's 'pick and mix' style of riding, competitors enthused about the continuity and the chance to enjoy a little more flow.
Special Stage 6's riding had been described as "cannon balling", "so fast I thought I might die", or for the less confident, a river full of babyhead rocks requiring a steady eye when it comes to line choice. Less technical than most stages of the Trans-Provence, the ability to hold on and not hesitate favored the strongest riders here.
Ash, the creator of Trans-Provence, is always a little nervous about Special Stage Seven - and the rider's responses to it. His concerns aren't for the quality of the trail, which is beyond superb, but for the potential anger of riders after enduring the 700 meter climb to reach the start of the trail.
As in previous years, the shouts of anger and threats of violence were quickly forgotten after the riders tackled what is one of the hardest, fastest and most technical trails in the whole week of Trans-Provence. So good is this trail, named 'Donkey Darko', that it left Fabien Barel literally screaming with happiness at the final time check and a well-known journalist suggesting that we make people sign a waiver to keep its location secret.
We say though that if you're prepared to suffer the hideous climb to get there and you're good enough to ride it, then we think you should know more. A 800 meter vertical drop takes you from an open grass summit to the dry and barren riverbed in the valley's bottom, via seven kilometers of singletrack which is right up there with the best trails in the world.
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