A Look Back at Bike Racing's Next Big Thing

Downhill racing meets cross-country touring in the Mavic Trans-Provence

Enduro races are, as we've mentioned before, the next big thing in mountain bike racing. Already catching fire across Europe, the Enduro format combines heart-pumping, breakneck-speed technical downhill ("gravity") racing with the "earn your turns" ethos of cross-country racing. Only certain sections of a given course—usually long stretches of downhill singletrack—are timed. The rider with the lowest cumulative time wins.

One of the world's premiere Enduro races—Mavic's seven-day Trans-Provence—just wrapped up, and we thought we'd offer you a peek. The epic course stretches 320km (199 miles) across the countryside of southern France, from the Durance Valley to the Maritime Alps to the white-sand beaches of Monte Carlo. Along the way, riders climb more than 30,000 lung-searing feet for the honor—and, yes, danger—of bombing down nearly 50,000 feet of vertical, much of it technical, much of it timed over 26 "special stages" and all of it on jaw-droppingly beautiful terrain. Because of the logistical challenges posed by the rugged terrain, only 70 riders are allowed to race.

copyright Irmo Keizer (irmokeizer.com)/Bike (bikemag.com)
(Irmo Keizer/Bike)

Bike's Seb Kemp (photographed above) was lucky to be among them (and placed 15th of 68 who rolled through the finish!), and wrote up a detailed, take-you-there recap of the race. Here, a juicy outtake that gives you an idea of what it's really like out there (aside from beautiful, that is) in the thick of the highest-profile race in one of mountain biking's fastest growing disciplines:

All week we had undergone challenges but racing our bikes down mountainsides or enduring up to 50 kilometers of saddle sore-producing, thigh-tearing, lung-burning backcountry navigation each day had been the least of them really. We had had the sky fall apart and rain down on us like no other day I have ever experienced. We had had lightning bolts thrown at us. Some of us had wasps bury their venomous little pricks into us. We had had our bellies knotted by the accumulated stress of exercise, a diet of sugary gels, and perhaps a weather-contaminated water well. We had got ill enough to seriously consider retiring, but had deliriously decided to push through. We had taken wrong turns in the wilderness, had nights and nights of insomnia, slept in cold wet tents and had been troubled by the fear that our gear wouldn’t see us to the end. Some riders had crashed, tumbled, and fallen off numerous sheer mountainsides, saved just inches from mortal doom. But the biggest challenge was...

Well, you'll just have to click through to Seb's story if you want to know what the biggest challenge was. Here's a video from Day 2, one of the more challenging legs of the race:

For more videos, head to the Trans-Provence Vimeo page.