Roc d Azur takes over the air field in Frejus on the French Riviera. This year the event saw 20,000 participants, 300 exhibitors, and 150,000 visitors over a 5 day period! It’s a true cycling festival. After the last 2 rounds of the UCI MTB Marathon Series I was feeling confident going into the final European round of the season. I’ve been lucky enough to race many great events over the last few years but in terms of cycling festivals Roc d Azur is without a doubt the one to attend. There’s no better way of ending the season. It’s another one for your bucket list!
Ben Thomas, Mountain-Trax Vauxhall, Roc d Azur
Arriving in Roc d Azur on Monday I had time to complete some good training on the course and was loving the trails and excited to get racing. The marathon race took place on Friday and covered 82 kilometres and 2275 metres of ascent. 3000 participants we’re on the start line!
Despite my 23rd place in the world rankings I was put back on the 4th row, about 80th on the grid. I guess the organiser thought they needed to make things harder for me! Off the start I had to get the elbows out as we raced through the first few kilometres. It took a while to pass competitors I should have been gridded in front, of but after about 10 kilometres I caught a group of 8 which included Topeak Ergon and Team Bulls riders.
Until about 50 kilometres I was feeling super comfortable, then Topeak’s Robert Mennen did a long stint on the front really lifting the pace, everyone else struggled to hold the wheel. This injection of pace had me on the limited, I was on the back of the group and was okay until the rider in front made a mistake on a tight singletrack climb letting the group ride away. Already on the limit I tried to close the gap but ended up overdoing it and having to back right off for the next 5 minutes to avoid complete exhaustion.
That group was gone flying on to compete for 7th place at the finish. I lost a few minutes by the end but didn’t get passed by anyone so held on for 16th place. Not the top 10 I was secretly hoping for but in this world class competition against fully supported professional teams. It’s another result we can be happy with. Maybe without wasting that energy at the beginning passing slower riders gridded in front of me things would have been different.
After the race I’d been invited to a signing session with several top pro’s including Samuele Porro and Thomas Dietsch to promote La Forestiere UCI Marathon. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it turned out to be a fun experience with loads of interest making it a pretty busy hour.
Following Roc d Azur, the mountain bike season is now complete for the Mountain Trax – Vauxhall Cycling Team. The results over the last 3 months give me huge confidence. Hopefully the team will be back in 2016 with an even stronger rider line-up fighting for UCI World Marathon and XC Series success.
A big thank you to John Newport of Vermont Images who’s been with us every step of the way. Thank you to all the sponsors including Yellow Jersey (who incidentally offer amazing mountain bike insurance) and to our fans, your support is hugely appreciated.