A 106 km Roller-ski Challenge in Brittany
May 9, 2010
“They are mad, those Bretons!” There are many different sports suitable for summer training of XC skiers. Running, biking, hiking, rowing and roller-skiing are the most popular ones. We have published on our website stories about hiking around the Mont Blanc, biking in the Dolomites and in the Melbourne area. Here is a story about a roller-ski challenge in Brittany. The reporter was Boris Petroff, who participated himself in the Challenge.
Brittany is a French region, the big peninsula poking its nose in the Atlantic. Brittany never receives snow and it is the region located farthest away from the mountain areas. It is also the country of Asterix, the comic strip hero, and his indomitable Gauls (the sub-title is a citation from it). That’s why there is a XC ski club near the city of Rennes, whose members practically never see snow. They are XC skiers who practice almost exclusively roller-skiing: it is the club Breizh Ski-Roues. Breizh is the breton (a celtic language) word for Brittany. This club will celebrate its 20 th anniversary in 2010. With the goal to lead all club members to discover the cousin sport: XC skiing on snow, and to participate in La Transjurassienne. Since two years the club organizes a 106 km roller-ski event on a track created in the heart of Brittany. We interviewed François Camper who was one of its initiators. The first picture shows François Camper with bib 123 in the Transroller 2007.
Q. Why did you create a roller-ski club? F.C.: It resulted from the insistence of my daughter Anne, who loves XC skiing and was unhappy with only one week of skiing per year. Very soon, a dozen of friends caught a passion for this funny sport on small wheels, although they had never skied on snow! Thus, we initiated tens and tens of young people to XC skiing (picture 2), while it was not possible for them to envisage long and expensive travels to the mountains.
Q.: Is it still XC skiing? F.C.: Yes, of course, and we have solicited the guidance of certificated trainers. The techniques on snow and on rollers have many similarities. Especially in skating. And we didn’t wait long before we decided to participate in national roller-ski competitions: Cosnes-Sancerre (in the Loire Valley), the Transroller (La Transjurassienne’s roller-ski event), Les 3 Vallées (in Essonne near Paris), etc. That gave the occasion to meet friends from the mountain regions who were snow skiers. And we were able to show that our women can monopolize the first places!
Q.: And the 106 km Challenge? F.C.: A few km from our place there was an ancient railway line, abandoned since many years and transformed in a “green track” reserved for biking and roller-skiing. It’s our preferred training ground. The track is located on both sides of the town of Ploërmel and has a total length of 53 km. The women of the club challenged the men to follow them on this green track on a two-way course totaling 106 km. We invited some friends and right from the first edition it was a big success. No time-keeping but the challenge to test the limits of one’s endurance and finish these 106 km during the day: 58 km in the morning followed by a common picnic at noon and 48 km in the afternoon. Already in the first edition the challenge was met by many of us and we did it again this year.
Q.: But I understood that the call of the snow was too strong for you? F.C.: Yes indeed, after my retirement I left Brittany and moved to the Jura. Now we live on the course of La Transjurassienne, at Chapelle des Bois. But I brought my roller-skis with me. And I invited all members of Breizh Ski-Roues to participate this winter in L’Envolée Nordique, a difficult 50 km XC ski race with two-man teams at Chapelle des Bois. Most of them reached the finish line, and that confirms that roller-skiing is a good training for snow skiing. And two of them even participated in La Transjurassienne: future Worldloppet Masters?
Hereafter is the description of the 2009 Breizh Ski-Roues Challenge by Boris Petroff: The Challenge took place on May 17. It rained cats and dogs the day before (French expression: it rained like a pissing cow) and it was very windy. That pushed a certain number of participants to abstain, because they didn’t feel safe on humid roads that were in addition covered by leaves. On the morning of the race we had a fine drizzle when only some twenty competitors started in front of the former Ploërmel railway station (picture 3). Fortunately they were soon rewarded by the sun that dried up the track. I had planned to take it easy after a muscular tear caught a few days earlier when running, but step by step I was overwhelmed by the challenge and I imagined I was skiing on some Worldloppet track (picture 4). My final time after 106 km was 5h 38 min. The total distance was covered by 14 competitors, several of them from the Paris region or Burgundy. François Camper pulled out after reaching the magic number 76 km – the distance of La Transjurassienne! Info on Breizh Ski-Roues can be found at http://pagesperso-orange.fr/breizh.ski-roues/
This page was last revised on September 20, 2011