It feels like the Trans Savoie has only just started and suddenly you’re more than halfway through the week.
The fastest pro riders have clocked close to three and a half hours stage time and the guys at the rear of the field have over seven hours of racing.
Martyn Brookes hits a corner. Ronan Dugan photo
France's trails deliver the goods regardless of your pace so, whatever the speed, riders are all hitting amazing terrain, the sun is shining and the race moves forward.
Jamie Nicoll is third after almost three and a half hours of brutal downhill. Ronan Dugan Photo
Heading out from Bozel the riders got to stretch their legs on a climbing liaison up towards the lifts of the 3 Valleys – one of the biggest ski areas in the world.
Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'. Ronan Dugan photo
Long before winter sports hit the area, farmers, pilgrims and villagers built up a huge network of paths and trails - and these are the treasures Trans-Savoie has hunted out over the years to use in the race.
Monica Büchi is sitting in third place in the women's race. Mick Kirkman photo
One of these hiker paths was the first stage of Day Four, and the hardest of the entire week. ‘Ornamental’ is a steep as hell technical puzzle with rocks so big it’s more of a case of carry your bike and clamber your way down it for most of the field. The best few riders take on almost the entire initial boulder field, but you need big cojones and some serious trials skills to not get ejected over the front if you’re going for it. I've ridden this trail, it's like a giant meat-grinder.
Mick Kirkman Photo
The chaos calms down once you get out of the rocky section and drop into fast, rooty loamy woods down towards Meribel.
BMC racer François Billy-Maître showed the trail who’s boss with the all-time fastest time for this stage so, 29-er for the win. François was also the fastest overall today.
But the cows... they just don't care. Ronan Dugan photo
Stage 2 headed right up to the top of Courcheval and was a mixture of high Alpine singletrack with loose stones and rocks leading to a never-ending blue trail with hundreds of berms and features. Tough on the body.
After lunch, the sunny day was at its hottest for one of the most pedal-y stages of the week. Stage 3 headed down into a beautiful backcountry valley before climbing back out and then across a stunning ridge line traverse that is pure classic French Alp scenery.
And... of course... there was some climbing. Jeff Doran photo
With 360-degree panoramic views and late afternoon sunlight, there aren’t many better places you could be.
That is until you head into stage 5 and 6 and hit up the loamy forest and leaf-covered trails down towards Bride-Les-Bains that offer some of the most amazing riding in the region. For loads of people that work as guides in the area or are involved in organizing the race, this forest is an absolute favorite. It simply offers the magic formula of amazing dirt and loam with a flow that’s hard to believe wasn’t made specifically for mountain biking – fast as hell with good lines, but relatively smooth and non-technical with the exception of a few tricky roots, tight turn, and rocks jutting out. Swooping black lines to infinity through rotted foliage will be imprinted on a lot of riders’ eyelids going to sleep tonight.
Nico Lau shreds one of the best trails in the Alps (according to nearly all the racers) at the end of Stage 5. Mick Kirkman photo
Day 4 Results
3. Jamie Nicoll
1. Meggie Bichard
3. Kerstin Kögler
Standings after Day Four:
1. Nico Lau - 3:19:27
2. François Bîlly-Maitre - 3:22:09
3. Jamie Nicoll - 3:24:10
1. Meggie Bichard - 4:16:10
2. Kerstin Kögler - 4:30:30
3. Monica Büchi - 4:35:02