This report from the Trans Taurus has been provided by Mark Songhurst. Photos by actiongraphers.com and Mahmut Cinci.
I’m in the attractive holiday resort of Kemer, which nestles between the turquoise Mediterranean sea and the Taurus mountain range, from which the cable car station atop the Olympos (Tahtalı) mountain stares down at us from 2,365 meters. 40km away on the other side of the bay is the bustling city of Antalya which hosts the nearest international airport.
It’s the first weekend in November, but the resort still has a late-season vibe to it, probably due to coinciding with the Russian half-term school holidays. The temperatures are in the mid twenties and the sun still has a decent strength.
I’m here to ride in the second edition of the TransTaurus 3 Days Mountain Bike Experience, Turkey’s first multi-day MTB event which is organised by the team who run the world renowned RedBull SeaToSky Hard Enduro Motocross event and the DownOlympos MTB Enduro event which starts from the summit of the Olympos mountain.
Event HQ is the all-inclusive 4 star Botanik Hotel where you can be sure the Turkish Baths are going to see some serious use after each day’s riding. After attacking the dinner buffet, the 85 riders assemble in the hotel’s meeting room for the pre-event briefing which is delivered in Turkish and English.
Tackling the Trans Taurus
Over three days we’ll be covering 180km and climbing almost 6,000m. Food stations are plentiful and the event has the full backing of the local authorities so there is a welcome plethora of marking tape, marshals, medics and a sweeper jeep. Whilst the majority of the riding will be on farm and Forestry Commission double track, as motocross and mountain bike riders the organisers have developed a series of singletrack sections especially for the event. We get a walk-through of one of the singletrack sections by a local mountain biker and then armed with our GPS files, head off for an early night.
Trans Taurus Stage 1
Next morning at the hotel’s breakfast buffet I’m layering up fresh bread with local grape molasses and sesame paste spread; maybe I won’t need all those gels!
Event start is at 8:30 and a Police escort leads us through Kemer’s streets on a neutralised ride to the start line adjacent to a dry river canyon into which the Taurus mountains dump it’s melted snow in Spring.
RedBull are in attendance with their DJ jeep pumping out tunes. We’ve got ideal riding temperatures – 13 degrees with a high of 21 forecast. It’s slightly cool in the shade of the canyon, but there is barely a cloud in the sky.
With the drop of the flag the ride kicks off at the pace expected from an XCO race! We have a short tarmac section before almost 600m of climbing spent over 7km. I’m primarily a road racer so I push hard and make a break before we enter the double track climb through forest. 5km in and an average HR of 165BPM (I’m 45!) I realise I’ve still got several hours and 2 more days riding to cover, so I ease off the gas, getting dropped by the younger pack around me.
After a singletrack descent with a chilly stream crossing, I pair up with a friendly Russian rider and we climb together up to 1200m at the 25km marker.
After a brief feed station refuel from the small and sugary local bananas I’m back on the gas, with a steep rough climb maxing out at 1400m. With the lead pack long gone the field is now spread out so I’m riding solo for around 40 minutes before catching up with two Turkish guys, riding as a team. Between snatches of conversation, We see out the remaining 30km of rolling terrain as a group, skirting around the occasional grazing goat herd and amused shepherd.
The cramps hit me for the last 4km and I’m solo again when forced to walk a series of short but steep singletrack climbs. Once the cramps pass, I’m back in the saddle for the finish line clocking in a pleasing time of 4:15, 59km 2,299m placed 7th in my category
Our bikes are stored in covered, secured (locked and guarded) storage overnight, on the mountain. Grabbing my go-bag, I give the bike a quick post-ride checkover and lube, scoff a bowl of pasta, change my clothes and jump on the bus back to the hotel for some welcome recovery time in the Turkish Baths.
You can see my ride on Strava.
Trans Taurus Stage 2
Stage 2 starts at 8:30 again, with buses taking the riders up to yesterday’s finish. This takes 45 minutes during which we get a chance to enjoy the fantastic views that were mostly just glanced at yesterday.
After 30 minutes of bike prep, we’re off to a prompt start covering the singletrack climb (now a descent) that I had to walk the day before. The event organisers have sensibly included a small climb before the descent, so the field is safely thinned before entering this technical section.
There are some tired legs around me today and I spend the first 40 minutes riding alongside Sezgin, a friendly Turk who is positioned second in my category. Having started at almost 1300m, we’ve descended 300m and are now climbing up to a height of almost 1,400m on a rough stoned rural road.
