Photo Epic: Trans Provence Revisited

Oct 22, 2018
by Ian Robertson  


October 2017, UK, late evening, dark, wet, my iPad bursts into life. Facebook Messenger. "Hey mate, fancy doing Trans-Provence again?"

Six years ago, after my season working as an assistant guide with Doug McDonald at BasqueMTB in Spain, Doug, Carlos and I took an end-of-season trip to the southern Alps, part of which we spent with Ash Smith, sampling some of the Sospel trail network and one or two sections of the already famous Trans-Provence race route. I instantly fell in love with the trails, scenery and weather that this part of the world has to offer, so I signed up for a Trans-Provence guided tour (rather than entering the race) for the following year, 2013.

The 2013 guided tour was a 6-day affair, with 10,000 metres of climbing and 15,000 metres of descending built into the 280km route. It was a physical challenge for me (I was 48 even then!), but an extremely rewarding one as we literally crossed the Alps on our bikes, starting near Gap, riding the most amazing trails through jaw-dropping scenery and ending up by the sea in Menton. The feeling of riding into Menton and jumping in the sea was an unforgettable one, and not a little emotional with all the fatigue that had built up during the week. I made a lot of friends that week, friends with whom I am still in touch to this day.

I didn't however feel the need to do it again. I have since been on several mountain bike trips in the same area with Ash, sampling the trails without the need for the 10,000m of climbing. All have been amazing.

Fast-forward five years to 2017 and I get that message from Dutchman Matthijs, who I met on the 2013 trip. My initial reaction was 'no', but after some persuasion from Matthijs, "it's the last one Ash is ever doing", I found myself signing up for 10,000m more pain. I was slightly comforted by Ash's assurances that the van would be taking 'some' of the sting out of 'some' of the climbs, and that it was now a five-day ride with some of the more 'dull' transitions removed.

I passed word around my regular foreign-trip gang of riding buddies and to my surprise we immediately had seven (a van-full) signing up. A couple of dropouts later we ended up with five Brits (Paul 'Bucket', Jim, Gareth, John and me) joined by German-Swiss couple Paul and Patrizia (annoyingly good at tight, steep, rocky switchbacks).

One thing that has changed since I last rode it (apart from being in my mid-fifties now) is that I have bought and learned to use a camera (mainly in response to some of the photos taken by others on the 2013 trip) and I have been practising on my last few trips (see my other blogs). No excuses this time.

Anyway, a year of fairly hard training later we arrived in Nice in late September 2018 for what was to be an awesome trip. Our guides were Julia Hobson (on bike) and Andy Bates of 3Sixty Transfers (in the van). Both did an incredible job and we can't thank them enough.

Enough words. Here are the best shots from the trip:


Arrival and Day 1 - Barcelonnette to Colmars

Riding the Transprovence route
The riding gods communicated with us on arrival at our cool hotel in Barcelonnette - this trip would be amazing

A trip along the Transprovence route
How about this for the first trail of the trip Gareth?

Riding the Transprovence route
The first mechanical wasn't far behind - but quickly resolved by Julia

Riding the Transprovence route
Whoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooop!!!!

Riding the Transprovence route
Julia leading the troops


Day 2 - Colmars to Valberg

Riding the Transprovence route
No bikes in this shot - it's at Col des Champs - but I like it nonetheless

Riding the Transprovence route
This is me, recreating a shot someone took of me in 2012. The corner hasn't changed, but around 80% of the route is completely different from 2012

Riding the Transprovence route
No words needed

A trip through the TransProvence route
My only instruction was "look epic"

Riding the Transprovence route
Onwards and upwards

Riding the Transprovence route
But the best thing about summits is - it's all downhill from here. Jim gets off the brakes

A trip along the Transprovence route
Paul and Bucket

Grey Earth Transprovence
The afternoon of day 2 brings a chance to sample the amazing surface of the classic 'Grey Earth' stage

Riding the Transprovence route
Julia leads in


Day 3 - Valberg to Valdeblore

Riding the Transprovence route
Oh, the views...

Riding the Transprovence route
I said it was easier. I didn't say it was easy. This was quite a hike

Riding the Transprovence route
Another day, another summit

Riding the Transprovence route
Patrizia crushing the red earth...

Riding the Transprovence route
Another storming lunch...

Transprovence race route
Julia and her Juliana Roubion look across to the unbelievable perched village of Roubion


Day 4 - Valdeblore to Sospel

Riding the Transprovence route
Trail Nirvana for John...

Riding the Transprovence route
...and Patrizia

Riding the Transprovence route
Best lunch stop yet?

Riding the Transprovence route
As the mountains get slightly less steep - it's time for Bucket to up the style


Day 5 - Sospel to Menton

Riding the Transprovence route
After a blast down some super fun trails it's time for a quick cappuccino in Italy - we are in party mood and can smell the sea

Riding the Transprovence route
Gareth sips his coffee

Riding the Transprovence route
Bucket blasts down the woodland trails

Riding the Transprovence route
The last mile or two is a bit urban

Riding the Transprovence route
The final run in

Riding the Transprovence route
Bucket celebrates - It's goodbye from Provence for now Smile I hope you enjoyed the trip. Was this my last Trans-Provence...?

www.trans-provence.com/
https://endlesstrailsmtb.com/
https://3sixtytransfers.com/

https://www.instagram.com/captainianphoto/


22 Comments

  • 8 0
 Hell yes. The race is on my list - possibly 2020, but the ride alone would be brilliant.
  • 2 0
 Do it!
  • 4 0
 This isn't a race by the look of it. the TP hasn't run for a year or two. Looks more like a tour run by the TP organizers.
  • 6 0
 @headshot: yeah. It’s the tour run by the race organisers. I tried to make that clear in the text but Pinkbike got carried away... we rode the 2017 race route.
  • 5 1
 @headshot: just turn your Strava on bro! Now you can race yourself to death against the clock anywhere anytime.
  • 2 0
 @headshot: that was what I took from the article, especially when he mentioned having a guide. Seemed pretty clear...
  • 3 0
 Ian is an essential item to pack on every biking holiday! Incredible photos and write up Ian
  • 1 0
 Cheers D!
  • 2 0
 As a biker that could be considered middle aged plus a little bit , very inspiring story , and the pictures are icing on the cake
  • 3 0
 When can I sign up for 2019?
  • 2 0
 Stunning pictures, but they still don't do it justice!
  • 1 0
 Great photos Ian. Recognise them from Insta now! How did you sort the tour with the organisers?
  • 1 0
 Hi Mate! I know Ash quite well and have been on quite a few trips with him - he put an email out looking for anyone interested in one last TP!
  • 2 1
 Glad I missed it, looks awful.
  • 2 0
 Missed your elbows dude
  • 2 0
 Epic views, nice piece!
  • 2 0
 Wow great pics!
  • 2 0
 Amazing photos bud Smile
  • 2 0
 Excellent photos mate.
  • 1 0
 Cheers dude! Smile
  • 2 0
 Nice job Ian!
  • 1 0
 Thanks Doug - got a way to go to catch you up!

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