When you are a spectator of a participant’s performance, you often forget that you had to put together a lot of cogs to get there, and even more the next time to reproduce this performance. Thanks to Remi for allowing us to go into these final preparations and his experience during the BikingMan AURA 2022, an event he will eventually win, his 2nd victory on a BikingMan.
I disembark at Beaumont-lès-Valence, base of BikingMan AURA (AUvergne-Rhône-Alpes) for check-in and briefing. Like all the competitors, I am very well received by the BikingMan team, Axel and his Race Angels. I find Patrick Gilles, the president of my Cyclosportissimo team, as well as Hugues Faivre d’Arcier, with whom I have already shared an RAF and an RAB (Burgundy). Hugues is the one who greatly lowers the average age of the competitors. And like any young person, he is still dissipated. For example, he rides his bike and changes his tires after the briefing, while everyone else has already been doing this for at least a week, and has been rechecked 3 or 4 times that it was 😂
For my part, I do not know what result I can do. Of course, I’ve already won a BikingMan, I’m starting to master the subject. But the start of my season was seriously disrupted by an accident and there are many specialists announced on the starting line. Ultra races are clearly 2 categories of competitors. Those for whom completing the distance is a personal challenge, who are there to finish according to their possibilities, their training, and who have already planned to sleep every night, sometimes with hotels already reserved. And there are the furious ready to flirt with the limits of their health to fight it out. I am part of it, I have already crossed the other side of the limit which leads to the DNF. My last training sessions have not necessarily reassured me. A 200 km in the Alps where I returned totally transferred, sometimes walking in the passes. And technical problems that have multiplied, cause of abandonment if it happens in the race (Di2 front derailleur out of order, Garmin counter screen that comes off, etc.). Well, we’ll see tomorrow.
Ln the next day at 5 a.m., the flashing garland made up of the lamps of 120 runners is ready to illuminate the Rhône valley. I fell asleep early, no stress, it’s already won. I’m leaving with the 2nd wave (of 10 runners). I realize after the start that Patrick is in this group as well. We break away quickly. Prohibited drafting obliges, and different rhythms, we double, split, redouble… It’s quite unpleasant, impossible to regulate your speed. I tell myself that we will be naturally separated by the (severe) slope of the Col de la Mure. And it is, but not at all like I thought. To my great surprise, Patrick, whom I knew as a less good climber, boosted by his good season, including a 2nd place at BikingMan France, flew in front of me, and quickly joined the best of the 1st wave at the head of the race. I sometimes see them in the distance. It will last like this until Cheylard, km 60. There, we are not kidding anymore, I am on my adopted land. I’ve been riding here for a very long time, it’s MY cycling paradise. It’s time to show who’s boss here 😁. I make the effort to take the lead… only to lose it almost immediately. A runner coming back from behind cannonballs past me. I will learn later that it is Yoan Dercourt, whom I did not know, and that he left with the last wave, so with about 10-12 minutes of handicap.
Back to square one, we find ourselves with Patrick playing the game of double / split. No one in sight behind, and we imagine that Yoan left for a festival in front. As we gain height towards the Gerbier de Jonc, I am hypnotized by the juices illuminated by the rising sun. Too beautiful 🤩. We leave the Gerbier on our right, towards the Cantal mountains. We thus evolve between 800 and 1300m of altitude, never flat. Patrick surprises me more and more, he pulls big gears. We fall back on Yoan. The beginning of hell for me… Patrick and Yoan are driving fast. I try for my part to follow from a distance by smoothing the effort. Uh… They know we left for more than 1000km?🤔 I often lose them, especially in the countless bumps, and then I come back. We pass fantastic landscapes including the immense Naussac lake. Finally comes CP1. My 2 friends finally did not let me go. I fill up with delicious lentils-sausages (error), drink 450 liters of water, and leave, alone. Yoan made a quick meal, and Patrick deals with his social networks. I think we were all tired of suffering, and it was time to ride at our own pace. From the start, I suffer. The heat and the digestion stick me to the asphalt of the Pas de Peyrol.
