Words: Antti Laiho Photos: Sven Martin

The Stone King Rally is the creation of trail master and event organizer extraordinaire Ash Smith and builds on the ten-year heritage of the original mountain bike rally, the Trans Provence. It is a six-day enduro race from the heart of the French Alps to the Ligurian coast in Italy – and more.

The racing is blind, the trails are a surprise to everyone and the route is epic and variable. From wide-open alpine pastures to narrow terrace trails, ridgelines and winding single track, steep shutes, loamy forests, and rocky, ancient pathways, the route challenges the riders day after day.

Or what do you say about a stage canceled due to a severe thunderstorm with hail, a five-hour approach to the start of the day’s first stage, a stage finish in the moat of an old castle, hiking up to cols over 2900 meters, and arriving at the Mediterranean Sea in 35-degree heat after descending more than 20,000 vertical meters,

The Stone King Rally is what mountain biking is for me: an adventure in nature, shared moments with friends, overcoming challenges, pushing my limits, riding my bike, and creating forever lasting memories. Oh, and it is a bike race, too. With 24 stages and well over two hours of on-stage racing time, it is amazing to see how tight the competition can be. Everyone has their ups and downs and still in the end it all comes down to seconds. This time I did not manage to step onto the master’s podium but was left to stand on its side in fourth place.

My collection of three Trans Provance cutting boards will need to wait for a new addition at least until next year.