Women’s Tour de France: with Annemiek van Vleuten, the Netherlands flew over the race

As expected, the epilogue of this Tour de France Women took place in the Vosges, during the only two mountain stages concocted by the organizers. And as expected, Annemiek van Vleuten crushed the pedals to outwit the competition. The number of the Dutchwoman was still enough to disconcert the peloton and the observers. Saturday July 30, first. Starting alone 65 kilometers from the finish, the Movistar runner had widened the gaps in the ascent of the Grand Ballon pass, relegating her compatriot Marianne Vos, yellow jersey at the start, to more than twenty minutes. More than the stage victory, the climber of almost 40 years had knocked out the general classification and had made sure, barring an accident, of winning the event.

This mattress acquired, she only had to manage her effort during the eighth and last day between Lure and the Super Planche des Belles Filles, Sunday July 31, to secure the final victory. But here again, van Vleuten went on the offensive, flying from the foot of the last ramp in front of a small group running out of solution. With this new demonstration at the top of the Super Planche des Belles Filles, the Movistar rider adds her name to the winners of the women’s Grande Boucle, back after three decades of absence. “I didn’t even believe it was possible after being so sick, she had savored on the eve of the arrival, diminished at the start of the week by a gastrointestinal virus. I came so close to quitting the race, it’s a small miracle. »

Juliette Labous fourth

Three weeks after Annemiek van Vleuten’s success in the Giro Rosa, the women’s version of the Tour of Italy, this 2022 edition of the Women’s Tour de France confirms the current domination of the Netherlands in women’s cycling: the Dutchwoman Demi Vollering, appeared as the only one able to compete, only one time, with van Vleuten, finished the race on the second step of the podium, when Marianne Vos (Jumbo-Visma) spent four days in yellow and pocketed two stages, and Lorena Wiebes ( Team DSM) dominated two sprint finishes, including the inaugural stage on the Champs-Elysées on Sunday July 24.

France will have to wait before finding an heiress in Jeannie Longo, triple winner in the last Tour de France to have been organized by Amaury Sport Organization, the historic manager of the men’s Tour, from 1984 to 1989. She has with Juliette Labous , (Team DSM), first Habs in the general classification (4th, at 7 minutes 28 s) of a serious candidate for the final victory in the years to come.

Level differences still too great

The director of the Tour and former runner Marion Rousse can be satisfied while waiting for several successes, including the audiences. The eight days of racing gathered an average of 2 million viewers on France Télévisions, the broadcaster of the event, or half of the figures collected three weeks earlier on the men’s Tour. Perhaps seduced by a few innovations, such as the possibility, in the manner of Formula 1 races, of listening live to the instructions received in their headsets by the runners, 2.7 million people followed Saturday the penultimate step in front of their post.

Certain modalities of the event, however, still need to be refined to avoid the repetition of massive falls observed this year in future editions. “Differences in level cause a lot of incidentsincluded Stephen Delcourt, the manager of the French team FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope whose co-leader Marta Cavalli had been eliminated on the second day of racing after a crash. Our sport is not mature, there are big differences in level and that’s normal. I understand that ASO wanted to support certain teams by having them take part in this great race, but there are cyclists who don’t have the experience. »

There also remains the frustration, expressed by several riders, of not having been able to run a less telegenic time trial or very high mountain stage in the Alps and the Pyrenees, i.e. the two traditional justices of the peace of the men’s race. “This year, it was very important to be attractive. But we don’t forbid ourselves to put some in the next few years, ” recalled Marion Rousse.



Tour de France: for the French, a mixed race

Less than a week to raise your head. There are only a few stages left for the French riders to ensure the average established since the beginning of the century: between two and three victories in the Tour de France (2.55 exactly). The good years were much more, with a peak of six successes in 2010. Low waters, on the other hand, are more and more frequent: a single bouquet of winners in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2021.

Last year, the impatient were overwhelmed: Julian Alaphilippe had closed the recurring debate by winning the entry. Only here: the double world champion is not in the peloton this time. And it’s not the only one missing. “We don’t have a rider above the rest in any of the categoriescomments bluntly Romain Bardet. Among the fighters, Julian is missing. Arnaud Démare isn’t here, so we don’t have any sprinters. And among climbers, we are not at the level of Tadej Pogacar or Jonas Vingegaard. »

Great champions who want to win everything

“Nothing surprising”therefore, for the Auvergne champion, on the podium in 2016 (2e) and 2017 (3e), to see the Tricolores struggling to find a place in the sun. Especially since the fight is more than tough and all-out this year. “We can learn from the first two weeks of racing that the notion of “transition stages” should be erased from our vocabulary.underlines Jean-René Bernaudeau, the boss of the French team TotalEnergies. Everyone is on top of things every day. Winning on the Tour has become very hard as the stakes are monstrous, the Grande Boucle being the only real sounding board for cycling. »

On the side of Cofidis, another hexagonal formation passed 450 m from victory on Sunday July 17 when its escaped runner Benjamin Thomas was swallowed up by the peloton in extremis, it is also argued that the shooting window is very narrow. “We observe a rise in the general level, a hyper-professionalization, and, at the same time as the desire for control of certain teams that already existed, the desire of some great champions to crunch everything, like Wout van Aert (two stage wins and four times 2eEd), notes Christian Guiberteau, sports director of Cofidis. There are many more openings on other races. The opportunities to win, we find them more easily on the other big Tours, the Italian Giro or the Spanish Vuelta. »

This Franco-French debate, the boss of the Groupama-FDJ team, Marc Madiot, is a little annoyed. “Great cycling nations like Italy and Spain are also struggling this yearhe marks. Cycling has become globalized, and in the life of the teams, the important thing is the jersey more than the nationality. What matters to me is to achieve results, whether with a Frenchman or another of my riders. »

The general classification rather than the stages

And the historic troop leader (since 1997) also highlights the presence of two Frenchmen in the top ten of the general classification before approaching the Pyrenees, his colt David Gaudu and Romain Bardet hoping to stay at the forefront. Two Blues in the top 10 on the Champs-Élysées would paradoxically be a great performance. This has only happened eight times since 2000, with a record year in 2014 when three Tricolores jostled with the leaders (Jean-Christophe Péraud 2eThibaut Pinot 3e and Romain Bardet 6e).

“We focus on stage victories by often depreciating a good place in the general classificationregrets Romain Bardet. We do not remember the seventh or the eighth of a Tour, even though it is a harder performance. It’s a shame, and I personally find it very rewarding to fight with the best in the mountains, on the pedals. » A position that David Gaudu also likes, displaying at the start of the Tour the high ambition of grabbing the podium. He wants to believe it because “the Pyrenees with steeper and shorter passes perhaps correspond better to my characteristics as a climber-puncher than the passes in the Alps, where you have to put on gear”, hopes the leader of Groupama-FDJ.

One certainty: the Blues are more and more rare to register their names on the Tour winners, but they are also fewer and fewer in the peloton. In 2014, the year of the hexagonal trio pointing in the top 10, there were 43 French people on arrival on the Champs-Élysées. From the 16e stage between Carcassonne and Foix on Tuesday July 19, there were only 25 left. This also explains that.



At the Tour de France, the carbon footprint race

Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France, has two red coaches. One is 100% electric, like two other cars from Amaury Sport Organization (ASO). The other runs with a rechargeable hybrid engine, like 100 light vehicles of the organizers. Brought back to a total of 2,000 motorized vehicles that accompany the peloton, the contribution may seem symbolic, but it helps to improve the carbon footprint of the Grande Boucle, a small town that moves every day, under the cumulative gaze of 10 million spectators in three weeks.

According to figures provided by ASO, its CO2 emissions fell by 40% between 2013 and 2021, dropping from 341,000 to 216,000 tonnes. This is almost the equivalent of 100,000 Paris-New York round trips by plane for a single passenger (1)… “Our number one cause of emissions is mobility, and we act on it as a priorityexplains Karine Bozzacchi, CSR (corporate social responsibility) manager for cycling at ASO. We encourage all Tour families to do the same. And we see that there are efforts made, in all the fleets. »

“Obviously, we are concerned by this development”

Twenty percent of the publicity caravan thus advances with alternative engines (hybrid or electric), and half of the heavy goods vehicles of the organization run on biofuels, the objective being to switch to 100% alternative in 2024 for all followers. Several teams have also taken the hybrid step. “Obviously, we are concerned by this development, emphasizes Vincent Lavenu, AG2R-Citroën training manager. We ourselves have a CSR approach. » At the same time, ASO does “compensation”, for example by supporting reforestation programs.

But from there to driving entirely on electric… Christian Prudhomme abandons his 100% green car on 5 of the 21 stages of the Tour to return to the hybrid. “We have three mobile charging stations this year, but it’s still complicated,” recognizes Karine Bozzacchi. “Maybe it will come tomorrow, but it’s not possible now, resumes Vincent Lavenu. When you have to do 50 or 70 kilometers in the morning before coming to the start, then a stage of 200 or 250 kilometers with passes and then 50 to 100 kilometers to get to the hotel, that can’t work. »

While the public is responsible for 94% of the overall carbon footprint, the other major environmental footprint of the Tour is linked to waste. Here too, efforts have been made under the impetus of ASO, which has signed the “Charter of 15 eco-responsible commitments” for organizers of sporting events proposed by the Ministry of Sports and the WWF. The plastic packaging of “goodies”, the gifts distributed, have been eliminated, paper replaces more polluting materials, “environmental coordinators” are responsible for providing information on sorting…

In this area, ASO is under pressure from civil society. In 2019, a forum signed by deputies and NGOs called on him to ban plastic goodies, to “bringing the Tour into a more virtuous loop”. “We have been working on this for a long time, takes over Karine Bozzacchi. This forum was a blessing in disguise. When activists force us to move, it’s not fun, but it’s always effective. »

“We cannot call ourselves eco-responsible without changing the model”

Co-signer of this appeal, the Zero Waste association nevertheless remains vigilant. “So much the better if efforts have been made, reacts Laura Frouin, project manager of the NGO for the Zero Waste Sport campaign. But, in general, you can’t call yourself eco-responsible without changing the model and rethinking your communication. For us, these goodies remain a waste of resources for a utility of a few minutes, using materials that cause other problems. »

As for the runners, they are no longer supposed to get rid of their empty cans just anywhere. Collection areas are provided on each stage. “It gradually came into people’s minds”, commented former professional Jérémy Roy, who follows the Tour as an ambassador for the Ecosystem organization to encourage the collection of mobile phones. “We can’t dirty our playground, while the organizers go to great lengths to get us through sensitive areas. Riders also have a duty to set an example. »



Tour de France: the hunt for UCI points, the other race for cycling teams

On the Tour de France, this year, there is the race for time that the leaders will soon engage in as soon as the road rises. And there is the race for points. We are not talking here about those who distinguish the best sprinters and best climbers in the peloton, but about another battle which animates the teams, against the backdrop of reform of the International Cycling Union (UCI). Because the change desired by its president, David Lappartient, transforms the end of the current season into a key moment for the allocation of future World Tour licenses, the equivalent of the first division in the world of cycling. For the first time, these will be distributed on the basis of the team classification smoothed over the last three years, and will remain unchanged until 2025.

A few months from the ax, the hunt for points is open. The teams can reap some thanks to victories or places of honor on the races of the calendar. 18 formations will be selected, and, if the rules of the game have been known since the end of 2018, “The poorly ranked teams really became aware of the subject six months to a year ago, recognizes Vincent Lavenu, sports director at the French AG2R-Citroën. It took time to adapt to this new system, and there was the Covid…”

The stakes are high: a place in the World Tour guarantees teams to line up with the three major tours (France, Spain, Italy) and the rest of the most prestigious competitions, a possibility that can weigh in the balance time to conclude a transfer.