I have nausea. It will last until dusk. Patrick then comes back to me. I let him go ahead. I am therefore 3rd at this moment. The sun begins to set. I am alone in the world on a plateau, with the mountains of the Massif Central in the background on a red background. That’s wonderful! Thanks again Axel for the routes you find for us (I had already loved the BikingMan France route). It’s time to join civilization. Great descent in the cold (yes, I have to get dressed). Arrival in Issoire where I briefly bump into Patrick. He will stop taking water afterwards, and I will never see him again on this BikingMan (teaser). I follow the trail, still no Yoan in sight. I take a look at the livetracking, and I find that I’m in the lead. Yoan is actually behind. He stopped sleeping for a bit. So here I am in what I prefer. At night, with its deserted roads and bearable temperatures. The kilometers go by. Small surprise with an extreme slope (I even stopped because I thought I had stayed on the big plateau, which the little one had not been able to pass). And I find the whole team posted on this slope, to revel in their find. Later I will learn from the organization that Patrick is no longer in the race. Trajectory error, fall, breakage, hospital, and abandonment. I am very disappointed for him. Patience Patrick, you will come back stronger. Regularly, I see the red BikingMan car. Axel and Cédric come to take pictures and ask me questions. “How are you Remi? Well, a little tired all the same, I’ve been driving almost non-stop for 24 hours…
Sunrise, it’s time to move on to my moment of ultra happiness: breakfast. Unfortunately, it’s not going very well. Bakeries are rare in the Dombes. Just found a dry pain au chocolat. No apple turnover, no coffee, no orange juice 😭… I lost enough time searching, and given the time, I decided to head for CP2. You have to stay vigilant on the track, the changes of direction follow one another, and the traffic intensifies. Arrived at CP2, I find the whole team who press me once again with questions and photograph me from all angles. Refueling, and here we go again, attacking Grand Colombier, one of the few passes I already know on this route. Its extreme slopes will therefore not be a surprise to me. I already decided before arriving there to go up on foot to save myself. The approach, on the other hand, I did not know it from this side. It’s going up fast, and above all it’s the heat wave 😱. No shade at all, the Garmin indicates 38-39°C. Then hiking session therefore, as planned. It’s looooong. I still get back on the bike at the level of the Selle de Fromentel to end up pedaling.
I rock in the rapid descent. Suddenly I take a pothole. Fall limit. Phew, no punctures either. Even the 2 canisters remained on the bike. A miracle. I arrive at the bottom, drive to Culoz. I decide to take stock of the livetracking. And here is the drama. I realize that my phone – in theory fixed by magnet on the handlebars – is no longer there. The pothole… I consider for a moment going to look for it, but that means going back 25km, including the climb of the Grand Colombier, with no guarantee of finding it. I forget.
This whole part is terrible. The heat is intense, the water impossible to find. The rare fountains are dry. Among so many examples, I try to reach a cemetery that is difficult to access, barriers and stairs to pass, I look for the tap, I am delighted to have found it, to finally see a sheet explaining that drought = closed tap. AND THE CYCLISTS??? After Chambéry, I tackle the Charteruse trilogy, Granier-Cucheron-Porte.
The Col du Granier is in full sun, it’s hell. Fortunately the end of the day is approaching. Temperatures are starting to drop. We finally find the mountain atmosphere. It continues with the Cucheron, then the Col de Porte where a cyclist accompanies me. I can’t follow him, yet he doesn’t seem to force himself, is of a certain age and is in sneakers! Uh … you would not be burnt Rémi? 🤔
The sun is starting to set, I try not to stop, the goal is to make the great descent to Grenoble with the little light that remains. Passage of the agglomeration, endless cycle path with lots of concrete raised by roots, branches, pebbles. I remain vigilant, do not want to die. It is now completely dark. The last of my journey.
I know that there are 2 big passes left in the Vercors, but I didn’t worry about the detail at all. When the Garmin shows me the profile at the foot of the first, the Pas de Pré Coquet, I get scared. 21 km, more than 1200 m of altitude difference. I manage, it’s ok. No cars, no Race Angels. Only a few wild boars and badgers share my route. Descent to Saint-Jean en Royans, which I have already crossed during 2 unfortunate RAFs. I find my guardian angel Sergio there, the Race Angel on a motorcycle, who has already accompanied me to the suspenseful final of the BM France. He will end up with me.
Barring a big failure, victory is likely. Yoan, 2nd, is still chasing me, between 15 and 30 km depending on the scores. However, I can’t relax, can’t take a big break. Luckily I’m still not sleepy. Over 48 hours I know that the adrenaline keeps me awake. I won’t even have any hallucinations about this race. So I keep going. Totally different from that of the Ardèche elsewhere. I am far from the watts sent Monday during the battle at 3. But obviously my pursuers too. After Saint-Jean, I therefore tackle the final bouquet, the Col de la Machine and Col de la Bataille sequence. I panic a little. Unable to turn my legs, sitting on the saddle, I have to climb up like a dancer, it does not move forward. I see myself losing the race. I land after 3-4 km, and realize that I stayed on the big plateau. Lack of lucidity! I’m going back. Relief, I can still pedal. This last pass is nevertheless endless, 34 km in total. When you wait for the delivery of a finish line, it’s a long time! A last effort on the small pass of the Limouche, and diving on the Rhone valley. This time, barring an accident, it’s won. Axel, his team and a surprise await me at the finish line. I did it!
Well, it’s not too bad. Sleep level, I recovered. No trauma related to distance, buttocks on fire style or loss of sensation in the feet. With experience, and podcasts, I have refined what was wrong, and I use what works best for me. 80 km this morning, good feelings.
The only big problem to deal with after this ultra finally, is the lost phone.
There remains for me to thank Axel for all of his work, and the Race Angels for their kindness throughout the race. A real favorite 😍.
Finally Cédric, I still don’t know why I’m doing this 😜. But I might do it again soon…
You can find the full race standings here: