Valberg - Valdeblore
Day 4 and we're over the half-way hump; that is, we're more than halfway through to the coast, and it's taking a toll on bike and body. Variety was the order of the day: there are two completely new stages, including a red earth Life-on-Mars stage to really mess with your brain when it comes to levels of grip [traction] and race navigation.
Dropping in from the col above Valberg you start to see the trail change color beneath your wheels and you can feel the grip slowly change. Things gets really wild when you hit the stage proper.
Trans-Provence's founder Ash Smith combined the previous years' first two stages into one long stage and turning the liason down to lunch into a racing stage. From drifting red earth, to rock-filled sections of trail, to lose rock over bedrock, the stage tested the limits of tired bikes and bodies.
After lunch and an epic shuttle and liason we hit two all new stages on a ridgeline before moving on to the famous Hobson's Choice. Loose fall-line sections of chunder kicked off the first stage in the alpine and lead into sweeping turns in the woods for 700m of vertical drop.
The final stage of the day was my favorite so far - it was proper mountain biking. After four days on the bike, this stage had it all and really pushed you so far beyond your comfort zone.
There's thrill and satisfaction in pushing you and your bike beyond what you think you can do, and getting away with it time after time truly made the beer and pastis at the bar in Saint Saveur so much sweeter.