World Marathon Champs, France, 84km, 3300m
Ornans in the Eastern region of France was the host to the 2012 Marathon World Championships. We obviously missed the all-important brief on how wet this region of France actually gets.
The steep slopes and dense forests ensured that even if there were sun for a month, the course would remain wet and slippery. You were either climbing long steep narrow jeep tracks, which also became nearly un-ridable on the day, or you were descending singletracks consisting of mud, roots and rocks. In these conditions, it takes a special skill to remain upright, let alone be fast, and you were constantly forced to the edge of your limits whilst trying to remain in control of what feels like a runaway train. Not sure how else to describe it?
Race day loomed, and as predicted the rain came on cue, which by this stage, would actually help in keeping the course wet enough to try and keep the heavy mud from clogging the bike up.
I had a good start and the SA riders were all close together, I guess all in the first twenty riders after the first test of a climb, when we entered the first singletrack section. I managed to get down with one crash, Dave a few more, but immediately, in a short distance, I had lost around forty seconds to the front group, and then straight up the next climb. This pattern would continue throughout the whole race. You hold your position on the climbs, or runs, and loose up to one or two minutes every time you hit a slippery slope of a descend. Basically not our favorite conditions, and not a true test of our physical abilities. Take nothing away from the top riders, you needed to be physically strong, but you also needed more than equal amounts of skill and phycology to get through that race.
In training we had split the course up into two sections, the first fifty, followed by the last thirty-four kilometers, and I tried to pace myself accordingly. However even the climbs were becoming too slippery to ride, and without traction, I was forced to push a lot. My race had gone from a race, to just getting myself to the finish in one piece. It’s a bit frustrating after all the effort and sacrifices that we’ve made to be in great shape, and then be unable to really express ourselves out there, but such is the nature of the beast. Nearly more than a third of the field never made it to the finish line, testament to the conditions of the day.
|Good thing I used my mudguard.|
Other than that, there was not much to take out of the race, except completing my ninth World Marathon Champs for SA, and although not the result I was hoping for, it was another experience on the bike that I will never forget.
Big thanks to Cycling South Africa for sending a full SA team over and assisting us where possible. Thanks also to Nedbank 360life for the continued support, and sending over John Hooper and Swen Lauer, who were crucial to have with us in trying to achieve our objectives.
Next race will be in Parys, not Paris, as we line up for the final event of the MTN Marathon series, and although the series may be over, the “Dirty dash for cash” is on. Then it’s straight to Oudtshoorn to start our final race of the season, The Bridge Cape Pioneer Trek, the following day.
Provisional results: MTB
1st Periklis llias (Greece) 4hrs18
2nd Moritz Milatz (Germany)
3rd Kristian Hynek (Cze)
18th Max Knox (RSA)
30th Kevin Evans (RSA)
56th Nico Bell (RSA)