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15. Oktober 2013, 01:59

One for the history books

Once again, the men's Roc d'Azur was a race like no other. With two Olympic champions on the podium, the 2013 edition will go down in history. The 37-year-old Frenchman Miguel Martinez, who won the Olympics and the Worlds in 2000, took the 30th edition of the Roc d'Azur ahead of Germany's Milatz and the Czech Republic's Kulhavý, a gold medallist at London 2012. A fitting climax for a sunny 2013 edition which once again left its mark. Foto (c) ASO - P. Ballet / S. Boué /P. Perreve.

Nice, 14.10.13 (mk) The Roc d'Azur is a powerful cocktail of emotions, both among the big guns at the front of the race and among the other 5,000 riders who came from all over France and Europe to participate in the defining event of their late season. For them, time is not of the essence: all they want is to have fun. Fun riding in picture perfect landscapes at the heart of Les Maures massif, fun sharing intense moments with friends, fun revelling in an atmosphere unique to this high temple of MTB on a Sunday morning. It took them three, four, five or even six hours to complete the 56 km course and tackle the legendary spots of the race, such as the Col du Bougnon, the Col de Valdingarde, Galiote beach or the Chemin des Douaniers. Nevertheless, their effort will be rewarded at the end with a place in the history books of the Roc d'Azur.

MEN'S ROC D'AZUR : Miguel Martinez forever
His cry of joy will echo in Les Maures massif for a long time. Lying down in the finish area, an exhausted Miguel Martinez savours the moment. The Frenchman took a hotly contested sprint to add a third Roc d'Azur to his collection, sixteen years after his first win in 1997 (followed by a second one in 2004). At the age of 37, the 2000 Olympic and world champion was at the front of the race throughout the 30th edition, one which he had carefully prepared for over the last few weeks. He took off with German Moritz Milatz (winner in 2011) and defending champion Stéphane Tempier halfway through the race. Behind them, a chase group led by Czech Olympic champion Jaroslav Kulhavý tried to close the gap... in vain. Tempier, still feeling the effects of jet lag after last week's Malaysian adventure, was the first to fall out of contention with about ten kilometres to go. The German champion then put the hammer down to drop the Frenchman, but Martinez used his experience to hang tough. He was slightly gapped in the final sprint, but he took advantage of Milatz going wide in the last turn to slip through the inside and grab an astonishing win.

Martinez, who finished second in this year's French championships (behind two-time Olympic champion Julien Absalon, who watched the Roc d'Azur from the sidelines) and two times in ninth place in the summer legs of the World Cup, came back onto the international scene with a bang. 1′47″ back, the current Olympic champion rounded off the podium ahead of Germany's Hannes Genze and another former winner, Switzerland's Christoph Sauser (2005 and 2006). Swiss Reto Undergrand took the Espoirs race ahead of Belgian Didier Bats and fellow countryman Sylvain Engelmann.

Miguel Martinez (FRA, 1st with a time of 2 h 14′59″): "This is awesome. It isn't a World Cup victory, but for me it's even better because I think the Roc d'Azur is the most beautiful race in the world. At the end, I thought I was done for, but Milatz went wide in a turn and I took advantage of it. It may sound strange, but I saw Alain (Bianchi, the former sports director of the event, who passed away in 2010). He was with me throughout the race. Winning the Roc is a unique experience. I'd been thinking of it since halfway through the season. Today was my day. The race got going quickly. Tempier was strong at the beginning. I saved energy whenever I could, which was a good thing considering I had cramps towards the end. At the age of 37, I'm proud of this win. It's also a message for older riders who aren't sure whether they should keep on riding. Where there's a will, there's a way. It'll also stimulate young riders a bit. I'm sure France will shine again. I've had several lives. The first one, when I was young and I only cared about winning. The second one, when I focused on business and everything around it. And then I saw MTB was what energised me. It's what I do best and what I love the most. That's why I came back. The 2016 Olympics in Rio are still far away. But I've signed for 3 years with a team (FRM Factory Racing Team)... So we'll see."

Moritz Milatz (GER, 2nd): "I'm very disappointed with how the sprint went. I think I was stronger. I felt good from the start, so this really ticks me off."

Stéphane Tempier (FRA, defending champion, 7th): "My legs were good despite the return trip from Malaysia and all the events I attended in the village on Saturday. However, I didn't have what it took to go all the way and I blew up at the end."

TRI ROC : From Fréjus to Hawaï
For the second year running, the usually calm beach at the edge of the Fréjus nature base was filled with the hustle and bustle of the Tri Roc. On Sunday morning, almost 500 competitors plunged into the Mediterranean for a 1,500 m swim, followed by 23 km of mountain biking and 12 km of running within the nature base. A great warm-up for the very best ahead of the XTerra World Championships, due to be held in Hawaii on October 27.

