It has been a pretty busy week since the finish of the most epic Trans Provence adventure last week, I haven’t had one moment to just sit back & reflect upon the many crazy & many memorable events that occurred within those short 7 days, but here goes…
This past week has been an endless project of trying to pack up all our bikes & stuff that we have had here in Europe for the past 5 months. Not only do I have to pack up the 5 bikes that we have with us, but I’ve had to scrub & wash each and every one of them, including all the tires, shoes & gear so that they are squeaky clean for the Nazi New Zealand customs inspectors. Trying to get 5 months worth of European Summer mud off of everything is no easy feat, and I am pretty darn over cleaning shit right now. The only good thing about this, is that the bikes & kit will be ready & raring to get riding as soon as we get home. Yes please.
Right then, back to the crazy adventure that is called the Trans Provence.
Well, I didn’t think that this year would be able to top last year, but it did, in epic proportions. It wasn’t harder, in fact, it was easier, as some of the stages were made a bit shorter, but due to some massive storms, bad weather, near death cliff flinging experiences, helicopter rescues, general crashes due to us pushing too hard, navigation issues, bad water & some emotional stuff that we were trying to get to terms with, it made for a pretty amazing 7 days. From the start we naturally split off into smaller groups and that seemed to stick for the duration of the race. We never tried to get home last everyday, or have something crazy & pretty scary happen to us every day, but somehow it did, and our group just kept growing tighter & tighter, to the point where we were sticking together like glue. We ate together, rode together; pee’d together, high fived together, quit jobs together, laughed & cried together. After a series of events that started happening, we named ourselves Team Dark Cloud, as it seemed like wherever we went or whatever we did, shit would hit the fan! Most of the Team Dark Cloud members were friends before the TP, but we became really great friends last week, and it is a crew that I cannot wait to share many more adventures with.
Tired of me ranting on about the crew, it is hard for me not to. Yes it was a race, but it is hard to explain this race to anyone who hasn’t experienced it before. It is hard, really, really hard & it is mentally & physically very challenging. You start off wanting to win, wanting to push as hard as possible, but as you figure it out, you realize that there is so much more to it that just racing & the results. Of course we are all there, because we like to race & we want to do well, but this week just proved to me again, how important it is to have great friends, and how incredibly lucky we are to meet such great, likeminded people on our bikes.
I am really happy about my 2nd place finish behind Anne Caroline Chausson, and even happier that I was actually able to win the overall on one day. Rosara and I were close all week too, she would put minutes into me on the longer climbing stages and it would take me days before I could make up the time with some of the shorter downhill stages, but in the end I managed to take 2nd place with Rosara in third, Aimee Dix in 4th & Hannah Thorne in 5th (Not bad to have 3 Kiwi girls in the top 5). Apart from the results, it was great to get to know Anne better. We’ve been to so many races & raced together for so many years, but we’ve never actually hung out. We did at the TP. We drank red wine, chatted about babies & boyfriends & became friends. I’ll never forget my first encounter with ACC. It was my very first Pro race at Sea Otter classic in 2001 & she started behind me #FML! I take my hat off to each and every girl that finished the TP week – it was hard & they should all be super proud of themselves.
The race between the AM class men was the most exciting, with Sven, Chris Ball, Seb Kemp, Tobias and many others racing against each other as if they were back on the World Cups circuit! It was great to see these friends rotating results every day, and drinking & bantering over the results each night. In the end it was Toby who took the win, with Seb in second place & Joe in third.
Of course the Pro Men’s race was very exciting as usual. With Nicolas Lau taking the win, Nicolas Vouilloz in second & Jerome Clementz in third (not bad for being part of Team Dark Cloud).
What happened to Team Dark Cloud on a daily basis was more exciting than most people experience in a lifetime. Looking back on the week now, puts a huge grin on my face & I cannot help but giggle to myself. Not funny at the time, but we will be sharing these stories for many more years to come, and that is what life is all about to me. We are rich with memories & friends.
Below are just a few of the happenings that occurred during the week:
Jon Cancellier started off the first stage by carcassing down the steepest part of the track, then I was attacked by a stick that almost poked my eye out, but instead just poked a hole in my forehead causing blood to gush out like a drinking fountain. Hannah Barnes was attacked by that same stick, and the two of us looked like we got into a cat fight.
We got caught on the top of a really exposed mountain, during a really, really big, scary thunder, lightning & hailstorm, where we just wanted to get off the mountain. We didn’t even bother with kneepads; it was too cold to feel your hands. At one point I didn’t even know if I was braking or not, I was so frozen. There was no thought of racing, it was absolute survival, and I was hoping & praying during my race run that someone wouldn’t die. During this stage, we got stuck crossing muddy, waist deep flash flooding rivers, which were mere ride able creek crossings for the earlier groups. Jerome crashed & lost his pants during the thunderstorm & put a hole in his penis. Well not his penis, but close! He managed to finish that stage in his extra holey, fishnet Mavic stockings, I mean lycra. What a legend. Jey also managed to recruit an entire Cannondale team after handing out dry t-shirts to all of us for the remainder of the day. Go team Dark Cloud Cannondale – and this was only day 2.
