The Final Trans-Provence
Story by Peter Ostroski
What makes the Trans-Provence different than all the other stage races? It’s the combination of a massive amount of vertical metres descended, the number of hours in the saddle, countless switchbacks executed, and the camaraderie formed between riders. In my mind, it’s one of the hardest mountain bike events in the world as it tests your physical, mental, and mechanical stamina over six unrelenting days. This year marked the 10th and final year for the Trans-Provence and it finished just as it started – incredibly. This race has always delivered the ultimate adventure for like-minded riders looking to move through the mountains, interpret trails on sight, put down some fast times, and feel a true community vibe.
I was anxious about heading into the Trans-Provence. It’s such a legendary event with a long and documented history. But even though my anxiety was growing it shifted to excitement as soon as I arrived in Barcelonnette, France to kick things off. The schedule was set for the next six days, and although it was daunting the vibe at camp couldn’t have been more relaxed. New riders were introduced, past riders were reunited, and everyone was stoked to get going as we organized our tents and gear.
The Trans-Provence is all about blind racing so when you’re charging down old donkey paths, predictability goes by the wayside and the good choices you make begin to outweigh the risky ones. It’s quite unlike an EWS race that lasts only one day or two. At the Trans-Provence, you’re tasked with managing your own decisions and support to sustain nearly a full week of racing.
We were greeted by unfamiliar but awesome trails day in and day out. As the entire group rode through the Maritime Alps, we navigated everything from high alpine singletrack to technical rocky crags at sea level. The style and flow of each trail changed dramatically, putting even more strain on our bikes, body, and mind. Even though I was completely exhausted, it was the other racers at the Trans-Provence that helped to keep me going in the adventure. Riding with friends, swapping stories, and having coffees in small villages made for an unforgettable journey.
The idea behind the Trans-Provence is simple. You camp in tents and change locations each morning, manage your own gear, keep your bike and body running, and get through each day. It sounds simple enough, but I can assure you it’s far from it as you navigate from valley to valley and cover hundreds of kilometres and descend the height of Mount Everest two and half times.
The Trans-Provence is a race model that’s influenced an entire culture of mountain biking and pushed the limits what’s possible from an event. It truly is an incredible mountain bike adventure.
Ostroski in Alaska
Alaska is home to the world’s northernmost rainforest, resource development, North America’s tallest peak, and spectacular terrain. While the winter provides world class skiing, summer brings long days and plentiful wilderness. Living in Alaska in the winter and racing the mountain bike enduro circuit in the summer, I found a break in my schedule for a quick adventure in the 49th state.
After the Crankworx EWS race in the mecca of mountain biking, Whistler BC, I packed up my Altitude and flew to Anchorage, Alaska. I arrived to the sight of fog-covered mountains shooting straight up from the North Pacific Ocean and several moose lounging 100 meters from the runway, and made my way to the small ski-town of Girdwood. With persistent precipitation and fog, I met up with local photographer Charlie Renfro in hopes of a weather window to get some images.
Anchorage is home to a growing number of mountain bike trails. Kincaid Park, on the south side of the city, supports a huge network of Nordic and snow-bike trails in the winter, but the summer trail-network is great too, and we were lucky enough to get some evening light there.
Our next mission was to head southwest on the Kenai Peninsula to the town of Homer, in search of some riding across the Kachemak Bay. We rolled into town mid afternoon after four hours of driving and went aboard the Ikpiq, an English-made bilge keeler vessel. Captained by our local Girdwood friend Aaron Stiassny, the 26-foot long vessel can sit flat on land without tipping over and holds a lot history in its old wooden deck boards. The boat has sailed up and down the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, nearly being lost in a storm which stranded local Homer legend John Miles on the southwest side of Shelikof Strait, 150 miles away from Homer.
Next we made our way Jacklof Bay in search of a trail up to Red Mountain towards the North side of Seldovia. The word was the trail up to Red Mountain had washed out from flooding last year, and little was known about the actual condition of the massive drainage that used to be home to an old chromium mine. The old mining road was indeed washed out, and we reached the upper valley near Red Mountain with about an hour of daylight left and no singletrack in sight. We scrapped the idea of trying to ride to the ridgeline and headed back to the boat for a dinner of fresh mussels.
Our slow motor back to the dock the next morning was followed by a tour of the bluff above Homer Spit, John Miles’s house, and the neighboring farm. We made it in time for a beer and a close up view of the farm's first pig-slaughter of the season.
Heading back to Girdwood for the last couple days of the trip, the weather locked in once again. Rain and cool temperatures didn’t make for ideal exploring conditions, but on the last day the clouds lifted. We made our way up towards Crow pass, where there's a 24-mile trail all the way down to the town of Eagle River. The terrain went from alder-thick singletrack to rugged, open alpine trails. The epic riding in the Chugach Mountains was a great way to round out the adventure.
All in all it was an incredible trip, with much more to explore next time. Thanks to the folks in Anchorage for the local knowledge, Rocky Mountain Bicycles, and Charlie Renfro for the photos!
The Altitude Enduro Team Tastes Enduro World Series Racing
The Rocky Mountain Altitude Enduro Team is fresh off its first Enduro World Cup race at Winter Park, Colorado.
The team of Jesse Melamed (21, Whistler, BC), Kevin Soller (25, Breckenridge, CO), and Peter Ostroski (24, Intervale, NH) is captained and mentored by Olympian and Canadian cycling icon Andreas Hestler. They’ve landed several top ten finishes in the North American Enduro series’, and their sights are firmly on the North American Enduro World Series events.
The Colorado Freeride Festival, held at the Trestle Bike Park, played host to the first ever Enduro World Series event in North America. With 151 pro men taking the line, including experienced professionals from Europe, this was a rigorous test for the Altitude Enduro Team’s young development riders.
Five timed stages ranging in time from 5 to 11 minutes put the riders through rough, rocky descents and over bike park jump trails at an elevation of over 10, 000 feet. Dark thunderclouds peppered day one with hail, and the daily heavy showers kept the stages tacky, difficult, and yet super fun.
“After racing as an individual for the last couple of years, I am stoked to be part of a fresh new team. Being part of something that we do as a collective just keeps the riding fun”. — Kevin Soller
“This event showed me that I can be competitive on an international level, and doing it at the first World Cup in North America, wow! I’m motivated to grow with this new discipline and can’t wait for the next one in Whistler.” — Peter Ostroski
Jesse Melamed posted some impressive results with a 16th, 18th, and a 23rd, but the flat tire on stage 3A cost him a crack at the overall top 20. Peter Ostroski was consistent all weekend long with a 38th overall. Kevin Soller crashed hard on stage one and gained ground all weekend long to finish a respectable 71st.
With Round 5 of the Enduro World Series in Whistler BC only two weeks away, the team is looking forward to some competition on home soil. Feeling comfortable pushing World Cup speeds and knowing that they can mix it up with the top racers in the world will provide even more confidence heading into the later part of the season.
The Rocky Mountain Altitude Enduro Team is presented by Shimano, Kazlaw, DLD Financial and BC Bike Race. The team rides Rocky Mountain Altitude bikes equipped with Shimano, Fox, Race Face, DT Swiss, and Continental componentry, and wears Sombrio clothing and Ryders eyewear.