Overnight rain added a whole new dimension to the already tricky conditions. Day 2 was a long race, 6 stages with almost 5,500m of timed descending on the clock. That's over an hour race time even for the pros. Next level stuff, for sure.
The route took riders through the Les Arcs, Montchavin-Les-Coches, Landry and La Plagne areas - so epic resort-y-ness everywhere.
Most stages were pretty wet, even if it wasn’t actually raining during your runs. But, in the end, no one could escape the downpour as the day's racing came to a slippery, muddy conclusion.
Thankfully there was an airlift or two - Vanoise cable car. Jeff Doran photo
Stage 1 was a super-technical, hand and forearm-mangling 1,400m timed descent. "Double Shredder" already had a technical rating of 6, but the wet weather just took it up another notch.
Dude, seriously? Ronan Dugan photo
After Stage 2, "Elle Chablatte", lunch in Vallandry refueled riders and briefly relieved the arm pump. Up next was the relentlessly steep, twisting, brake melting "Axe Wound" section. Crafted by an ex-trials rider, this gem of a trail has an 850m-drop along some of the steepest, rootiest lines in the region. And in the damp, slippery conditions, the Axe was coming for your head.
Martyn Brookes of the UK gettin' low under a tree on course. Ronan Dugan photo
The next two stages were over on the La Plagne side of the hill, accessed by the huge Vanoise Express cable car that hangs 1km high on a wire across the valley from Vallandry. The new lift has opened up easier access to the La Plagne network of trails in recent years.
Jamie Nicoll, currently 3rd, leans wid' it. Mick Kirkman photo
Stage 4 was the 550m "Champion's Method" - slippy on this day but prime-time forest shredding and loam. It was briefly taken over by a group of French walkers who overran the Marshall and insisted on jamming the stage for an hour.
Stage 5, "Gold Rush," is named after Brian Goldsworthy, a great guy and competitor from year one who, sadly, is no longer with us. I had the pleasure of meeting Brian at 2013's race and his loss is MTB's loss.
Just beautiful. Mick Kirkman photo
Once down at Landry, over 4,000m of descending on rock, root, loam, gravel, berms, drops, jumps and every other kind of terrain had been ticked off and most sensible people might have called it a day. But not Trans-Savoie; the competitors took a final lift up the mountain to end the day on the "Black" trail at Les Arcs. This former footpath is a very natural feeling track that added another final 850m of descent to the race.
Ralph Richardson on course. Ronan Dugan photo
So a challenging day all around. Zaid Ali is the camp doctor and runs a clinic every morning and evening: "lots of bumps and scrapes. Occasional sessions of suturing wounds. I'll cherish the memory of putting in stitches in a tent in the alps whilst dealing with the cold and the rain."
I'm sure most folks were looking forward to a little beer, calories and well-deserved sleep.
No the rocks are are right after that tree... near that other rock... either at 20 or 30km, I can't remember. Mick Kirkman photo
Obviously the race is a life achievement, but with massive fitness challenges, cuts and bruises galore, my conversation with Dr. Jeff Doran, our man on the inside, turned to how to prepare for and survive this type of race. I made a pretty simple ask, but he kindly launched into a really comprehensive roadmap for these kinds of events - so I thought I'd share that with you (race results at the bottom).
Here are Jeff's tips for taking on a multi-stage race like the Trans Savoie.
Some stages today took the pros over 20 minutes! Ronan Dugan photo
Come in to the event in good condition. People will be putting in lots of training hours so make sure you are up to speed with nutrition and sleep. Consider upping calorie and protein intake during intense training. Adequate protein and sleep have been shown to prevent deficiencies in immune function which can often occur during intense training loads.
#2 Get it fixed
My knee hurts just looking at this. Ronan Dugan photo (taken from what I can only imagine is up a tree)
Any niggling injuries that are present before the race will certainly be exposed as the week goes on so be sure to address them as best as possible before traveling out.
Whilst events have experienced medical teams, they cannot provide treatment for chronic problems so if you are worried about a health issue prior to the event make sure it is addressed by an appropriate professional before traveling. This includes things like dental treatment etc as a problem could really ruin your week
Whilst on event: learn about how to fuel your body for the various demands. You will be undergoing periods of intense activity (like interval training) as well as long climbs and big days in the saddle. All these things have different metabolic requirements. Understand how you need to fuel yourself to survive the week. A mistake here could really ruin your fun.
Turn the light off, people are trying to sleep. Ronan Dugan photo
Rest is going to be very important. Not only will adequate sleep improve your mood and your ability to tolerate the psychological challenges it will improve your race performance and reduce the chance of you getting sick during the week. Sleeping in a tent for the week has its own challenges, especially if it is wet. The altitude of the campsites varies and it can get VERY cold at night so prepare for this.
A little course knowledge can go a long way. That's Alistair Jamieson on the right. Ronan Dugan photo.
I'd say that the key to enjoying the week (including getting a good result) is to actually make it to the end for day 6. Most people can't race an event like this at 100% of their maximum pace and hope to survive the week. Injuries to body and bike are common and as the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it. Consistency over the week is key, a few seconds here and there over the week is nothing if it means you pick the correct line or walk a section to make sure you are fit to ride another day!
#6 Lastly, have fun...
I'm not quite sure how to caption this, by all means, make suggestions. Mick Kirkman photo
Try to relish the experience. Smile, make friends, be friendly to fellow competitors. Very few people actually have any kind of career benefit from doing well in the race and so most would be wise to soak up the experience, be grateful for having the chance to take part and try savour the memories so that we have something to keep us going when we get back to our 'normal' lives!
The Results for Day 2
1st Nico Lau
2nd 33 François Bailly-Maître
3rd 35 Jamie Nicoll
4th 34 Florian Golay
5th 131 Gusti Wildhaber
1st Meggie Bichard
2nd Kerstin Kögler
3rd Lisa Curry