Why did I choose gravel bikes?

I love the freedom of roaming on any given mountain-side that mountain biking offers. You just look at a mountain, find a trail and go explore. Even though you spend hours studying a topo map, there is always the uncertainty of the trail being cleaned, some farmers decided to park his livestock up there or nature taking back its rights which will make for a good laugh afterward.

While I enjoy riding the road bike on the smooth paved roads, the safety of knowing that you can be easily rescued if you get stranded is comforting and knowing at what time I will be back home is reassuring. I feel myself a little restricted though, sticking to the pavement, on what I can access and it feels less of an adventure than when I ride my mountain bike.

Living close to the border with Italy, I have discovered the Alpine line or Little Maginot Line: it is the fortified sector of the Maritimes Alps where every mountain top by the border has a fort at its top to prevent the Italian invasion during WWII. To access those forts, dirt track where built – those roads could not exceed the 8% grade, otherwise the horse carriages or truck carrying the ammos and canons would have slide back down. All these roads and forts have long been decommissioned. They are now unpaved and a perfect playing ground for gravel bikes.

What makes gavel bikes also appealing to me is that you do not need a specific bike to try it out at first or even to carry on doing it: go either for your road bike with slightly beefier tires, your cyclocross bike will do too, and even an old MTB with sleek tires can do the trick. I am no die-hard roadie but a MTBer thru and thru who likes to put some kilometres on the tarmac from time to time. I do not see the point of having a road race geometry n my bike when I have no use for it.

A more “relaxed” geometry that will be closer to my MTB geometry made more sense. That is why the lower BB, longer wheelbase and longer top tube of my Genesis Datum fit me like a glove. Setting it up more like a MTB than a road bike, with disc brakes (with the long and steep descends around home it was a no brainer) as rim brakes look cookie, and a 1x11with a 44T narrow/wide chainring and a clutch (MTB) rear derailleur, to avoid any chances of having the chain dropping.

If I am in riding a mixed terrain kind of mood, I will slap my aluminium wheels on with an 11/42 cassette and 35mm Schwalbe G-one Allround tires while if I go full roadie, I will go for the carbon wheels with 11/32 cassette and 30mm Schwalbe G-one Speed tires.

My favourite loop is like a gravel sandwich with buns of road. I call it my Tour des Cols, as I pass Orme, Ablé, Braus, Farguet, Ségra, Banquettes, Castillon and St Jean. It can be done both ways but I favour the counter clockwise option. Starting from Sospel, you take the winding Gorge du Piaon road to Moulinet where you will pass the loveliest perched Chapelle of Notre Dame de la Menour. It is a nice 12km of road to warm up and spin the legs before attacking the dirt road. Once in the village, you get onto the Beccas track for 15km to reach the bottom of Col des Cabanettes and the road which will take you to Col de l’Orme . Effectively, you are not far from the road but this valley seems so far away from civilization that it is an absolute breath of fresh air and gorgeous scenery. Between there and Braus, you will be on and off road for a handful of kilometres at a time and mostly in the forest but you will have your first pick at the Mediterranean Sea. Col de Braus to Col de Ségra on the dirt road may be the easiest part of the loop. While you have a punchy climb before attacking the last stretch of dirt road that will take you around Mt Ours, from col des Banquettes to col de Castillon and all its Forts. You finish by a nice descent to Sospel by Col de St Jean on the road.

Full loop here:



Village of the Damned

The Legend goes that in the 14th century, Queen Jeanne the 1st of Naples who was on the run with her children after being accused of poisoning her first husband, Andre of Hungary, found a hiding place in  her Castle in Rocca Sparviera. Nestled on the top of a 1100m mountain, with a impregnable view on the surrounding valleys.

Local villagers holding some sort of grudge against the Queen and her entourage, as they already had a hard time feeding themselves, helped out the Hungarish spies who showed up in pursuit of Queen Jeanne and brought subsistence.

On Christmas eve, Queen Jeanne went to mass in the neighbouring village of Coarraze. When she got back home, she found her children served on platters on the table.

Heartbroken, she fled the village the next day and curse the village and its inhabitants: “Un jou vendra que aqui non cantéra plus ni gal ni galina”, which could translate to “A day will come when rosters and hen will stop singing here”.

Either a damnation or a coincidence, the village got fully abandoned by the 16th century after a series of earthquakes shook the village and the spring ran dry.

Since then Sparrowhawk’s Rock (literal translation of Rocca Sparviera) has been nicknamed the Village of the Damned.

With this story in mind, we planned a 30km adventure that would take us from the medieval village of Luceram to the village of the damned and loop back. The ride can be started from different point and you can make it as long or as short as you want. We made it a mini-adventure to fit in half day as it was on trails we had never been before and if we were to get a bit lost it would not be too bad.

