For 27 years thousands of off-road cycling enthusiasts have gathered in the south of France near Fréjus for an event that boggles the mind in terms of its size and complexity: the Roc d’Azur. I don’t think anything in the US even comes close — including the Sea Otter — when it comes to off-road cycling, never mind off-road tandem participation. It’s not that there aren’t 218 tandem teams in the US, perhaps even that many who are inclined to race, I just don’t think there’s ever been an event that could draw them all in for a 42k race on a highly technical course. In fact, I’m guessing the Sea Otter which first ran in 1991 may have been inspired by the Roc d’Azur… but that’s just a guess.
For comparison purposes, the Roc d’Azur draws over 17,000 cyclists and some 150,000 spectators, whereas the 2010 Sea Otter pulled in 8,500 cyclists and 50,000 spectators. However, what’s really amazing is this year’s 42k tandem event on October 9th had 218 tandem teams in the starting field… yes, 218 teams. You can find the results at Cycling News by clicking HERE. What does a mass-start of 218 off-road tandems look like? Hopefully Aevon won’t mind, but here are two photos he took and posted to the Flickr Tandem Bike Pool from this year’s start.
Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a link to the Cycling News intro piece on the event held on October 6th – 10th… Thousands ready for European mountain bike season finale
Approximately 17,000 cycling enthusiasts are expected to converge for the 27th annual Roc d’Azur in the François Léotard nature reserve in Fréjus, Roquebrune-sur-Argens and Sainte-Maxime, France. The festivities, which include everything from pro mountain bike racing to amateur racing, expos, trials competitions and tandem off-road racing, are scheduled from October 7-10, 2010.
The Roc d’Azur is the last major mountain bike event on the European calendar, and it marks the final hurrah of the season for many international competitors.
Two dozen events, many of them cross-country and marathon mountain bike races, are on tap for this year’s edition. The most famous is the Roc d’Azur cross-country with its 53km and 1860m of climbing on Sunday, October 10 (note: 42km for the women on Friday, October 9 – Ed.). This year’s event is a UCI category HC point-to-point cross-country. A UCI Category C2 marathon, the Roc Marathon 83, is also being run on Thursday, October 8.
Other events include races for various categories, including tandems, children and even journalists and members of the bike industry. A trade show expo, open to the public, will include 250 exhibitors over 20,000 square meters.
The following is the first in a series of videos from Roc d’Azur. The first one is a slide-show collage that gives you an overview of the entire event, including some stats. It’s not the greatest video I’ve ever seen, but it does give you a feel for the event.
My favorite tandem-specific video isn’t on YouTube, it’s on a French website and it’s really well-done video that runs about 7 minutes and 24 seconds: Roc d’Azur Tandem 2010
What’s really amazing is how fast this team goes from the start, filming off the back of their tandem as they move past what must be at least 50 of the 218 tandems that started the event, and were riding with the team that took 3rd in the mixte team category. The rest of the video captures the amazing terrain and other scenery at the Roc d’Azur set in small windows as the main window records other parts of the race, all set to some really cool music. If you have a sharp eye, check out some of the off-road tandems… some you’ll recognize, many you won’t.
The next video I picked from the various ones out on YouTube was a short, 2′ 48″ one that did a nice job of capturing the mass start as well as some great segments of the technical descents, some climbs, and then a few segments along the sea… what an amazing venue.
This last video piece is one taken from one of the captain’s helmet cams. This particular segment covers the first 9 minutes of the event, which lets you see how the pack thins from the mass start across a field, onto dirt roads, then onto local paved roads, before heading back to unpaved roads and hard-packed trails. There are several other ‘segments’ from Nicolasfcl‘s helmet cam that capture some of the epic climbs, as well as what appears to be the aftermath of a crash that really put a big hurt on his stoker, and that may have ruined the rest of their day at the Roc d’Azur.