This summer, Thibaut (he preferred to remain anonymous), 35, did not plan to bask in the sun on a beach towel. This health professional based in the Lyon region has a slightly more invigorating goal: to cycle 575 kilometers around Auvergne, rest a little and, a few weeks later, get on his bike again to start the BikingMan Aura (for Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes), a race of more than 1,000 kilometers between the Mif Central and the Northern Alps. All without istance, in limited time, in total autonomy with cereal bars, and only stopping to sleep under the stars… The 30-year-old takes on these summer challenges with pragmatism. “I know that I can do more than 300 kilometers in one dayhe points out. The 575 kilometer race will allow me to test my ability to ride at night and sleep under the stars. That way, I’ll be ready for the 1000, the goal that really excites me. »
Thibaut fell into the ultra barely a year ago. Athlete – he practices ski touring and running – he had never done bike rides of more than 140 kilometers. Which is already not so bad… Encouraged by a friend, he signs up for a GravelMan, a race organized in the Jura. On the program: 350 kilometers and 3,500 meters of elevation gain – “D+”, according to the established formula. The effort, the rural setting: everything pleases him.
The GravelMan race organized in the Jura, during the first edition, in July 2022. FRANCOIS DE GOUMOENS
Steven Le Hyaric, the founder of the GravelMan Series – named after gravel, a kind of bike that combines road and mountain biking – sees these races as “ there first step towards ultra-distance ». A former professional cyclist, Le Hyaric continues to cycle around the world and push back the number of kilometres. “I created these races all over France to get people moving right after confinement. I felt them to be gloomy and in need of adventures and outdoor activities. » The athlete’s intuition is good. Three thousand people have already taken the start of an event, with registration ranging from 99 to 199 euros, depending on the route. Their profile: “Sporty thirties or quadras wanting to surp themselves, rather CSP+”, according to the observations of Steven Le Hyaric. Note that 30% of the participants are female participants. The only condition to take the start: to have a medical certificate and a lot of kilometers in the legs.
“A school of patience and resistance”
In his office in Ambert, sub-prefecture of Puy-de-Dôme, Mathieu Debarges, 44, also notes a real craze for ultra. This former manager of a fitness company participated in the launch of the Ultr’Arverne in 2021. On the program, two routes: 575 kilometers and 11,000 meters of D+ (the one that Thibaut chose, to get warm) or 871 kilometers and 14,500 meters of D+. All in eighty-two hours at the most. The departure is scheduled for Thursday, June 29, at 7 am. A few hundred people have already filled out their registration form. “This event brings together those who want to compete and those who want to live an adventure in an incredible setting because really, sometimes, it feels like being lost in Middle-earth”explains Mathieu Debarges.
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