Heading down to Rocca Sparviera

Here is our route.

Riding through the Village of the Damned

It was indeed a pretty gentle ride at first climbing wise, the descent got a bit technical as we approached the village. We actually did spend an hour exploring the ruins and enjoying the view before heading back. You can definitely imagine how arid it could have been on the top of that crest with no spring water.

Matt Wragg in the front of the lens

Mini adventure in Paillons

It had been forever since Matt Wragg and I went on an adventure together, due past end of season injury, work, different training regimen, illness, you name. We simply did not make time to enjoy each others’ company on a day-long ride. We put it right this week and I took him on a mini Trans-Paillons ride.



 From Col de Ségra to Ongrand by Matt Wragg.


Our sole objective was to get from Sospel to Peille on time to catch a train home so we did not have to pedal our way home – which is easily doable if you leave early enough, have the motivation, bring enough food and have enough daylight. So not that day!


Downtown Peille by Matt Wragg.


I took him on a ride I did once a few years ago, which means I was not 100% sure of the topo of the trail, how much climbing we would have to do, how technical it would turn out to be, if the trails were still maintained. Plus this time I forgot to put the map in my bag but knowing roughly that area, it was not too life threatening if we were to get lost.


Waiting to catch the train by Matt Wragg.

That is why Matt calls going on a exploring ride with me is an adventure! And we did not get lost on that route,even though we missed a turn and skipped a bit of signletrack. We got to Peille with a little over a hour to spare before catching our train and plenty of time for a quick lunch. We have had enough time to had an extra track to our ride which is always a bonus.


 Hopping in the train to Sospel by Matt Wragg.


I am looking forward to more of these mini-adventures as we get our riding in-sync.

Datas from the ride

PB & J energy bars

As I’m in the process of changing career, last week I had some exams to be an English teacher.  By association: teaching, school, etc, this made me crave a peanut butter and jelly (jam) sandwich. So to turn that craving into a healthy snack I decided to make an energy bar which will bring me the same taste.



  • 190 grams (2cups) oatmeal
  • 110 grams (1/2cup) homemade  roasted peanut butter
  • 150 grams (1/3 cup) jam (apricot, strawberry, whatever you like)
  • 150 grams (1 1/2 cup) pitted dates
  • 50 grams (1/2 cup) almond meal
  • 10 grams (2 tsp) sunflower oil



  1. Soak the dates in warm water for 15 minutes, and drain. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  2. Place dates, almond meal, jam, peanut butter, and oatmeal in a food processor and blend until combined well. Slowly add oil while it is still mixing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  3. Scoop mixture into a square baking pan, and firmly press down to make an even layer. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  4. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes to set, then cut into 8 rectangle bars. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  5. Store in the freezer or fridge.


I’ve been scratching my head for a while now trying to get a salty snack I can bring on rides with me. And yesterday it hit me: cornbread! It is simple, quick to bake and can easily be made dairy-free and gluten-free.


  • 235ml (1 cup) Rice milk or other non-dairy milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 15gr (3 tablespoons) sunflower oil
  • 175gr (1 cup) medium-grind yellow cornmeal
  • 75gr (½ cup) corn flour
  • 35gr (¼ cup) sweet rice flour
  • 15gr (1 tablespoon) cane sugar
  • 3 pinches (½ teaspoon) salt
  • 11gr (3 teaspoons) baking powder
  • Coarse salt and fresh rosemary


  1. Preheat oven to 250C.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and oil.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together cornmeal, corn flour, sweet rice flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
  5. Pour into lightly greased 9 inch square pan.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until knive comes out clean. After 12 minutes of cooking sprinkle some coarse salt and fresh rosemary on top if you want some extra salty flavor.


Cornbread is versatile and can be paired with sweet (jam, honey cashew butter…) or salty (eggs, bacon, goat cheese…) food.