The Tour de France, less decisive

Any opportunity to go “look for points” has therefore become good to take, indicated Eusebio Unzué last month on the sidelines of the Critérium du Dauphiné. The Spanish manager of Movistar is one of the main concerned: 16e in the current hierarchy, his team is directly threatened by relegation to the Pro Tour, the antechamber of the elite which can only access the best dates on the calendar thanks to an invitation from the organizers. He then confided that he had asked veteran Alejandro Valverde – who remains one of his sure values ​​at 42 – to add a few days of racing to his last season on the circuit.

On small competitions and not on the Tour de France, generally less decisive insofar as the teams which perform there are already at the top of the table, and a stage victory brings as many points as a title on a minor event deemed less difficult. With the risk that this new race for points replaces the spirit of the race, the real one. “Some teams have chosen to drop the World Tour races, where it is difficult to get points, and to favor the others”, notes Vincent Lavenu, while several teams present in July on French roads sent riders to Romania on the Sibiu Cycling Tour, from July 2 to 5.

Towards a reform of the scale?

“Before, it’s true, we said to ourselves “we’re going to a race to prepare for another”. Now you have to shine in all the races,” admits Cédric Vasseur, head of the Cofidis team, whose survival in the elite is not assured. However, the sports director of the Northerners affirms “not to have changed philosophy: it should not become an obsession either. The points are also brought by the good performances. We start to be under stress when we don’t perform, so we try to grab points. »

“The points are artificial. (…) I understand that the system was created with good intentions, but it is not fair, had insisted Eusebio Unzué, in favor of a revision of the scale. We need to think about how to make it more logical and deserving. » The UCI would be sensitive to this, especially since the health crisis began two years ago.“the legitimacy of this system”, notes Cedric Vasseur. How can we guarantee a classification under these conditions? It’s a bit like Russian roulette. »

Alpecin-Fenix ​​and Arkéa-Samsic, two second division teams, being in good position to reach the elite, two current World Tour teams should be relegated at the end of the season. For the moment, it would be the Belgians of Lotto-Soudal and Israel-Premier Tech, even if five teams stand in less than 1,000 units.


The Tour returns to France

After its big departure from Copenhagen, Friday July 1, then a very well-attended weekend on the side of Danish roads, the peloton returns to French soil, Tuesday July 5, after a day of transit. The 171.5 km long fourth stage between Dunkirk and Calais should not upset the general classification, dominated by the Belgian Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). Its rugged layout will take runners to a finish designed for punchers. The breakaways will nevertheless have to negotiate the last kilometers discovered by the sea, while the wind from Pas-de-Calais also raises the risk of breaks within the peloton grouped in the yellow jersey.


Top Stories

Vietnamese racer competes in MotoGP ‘incubator’ tournament

Nguyen Tran Duc Tai started competing at the Idenmitsu Asia Talent Cup 2022, a race known as the incubator of Asia’s MotoGP riders, on March 6.

Young driver Duc Tai started competing in the first stage of the Idenmitsu Asia Talent Cup (IATC) 2022 at Losail racetrack, Qatar. On the same day, this is also the place where the first leg of the 2022 MotoGP season takes place.

Nguyen Tran Duc Tai (sitting in the car) and the technician before the start of the race at IATC 2022. Photo: HVN.

Wearing the number 16 with the image of the Vietnamese flag on his helmet, Duc Tai completed 2 days of competition without any problems or injuries. On the first day, the driver from Dong Nai made a surprise when he finished 12/21 drivers, winning 4 points. On the second day, Duc Tai finished 18/21. This result exceeded the expectations of the Honda Racing Vietnam team.

“Completing two days of competition with four points is a promising start for Duc Tai and the racing team,” said a representative of Honda Vietnam. “This can be considered a great success of the team at IATC 2022, because the density of collisions is quite dense. In addition to skills, this is also a psychological problem because the racers participating in this tournament are all in the category of “young rice”. so situations can easily arise.

Vietnamese racer is competing at IATC 2022. Photo: HVN.

Vietnamese racer is competing at IATC 2022. Photo: HVN.

