The competition promises to be intense on the tracks of the 38th edition of Roc d’Azur. Three times winner (in 2014, 2016 and 2019) Jordan Sarrou will have many eyes focused on him when he takes starter’s orders on the Roc d’Azur race, on Sunday 9th October. Indeed, the Frenchman shares the record for victories with Miguel Martinez (in 1997, 2004 and 2013). After his sixth place as the leading French representative at the world championships in Les Gets this summer, the 2020 world champion is eyeing a fourth triumph. “For French mountain bikers, the Roc d’Azur is very important,” points out 29-year-old Jordan. “The second half of the season has been much better form me than the first part, which gives me hope for a good result. I’ve precisely been training for this goal. It’s the last race of the year, but you have to tackle it with the form you’re in at the time. The route is very technical in places, but it’s still quite fast because the average should be between 22 and 25 km/h. It’s a route for good all-round mountain bikers. The racing scenarios are always different and I’ll have to adapt my strategy depending on what happens during the race”.
As always on the Roc d’Azur, the competition will be tough, thanks in particular to the presence of Italian Luca Braidot, 3rd at the last world championships. Following his win on the 2021 edition after having registered just the day before, this time Swiss rider Filippo Colombo has made an earlier move and will be present to defend his title. Germany’s Luca Schwarzbauer could also feature in the long list of foreign outsiders capable of shining on the race. As surprised as everyone else by his 11th place last year, Romain Bardet admitted that it could, “give [him] ideas for the future”. He will again be taking starter’s orders and could spring an astonishing surprise in the domain of the mountain bikers.
On the Ford Roc Marathon, French champion Stéphane Tempier (the winner of the Roc d’Azur in 2012 and 2018) will be determined to show off his tricolour jersey and celebrate the end of his career in the finest way possible. Following his third place in the final sprint for victory last year, Axel Roudil Cortinat, 9th in the world championships in Haderslev (and the best placed French rider), Hugo Drechou (19th at the world championships), who is on top form after several recent successes, Lucas Dubau or also Mathis Azzaro will be the main chances for French victory. They will have to tackle, as per usual, the Italians Fabian Rabensteiner (2nd last year) and Samuele Porro, a former winner of the Roc Marathon, Germans Simon Schneller and Georg Egger, Switzerland’s Urs Hüber and Estonien Peter Pruus, who will all enliven the race. A watchful eye should also be kept on 43-year-old everlasting Austrian Alban Lakata, who won the Roc d’Azur in 2010 and, thanks to his experience, is always capable of battling for the lead on a race which he knows like the back of his hand.
The women’s field is also notable for its excellent quality. Among the leading lights features Margot Moschetti, who will take part in the Ford Roc Marathon (after her 6th place last year and 3rd position in 2019) as well as the Roc d’Azur, which she won in 2014 and 2019.
“I can’t wait to get started,” she admits. “Even before I began mountain biking for a club, I came here with UNSS, the French national union for sports in schools. There is a unique ambiance. When you walk through the exhibition, you meet lots of people. They aren’t always specialists but it’s always a pleasure to answer their questions. At Roc d’Azur, it’s a matter of sport first and foremost, but it’s also a place for meeting and talking with people.”
In sporting terms, Margot makes no secret of her desire to hit top performance: “If I take part in a race, my aim is always to do as best as I can,” she says. “It’s the last race of the year and you always want to finish the season on a good note. The first time I won, it was fairly crazy because I wasn’t expecting the greater impact it had than on other races. Wining the Roc d’Azur is something special.”
On the Ford Roc Marathon, she will be up against Estelle Morel, the best French woman last year (5th) who finished in 19th place at the last world championships. Another Gallic rider will be present on the long-distance race: 2012 Olympic Champion Julie Bresset, the winner of the Roc d’Azur in 2015. Léna Gérault will also be in Fréjus.
As usual, Italy will be very well represented among the women’s elite field. Third last year on the Roc Marathon, Italian Constanza Fazolis will again be present and will also race the Roc d’Azur on Sunday. She will be accompanied by her countrywomen Martina Berta, 15th at the world championships, and Claudia Peretti (6th on the XCO marathon). Swiss rider Janina Wüst (4th at the world championships) should feature in the battle for victory on the Ford Roc Marathon. The presence of Sabrina Enaux on the Roc d’Azur, which she won in 2018, should also be noted.
Cycling enthusiasts will also be able to get a glimpse of two now retired road racers, namely Sylvain Chavanel, a regular at Roc d’Azur, and Antony Roux who has just drawn his career to a close. Biathlete Émilien Jacquelin, already present on the Étape du Tour by the Tour de France between Briançon and Alpe d’Huez last July, will be following the tracks of the Rando Roc Estérel.