2015 Enduro World Series – Round 1 in Rotorua New Zealand

If you had to sum up this race in 3 words, it would be tough, hot and humid. We had a long day in the saddle with technical stages and tight transition that allowed us only a little time to rest before the clock started. Coming out of the winter from the northern hemisphere to New Zealand was kind of a heat shock, had to that the 100% humidity from the jungle, it was like racing in a turkish bath all day. 11078068_600647926738906_7002083653410615025_o The course was really fun and technical due to the slick roots everywhere. And the best would be do go stage by stage as each had their own peculiarity.  We started off at the Te Puia center that host the Maori Arts and Crafts instute and is located in a geothermal valley. The first 6 stages where in the Whakawerawera forest and the &th and last stages was at Skyline bikepark. 11080515_600647870072245_2780262119214986601_o Mattwragg_20150327_3233 Stage 1 was my nemesis: lots of pedaling on the top flat section in the mud to destroy your calf muscles for the rest of the course. Then come the DH bit with muddy off camber turns spiced with slick roots. Lots of heckler populated the jungle in this bit and to keep you on your toes. A nice flatish sprint at the end to finish to kill you. I didn’t stay upright enough on this one. Stage 1 Mattwragg_20150327_8282 Stage 2 had a really tight transition leading into it, with just a few minutes to spare it didn’t give much time to recover. With lots of pedaling involved at the beginning of that stage, it gave me leg pump and I had hard time at first, then the flowy bit came and it was all fn and giggles. stage 2 Stage 3 was my fave! A freshly cut track with not too much pedaling. Stage 3 Mattwragg_20150327_8004 Stage 4 is where I totally fucked up as I forgot to unlock my suspension before it. But once the upper bit was done and my suspensions where unlocked, it was all good. Stage 4 Mattwragg_20150328_3361 Stage 5, my second nemesis but only in 1 spot where I got hanged up for what seemed forever and it involved a lot of swearing in French. Other than that if you look at timing, it did not go badly apparently. It had a lot of off camber traverse with lots roots and it involved picking up your front wheel a lot. Stage 5 Stage 6: That was one of my favorite during practice, a high speed flow track with lots of drops. I got offered a re-run on it after being diverted due to an injured fellow racer but passed. Would it have been worth taking it? No sure as I was pretty tired at the time. Could have, would have, should have…. we will never know. Stage 6 Stage 7 was way more slick at the top than I remembered and quite treacherous plus being tired didn’t help. But I felt quite good on the bikepark bit even though wooden structures are not to be trusted. Stage 7 So stoked to have made it out alive, in one piece and with just a few bruises all over my body. Finished 24th of a stacked up field of strong women. Good day in the saddle though. Finished the day with a huge smile on my face. Mattwragg_20150327_9082 GPS track for stages 1 to 6 (forgot to restart it for T7 and stage 7) Official results are: Pro Men 1- Jérôme Clémentz 2- Fabien Barel 3- Wyn Masters 4- justin Leov 5- Florian Nicolai 6- Nico Vouilloz 7- Matt Walker 8- Damien Oton Pro Women 1- Anne Caroline Chausson 2- Tracy Moseley 3- Cécile Ravanel 4- Aneeke Beerten 5- Megghie Bichard 6- Ines Thoma 7- Rosara Joseph Full results here

Energised gingerbread

With colder days on us, a craving for holiday and sugary food may have hit you as well. To not feel too bad about eating this kind of treat, I’ve used these wintery spices to make trail bars.

125 grams flour
125 grams oatmeal
11g baking powder (1 packet)
100 grams brown sugar
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
100 grams raisins or candied ginger (optional)
250 grams honey
2 eggs
10 cl rice milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat your oven to 160°C.
In a large ball, mix flour, otameal, baking powder, sugar and spices. Add the dried fruits if you chose to have them.


In a saucepan, heat up the honey. Stop when it starts to bubble.
Pour the honey into the dry ingredients mix and stir vigourously until well combined.
Heat up the rice milk with vanilla extract until warm and set aside for a minute.
Add the 2 eggs to the mix and stir well. Then pour the vanilla rice milk into the mix and keep stirring until you have a smooth dough.
Line a cake tray with baking paper and pour the dough in.
Bake for 1 hour. Mix the baking paper, it is super easy to get the cake out of the tray and cut it into bars.


On the road again…

What has only been 2 weeks on the road seems like an eternity. After a month and a half home, away from racing and socializing, we took off for a journey, which would see us go to 3 countries for 3 different reasons.


Matt and I set off from Sospel on a 7-hour trip to Friedrichshafen, Germany for Eurobike.

Sunrise CH

We were lucky enough to found a sweet B&B on the Swiss side of Lake Konstanz with a gorgeous view.


I went roaming the halls in search of new products for 2015. I’ve published my findings on Pinkbike:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3



Eurobike is an interesting place, as you feel like a kid in a candy store with all the upcoming cycling products surrounding you. It is also quite exerting physically and mentally to be around so many people.