We all got lost, a lot, especially Chris Ball – that man needs a compass, o, and Hannah & Seb also joined in – or were they just the search & rescue team looking for Chris?
Devastated about his navigational error & time loss, Chris decided to take flight off a cliff the next day, into the abyss, in front of us all, on his 10-year anniversary day. I thought he was a gonner & still have visions of his yellow 29er cart wheeling down to the valley floor & for a moment there I had visions of having to call Kate & e-mail her the photo he took for her just minutes earlier.
A wasp nest decided to attack some of our crewmembers & of course they were allergic. Bad water the previous day, caused us to almost loose Seb & Jon. Thank goodness I had charcoal tablets & rehydration powder to get them through the day. Jon managed to vomit all day long, including during his timed stage races. As if this was not enough, Jon also slipped & fell down a massive cliff, thank goodness we had Paul Smail the fireman to hoist him back out & then to top it all off he hit a tree going full speed 20 meters before we finished for the day. Not a day Jon would like to repeat.
Sven managed to flat, then double flat again along with Seb & Chris also flatting. Smail knocked himself silly one morning & jacked up his shoulder pretty badly.
I can go on and on, but there were too many things to list. I must say the funniest one was when JC was lying in a ditch and all I could see was a talking head when I came down shouting at me not to take this line!
As the week progressed we tried to stick together incase something really bad had to happen, and of course it did. All we had to do was make it to the beach on a relatively short day, but Sven had other plans. Day 7, stage 1 was slippery & wet and he went down hard, or hit a tree hard I should say. A few of the Team Dark Cloud members were still at the top, so we were able to get to him quickly. He was pretty out of hit, hit his face & head pretty hard, and his arm was looking a bit wrong. As Sven would later say after some morphine, “God, who was I riding with, the fucking Village People?” We had Hannah Barnes, a nurse in real life, who just took charge, she was amazing, and then we had Bjorn the doc who supplied all the morphine & Smail the “handle bar mustached fireman, we had Toby & Sam, the logistics brothers & organizers & Jerome the translator. Chris, Jon, Joe & Matti were the moral support & keep the humor going crew. The whole team was amazing. Team Dark Cloud pulled together. Thank you to everyone that helped. We got Sven stabilized & he got heli lifted out of the forest & off to Nice – beating us all to the beach after all.
Sven’s whole incident in that forest last week was very emotional. It ended up being a badly broken arm & concussion, but it brought back so many memories of when he broke his neck & it freaked me out. I couldn’t stop thinking about my good friend Gabby, who had just lost her soul mate a few weeks earlier & seeing Sven lying there, wrapped up in space blankets, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how Gabby must have felt & how amazingly brave she must have been. We had also been riding with the presence of Jaymie Mart, a good friend of ours that left us all too soon – she was laughing at us & all our antics from the back of Chris Balls number plate all week. Matti also broke down when he saw Sven with flashes of all his past injuries coming back to him and just being too overwhelming to deal with. It brought out so many emotions between all of us, things that we have been trying to deal with and get to terms with over the past few weeks, and I personally want to thank each and every one of you for being there with me. I truly feel we have all made progress with whatever demons we’ve been chasing or have been chasing us.
What was supposed to be a relatively short day with a swim in a sunny, hot Mediterranean sea, turned out to be quite a bit different for Team Dark Cloud. After Sven took off for Nice, we all had to carry on racing. Not ideal. I still had 4 races to do, or to hold it together and get to the bloody beach in one piece. Of course due to our delay - thanks babes- we got caught in another massive storm while everyone else had completed the Trans Provence & were drinking beers & high fiving all around. Team Dark Cloud was back! Jerome took Sven’s timing chip & clocked him in for every stage race. That was so rad. Thanks Jerome. Sven even managed to get a 2nd place in the Pro class during the one stage! We raced the last two stages in pouring rain, on slippery ass rocks, and we just wanted to be done. Of course it would all be too simple if we actually just finished up. Two stages, big deal. Hannah managed to flat, I managed to have a massive crash, Toby ripped off his rear mech, we were all starving & out of water, then to top it all off, Chris Ball had a massive crash, wrapping his neck around a tree and that had Seb & Jon pile right into him, leaving them all in a big pile up 200meters from the finish of the race. Chris & Seb managed to get up and clock out, but Jon had done his ankle in pretty badly. Paul Smail, the fireman had yet another rescue to tend to, as he had to carry Jon out of there and get him off to the hospital. OMG, we had all sort of all finished the bloody Trans Provence.
We promised to jump into the ocean for Sven, so we had a mission. Come hell or high water, we were going for a swim. We survived; we bonded (especially with Paul’s leopard print speedo). We became great friends. Hopefully nothing else would happen with our crew before the end of the day, as it turns out Toby couldn’t swim – so we all got a bit nervous, and got the hell out of the water! It wasn’t complete with our missing compatriots, but it was a great feeling of accomplishment. So there you have it, another Trans Provence done & dusted. It was time to drink beer & share stories with all the other brave soldiers. Will I be back next year, hell yes, I’ll be back!