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Lean, mean and green

Southern Roadtripping

I’d just come off the top of Europe, Mont Blanc with a 2000 metre powder skiing descent, but Wouter was still after final plan ideas for meeting him, my Dutch guiding buddy somewhere in Provence.
GAP was of course at the top of the list, being the most northernly town in the Provence Region, and having some very tasty dry and dusty trails! Read here about last years southern trip that put Finale Ligure to shame.

Even though there is more than 6 days worth of riding in the Gapencais, we wanted to taste something else and I’d seen a nice instagram photo from the VTopo Crew riding on this weird “terre noire” (black earth) stuff earlier in the year that looked very inticing.

The first day down south, my first major bike riding day of 2016 and I thought we’d get everyone going on some trails that I knew from previous trips over by the stunning Lac Serre Poncon.  Sitting having lunch in t-shirt and shorts at the end of April was a great feeling for us Northern Europeans.  The feeling after that days descending was an even greater one.

And this, this is how the trip continued for 6 days.  Coffee to begin with on the campsite, big climbs, good chat, lots of bread & cheese and then epic descending in beautiful surroundings.

We were joined halfway through the week by some Chamoniards and we all headed down to Digne Les Bains in search of this terre noire tastiness.
Oh boy what a treat it was for all of us, even the climb in was challenging but fun.

We had lunch just above the first section of terre noire before carrying on down through the forest on sublime singletrack for a couple of hundred metres until we broke out into the bright southern daylight.  We all came to a stop, looked out, looked around at each other, looked out again and then, looking back at each other, broke out in fits of shrieks and laughter.  It looked super special!

It also looked a bit narrow! You had to concentrate along the ridgeline sections to keep your speed into the steep uphill rises and then into the downhill's.  We managed to link together a few great sections of terre noire before finishing on a super fast rollercoaster down into the bottom of a valley.  What a superb area of unique grippy trails!

We wondered, that night, over obscene portions of pasta red sauce, how could this day could be topped.  In fact how could this day be beaten all season?
Luckily down in Digne, the "normal" singletrack trails are equally sensational and the remaining days, as ever, involved huge climbs, into huge amazing, grin inducing trails.
The kind of trails that make beer and ice-cream taste good at 5pm in 20.C temps...

The southern Alps reaped it's early season rewards again.  We scratched the surface on another small part of the Provence Region, there's still so much more to explore!



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Verbier is a very mixed place.  There is great piste skiing & free-riding and access to world class ski touring, but more often its known for it's decadence.  Huge picture perfect chalets with wealthy families and their beaufituful/handsome ski instructors fill the resort. And if not that, the seedier side of ski resorts, the bankers with their paid for woman. . .

Talking of horrible, those exposed switchbacks half way down from the Chateau were bloody horrible, lucky the rest of the trail was very good fun.

Well of course, its Swiss Valais, the footpaths are "tip top" and the lift companies are bike friendly.  There were still a lot of pistes open for skiing, but after 11am you can use the lower lift from Le Chable to Verbier to access the snow free trails that lead back into the valley floor.  Time to explore:

Many thanks to Lorne for some of the cracking photos :