Bonjour from the tiny village of Peillon, France, situated in the precipitously steep foothills of the Maritime Alps. Mtbr.com is across the pond checking in with the folks from Mavic, who are showing off various items from their Notch mountain bike apparel and shoe line, which is geared toward the enduro/all-mountain set.
Last night, we were briefed on highlight features for a long sleeve jersey, baggy shorts, all-weather jacket, MTB helmet, and the beefy Alpine XL mountain bike shoe. Today, Mtbr and a host of other mountain bike press got to put it all that gear to the test, competing in a semi-serious 4-stage enduro race on the steep trails that pepper these mountains that are about 15 miles from Nice and the Mediterranean Sea. (You can check out a map of some of our ride here: http://app.strava.com/activities/41849311).
We’ll have a deeper review of all the Notch gear once we’ve had a chance to truly put it through its paces. But on first go, it all worked well, especially considering we spent most of the day riding in muddy, cold conditions. Indeed, this may be the south of France, but February is February. Temperatures never rose out of the 40s, and there was even a little snow on a few of the trails.
On a tangential note, enduro, as you’ve surely heard by now, is the current It Girl of the mountain bike race world. Format ranges from event to event, but the general gist is ride uphill at whatever speed you please, then race one by one against fellow competitors on a series of timed downhill sections that typically 5-20 minutes long. The ideal bike is a matter of much debate, but most would agree it’s something in the 5-6-inch travel range with beefy wheels and tires. We spent the day piloting a capable SRAM 1×11 equipped 26-inch Canyon Strive with six inches of travel front and rear (see a photo in the gallery below).
Tops on the list of enduro events is Trans Provence, the self-proclaimed first ever seven-day, point-to-point enduro race. I point this out because the other reason we’re here is to meet with Trans Provence race founder Ash Smith and learn a little about his event. Ash and Mavic have partnered for 2013, and the event is now officially known as the Mavic Trans Provence.
Though it’s been around only since 2009, Trans Provence has already gained a cultish following. Last December, the 50 available 2013 entry spots sold out for 1400 euro a piece in exactly 1 second. The remaining 20 spots were allotted to pros such as Fabian Barel, Anne-Caroline Chausson, and enduro’s reigning top dog, Jerome Clementz. All three of those riders are also here in Peillon acting as ride leaders and spokespeople for Mavic.
Barel, who lives in the area, has been detailing each of the DH sections before we drop in. And all three pros have been serving as de facto trail rabbits. Mtbr got to follow Chausson during one of the timed downhill stages today, and while the 19-time world champion was clearly going at about half speed, it was all we could do to hold her wheel through a labyrinth of tight, technical switchbacks, chunky rock gardens, and lots of other trail impediments. At the end of the day, Mtbr was a modest 10th out of 13, though one of the other riders was having problems with his timing chip, so 11th would be a fairer assessment.
Chausson and Barel are also pushing hard into the enduro racing scene. On Friday, both talked about their excitement regarding the recently announced seven-race Enduro World Series, which features stops in Italy, France, Colorado and British Columbia. Both of the former world downhill champions and Clementz are planning on contesting the full slate of races, which kicks off May 18-19 in Punta Ala, Italy. The Colorado stop is at the Winter Park ski resort on July 27-28.
Okay, got to cut it off there, as dinner has been served and we need to fuel up for another day of ride/racing. But check back soon for soon for more from France. And next week, Mtbr will be in Finale Ligure, Italy, to check in with the Cannondale Pro Mountain Bike team.