Words: Anita Gehrig
The dust has settled, the body has recovered and before you know it you are back to your everyday life. But what we experienced just a few weeks ago is still hard to put into words, how can you make so many memories in one week of riding? Here’s six days of racing at the Stone King Rally in a nutshell, through the eyes of the Gehrig twins, Caro and Anita, and the lens of Sven Martin and Max Schumann.
[PCAPTION align=center]MONVISO: THE STONEKING At 500 meters higher than anything else nearby, Monviso at 3841 meters is the 10th highest peak in the Alps in a prominent position and its northern face leads to Italy’s largest river, il Po. Through the eclectic nature of the rally route, there is one constant: Stone King oversees proceedings. [/PCAPTION]
What is Stoneking Rally in brief:
A transalpine MTB odyssey [a long and eventful or adventurous journey or experience]
Arvieux, France to Bordighera, Italy
8, 280m of climbing
23, 240m descent
2:43:02.02 race hours
The race itself needs little introduction – the Stone King Rally is the evolution of the infamous Trans Provence race. A blind enduro adventure race from the Haute-Alpes of Southeast France to the coastal town of Bordighera in Northern Italy. Considered by many to be the pinnacle of multi-day enduro racing, the Stone King Rally is the perfect blend of challenge and enjoyment, making it perhaps the most challenging and fun yet (read: type two) race you can sign up for.
Crossing between the borders of France and Italy the Stoneking Rally covers all types of terrain, from high alpine to clay forests and rocky coastal paths, we found it all.
Managing expectations: An art form
Having driven a few Trans Provence events in the past, including the inaugural Stone King Rally last year, it’s hard not to have high expectations. Every time I’ve ridden the Stone King Rally I find it to be one of the most challenging yet incredibly rewarding weeks on the bike. But what happens when you keep expecting it to be the best week ever?
Taking it day by day, trail by trail, climb by climb is vital for me to immerse myself in the adventure. Everyone has a different idea of what the perfect path is, some days they don’t work for you but someone else is totally in their element and that’s the point. Celebrating the unique trails we get to ride and enjoying the vibes of it all!
Six long days in the saddle will undoubtedly take its toll on your bike and body, and when fatigue sets in, one small mistake on the exposed trails can destroy all your hopes and dreams with a rude awakening. For me, it is important to think of the race as a journey and not a race, because your high hopes for a good result can be dashed in the first or last stage with a mechanic. That’s why the word “odyssey” is probably the best way to describe the event. Everyone has a story to tell, and if you’re looking for the best week ever, you might just find it if you have the right attitude toward whatever the universe throws at you.
The second day was the longest day out there, after about 12 hours in progress we reached base camp. Applause is an understatement.
Long days out but with the luxury of buses, organized meals in between and the stage already set up by the labor helpers in the background.
Hike a Bike: A Love-Hate Affair
When you look at the daily stats, 1700m of climbing per day doesn’t sound like a lot, but what those numbers don’t show is the huge amount of bike-hiking that goes into those days.
If 1200 meters of hiking on a bike under the hot sun doesn’t sound too daunting – then this could be your event! What keeps you going is the curiosity of what lies ahead and what paths you might be on once you reach the top, that’s what makes every drop of sweat worth it.
GPS navigation with Rally partner Komoot and with signs.
The Mastery of Trail Reading: Expect the Unexpected
Racing blind means that every corner and every rock is a mystery. You will be tested on your ability to read the ground, make quick decisions on the lines and try to find the flow. But watch out – almost any time you start to feel properly lit on the path, the tightest change you’ve ever encountered can appear out of nowhere and give you a reality check that you can never quite trust.
The good old Enduro Tripod can help you tackle one of those near-impossible changes.
Not knowing what’s around the next corner a crash is sometimes unavoidable, it’s a mastery of going fast but staying within your limits. A need to help each other when something goes wrong.
The scene update said: expect a surprise halfway through. It turned out that we had to cross a military tunnel in the middle of the forest.
Twins Battle Royale
The person I’ve run into and lost the most races with is my eternal rival and twin sister, Anita. We share a healthy competition that is always a great motivation and inspiration in our lives on and off the trails. At this year’s Stone King we took the twin battle to the next level. With Tracy building up a few minute advantage after a few days of racing, the battle for second and third place was mostly between us. Anita had a slower start to the race and it was only after a much needed debriefing after the second day of racing that she really started to push. My lead over her melted faster than Europe’s glaciers and was down to 0.8 seconds after the final day of racing. The pressure was on and we had so much fun battling it out and pushing each other to the limit.
Trails from a Fairytale: Unveiling Hidden Gems
I guess there are few people who have more old maps than Mr. Stone King, Ash Smith. His specialty is finding abandoned, forgotten trails and bringing them back to life. One of the arguably best tracks of the week was found in Viadino and rebuilt less than three months before the event. The local cycling community helped bring this trail back to life and were really excited to have us clock it. The locals cheered us on as the trail just kept getting better and better. As we crossed the finish line we were greeted with music and local specialties and everyone was practically screaming with joy at the surreal path we had managed to ride. What remains for the locals is a dream trail and possibly the start of the development of mountain bike tourism in a new place away from the crowds.
After a tough 1000 meter vertical hike on a bike we reached this ridge leading to the dreamiest singletrack, Stoke was on an all time high.
Adapt to the local lifestyle: Baguettes, croissants and Aperol Spritz
As the race moves back and forth between France and Italy, it is important to understand the differences between the two cultures. When in France, do as the French do. Eat the baguette and try to find the best chocolate croissants. In Italy, Aperitivo is at least as important as dinner, so there’s no better way to end a great day than with some Aperol Spritzes with your new friends from around the world.
Equipment and physical preparation: Bolt checks and survival tactics
A bike that can handle the rough stuff but is light enough to carry on your back for much of the day is what you need. We took our almost stock Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper EVO, put on some heavier tires (we chose the Specialized Butcher Grid Gravity tires) and were ready to go.
To give your bike the best chance of surviving six long days on the road, it’s a good idea to check the screws every night, even if you’re really tired and just want to relax. I had to learn this again the hard way on day three when I realized my front brake was loose on the first stage and Anita passed me squealing with laughter.
Was it the best week?
Indeed, it was one of the most challenging, but at the same time most rewarding, weeks spent on a mountain bike. The combination of adventure, untouched path, good times with friends and some adrenaline caused by the pressure of racing couple until it is the best combination for our happiness.
1. Tracy Mosely 2:37:21.9
2. Carolyn Gehrig 2:43:02.2
3. Anita Gehrig 2:43:25.0
4. Tanja Naber 2.45.04.8
5. Laura Baptista 2:47:32.9
1. Romain Paulhan 2:10:41.2
2. Glenn McArthur 2:11:22.4
3. Sam Robson 2:18:30.3
4. Ian Austermuhle 2:19:36.2
5. Stephan Matthews 2:22:39.8
A big thank you goes to Ash Smith and the Stone King Rally team for making this a truly memorable week. Thanks for some of the best memories gathered over the years. (I mean, just imagine how many beaten paths you have to take to find this many good ones)
The ultimate goal of the week. the worthy swimming in the Mediterranean sea
#Photo #Race #Report #Stone #King #Rally #TransAlpine #Epic #Pinkbike