The final day. A day of reckoning.
It's actually a relatively short one by Mavic® Trans-Provence standards. A mere 40km long but it still manages to throw in nearly 1000m of climbing just when the riders' legs could do without it.
For many riders, just hanging on to make it until the last day is enough. Many will have just come to compete with themselves, to see if they could finish. Others with grander expectations are now—due to a mechanical or a couple of wrong turns early on in the week—riding with altered intentions. Contenders become riders.
In this year's Mavic® Trans-Provence what's incredible is the closeness of the racing. After six days and more than 300km of mountain biking (with just over two hours of timed racing) at the start of this final morning there are only four seconds splitting the top two riders. Between third and fourth there are only nine seconds.
Four seconds. That's one slightly misjudged switchback. Or braking a couple of times a little harder than you needed to. Bear in mind that if Fabien Barel hadn't had a mechanical on Day 4 he would have no doubt been within seconds of the first two today.
To race at this pace, at the top of the game, is about control. Taking calculated risks. Not pinch flatting. Conserving your bike (a brand new bike feels pretty old after a week here). Not to mention being fit enough to ride at your maximum every single day.
This applies to the mid-pack tussles further down the rider list with the more mortal riders that are still here to race each other. There's almost certainly someone above you in the list that you can beat today. There's also someone below you that can that can take back those precious seconds that you gained over them. It might only be a race between you and one other rider but after six days it seems vital.
Behind all this racing are the Mavic® Trans-Provence crew. The whole motley bunch of them. The drivers for the uplifts and for moving bikes.The campsite crew who make sure that when riders get to the camp at night the tents are ready, there's chairs to sit in and the beers are on ice. An amazing team of chefs and helpers makes sure that everyone is fed three times a day. There's a three course meal every night. There are mountain staff operating the timing devices at the bottom of stages and making sure people get off the mountain safely every day and no one is left behind.
Our timing people that turn the data from the timing chips into numbers on the screen, there's the lonely sweeper picking up every last route marker and bundling up the course tape. Once they've passed through there's minimal sign that we've travelled through the country around us. And of course there's the small army of camera wielding media types trying to make sure you get your daily online fix of Mavic® Trans-Provence by proxy.
The whole thing wouldn't be possible without the Mastermind/Madman of it all: Ash Smith. Ash and his family. His partner Melissa helping out behind the scenes. His omnipresent father (and provider of "useful tips" to many a pro racer). Without those people the event would never happen at all.
We hope you've enjoyed this year's coverage. Keep your eye out for the highlights video over the next week, and if you think you're up to it why not apply when the entries open for next year's event.
Until next year. À bientôt.