Stage 4: Villars-Colmars - Guillaumes
Many regular Trans-Provencers think that day four over 41km from Villars-Colmars to Guillaumes is the finest over all day of the week's riding - starting with the huge decent from Col des Champs and including the unique Grey earth stage, if these two trails were all that you rode in a day, you'd consider it a fine day's riding, but with two other exceptional trails included, it really is a special day in the big mountains.
Special stage 11 is the Col Des Champs. This is a real test of riding - individually each of the many sections would be challenging, but taken together it takes a strong technical rider, who can also onsite rock gardens and turn into the tightest switchbacks whilst ignoring the ever increasing exposure on either side of them. All of this, of course, is whilst the clock is ticking -it's a 15-minute descent for the fastest riders.
Next was special stage 12. The liaison stage itself is something quite unique. It's a slice of exposed rock that cuts its way across the side of a mountain with vertiginous 200-metre drop below and an amazing view point down across the valley and to the stages ahead.
The stage itself continues initially in the same vein as the Liaison but with the risk to life removed a little if you fall off. More open rock face switchbacks lead to the lower pine forested trails and beautifully grippy sandy corners - with dust still hanging in the air from the rider in front.
From the feed station, a fun liaison stage took riders across the valley floor before the fire road climb to the start of the Grey Earth.
Special stage 13, The Grey Earth, is unique to this part of the world. What looks like a combination of grey cement dust mixed into tarmac that has then rolled down a hill like lava, has then set into long flowing ridge lines of incredibly grippy and fast rolling trail. For the riders, there's a suggested line laid out for them but the opportunity to go "off-piste" and choose a quicker line is there for those that want it.
The final stage of the day was reached by steep hike-a-bike to open meadowland - before a steep switchback loam ride propels riders back to the valley floor once more and the chance to recuperate for the next day.
We haven't mentioned racing much other than results before today .Whilst the Trans-Provence is a race it's also just as importantly for many people taking part in a chance to ride amazing trails and to be in this beautiful part of the world.
Today, however, we had the race's first injuries and they've affected the fast guys. Ben Cruz is out with either severely torn ligaments or a broken ankle. Steve Jones had a big crash and whilst Nico Vouilloz hasn't hurt himself, he lost time after tearing off his rear mech.
For the people that are racing, tiredness is starting to show. Seven days of racing is partly a war of attrition. Silly mistakes are having consequences that could either cost the race, the stage, or stop them from finishing the event itself.
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