Valdeblore to Sospel
When I saw the route profiles for Day 5 I knew this would be the big one - 4200m of descending over 65km - amidst 32c in the heart of Lantosque. And after you factor in the cumulative fatigue from the four previous days of racing you've got an epic day on your hands.
Stages 1 & 2 had been ridden before in previous editions of the Trans-Provence but this year Ash Smith changed up the stages so that no one had an unfair advantage. The previous individual stages were combined into one big one and then a more pedally stage was added, and it all really pushed the limits on bike parts and the tired bodies of racers.
The liaison off the days second stage to lunch at Lantosque was some of the roughest of the week for me - a centuries old cobbled descent ridden at cruising pace was so hard on the hands and shoulders that had already been weakened by about 14000m of descending during the week. I was cursing those medieval trail builders... but also reveling in their craftsmanship.
The last racing stage of the day took us down a loose, fast, rock-strewn descent to L'Escarene. This stage has quite possibly caused the most punctures of all the Trans-Provence stages, and it sure took its toll yesterday.
Just because the racing was done, it didn't mean the riding was over for the day. After a quick shuttle up the col there was an extra special double-points bonus round with two trails down to camp in Sospel - where beers were drunk and stories shared. I can't think of a better way to spend my 47th birthday!
Bodies and bikes are suffering from the sustained abuse of racing but spirits will lift when we spot the Med on our final day tomorrow. Then we'll wonder where the week went!