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KEEPING TRACK OF TIME AT THE TRANS-PROVENCE

I stand at the bottom of a trail. Despite the beauty of the wider country that surrounds me – I started the day descending a frost-covered col, alpenglow hitting high peaks, a perfect ribbon of trail steering us through chilly air into the wooded valleys below – my spot isn’t exactly picturesque. Scrappy tarmac and a concrete culvert. Scrubs of foliage provide me with a little shade, but as midday approaches I can already feel the sun intensifying on my neck. And yet, there I stand still. Rooted to the spot. I strain to listen for the telltale rumble of tyres on loose rock… hollow chunder, scraping of a locked wheel through an ancient trail, the odd squeal of hot brakes, and whoops and hollers from the most vocal of riders. It’s impossible to relax fully, but I grab bites of a not hugely inspiring peanut butter and Nutella sandwich before returning to the task at hand – the small timing box dangling from my wrist while I busy myself doing not very much. And there I stand: one small part of a much bigger thing, ears pricking up as sound tumbles down the hillside heralding the first rider as they appear through the foliage.

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