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Rock the Roc D'Azur30th OCT 2012

24th OCTOBER 2012
RESULT: 14th in age category
44th overall

Following World Champs and Roc d'Azur marathon (see previous reports) I was even more motivated to have a good ride at my final race of 2012, the Roc d'Azur 56km cross country. This race is the main event of the festival with thousands of people taking the start line. After being ill on Friday I had an easy day Saturday and was feeling much better by Sunday morning.

Another clear blue sky welcomed the riders at the start with temperatures expected to rise to the mid 20's. The start line was pretty crazy, with around 20 people per row it was some sight to see the thousands lined up. I was on the sixth row with my sight set on a decent start; I catapulted straight into the start madness looking for gaps like Mark Cavendish would do to position himself near the front of the peloton for a sprint. I didn't quite make the front which included all the World Cup XC regulars but I was in a good group as we started the first big climb. I rode more conservative than maybe I could have done on the descents but was making good progress everywhere else making up places regularly. There would be the odd rider who'd catch me on the descents including one Spanish guy who looked completely out of control. Turning the next corner my theory was true, he was a little too out of control and hadn't made the corner instead going straight on into the trees and shrubs. Once again, like Friday's marathon, the trails were super fun and were really dusty from the hot dry weather. Today though many spectators had gathered on the descents, and on some of the technical climbs. The biggest crowd however had gathered on the road climb up the Col de Bougnon where three deep the crowds cheered and shouted leaving just enough room for the riders to pass, the tunnel of noise was even bigger than anything I've experienced at a World Cup XC.

The sea views were now ahead leaving the final descent and then the dash along the beach to the finish. On the first beach crossing I caught some chap in Quick Step kit, once past him the crowds were going mad shouting 'allez allez allez Sylvain Chavenel'!! I forged ahead but on the long stretch back to the venue a group formed of around 10 riders, we entered the arena all set for a sprint, the commentator was loving it! I was fourth in the sprint (finishing just ahead of Sylvan), 21st in age group and 44th overall. The top 25 was only 5 minutes away, not bad in such a strong field, next year that'll be the target. Every keen mountain bike racer should visit the Roc d'Azur, there's nothing else quite like it with 13,000 people pinning a number board to their bikes and taking over the hills above Frejus. Put it on your calendar next year and I'll see you there! What a race, what a week, what a month.... what a year it's been. There's been many ups and downs; the downs just make you stronger and the ups create stories you'll be telling for years. It's been a great year and 2013 looks like its going to be even better. The level of support this year has been truly fantastic, especially from Mountain Trax who do everything they can to support me. Thanks to them, John Newport from Vermont Images, and all my other sponsors who've made this year possible. Thanks for reading. Ben Thomas

None of this would be possible without the help of my sponsors:

  • Mountain Trax
  • Santa Cruz Bikes
  • Montane
  • Fox Suspension
  • Hope
  • Rapid Racer Products
  • USE
  • Exposure
  • Vermont Images
  • Lezyne
  • Jagwire
  • Kenda Tires
  • Phenix Metabolic
  • Crank Brothers
  • Clif Bar
  • Scott UK

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