Soft Cheese and Hard Riding: the Stone King Rally
by Andre Charland on Sep 28, 2022
A 6 day bike ride/race/adventure in the Southern Alps ending at the Mediterranean was suggested to me earlier this year. Without looking into it much further I applied at the suggestion of Seb from Santa Cruz Bicycles. It was only after my application was accepted that I really looked into the details. I figured it was an enduro with some shuttles, so how hard could it be? Well..... the route involves over 8000m of climbing and over 20,000m of descending in 6 days. Several days with over 1800m of climbing. Harder than I thought, for sure.
What's the riding like? Is it a race? Where do you stay? Are there shuttles? These are a few of the questions since I got home from the Stone King Rally.
The Riding and Route
Starting near Parc Queyras in Savoie region of France just south east of the world famous ski area of La Grave. Day 1 started with a quick shuttle and then right into a single track climb up into the subalpine. Every day starts pretty early, on the bike by 7:30am. After a little break at the top we're right into the descent. Some fast open corners give way to steep technical corners and some fresh cut single track.
That's how most of the days of riding went. A shuttle, an epic big climb and more descending that even the most seasoned park rats can handle. The riding ranged from fast alpine single track to steep technical tight "euro corners' ' that humbled everyone to challenging rock gardens, small drops and the odd jump. It was impressive how long and consistently steep the descents were. Compared to typical Whistler nothing was so hard that it felt intimidating to ride but riding down such long steep descents took some getting used to. None of the stages really had any sections where you could rest in the descents. The timed sections were between 5-15min long.
Even for a person from BC I couldn't believe how remote the whole race felt. We were in the wild parts of the Southern Alps. We only saw other mountain bikers on a few of the days. The range of terrain we moved through was truly impressive. High alpine, deep dark forests, gentle sub alpine meadows, river valleys, and rocky ridge lines above the Mediterranean Sea.
Six grueling days later we ended in Bordighera, Italy. Arriving at the sea was truly incredible, and jumping in it was even better.
You can read the full day by day account over here: https://stonekingrally.org/the-deep-end-skr-vol-1-day-1/
The camp set up was as dialed as it gets. The Stone King crew sets up, takes down and transports your tent and kit every day. All you have to do every morning is get dressed, pack your bags, eat then ride. When you get to the next camp that evening your tent and sleeping pad are all set up for you. The tents had ample room for comfort and keeping your gear dry. They also had a blackout feature which made it almost hard to wake up in the morning. That might have been due to compounding fatigue every day but it sure was nice to keep the bright sun out on the longest days of the year.
All the campsites were serviced euro campsites with showers and most of them had cafes or bars too for a morning espresso or evening digestif.
The other camp facilities included: charging and wifi zone, mechanic tent provided SRAM and massage tent.
The Food and Drink
Let's start with the most important part. Beer. Beer was always ready on draft and supplied by Ash's (race organizer) brewery. The food was prepared everyday on site so there was no messing around. Coffee and breakfast were always ready first thing. Great cooks provided a wide range of hearty meals. Big tasty sandwiches and snacks were provided to carry your lunch. Also at a midpoint everyday there’s a feed station with a batch of salads, snacks, drinks and even espresso carted over in vans (and in RUX 70Ls). Really a life saver to get you through the day.
Not much to say here. The shuttles ran flawlessly by Cool Bus. Big vans carrying 8 riders and 8 bikes in trailers. I was never worried about my bike getting scratched or dinged during the event. Climbing about 1500m-1800m and descending between 3000m-4000m a day the shuttles made up the difference, you can do the math.
- Helmet (removable full face)
- Riding Glasses
- Sun Glasses
- Riding Bag (w/ back protector)
- Riding shorts x 2
- Riding Short Sleeves x 5
- Riding Long Sleeve
- Chamois x 5
- Socks x 5
- Gloves x 3
- Water Proof Jacket
- Casual T Shirt
- Casual Pants
- Casual Shorts
- Running Shoes/Flat pedal Shoes
- Bathing Suit
- Sleeping Bag
- Ear Plugs
- Toiletry Kit
- Sun Screen
- Bug Spray
- First Aid Kit
- Bike Tool Kit
- RUX Tool Kit
- 2 Rear Tires
- Tire sealant
- 2 Brake Pads
*Pro tip from the sad few who's bikes were lost on the planes: travel with riding shoes, helmet and maybe a bit of riding stuff in case you need to rent or borrow a bike.