After a 5-year break since the last edition, the Trans-Savoie Big Alpine Enduro was back in The Alps last weekend ready to kick off another epic week of riding.
Trans-Savoie's new 50/50 format has E-bikes side-by-side with Analogue rides over a 6-day journey in the French Alps. Typical daily stats clock up around 4000m of descending for 1000m of ascent, with the rest supported by ski-lift and shuttles.
Day 1 saw riders take in 4 stages, with the final run of the day dropping in on an Alpine Ridgeline high up in the Tarentaise Valley at 2385m, and continuing on unbroken singletrack all the way to the valley floor, at 695m.
Starting off as an Alpine ridge on a path of white, chunky rocks, the feeling of exposure to riders left was enough to keep riders attention. Several hundred metres drop of rocky alpine bliss later, riders entered the forest for fast, wholly double track section before dropping right into steep singletrack that headed almost straight down the fall-line for a while, before changing pace to faster, off-the-brakes flow. This trail just went on, and on - in fact, clearly this was about at least 4 or 5 separate trails, all linked into one with short but interesting sections such that the final product was a true monster of a trail. Timing checks showed that even the faster riders were taking 30 minutes or more to complete this stand-out stage.
Ancient forestry worker's and hunter's trails are another main staple of the Trans-Savoie. These old routes are typically cut into hillsides, with plenty of tight switchbacks interspersed with fast traversing sections through the high alpine pine forest.
A tad of exposure thrown into the mix ensured that the riders were kept to full attention...although it was rarely quite as bad as it seemed!
Day 2 saw riders start the day up at the border of Italy at the Col de Pt St Bernard, between La Thuile (Italy and La Rosiere (France)...
... the rich tapestry of trails interweaving the border in this area are a result of the centuries of trade and travel between these Valleys and Mountain Cols - as well as the many military conflicts that have frequented the region's history.
...and it was another big one, with more than 1700m of vertical drop back to the valley floor, before lunch at the event's hostel-style accommodation in Bourg St Maurice.
Party-trains are a regular sight at the Trans-Savoie 50/50 - the relaxed non-competitive, no-pressure "50/50" format means that it's all about the good vibes and high-fives, and much less about your stage-times.
Germany's Franzi Meyer - Trans-Savoie winner in 2015 - was all about the new format and has been rarely without a smile so far......but who can blame her, with trails and views like these in seemingly endless supply?
This particular stage kept going all the way to the bottom of the valley...
Jon Gregory laying down the pace and proving that he's got some serious skills on the bike as well as his day job as a graphic designer for all your favourite MTB publications.
3 Days and more than 13,000m of vertical already in the bag - the show's not over yet. Watch this space for a full report, video and photos, coming after all 6 days are complete.
Entires for the 2022 Edition of the Trans-Savoie 50/50 open on Sunday 17th October, and with spaces limited to only 50 riders, you'll want to be ready to get in quickly.
Check out www.trans-savoie.com
for details, or follow @transsavoie
for regular Social Media updates throughout the week.
Photos: Mick Kirkman
Video: Gwilym Thomas & Mike King