I have heard about Roc D’Azur for many, many years, but never been able to take part, so I really did not know what to expect — all I knew was that it finished at the beach and that in itself was a good enough reason to go!
I decided to enter the Enduro event which took place last Thursday. It was a 29km course with four-timed stages along the way. In true French style it seemed a little vague at first, as no one could explain how to get to the start or even show us on a map as we had to make our own way to the start. James and I were considering riding as it looked like it must be around 15 to 20km and we thought that would make it into a nice big day, but I am so glad we took Jerome from Trek France up on the offer of a lift — as it ended up a pretty long old climb!!
We finally found the top of the Col after climbing up through the morning fog. Once we got there and pushed our bikes up a steep rocky path, we were out of the cloud and the sun was shining through already. It was set to be a hot one! After the commisares had finally decided on where the course started, we were set for a
race. After that, it was pretty much a free for all as we could go whenever we wanted as we all had transponders. I was glad to get away in front as I soon realised that following people was not an option because of too much dust. The first stage was definitely freshly cut for the race and it was just wide enough to get your wheels through and then drag your handlebars and your arms through the tough wiry French bushes on each side of the track to make it through. I got a big bit of branch stuck in my rear mech pretty early on so had to stop and drag that out. By the time I was finished, I had been passed and ended up in someone’s dust for the rest of the stage.
After that I made sure I did the liaison stages quickly to stay ahead of the crowds of people and ended up having nice clean runs on the rest of the stages. It was a really fun ride, the climbs between stages were tough in the baking sun, but every start of a section had a little old granny with water and cake so it was always worth stopping for a few moments.
The final stage really did finish on the beach and I was straight in the sea! Such a wicked event and nothing better than a swim in the Med to finish it off . The results were not out for a while and with these events you really have no idea how you have done as you all ride independently, so the following day I was happy to find out I had taken the win.
The next day I wanted to pre-ride some of the 44km XC loop I would be riding on Saturday, but I ended up doing a lot more than half of it and also ended up having a great crash over the bars on one of the descents slamming my knee into some rocks. So not only did I ride for way longer than planned but I also had a fat knee I spent all evening icing and tending too. Fortunately the swelling went down pretty quick and I was able to ride the next day without it bothering me.
So Saturday morning I lined up at 9a.m. with the biggest womens field I have ever raced in — around 150 women were taking part. Somehow I ended up on the front row next to a large numbers of names I recognised from the world cup XC, so straight away felt a little apprehensive. The gun finally went and I attacked the first 20metres like a DH start and found myself out in the lead and I went around the first corner now needing to slow down a little and still no one had come by me. I really did not plan to be leading the race, but luckily it wasn’t for long as a few people began to come around me, but I was happy to be able to stay in the front group of around 25 or so up until the first climb. It was such a
cool experience to be in the front bunch alongside some great names of the sport. My fun was soon over as the first climb was upon on us and that was it, they were off… I just knew that I couldn’t keep that pace up for 44km, so I settled into my own rhythm and spent the rest of the race going back and forth as I would catch them on the descents and then they would catch me on the climbs. With a long loop like the this, the downhillls are actually long enough that you can recover a little and I didn’t spend the entire 2.5 hours hating it.
I ended up finishing in 19th place, which I was really pleased with after a long season of racing. I suffered a little after as my legs were dead and I spent the rest of the day coughing, the sign of a very tired chest from all that breathing.
As an event I really enjoyed Roc D’Azur and I was just one of over 15,000 people that raced over the week. It is a massive expo and bike race, a really fun event to be at. I am sure I will be back again.
Top photo via