|Spot the Olympic gold medalist (Pro tip: not in green)|
This is my second attempt at the Roc d'Azur marathon, and I didn't plan on repeating errors from last year. It's a pretty big event (over 1600 participants in the marathon; more than 20 other events over four days) and everyone wants to be a hero for the cameras at the start. The start line is extra wide (25-30 guys across) and stays that way for about 1000m until the course leaves the airfield - this is a long time to jostle for position in such a big group. Last year I started with a conservative pace, hoping that I could ride consistently for the hilly 84km (2800m of climbing). Big mistake, as mostly everyone else treated it as a world cup and pinned it until it bottlenecked. Being far back from the head of the race isn't the worst thing, but being behind guys that slow down significantly after the burst from the line is a step closer. A lot of time was spent biding my time on descents, or using gobs of energy passing in the rough stuff off the best line. This was a recipe for bad pacing, and blowing up later.
This year I was focused on staying closer to the front. The overnight rain kept the dust down and made moving up a lot easier (being able to see is great). I got onto the first narrow section of trail without having to stop and admire the scenery - we'll consider this a good thing. The legs were cooperating, so I kept the pressure on in the hills, and the sensations were good on the downhills.
Last year I was hesitant and nervous on the descents - they're pretty rocky, and I didn't enjoy getting bounced around as much as I was. The Epic full squish bike took the edge off and gave me the confidence to look for that extra bit of speed, instead of holding back so I could keep my fillings in my head.
The two Baywatch-style beach running sections seemed a tad easier this year - thanks again, overnight rain. I was joined by two other guys 5km from the line and did my best to ensure we weren't caught by any chasers. I probably should've sat on a bit more, instead of pulling the trio to 200m-to-go and losing the sprint from the front. Something to rectify next time...
Kulhavy and Sauser worked their Specialized team magic and took the top two steps of the podium. I finished in the top-20, which I'm quite happy with. Looking at the results sheet - the gentleman one spot behind me appears to be a Roberto Heras from Spain. It's a good thing I didn't know this during the race, or I would've lost a lot of time asking him if he was THE Roberto Heras from Spain, and then losing additional time asking for autographs.
This race uses an 84km loop, and my personal photographer can't drive cars with a stickshift. The result of this is photos of me and an inflatable cow. Enjoy, unless you're very intolerant of lactose.