Race Report: Roc D’Azur

One of the worlds largest mountain bike races is the Roc D’Azur, with huge numbers of participants every year taking over towns in southern France. Find out how EpicMTB’s Tara Kerins got on this year.

First trip to the Roc D’Azur for me and I loved it!

I was a little bit nervous (actually a lot) that it would all be a bit much for me. Wasn’t sure how steep the uphills and more importantly the downhills would be! Checking out Strava two days before hand and seeing -42% descents probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do – nearly had a meltdown… Had myself signed up for the Roc Light (24 km, 400m ascension), Mid Roc (38 km, 800m ascension) and the Roc D’Azur Dames (42 Km, 900m ascension). First time doing a few races close together so erred on the side of caution and decided not to do the Marathon!!  Bikes arrived no problems – thanks Erica for bike bag! So, I’d no excuse!!

First day dawned – 24 degrees and sunny! The atmosphere was great – 500 cyclists for the Roc Light –  hardly any women (56). And off we went. By the time we got to the first obstacle there were people walking (was thinking it was going to be a long day for them). The first big climb was the Fournel – bit like the Kilmashogue climb – but 4 km long (ish) with lots of false peaks (dry, dusty and warm). Plenty of people walking the uphill’s. Not really knowing what was ahead of me I just ground it out in the granny ring and kept going. Spectators were great! Although I did wonder why they kept telling me to have courage! What did they know that I didn’t?

And then it was downhill!  Felt like a total legend as soo many people walked the techy downhill parts – lots of comments from spectators again that this was ‘Un fille’. But it was super grippy – just had to remind myself not to pull the brakes – didn’t want to hit the grit! (was a good way to learn not to pull the brakes!) A few queues on techy climbs – where people were walking.

Only 1 major peak on the first day – lots of fire road climbing – some lovely downhill and we were done!  Managed to come 4th in the over 40’s women, and 260th overall – delighted! (1:49)

Second day – Mid Roc. Was doing this by myself – as the lads were doing the marathon.  Race started at 12:30 – so it was hot! Again – amazing atmosphere – 900 cyclists – but only 39 women. Had the Fournel climb again to get up into the mountains – but knew what to expect – so managed to do it a minute faster – so was happy with that. Didn’t feel nearly as bad as the day before either despite the heat. Few more feed stops this day – but didn’t need to stop at them all. Again – felt like  a Rock Star as there were some brilliant downhills – rocky slabs – lots and lots of walkers and  spectators. Had a few incidents were people literally stopped right in front of me so had to pick my way around. A few techy climbs too – again with a few queues where people were walking.

A much better day – 4 peaks – much more single track –– much more enjoyable! And some amazing views! Finish brought us down to the beach – was very tempted to dive in to the sea there and then. Never cycled in the sand – so that was interesting! Was doing okay too – until someone braked in front of me and that was that.  Little cycle around the headland was beautiful – then back onto the road – and back to the finish. Managed to come 2nd in the women’s over 40 and 578th overall – Super delighted!) (3:11)

Day off the next day so plenty of carb loading – in the form of ice cream, pizza and wine – in that order…. Myself and Dave walked down to the old town centre to watch the night biking – wow! cycling up flights of stairs! was like cx but wayyyy faster (and not such soft landings…)

Final day dawned. Early start – I was in the Womens Roc D’Azur – kind of a disappointing atmosphere as only 150 women – but they were serious professionals!! They took off from the start in a cloud of dust – and I cycled off behind them – hoping I could pick some of them off on the downhill!?  42 km today – and 900 metres of climbing. Fournel again – legs felt a bit heavier today – but the climb still felt shorter than the previous two races – probably because it was earlier and therefore cooler. No women walking in this race – well – not on the uphills anyhow! 5 peaks today – and the extra 4 km was mostly uphill! But the downhills for this were brilliant! Hard to keep the smile from my face!  Much more single track – much more techy downhill and much more techy climbs.

No queues for me today, all the women cycled the uphills – no getting off the bike! A few walkers on the downhill – but no one stopping right in front of me this time!

Back down onto the beach – and same finish as the day before – got a little bit further in the sand – but still ended up running (well jogging) with the bike.

Best race for me – techy downhills were great and the scenery was stunning. Only came 117th – but was a little faster than the previous 2 days and managed to pass a few so happy with that! (3:18)

Would do it again in a heartbeat.

In terms of anyone thinking of doing it? If I can – anyone can!  there’s lots of Enduro and cyclocross events too – which we didn’t get to see but the clips on the site look great!

Now if only the downhills at home were as dry……


Click here to find out more about the Roc D’Azur.