Roc D'Azur 2012: The Big Show

Oct 14, 2012 at 10:26
by Matt Wragg  
Today was what we've been waiting for - the biggest mountain bike race in the world. If you are into mountain biking, and not just into a cliched genre, then it's hard to deny how cool it is to see so many people come together, just to ride bicycles as fast as they can. Over the event, over 100,000 people will pass through the gates of the Roc D'Azur and to see mountain biking so popular is amazing.

The sun rising over the Med
  The sun rose into a clear blue sky over Cape Esterel. Perfect conditions to go racing.

Early motorcyclists
  The motorcyclists were the first ones in this morning.

The list of riders
  What you can see there is the entries list for today's race... Over the four days around 18,000 people will take to the hills around Frejus to race, there simply isn't anything else on this scale in mountain biking.

Marco Fontana 3
Marco Fontana 2
Marco Fontana 1
  Marco Fontana is fast becoming one of our favourite XC racers. He can handle a mountain bike like a bastard, has an Olympic medal and couldn't see the point in wearin lycra today. Back in Italy he is more or less a national hero, lots of Italians make it over for the racing here and all of them seemed to want to congratulate him, get a photo with him or ask for an autograph. He found time for all of them.

Heading to the start
  As you head for the start line, you realise just how big this race is.

Warming up
  Some riders opted to warm-up on the atheltics track next to the start.

The wait to get to the start line
  That's the queue, to queue to get to the start line...

You don t want to be late
  A race this big isn't going to wait for you if you're late...

Waiting for the off...
  Riders had quite a lot of time at the start to think about the 56km ahead of them.

The Pope
  For some reason one fella showed up dressed as the Pope. They even let him onto the start line. The only thing we want to know is, why?

Discussing race tactics
  Much of the front row had serious faces on, if you've had a bad season, this is the last big race left and the last chance to remind your sponsors that you're pretty handy at pedaling a bicycle.

  French XC-racing legend, Miguel Martinez, got an incredible holeshot, pulling out bike lengths on the rest of the field. He got wound back in soon enough, but it's always good to put on a show for the homecrowd.

Marco Fontana chasing down the leaders.
  Marco got a good start, but by the halfway point a technical problem had put him out of the running for the podium.

The start
  The riders just kept coming.

Maxime Marotte
  Maxime Marotte was leading early on, but behind him you can just see Stephane Tempier...

Local lad done good.
  ...the local rider reeled in Marotte and then pulled away to a big win in front of his home crowd.

  There was some serious mouth-breathing going on from those trying to hold onto the leaders' pace.

Christoph Sauser
  Christoph Sauser charged to a solid fourth.

Through the short scrub trees
  Much of the course wound its way through the Mediterranean scrub.

The crowd on the hill 2
  The crowds out to watch the racing were incredible. This was at about the halfway point in the race and miles away from the nearest village, but just look at how many people turned out to cheer the riders on.

Mouth-breathing for the masses
  With that kind of audience you need to dig in deep, show them you're giving it some.

Racing up the hill
  It was like some 80s rally flashback, with people running all over the place, but parting just in time to let the racers through.

Struggling with the sand
  The final leg of the race ran along the sea front, and that meant some brutal sand sections to deal with. You could either put the power down and try to plough through, risking burning yourself out while you do it...

Running through sand
  ...or admit defeat and run, cyclocross-style.

Racing on the seafront
  Strangely enough, the crowds were slightly smaller here, closer in to the towns.

Racing along the seafront
  The section along the seafront was awkward as hell, a narrow footpath with ugly steps that you don't want to be ploughing into at race-pace.

  There was even a grown man dressed as Obelix to cheer the riders along.

The finish line
  And that's it, 56km done. The winner, Stephane Tempier averaged 24km/h over that distance, which is a pretty intimidating prospect to consider.

My rider for the day...
  Last but not least, a big thank you to Remy, my motorcycle rider for today. Tearing down the Cote D'Azur on the back of a 1200cc motorbike faster than he'd want to let on to the police isn't something I'll forget quickly. Cheers!

So there we are, that's the Roc D'Azur done for this year. I think next year I may even have a go at this XC racing business, it looks like it might be fun...
Must Read This Week


  • + 14
 I really had no idea that the pope is an XC fan.. I always thought he is freerider :/
  • + 10
 24km/hr average = road race on dirt. Mass participation. I think this format does have some potential as you can get people who don't ride that often and can't handle technical singletrack out there!
  • - 1
 How is 24km/hr average fast.. I have seen guys finish marathons with 30km/hr or more ofcourse it depends on the elevation change.. they had a pretty impressive starting field though
  • + 0
 yeah 24km/hr doesnt really seem overly fast even with sand. must have been a lot of steep climbs
  • + 8
 That's a crazy number of people, amazing to see how popular all forms of cycling are getting. Also averaging 24km/h, jeez! Well done to all Smile
  • + 2
 I was there in 2005 when they had BMX Supercross as a discipline. Great vibe for the entire event, and amazing scenery and people in the South of France.
  • + 1
 Accidentally downvoted you, sorry Adym:/
  • + 7
 Great to see some XC on Pinkbike
  • + 6
 Why don't the top guys just use cyclocross bikes for these races? Wouldn't they be faster?
  • + 1
 Nah you wouldnt be able to get through some of the more technical sections or the sand without likely having to run or go very slowly. Also theres probably a rule that its mtb bikes only
  • + 5
 Great photos. That sandy section looked painfulSmile
  • + 3
 Painful for ur drive parts.
  • + 4
 I average 24 km/h on tarmac. I'd lose a lung trying to follow that guy.
  • + 1
 Great race - I was laying on that sandy beach with my family just ten days before the race. Too bad I wasn't there for the race.
  • + 3
 Matt, i'm shaving my legs now as we speak! Great report and pics..
  • - 3
 thats a bit awkward dude no offence
  • + 4
 Si, there's a tandem race here, we should definitely do it next year!
  • + 2
 there is rocks forest and BEACH, a very good rail for the week-end
  • + 1
 Did Fontana snap his seatspost again??
  • + 1
 7th photo from the bottom the green dude reminds me of a praying mantis
  • + 1
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