Nico Faure, 3rd finisher of the BikingMan Corsica 2021 and sad DNF on the France stage, shares with us his experience during this last stage, dear to his heart as it’s been the one he had devoted his preparation, the one he wanted to shine at.
Discover his words, his story, in the heart of the adventure of BikingMan France:
Hard to describe in a short way my feelings about this first edition of the BikingMan France. I knew, before arriving here in the south of France, that chaining 2 ultra races in 10 days would be a physical challenge in itself. What I ignored was it would actually be a mental challenge. The true essence of ultra in my opinion is the acceptation of suffering, to what point are you capable of pushing your limits.
The Corsica stage, completed with a podium only 10 days ago, was done in full control and a relative ease. It can be surprising to read this but my mind was focused on France. All my efforts were carefully measured: fast enough to keep the competitors at a distance, not too fast to save the mechanics. Once the race was over, my attention was immediately dedicated to recovery, there was no time to lose. Quick visit to my osteopath to ease an inflammation in my right knee, massage, stretching, reinforcement. The food aspect was important to speed up the muscular recovery and finally, rest, a lot of rest. That’s with this last point that I failed. C’est sur ce point que j’ai pêché. Travel forms the youth, it also tires. The full night traveling only 2 days before the race probably left marks. Thus, my status before the start of this BikingMan France: legs are doing good, my knee is a question mark and a lack of sleep may prove penalizing over the 2nd part of the race.
The start of the race only proves my doubts and fears, my knee is not at its best, I have to grit my teeth. As for every race start, the pace is high. I chose, without a choice really, to let them go. I quickly find myself between 2 groups. The first climb is laborious et I already question myself about withdrawing. My knee hurts and I can’t find my pace. Powerless, I let people overtake me. It’s something mentally hard to accept on the moment as it’s not something I’m used to. After just an hour in the race, emotions already overwhelm me, It already feels like I will not be able to be an actor in this race in which I had places my priorities for this season. The organization’s car comes up to me to collect my first feelings and the conclusion is clear: usually very confident of myself and my strength, I then appear resigned. “Be patient, it will come back” are Axel’s words. I keep letting go, chatting with colleagues over the encounters on the road, and then find myself isolated. I can’t describe precisely what is going on in my head, but as I approach a small climb, things take a new turn: I don’t recognize myself in this posture of victim. It’s time to bite the bullet and make the legs talk. I then return to my zone, again sure of my strength, I resume my race and shut these destabilizing internal voices up. The Gorges du Verdon are approaching, my power figures are starting to look like something and I’m starting to catch up on my competitors one by one. Then follows a chase of more than 14 hours, fueled by the frequent pointings: 15th, 10th, 15 kilometers behind the leader, 5th, 3rd. The heat or the difficulty of the course has no effect, I am now in control. CP1 is approaching, I am now in second position, something inconceivable after 10 km of racing. It’s 11:30 pm., already 16h on the saddle for a 25-minute break. My starting strategy was for me to stop and rest before setting off again to assault Ventoux at 2am. I take this opportunity to eat, shower, massage my knee, stretch and have a 30-minute nap. It is time to set off again, I am then in 4th position.
Second turning point in the race.
The storm is rumbling, the night is lit with lightning, the summit of the giant of Provence is covered by a thick layer of clouds. The first pedal strokes do not bode well. My knee has cooled and the pain is sharp again, the first few kilometers of climb are painful. The lightning is now above my head, coming to light up the forest and cool my will. The first drops are falling, staying on the road is no longer an option. Having spotted a shelter a few turns before, I decide to turn back and take shelter. The temperature drops, I snuggle up in my survival blanket and rest for a bit. At 5 am., it’s time to set off again. In 3 hours, I only covered 30 km, the leader is now far away, a new chase is on the way. Being in that position is fun, it worked pretty well for me in the first day. Could I do the same on the second day? The remaining 11 kms ascent go by quickly, the forest has a cool atmosphere, calm reigns. I try to be as efficient as possible on the bike despite the pain. Then, arrived the famous Reynard chalet, I see one of the competitors a few hundred meters further on, here is my hare for the remaining 6 kms. A light rain accompanies us, the clouds tear in the valley while the first rays of sun light up the summit. Being on these slopes in these conditions is a privilege, I take advantage of every moment and even manage to forget the pain at times. The team is waiting for us at the top, cameras in hand, we exchange a few words and go for the descent. Reassured by the numbers (200W on average in the climb), I approach the descent with caution but with relative confidence. The latter will shatter on the first raise, like a stab, the pain has reached a whole new level. So I decide to let myself slide down to Malaucene. The descent then seems endless and the decision to give up for good comes back to the surface. In my mind, several feelings are mixed up: frustration, anger, sadness and renunciation.
Arrived in Malaucene, I go to the bakery, sit on the terrace, I am at peace with my decision, I want to stop the damages. Axel’s team then arrives, we share a coffee and I take the time to explain the reasons for a withdrawal that has become inevitable. There followed a quick phone call to my wife to let her know of my decision. For her, my decision is still too rushed, I must continue, she reminds me of my training hours and my recovery from the day before. I don’t want to hear these things anymore but I still resolve to get back on the bike again. I am then in 7th position with 2-3 runners within shooting range.
I leave without really knowing why or how. The kilometers seem endless to me, but I hold on. My mind is elsewhere, the legs are painfully turning, 200W turns into 120W. Last burst of pride. A cry breaks the silence, I relaunch with force, swallow a caffeinated gel and put on music for the first time. Do I still have the strength to hurt? Two full hours follow where I find some semblance of rhythm. The ambient temperature is warming up, my goal is to go and get the CP2. As I approach a first difficulty, the Col de Perty, I stop to undress and fill the water bottles. 5 minutes later, as the road slowly climbs up, not really knowing why or how, the light goes out again. I drag myself painfully on the first ramps before succeeding again in raising the tempo.
Once the summit is reached, it’s time for the descent, fatal descent.
A moment of deconcentration sends me to the side, I manage to keep some control but the front wheel explodes. Troublesome repair in sight. After 20 minutes of hard work, the wheel is back up but the cut is too big and the tire threatens to open. Since km 10, I have been struggling with the idea of throwing in the towel, disturbed by the stabbing pain in my knee. Here is the last sign, my race is over. I sit on the side of the road and let myself be overwhelmed with emotion for a moment. This race was my priority and I missed it. I think back to my long post-injury rehabilitation in October, the countless hours spent on the trainer, all those efforts to reach the peak of my form. Did I have what it takes to win? On paper, yes, without the shadow of a doubt. Now the reality on the ground is different, I continue to learn ultra. I feel like I’ve finally gone to revealer. Usually always in control, I had to fight myself. Withdrawal confirmed, now time for what’s next with new and beautiful certainties. The Alps await me in mid-July with the BikingMan X. They have seen me born and grow, they inspire me and give me a lot of strength.
Looking forward to seeing you again, dear mountains.