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The road trip that made Finale Ligure seem average

I have been truly spoilt recently with trails and company.  As an all round package, Finale is great; sea, coffee, food, singletrack, beer and gelato.  We just found a package that was even better.

Leaving Les Arc for Embrun we decided after 3/4 of the journey to check out a tasty looking footpath up above Briancon, just to break the journey up you know?  It turned out to be an absolute banger of flow. Me and Ali were chuckling all the way down. Basically things carried on like this for a the whole week, look for a nice footpath on the map and go ride an amazing singletrack trail.



We started our road trip proper around Lac Serre Poncon.  You can read about my first visit earlier this May here and here2.  Since my last visit I'd been itching to get back and show people.  Unsurprisingly everyone loved what I had found.  THAT SOUTH FEELING!




I've never had a col (mountain pass) named after me, but I now have Col de Oli.  Part way through the summer professional mountain biker photographer, Sven Martin posted an inconspicuous photo on his Instagram of a Col on the French/Italian boarder. He claimed it was one of the best trails he'd ever ridden, big words from a man who travels the world biking. Within about 15 minutes of research I was able to find the said col, and the potential descents.  The problem was, this area is full of great looking trail's in every direction.  Time to measure distance and contours...

We drove for nearly 2 hours, drop vehicles in the right places, drink some coffee and head up this narrow road towards the Italian boarder.  Every kilometre of the drive has been stunning.  Everyone is happy, and the bikes are still on the 4x4.  What is this trail going to bring I thought.  Some of the group claimed it to be the trail of the trip despite the short breathless push to the nearly 3000 metre starting point.  High alpine singletrack indeed, super fast up top, super tech section's in the middle interspersed with dusty larch forest singletrack and a rock gaden to finish.  A 9km trail with a bit of everything.  And the views?  Oh the views were beautiful!


WE WILL BE BACK TO THIS AREA




Next up was the Mercantour area where there will be an EWS next year.  I'd found some routes online from the Portes de Mercantour Enduro that clearly needed to be ridden, including the infamous grey earth. Another member of the group knew a descent from the Trans Provence.  On top of all this me and Ali had been pouring over the map looking for more nice footpaths.

We nearly got shut down at the top of the Col passing into the Mercantour region, a light dusting of snow, we still unloaded the bikes and rode an amazing singletrack.



We didn't have many trails that turned out to be that bad.  There was one though that still confuses us.  Nice climb and traverse.  First section, amazing bench cut trail, like a UK trail centre.  A little bit more in the tree's and we break out in another amazing bench cut section.  We repeated this cycle several times till we lost the footpath in a field full of cattle tracks that all looked slightly like they could be the actual footpath. We "free-rided" our way down to the road and the next trail on the adventure.






It was my turn to shuttle as we headed towards the Grey Earth trail made famous by the Trans Provence enduro race.  I was disappointed to be on driving duty, but we all thought we'd want to do another lap as it would be so fun.  Waiting at the bottom,  Ali appeared first, but without the normal grin every other trail of the trip at been producing, then Lezley and Sam, then 10 minutes later Rachael and Pat. Again, no one was particularly buzzing.  Rachael and Pat had got lost on the lower section due to there being lines all over the place. Sam had jumped some nice lips, that lead into dead ends. Over rated, perhaps, but still scenic.

However, we had spotted a trail to the right that could be good.  We drove up, got lost, but then eventually found a dry rocky descent that lead into the most sublime roller coaster section of grey earth.  I was never going to keep up with Ali and Sam but we all still loved it.



After all this fun it was time to head to Finale for the EWS final race weekend where Nash and Ali were competing.  It was surely to be a great weekend of riding, partying, eating and drinking coffee & beer.  Finale is now world famous. Meh, it was alright.





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