Monday, 22 October 2012

Roc d'Azur 85km Marathon - 12th October 2012

RESULT: 14th in age category/ 40th overall

Written Saturday 13th October

Roc d'Azur is an iconic cycling festival which takes place each year in Frejus, France which is an hour’s drive west of Nice. The areas pleasant 25 degrees centigrade autumn temperatures, the fantastic trails, the coastal resort, and carnival atmosphere is what brings 18,000 people to the town for one October week. There are an array of different competitions taking place over 4 days including the cross country, marathon, endurance downhill race, dirt jumping, and tandem race (which we ARE doing next year! We just need to find a bike).

Tim Dunford has been raving on for as long as I've know him about how good Roc d'Azur is. With Worlds the weekend before it made perfect sense to make a 2 week trip and drive another 400 miles south to the coast. So it was decided perhaps foolishly that we'd race Worlds, pack the car and drive south that evening... arriving at 2am in Frejus wasn't so glamorous having raced for 5 hours and then driven for just as many (sorry, Tim had driven, I'd just fed the driver with sugary food to keep him going).

After a goods night sleep I went out Monday midday to ride what I thought to be the 85km marathon track, with some techy trails I thought it would be an advantage to know the terrain. 5 hot hours later I was back home having ridden a route which was completely wrong! It was good to be in the sun though and in the pretty hills above the coast so it wasn't all bad. It now being 5.30pm the shops were all closed apart from the bakery were I chose dinner from their delicious cake selection.

Tim had been nursing a cold virus all of last week in Ornans, staying in the same room and travelling with him I'd avoided catching anything but then Tuesday night I had a chesty cough. Otherwise I felt ok so it was a surprise pulling off the line at today's 83km Roc d'Azur marathon when I started wheezing, coughing and had no power. It felt like someone was holding onto my seatpost or someone had let my tyres down. Normally I start well but not today, Tim rode past and asked if I was okay, no was the answer!

I moved up a few places on the first climb but my heart rate wouldn't rise to anywhere near race pace. After the first hour where I'd been loosing places rather than gaining them like usual I admitted to myself that I just needed to finish the race by riding around admiring the view and having fun on the trails. There were some amazing views out there especially in the last hour where you rode back towards the coast and could look out over the beaches to the shiny blue sea. The trails were pretty awesome as well, lots of sweeping twisty sections and even more steep rocky descents.

I'd seen Tim a few times during the race, the final part of the race goes along the beach before following a rocky footpath along the beach front, I was worried Tim would catch me so kept looking behind. Riding along the beach was really good fun, I made it through the first stretch but then on the second my bike got stuck and I fell over still clipped into the pedals much to the amusement of the crowd which had gathered.

I made it to the finish 14th in category and 40th overall which was a pleasant surprise considering the world class level of competition and how ill I was feeling. Now there’s just one more race before the end of the season.

Thanks for reading.
Ben Thomas

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