I have raced Trans Vesubienne already two times but never with a eMTB. It was a great test and also learning to understand how our Specialized eMTB Levo works.
This year I went there with my friend Konny Looser, mechanico Nicolo who is actually a pilot in real life and our very best team photographer Michal Cerveny. Big congratulations to Konny who won the Sunday’s stage plus and second overall in the normal bike category.
Every year the route changes a little, but its character never changes: “a bloody tough, rough and super technical challenge”! With or without engine it does not matter!
On Saturday we had to ride from Nice into the mountains (67km/2500m of climbing) and only two short stages were timed. I raced the two timed stages in turbo mode, the liasons in between the timed stages in eco (25%) mode. With our Levo you can tune the different modes with its iPhone app. Watch video:
I had zero chance against the super fast locals during the two stages, who knew the course like they’re own pockets. Here and there I was over the limit and hit the ground. I should have brought knee pats. Afterwards you are always cleverer!
During the stages it was social riding and it was great to chat to the other riders, checking they’re battery charge leftovers or just eating french baguettes in the shade. By the way I had my engine and batterie stats hooked up via my Garmin with ANT+ so I always knew what is going on with engine temperature, watts and battery status.
Right after we came to the finish, it started to rain and the hail came down in buckets. At some point it looked like fresh snow came down!
Unfortunately all this rain and hail did not helped me with my tire/wheel choice for the next day of racing. The 6Fattie tires (I was running Purgatory 3.0 Control casing) are not the best when it is wet an muddy. They do not dig into the mud as good as normal tires. You more float on top over it. After 1.30h into the race we started to hit the big & dry rocks and from there on I started to be comfortable, safe and very fast with all the extra grip and cushion I got from the big tires. I rode them with 17psi front, 18psi rear.
Battery management was very important. The total race distance was 75km/2900m of climbing and one battery change in the middle of it was allowed. I mostly raced in eco and probably 20% of it in trail mode. The turbo mode I did not touch at all. Here you can see how I configured the modes of my two batteries with the Specialized mission control app: (by the way, you can change eco, trail and turbo mode while riding by pushing buttons on the battery which is placed on the down tube)
In all (eco, trail, turbo modes) the settings I had maximum engine-power tuned down to 85% and the acceleration-sensibility to normal. All for saving my battery power. I seriously did not wanted to push my bike towards the end. I timed it super well and my battery was down to 5% at the first changing point and at the finish as well. Well I did not really see the finish line at the end. I took a wrong turn with 15km to go… I was in second place moving close to first. I ended up following a running race which had pretty much the same markers as our race. Finally I got completely lost and saw myself in the middle of the city of Nice, trying to find the finish venue some how. It took for ever and not only I got very dehydrated so as my battery too. I must say the bike still moved quite with body power only, even it weights almost 20kgs.
Trans Vesubienne is not comparable to the smooth 45min race I did at Sea Otter Classic a few month back. Today more then one day later I feel so beaten up. One of the most difficult challenges was to be concentrated all the time. Even in the technical uphills or flat single trails I felt so busy and under pressure, because your have to be on alert all the time, since you go much faster then on a normal bike. Timing the pedal strokes (not hitting rocks or roots), having the perfect gears, dropper post in ideal position, weight distribution… everything has to happen much faster! Obviously those points do not have relevance if you ride your eMTB on a Sunday’s chilled ride, but if you are under pressure by some fast Frenchies on crazy trails it is a completely different story!