With my legs recovered from yesterday’s cramping, I make a concerted effort to drink a lot more water.
The climb ends with over 1km of flowing downhill singletrack, spitting us out into a farm where donkeys watch on with bemusement. This sets the scene for the remainder of the stage; steady and steep rural road climbs with fast and flowing single and double track descents through forests, harvested fields and Biblical rural villages.
It’s mild with temperatures in the high teens, but clouds have started to gather and the sun is only making brief appearances. Fortunately rain isn’t forecast until late afternoon.
At 60km the offroad fun is over and I’m faced with a 3km road climb to the finish. My road bike memory muscle kicks in and I engage Contador mode: suspension locked, out the saddle, pumping the pedals. Alas, this lasts about 500m but after a gel and with the caress of the sun of my back, I’m pretending I’m on the turbo trainer, spinning out intervals of 5 mins in and out the saddle. A glory solo sprint for the finish and I’m through on 4:06, 63km 1,949m still placed 7th.
With rain forecast I grab the Wet lube from my go-bag, clean and lube the chain and safely hang the bike in the storage tent. A bus is almost full with the lead pack, so I jump into the remaining seat and knock back my recovery drink.
Here’s the link to my day on Strava.
Trans Taurus Stage 3
Saturday night in Kemer and any hopes of a mistaken weather forecast are smashed as rain pours down. Waking up the next morning for another 8:30 start the rain has stopped, but the mountains are still shrouded in cloud. Once the bus transfer is complete we step out into a sleet shower! As I huddle under the RedBull marquee with the Turks, whilst the Russian riders are laughing it off outside the tent, stretching and warming up – Dmitri reminds me it’s -2 back in St Petersberg!
I’m seriously under-dressed; bare arms and legs with just an Assos emegency vest to keep me warm, I’m giving serious thought to quitting, until suddenly the sleet stops, the cloud breaks and we’re presented with a stunning mountain vista spanning far below us. The group’s sudden enthusiasm is both addictive and warming!
The event organisers have been informed that snow fell on the higher sections of the climbs intended for today’s Stage, so with safety primarily in mind the course has been adjusted to be largely a downhill descent over 27km from our current 1,100m to 700m.
We start with a brief but strategically placed climb. By the end of the climb the temperature has risen to 7 degrees and having warmed up I half unzip the vest. We hit the singletrack section in an explosion of muddy water and fine grit and it’s time to get serious.
Back onto a steady double track climb of 100m over 3km I open up the engines, passing riders left and right until I reach a group from my category. We stick together until the 16km mark and then I’m staring at over 10km of double track downhill to the finish. I hit it full gas, carving the muddy hairpins, whooping and laughing all the way. With some safety glances behind me for the rest of my category, I deliver another solo sprint to the finish. 1:32, 27.5km 133m now placed 4th in my category. I couldn’t believe I was considering quitting at the start of today!
A quick sandwich at the finish line and I regroup with the guys from my category and we spin our way back to Kemer for a hot shower and a cold beer (or three), finally making full use of the hotel’s all-inclusive package!
Take a look at my ride on the final stage on Strava.
Results from Trans Taurus
With many riders reluctantly flying home for work on Monday morning, the awards ceremony is held on Sunday afternoon.
In the Men’s category Ivan Seledkov took first, with Vladimir Levchenko and Ivan Grenavtsev joining him on the podium.
In the Women’s category Viktoria Zarina won, closely followed by followed by Seda Grenavtseva and Marina Rostovtseva.
Winner of the Men’s 40+ category was Nikolay Kostadinov, whilst the Turkish team of Emin Burak İzmirlioğlu and Yusuf Kartar took the Men’s 40+ Team category. The Men’s Team category was won by Turks Burak Günay and Muammer Yıldız.
Wrapping up the Trans Taurus experience
If you are looking to extend the end of your race season, or test your winter training with a challenging event you’d be well served by the superbly organized TransTaurus 3 Days MTB Experience.
Combine the event with a holiday in the Antalya region, where Roman ruins, Ottoman mosques and a world famous cuisine are waiting to be discovered and you are sure to have a memorable experience.
At the time of writing, dates for the 2018 TransTaurus event have yet to be announced, but will be listed on the event’s Facebook page.
Asides from the established 3 day event, a 7 day version is now being planned.
Flexible packages cover the costs of participation, all-inclusive hotel accommodation and airport transfers. The organisers speak fluent English and are quick to respond to queries and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org