After those crazy few days we headed to Switzerland, to find the total opposite of what we had experienced in Germany. Lenzerheide, in the Grisons, was quiet and restorative.

wpid-psx_20140831_181711.jpgWhile Matt was busy with a photoshoot, I was able to explore trails, relax and even meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen in 2 years. We even had a little one-day trip to St Moritz, what a gorgeous place. wpid-psx_20140902_125244.jpg

Our third stop was Italy for the fourth and final round of Superenduro. We went from the Plessur Alps (Central Eastern) to the Cottian Alps (South Western).

sunset sauze-2

The terrain was widely different in Sauze d’Oulx, with dusty singletrack winding in the pine trees, Greina plains and sharp shelly rocks on the peaks. wpid-wp-1410195130117.jpeg

As per Italian custom, the course was unveiled over a week prior to the event. Arriving on Wednesday evening meant 2 days of practice for 2 days of racing. We had 3 stages and a half to memorize as we repeated all stages at least twice.

20140906-Matt Wragg-7709

I had a few really good stages over the weekend but as I was too cautious on the first 2 stages of the weekend and had a mechanical on the second, I ended up in 6th. For the overall series, I finished up in fourth. wpid-wp-1410195175475.jpegIf you like datas and are on garmin connect or strava, here are the link to follow:

– Garmin Connect:

Stages 1&2

Stage 3
Stages 4&5

Stage 6

Stage 7

Supermountain stage

– Strava:

Stages 1&2

Stage 3
Stages 4&5

Stage 6

Stage 7

Supermountain stage


We are finally home after 2 weeks of being gypsies. There is 2 more races to go until the end of the season: Enduro Marathon de Gourdon and the EWS in Finale Ligure. Before this, we have to move house though, still in Sospel but a little more lost in the countryside, which should keep us busy for a while.

Muesli bars

I’ve been craving more carbs and less sugar on races lately, so I thought I’d try to make muesli bars.



  • 3 cups organic fruit muesli
  • ½ cup almonds meal
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey


  1. Preheat oven to 160C in fan forced mode.
  2. Combine muesli, almond meal, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, olive oil and honey in one large bowl until mixed through.
  3. Spoon into a square baking pan lined with baking paper.
  4. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden.
  5. Cool then cut into 15 pieces.
  6. It can be store in the freezer.


Enduro World Series #4 – La Thuile, Italy

Landscape from La Thuile-7

While some went to play in the mud at the Méga, the world’s best enduro riders weren’t too far away from L’Alpe d’Huez. Just across the border in the Upper Aosta Valley, Italy, for the fourth round of the Enduro World Series, organized by Superenduro.

We were in La Thuile, a small village of less than 800 souls, just on the other side of the Col du Petit Saint Bernard if you were in Bourg St Maurice, France. Best known for its ski area with views on the Mont Blanc, the resort has been catering to MTBers, during the summer, for a few years now.

20140710-Matt Wragg-6359

Unusual for an Italian enduro, but quite normal for EWS, there was only two days of practice. The weather being indecisive all weekend and  with having to race 3 specials per day, all but one with lift access, the choice was simple for most riders Thursday morning to go ride the 6km and 700 meters of D+ to reach the start of Sp2 while the skies were favorable. We had a few flakes over 2400 meters on Thursday afternoon, but nothing that held more than a few hours on the ground. The Sp2 was less physical and less technical than the other stages but it was quite tough after a leg-shrinking transition.

Landscape from La Thuile-6

The rest of the stages were on the bike park, starting high up on the mountain and going through some good ol’ alpine loam with  their fare share of roots, mud and rocks coming out of nowhere.

20140712-Matt Wragg-0157

Sp1 and 4 were identical, with a 4km transition, but at more than 2200m high with a 10% grade and freezing temps, it hurted like hell. Especially as the stage itself was the longest and most pedally one of the weekend: 7km long with 1000m of D-. In the middle of this stage, it felt like crossing a swamp for over 400m that could easily swallow your shoes if you unfortunately. At the exit of this quagmire, you had to hammer up a 10% grade fireroad, which seemed endless but should not have been more than 200m. It is on these two parts that the race seemed to be lost or won.

Stages 3, 5 and 6 were more DH oriented with a few kick-ass climbs to max out your HR, with a sweet finish on the dual slalom at the end of each day.

Landscape from La Thuile-2-2

To sum it up, four days of EWS with 2 days of practice and 2 days of racing hurt your shoulders and quads so bad. But as the tracks were so awesome with amazing views and food was so yummy, it was probably one of the best enduro races of the year.

20140712-Matt Wragg-0620

I got a solid Top 20 and beat my usual competition which is a good thing but still have a lot of room for improvement, especially on the pedally parts.

Here are the full results:

EWS4 La Thuile – Day2- Women


Here are the datas from each stages:

Stages 1 & 2

Stage 3

Stages 4 & 5

Stage 6


Next Superenduro will be Sauze d’Oulx on September 6 & 7 and the next EWS for me will be in Finale Ligure on October 4 & 5.


Action photos by Matt Wragg and landscape pictures by myself.