My own day out was a little less impressive – a sidewall cut made a somewhat fatigued and not very impressive performance even less memorable. But still a fun day out thanks to the weather and the trails.
“You’re going to do what? After the last couple of times? Are you sure?” Such was the comment of various riding mates upon hearing that I would be returning to the Roc Laissagais in 2014.
2012 – one week after the Cape Epic. It turns out that one week isn’t really long enough to recover sufficiently from an eight day stage race to do well in an 85k marathon in tough conditions.
2013 – a broken hip put paid to my entry. But it turns out I didn’t miss much – heavy snow the day before the race meant that the mates I had organised to race with me were less than impressed by the whole experience.
So what of 2014? Well, it transpires that two weeks isn’t really long enough to recover from the Cape Epic either. But I’ll come to that in a minute.
Most of the race in 2012 was spent alternately cursing the weather for turning one of the early climbs into a swamp, or cursing myself for imagining I could possibly be fresh enough not to feel utterly knackered before halfway.
This was such a different day; and it revealed what a fantastic course the organisers have put together at the Roc Laissagais. It’s one of the longest-running marathon events, so they’ve had a good few years to perfect it; at least when the weather cooperates, that is. The unrideable swamp climb of 2012 was today mostly hard packed, just with the odd damp patch. And the previously muddy singletrack was beautifully dusty, and dappled with sunlight through the still mostly leafless trees. In a reflective moment while suffering about three hours in, I told myself that I should come back in the summer just to go for a cruise-y ride on these trails.
The course profile is also very different to quite a lot of marathon events – there’s almost no point looking at it before the race because it just goes relentlessly up and down with no obvious pattern – none of the big climb then big descent of an Alpine or Dolomites event. It’s tough to ride if you rely on finding a rhythm, because you never quite know what’s going to come next.
So what did the pros make of it? It was a solid field, with a number of national champions’ jerseys on display at the start: I think I clocked Italy, Colombia, France and Sweden at least. And it was the Colombian who ran away with the race, ahead of Luis Pinto and Urs Huber.
The otherwise hot favourite Sally Bigham did not start the women’s event, leaving Alice Pirard to take the win.
A reflection from after the race – one of the magical effects of doing a hard 85k and then finding out that the race organisers have run out of the only food that they had on offer that you actually wanted is that a very ordinary croque madame and waffle is turned magically into the ambrosial food of the gods.