Ultra-cycling: the difficulties of Race Across France explained

Annualized, the “Race Across France” returns this Saturday for a fifth edition. In 2018, for the first time, there were only 42 at the start. This time, inspired by the success of the previous ones, there will be nearly 1,000 participants to push their limits on French roads. For the bravest – there are other routes, shorter or simpler for those who want it -, the departure will be on June 18 from Le Touquet to reach Mandelieu-la-Napoule, after 2,500 km of solo effort. and without assistance, on unmarked roads. An authentic feat deciphered by Arnaud Manzanini, creator of the race.

Preparation is essential

If the start takes place in a few hours, the race really started several months ago. When registering, participants learned about the route, which they had to prepare for, recognizing its stops and its supplies. ” To prepare for an ordeal like this is to sacrifice six to ten months of your lifeanalyzes Manzanini. It’s not just getting on your bike and pedaling. For an event that will last between six and nine days, the first 72 hours must be perfectly planned – knowing where to eat and sleep – in order to be able to concentrate on your effort. »

Physical effort, a permanent burn

Like ultra-marathoners, ultra-cyclists push their bodies to the limits, causing suffering incomparable to a classic cycling outing. ” It is a sharp, permanent pain. The knees burn you, the feet too, because they are swollen with oedemas “, tries to explain the organizer. With experience, however, it becomes more bearable. ” In ultra distance, you learn that you have to look for comfort, not pure performance: you change your position to have less pain in your knees, you take shoes a size above… »

“You will probably cry on the bike, but after this kind of ordeal, you know who you really are”

Fatigue, a “torment”

More than the pain, it is the lack of sleep that weighs the most on the organisms at the end of the event. On the queen distance, the competitors have ten days to finish on time, which implies a very short rest. “ It’s tortureslice Manzanini. It blows up all the filters and it makes you experience all the emotions of a lifetime. What I advise is to shock your body beforehand, to get it used to riding early in the morning or late at night, to prepare it to suffer. But there is always an adaptation phase, it never happens so easily.. »

Loneliness, the main risk of failure

In such extreme conditions, the mind is severely tested. Especially since the race takes place without assistance, which implies that the participants ride alone, without having the right to suction or the company of another. “ It is incomparable with a classic racesays Manzanini. Loneliness makes you question everything, there is a lot of introspection. We are no longer the same at the end, even the first coffee is different. The mind is the main risk of not finishing. It happened to me to have calls from runners who were 70 km from the finish and who told me to give up, when they had already done 2,500 terminals… »

The unexpected, the salt of the race

Contested on ordinary roads taken by motorists, punctuated by stops at the hotel or the supermarket, the “Race Across France” is a race of everyday life and the hazards that go with it. As the runner who had to walk for 10 km in a pass in order to rent a new bike to finish the race, or the other who fell heavily after hitting a badger but still wanted to finish on time. .. ” In 2,500 km, there will inevitably be ups and downs. You’ll probably cry on the bike, but after this kind of ordeal, we know who we really are concludes Manzanini. Within ten days, 1,000 brave people will have their epiphany in turn.

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