Back in November of 2013 I managed to get an entry in to the Trans Savoie a big Alpine multi stage enduro race.
The shit just got real!! For me this was a step into the unknown a multi stage, seven day enduro race, I didn’t do any enduro races at all never mind seven day ones. For those who don’t know enduro racing is about getting timed racing mostly downhill stages and riding transitions in between each stage, which can involve some big climbs till you reach the top.
Let the training commence. From the off my mindset was to be fit enough to enjoy the race and most importantly finish the race, leaving the results to take care of themselves. My goal was to be able to ride or hike a bike to the top of the stages with enough left in the tank for the descents and with 5000m of ascent and 25000m of descent throughout the week this was going to be tough.
Training started initially by just riding as much as I could to shed a few pounds and build a good base fitness before going to see a personal trainer to get a programme. With a bit of tweeking to my diet and the extra riding I shed a stone quite quickly dropping to thirteen stone for the first time in years. In January 2014 I stepped the training up a level after a visit to my personal trainer who set a range of fitness programs both indoor and outdoor focusing a lot on heart rate training along with calorie counting to cut a bit more weight.
Zach doing the training for me!
Six months in of sweating and pedalling in all conditions was paying off big time. Out on a ride I could clear climbs that I had never previously been able to and with a smile on my face. I never thought I would say this but I actually enjoyed the climbing, the challenge of getting to the top without dabbing or pushing is as rewarding as cleaning a techy descent, maybe not as fun though! I was feeling ready to race now, but still a couple of months to go. So I carried on doing my thing maintaining my training plan and diet, although I did have to start to eat more I dropped below twelve stone for the first time since school, this is along way from my sixteen stone peak whilst playing rugby!
Its nearly time to race! After a long drive out I was there feeling fit and nervous but ready to go. We got our race numbers headed off to find our tent before the briefing of what’s to come.
Nice spot to spend the night.
With a hundred and twenty or so riders squeezed into a room the briefing began. If I wasn’t nervous before I am now, one of the stages we were informed that if we don’t read the signs and miss the corner we will have time to right our will on the way down, such was the size of the drop! Shit!! What became very apparent quickly was read the signs! There was certainly a lot to talk about with the other riders after the briefing over a cold beer or two.
Race day was here and I couldn’t wait I was feeling, nervous, scared, and excited about the week ahead. Reaching the top of stage one was amazing the buzz amongst the riders was electric, let’s do this!
Stage 1 Day 1
The nerves vanished as I hit the first descent straight into a bike parky section before being thrown off piste into some techy alpine singletrack, Awesome! Getting the first stage out of the way was a great feeling eager now to crack on with the rest of the race!
Looking back at the week all the days seem to blur into one, we rode some of the most amazing technical, exposed, flowy singletrack trails I be ever ridden. The transitions between stages were nearly as epic as the stages some brutally long climbs others with ski lift assistance and also big hike a bikes this is where my training was paying off, getting to the stages still fit to ride. The scenery in the transitions was breathtakingly beautiful through out the Savoie region.
Transitions of dreams! These were worth the trip alone.
For a week I was living the dream, get up and fuel up for the big day ahead, ride the best trails you can imagine all day, get back refuel, a compulsory beer then sleep, get up repeat day after day.
During the first or second day a small group of us had formed and tended to ride together each day with plenty of banter amongst us to keep everyone’s spirits up.
We were joined by the legend Steve Peat midweek to show us mortals how to really race!
Steve Peat with Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery Trans Savoie Beer.
At this point it’s worth mentioning that when we drove out we also brought hundreds of bottles of beer which I brewed for the event at my work for Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery. The riders were given a well deserved beer as a suprise at the end of one of the days, after this point I was known as the beer man to my fellow racers.
By midweek the amount of riding we had done was mind blowing and still three days to go!
The last day was truly epic with a huge hike a bike and a massively exposed ridge line traverse to the final stage. On one side you had a wall off cloud hiding a monster drop and the other Mont Blanc right in your face!
Transition to final stage!
The final stage of the week was super flowy switch backing it’s way down the steep mountainside on dry dusty singletrack. Crossing the timing dibber at the finish and that was that done the Trans Savoie 2014 completed! We headed straight to a local bar for a celebratory beer or two then back to the camp to share our race stories with the other riders.
My times during the race got faster as the week went on which was good to see, if I had started as I finished I would have made top 30ish which would have been awesome but I ended up 51st just under middle of the pack which I was happy with. I would have taken that at the start off the week and to finish in one piece.
The Trans Savoie 2014 was the best week I have spent on a bike to date, what can I find to beat this ………………?
Maybe the BC Bike Race 2015!