Brice Daubord won ahead of Karl Shaw, a member of the Saint-Raphaël club, after 1 h 57′40″ of racing. Asa Shaw took the bottom step of the podium, almost two minutes behind them. "I've just come back from a big, three-week training bloc in Font-Romeu, so I was a bit short on gas. After a good season, with the French cross-triathlon championship and a third place at the Worlds, I'm off to Hawaii for the XTerra world final. I'll continue to take part in classic triathlons at the Grand Prix FFTRI with my Saint-Jean-de-Monts club, but I'm shifting my focus towards the off-road version of triathlon. When I was in the cadet category, I raced in French MTB Cups, so I'm at ease. I've just got to work on my raw power and toughen up my body."

In the ladies' category, German Katrin Müller, no stranger to playing a leading role in the European circuit, handily dominated the event, which was also her last test before flying to Hawaii. "I came looking for a tough race in hot conditions", she explained to race promoter Marion Lorblanchet in the finish area. "So I was surprised when we started in the cold this morning. But it was a good test. I feel in good shape. It's a beautiful race, so see you next year." Coralie Redelsperger (Belfort) took second place ahead of German Verena Eisenbarth.

The two teams representing Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque put in a strong showing in the Tri Relais. Olivier Marceau (2000 triathlon world champion), Cédric Ravanel (MTB champion) and Laurent Boquillet (former pro triathlete) defended their title with a dominating performance (2 h 02′01″). They finished just over 20 minutes ahead of the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque ladies' team, featuring swimmer Malia Metella (Olympic runner-up in 50 m and world runner-up in 100 m), Cécile Ravanel (MTB champion) and Anne Valéro (a leading French trail runner).

WRAPPING UP 2013 ROC D'AZUR : Things just keep getting better
With a record-breaking more than 20,000 participants spread across 26 races and an overall attendance as strong as ever, with about 150,000 visitors to the show, the 30th edition of the Roc d'Azur has been a resounding success.

The 250 brands present at the show, always happy to come face-to-face with those who practise the sport, are just as pleased. "It was a very positive edition", said Alexandre Maslin, the person in charge of the race at Amaury Sport Organisation, which has organised the event since 2011. "Once again, the weather was great. All the races were full well before the event, which shows that mountain bikers like the Roc d'Azur and take it into account when deciding their racing calendar. 20,000 participants is as far as we can go. We don't want to go further because we want to continue providing the same quality service to competitors. Of course, we'll keep on working to enhance the services provided not only to competitors, but also to exhibitors and visitors."

On the sporting side, the changes made to the courses were widely welcomed by the participants, especially in the enduro race, whose new course was unanimously approved. This, together with the comeback of the Maxima Roc Down in the downhill department, showed the versatility of the Roc d'Azur and its ambition to bring the entire MTB family together. "It was a good Roc d'Azur", said a happy Frédéric Salomone, the sports director of the event. "We had very good winners. The enduro race was one of our priorities and turned out very well. We'd like to attract a few more participants to the Maxima Roc Down, although the remoteness to the site makes it a tad difficult. We'll also look at how the Tri Roc and mountain biking fit together. Apart from that, everything fell into place for the Roc d'Azur to be a success: the weather, the courses and the atmosphere."

The next edition of the Roc d'Azur will take place from April 8 to 12, 2014. It will cap a packed season, with the Roc Paris (March 28-30) in Mantes-la-Jolie (Yvelines), the Roc Ardenne (May 2-4) in Houffalize, Belgium, and the Roc des Alpes in La Clusaz (June 13-15)

MAXIMA ROC DOWN: the best man for the job The patron of the Maxima Roc Down (a downhill event returning to the Roc d'Azur after a one-year break), Cédric Gracia, showed that he was still a first-class competitor at the ripe age of 35. On the course in Sainte-Maxime, Gracia (with an impressive track record, including a junior world championship in 1995, as well as several podium places in the downhill and 4-cross World Cup classification) beat 2009 and 2010 winner Aurélien Giordanengo and Guillaume Cauvin.

ROC RUELLES ROQUEBRUNE-SUR-ARGENS: After finishing second in Friday's Roc Ruelles Fréjus, Maxime Herold and Hugo Drechou went one better in Saturday's Roc Ruelles in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, coming out on top at the end of an electrifying competition.

CADETS, CADETTES, JUNIOR MEN'S AND LADIES' ROC D'AZUR: German Sofia Wiedenroth (junior ladies), Frenchman Romain Boutet (junior men), Belgian Eva Palm (cadettes) and German Torben Drach (cadets, with Frenchmen Simon Gourc in 3rd, 3″ back) will be taking home fond memories of their participation in the 2013 Roc d'Azur. By adding their name to the honour roll of the race, they have thrown their hats into the ring for upcoming editions. France's Audrey Menu finished second in the junior category, followed by fellow countrywoman Coline Goedert. Hugo Pigeon also took second in the junior category.

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