The return of amateur sport in France is also the prospect of dedicating weekends to refereeing mini-chick matches from your departmental club, or even running top tables with absolute enthusiasm. Rest assured, dozens of high-level trail runners are having the same (or almost) experience as volunteers on the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc this week. Not registered on the seven races taking place until Sunday in Chamonix (Haute-Savoie), including the UTMB (2,300 participants, 171 km, 10,000 m of elevation gain), they devote their time to encouragement and taking times for the members of their team involved in the event.
“This solidarity is our DNA,” says Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent, manager of Team Salomon. In this large community of trail running, even the pros are not disconnected from the realities and they lend a hand like any volunteer. “On the UTMB (start Friday at 6 pm), Salomon France calls on about fifteen people, almost all of its elite runners, to cover no less than 35 targeted racing spots. “Even Thibaut Baronian, who will be” destroyed “after having run the CCC (101 km) on Friday, will come to help François D’Haene just after on the UTMB”, says Gédéon Pochat, 26-year-old Salomon athlete.
Salomon’s winning bet in Courmayeur in 2017
Fascinating place par excellence in this extremely well-established organization: the refueling areas for trail runners, where only one accompanying person per runner has the right to intervene, with a spectacle worthy of a pit stop in a Formula 1 Grand Prix. his last victory in 2017 in just over 19 hours, François D’Haene allowed himself… “less than 10 minutes of stoppage in total”. With a key moment to negotiate in Courmayeur (Italy), after 78 km traveled, as told by Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent.
François D’Haene comes in third position in this refueling. We had initially planned a normal break. But as I had been warned over the phone that François was in good shape, we chose to put pressure on Kilian Jornet and Jim Walmsley by coming out of there almost immediately, and therefore in first place. The message sent was clear: he didn’t need to rest on the run. “
A winning bet symbolic of the many details going on behind the scenes on such an extreme event. But how do runners live their weekend in the shadows? “When you spend your night accompanying François D’Haene, you too experience sacred emotions, indicates Gédéon Pochat, who does it again Friday and Saturday. As you are excited, you take a maximum of a 1 hour nap at night. It’s a way to get into the lives of other runners more intimately. “
“There are a lot of guys who give out bad news”
And all the more so as they obviously project themselves better than anyone on what can go through the heads of the trail runners involved. “You know what makes you c…. when you run, summarizes Gédéon Pochat. If François D’Haene is 10th at 2 hours from the first, I will not give him his time. On the other hand, I remember that in 2017, towards the end of the race, he was going crazy because spectators told him that Kilian Jornet had taken 6 minutes from him on a single climb. There are a lot of guys who make up their lives by giving out bad news. When you are in the middle of a race, it puts you in doubt, and you are quickly irritable with fatigue. So you’re happy to have reliable information from someone on your team. “
Lyonnais Baptiste Chassagne, who will start Friday morning from Courmayeur on the CCC (101 km), confirms: “The big advantage is that the person in front of us can read our faces. Our teammates understand the race and they don’t give the same classic cheers as our family can. They feel as soon as they see us whether we need empathy or to be bumped into it ”.
“A little pressure to feel this collective force behind you”
Elite runner within the On team, and sponsored by Garmin, Germain Grangier is used to being well informed from the edge of the trails of the race of his American companion Katie Schide, 6th in the UTMB 2019 and among the favorites this week-end. “There is still a lot of animosity about such an event and it is important to stay in your bubble, not to be polluted with the management of your race,” he says.
Some prefer to open this bubble a little, like Baptiste Chassagne, supported on Friday by nine athletes from the “pack” Team Matryx, whom he joined in January 2019. “It puts a little pressure to feel this collective strength behind you,” explains the person concerned. . In these cases, I really have the feeling that we are moving from an individual sport to a team sport. ” You’ll never walk alone would have as much its place as the essential Conquest of paradise de Vangelis, in the UTMB departure soundtrack, on Friday in the streets of Chamonix.