September 13, 2023

A Journey of Grit, Triumph, and Unyielding Spirit.

Hello, everyone. I’m Morgane Jonnier, and I want to take you on a breathtaking journey through the heart of the Trans Madeira, an epic five-day mountain biking adventure across the enchanting Portuguese island renowned for its incredibly diverse terrain. Buckle up as we relive the highs, lows, and the remarkable human spirit that defines this incredible experience.

The adventure begins with a midnight touchdown at Funchal airport, just a day before the festivities kick off. Imagine the excitement, the anticipation, as we set foot on this island of dreams. After a restless night at the airport, we couldn’t wait to explore the beautiful surroundings of Machico. As evening descended, a gathering took place, where the entire Trans Madeira community came together. It was an exhilarating start to an adventure of a lifetime.

Our first day on the trail covered a grueling 63 kilometers, with a staggering 1317 meters of elevation gain and an exhilarating 3200 meters of descent. Our journey began at Chao da Lagoa, a lofty 1495 meters above sea level, and wound its way down to Machico, nestled at sea level. But fate had something else in store for us – rain from the very outset. The rain was relentless, accompanying us throughout the day. It was a day of unparalleled intensity, setting the tone for the adventure that lay ahead.

Day 2 beckoned with 47 kilometers of heart-pounding action, boasting an impressive 1088 meters of ascent and a jaw-dropping 3370 meters of descent. The route featured seven new timed stages, each more thrilling than the last. We navigated through winding trails that meandered through the enchanting “jungle” and showcased breathtaking vistas. Rain again greeted us as we began the day, but the sun made a triumphant return in the evening. I couldn’t have been more thankful for my trusty LEV Ci dropper seat post, it endured the most difficult conditions without ever failing.

Day 3 was unlike anything we had experienced so far. We embarked on an adventure that commenced with a bus ride to the summit, where we tackled two exhilarating downhill special stages. From there, we traversed the island from one end to the other, carrying our bikes through kilometers of terrain. We ventured into the mystical Nun’s Valley, a place that seemed to emerge from the pages of a fairy tale. The landscape was otherworldly, and the journey included traversing kilometers of tunnels, an incredible and unforgettable experience. The day concluded with two timed stages that were pure joy and flow, all against the backdrop of a breathtaking campsite beneath a towering cliff.

Day 4 was a day of misfortune for me. Despite a strong start and a lead in the first two special stages, I had a fateful fall on the third stage. It happened in a seemingly innocuous flat turn, on wet grass, perilously close to a cliff edge, courtesy of a gusty wind. I was sent sprawling to the ground, my shoulder taking the brunt of the impact. I summoned all my strength to rise and complete the stage, despite the searing pain. At the bottom, my arm was immobilized, and my derailleur hanger was shattered. As I tended to the mechanical issues, rescue personnel came to my aid, securing a strap for my injured shoulder. After a few moments of respite, there was no time to dwell on the pain. We had two more timed stages to conquer before the day’s end. The pain was excruciating, and I can’t quite put into words how I managed to endure it. On the journey back to the camp, I made a stop at a pharmacy to purchase pain relievers and additional straps, desperately hoping for some relief before the next day’s challenge.

Day 5 dawned with my arm completely stiff and movement near impossible. But I was not one to give in to adversity. I clenched my teeth and embarked on the day’s journey, the pain nearly unbearable. I could feel my enthusiasm waning with each passing kilometer, but I was determined to finish what I had started. The six timed stages of this day pushed me to my limits, making it challenging to fully appreciate the magnificent surroundings. The results were unveiled during the evening meal, and I found myself in second place – an achievement to be proud of, even though a tinge of disappointment lingered.

But let’s not forget the essence of the Trans Madeira. It was more than a competition; it was a celebration of the human spirit. Yes, I’m competitive, and I thrive on challenges, striving for my best performance and the highest ranking. However, the emotions of that week, the shared moments, and the spirit of camaraderie were what truly defined this experience. I met people from diverse backgrounds, forged connections, and experienced something truly incredible. To the incredible crew of this event, I owe a debt of gratitude – it was because of their unwavering support that I made it through this remarkable adventure. The human connection was at the heart of it all; we were there to lift each other up.

A few days later, back in France, the truth became clear – I had a fracture at the head of the humerus and a shoulder sprain. I can’t quite fathom how I managed to endure the pain and complete the race. Perhaps it was a potent mixture of adrenaline, excitement, passion, and yes, a touch of ego. In my mind, there was never a thought of giving up. A race is not over until you cross the finish line, and a mere shoulder injury wasn’t going to deter me. It wasn’t just about the race; it was about the human adventure, the experiences gained, and the lessons learned. I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to embark on this journey again.

As I look back on the Trans Madeira, my story serves as a reminder that, when faced with challenges, we can rise to the occasion, reaching for greatness even when the odds seem insurmountable.

So, as you contemplate your own challenges and aspirations, let my journey be a source of inspiration. No matter how steep the climb or how daunting the path, remember that the view from the top is worth every uphill battle. Life’s greatest adventures are not just about the destination; they are about the incredible journey itself, where the human spirit soars, defying gravity, and reaching for the stars.

Rider: Morgane Jonnier
Photos: Leo Gruber / Morgane Jonnier
KS product: LEV Ci dropper seat post / Southpaw i-spec EV