Autumn arrives late on the Cote D'Azur. While northern Europe has felt the chill of winter approaching for a couple of months now, the shores of the Mediterranean get a little longer to bask in the sunshine and enjoy the dusty trails. This weekend the regional races series, the 1001 Sentiers Tour, held it's last hurrah for 2017 in the mountain town of Sospel, just a few kilometres north of the glamorous cities of Monaco and Nice. Here in this part of the world, riding fast seems to be something of a habit and many of the top racers in both DH and enduro come from these valleys. As such, when there is a local race on good trails you tend to get a good turn out - on the start list this weekend were names like Fabien Barel, Loris Vergier, Adrien Dailly and Florian Nicolai. The only rider conspicuous by his absence was a certain Nico Vouilloz, who was busy on the other side of the mountain, dominating the local rally in a Skoda R5.
While the Sospel enduro has looked to push the limits of how much riding people are willing to do during a weekend in the past, for this year they took a very different approach. The race would be over five stages, starting at 1,000m, then working in loops along the north side of the valley, before plunging down to finish in the town below. In total, riders faced 30km with 1,000m climbing and 1,600m of descending. It was up and coming World Cup racer, Kevin Marry, who took the win ahead of the strong field, with Florian Nicolai and Fabien Barel rounding out the men's podium. Severine Cigana won the won's race, with Sandra Dolcerocca in second and local Mary Wragg-Moncorge in third.
The Col de Braus - this is more famous in the road cycling and rally worlds than it is among mountain bikers. Some 600m above town, starting here made for an easier day as riders worked their way back towards the town below, perfect for a mellow, late-season race.
It was an early start for riders, with the sun just cresting over the ridge as riders headed out towards the stages.
Loris Vergier came to race, taking an early start slot so he could ride the course with his father on his e-bike. While most of the riders had practiced the course at least once, Loris was riding completely blind, but still managed to slot it into fifth at the end of the day.
A short, gentle climb took riders up to stage one and the sunshine.
Autumn has arrived here in the south of France, with the leaves rapidly disappearing from the trees and a little dusting of snow atop the distant peaks.
Rain storms at the start of the week knocked much of the foliage from the trees, making for a perfect, orange carpet to race across.
Kevin Marry has had a difficult couple of years, after lighting up the junior qualifying at the 2016 Lourdes WC, only to go down with a brutal crash in his race run, he has struggled to get back to that level on the world stage. This weekend he showed that he certainly has the speed, taking the win ahead of the more experienced enduro and DH racers.
Flo Nicolai didn't have the smoothest day racing, and with the EWS done and dusted he is in wind-down mode right now, but he still comfortably took second against the stacked field.
Severine Cigana, the reigning 30-35 Masters DH World Champ, took the win in the women's race today.
This is a rare sight in the south of France - slippery mud. Certainly after a summer where you can count the rainfalls since May on your fingers, it proved tricky going for many of the riders.
Stage two is the high-speed Fontassas, which starts in earnest with this awkward rock drop before firing riders down the mountainside.
Former Danish national XC champ and WC racer, Sandra Dolcerocca, put in a strong ride to take second today.
This isn't a big drop, and once you have confidence it isn't a problem, but it has a tricky entry and any hesistation on the way in and you are likely to find yourself getting to know the dirt a little better.
Olympic time trial silver medalist and 7-times Swedish national champion on the road, Gustav Larsson has been doing quite a bit of enduro since he hung up his lycra professionally.
Fabien Barel had a low-key day, starting early to ride round with friends and enjoy the day. That said, he still managed third overall, his leisurely weekend is not quite the same as most people's.
Stage three started the run down from the high crest where the first three stages started and down towards the lower parts of the valley.
The slippery coff-ambers caught more than a few people out on stage three.
Mary Wragg-Moncorge had a tough weekend, struggling with food poisoning, sampling the dirt on four of the stages. She still managed to get it home in third to claim second in the seris behind Julie Duvert who sat this race out with a knee injury.
The top of stage three had a couple of tricky corners that punished riders who tried too hard through them.
This little rut may not look like much, but it caught pedals and derailleurs if you made the slightest miscalculation.
Alex Cure was on good form today, although was still relaxed enough to wave as he stormed past on one of the pedal sections. Unfortunately a flat on the final stage wrecked his chances of fighting for one of the top spots
Riders make their way up from stage four ready for the final run down to the town below.
Stage five was the fastest of the day, with long, scarily fast sections mixed up with awkward rock and leaves.
Multi-discipline local racer, David DeBella has had a good season, a top ten ranking in this part of the world is harder than many national series. Today he could only manage 16th though.