To win an official position at IATA 2022, Duc Tai went through a qualifying round with more than 400 entries, from developed countries such as Japan, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand… is the first Vietnamese racer to compete in this tournament.

This is a race that is likened to “the road to MotoGP”, which has created a lot of fierce competition between riders. At this stage, Japanese MotoGP racer Takaki Nakagami came to interact with young riders, saying that he also competed at IATC, and this is an open road to the prestigious MotoGP race.

Racers compete at IATC 2022. Photo: screenshot.

Racers compete at IATC 2022. Photo: Screen capture.

Stage 2 of IATC 2022 will take place in Indonesia on March 19-20. Currently, the entire racing team from Vietnam has been present in this country, conducting isolation procedures before officially joining the race.

Quang Anh



At the Paralympic Games, equipment in the race for medals

When Jordan Broisin sets off on the slopes of Yanqing for the alpine skiing events of the Paralympic Games in Beijing, organized from March 4 to 13, he will not only rely on his sense of trajectory. The hopes of the Haut-Savoyard, whose left leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident, will also rest on the reliability of his carbon prosthesis. “It corresponds to a size of 150 kg, even if I am not half that, he says. But when you go down to 100 km / h, you have to be sure that it holds up. »

At this speed, the robustness of the anchorage of the device on the amputated limb is also essential. “From a distance, we see these prostheses as fairly simple things. But the models with straps, it goes to go to the grocery store, launches Christian Fémy, director of winter sports for the French Handisport Federation. You also need a good shoulder-pelvis-knee alignment to cut beautiful curves. These are very specific, very particular and very singular prostheses. What goes to Peter does not go to Paul, the solutions are individualized. »

→ PORTRAIT. Christian Fémy, the guide of the French Paralympic ski team

Most French people are equipped by the specialized company Chabloz, whose historical base is located in Seyssinet (Isère), near Grenoble. The equipment offered is the result of research carried out by engineers, but also of regular exchanges with athletes. “Communication with the athlete is very important to optimize the equipment”insists Julien Mouret, head of the fitting process within the company, recently integrated into the German group Ottobock.

In the eyes of this ortho-prosthetist, these men and women follow the same path as any person deprived of a limb. “Initially, we are there to support patients towards a life that is as normal as possible, and leisure sport represents something important in their social and mental balance.he announces. Then, we accompany them as athletes. But the border between the medical device and the high level sports prosthesis is very fine. »

“A hyperspecific device”

Amputated below the knee, Jordan Broisin uses an energy restitution foot that he slips into his ski boot. Others have chosen the ProCarve prosthesis, a futuristic-looking model that clips directly onto the ski. Specifically designed for gliding by Chabloz, it is equipped with a cylinder and an oleo-pneumatic shock absorber to reproduce the flexibility of a knee. “Initially, fifteen years ago, the technology was inspired by mountain bikes”recalls Jules Revais, research and development engineer at the Ottobock Orthopedics and Services Network.

→ MAINTENANCE. Paralympic Games: “Let’s show that disabled athletes exist and perform”

Today, the shock absorber is supplied by a subcontractor from the automotive and aeronautical industry, with titanium connecting parts. Total price: €10,000. “It’s a hyper-specific device, which must withstand great efforts in curves and great impacts in the event of a jump”, says the specialist. The Procarve prosthesis has thus enabled femoral amputees to take up snowboarding, a discipline that appeared at the Paralympics in 2014. “Since then, there has been no major progress,” notes Julien Mouret.

At the Paralympic Games, equipment in the race for medals

“It’s the skier who makes the difference”

Will the machine end up taking over the man, at the rate of thousands of euros spent? “The mechanics can affect performance, but only for 10 or 15%, replies Lou Braz-Dagand. If we went straight, it wouldn’t be the same. But there are curves… It’s the skier who makes the difference. » The narrowness of the market does not encourage a war of manufacturers either, which could give a decisive advantage to some over others. “It’s a niche”summarizes Pierre Tessier, one of the world leaders with ten employees.

→ SLIDESHOW. PyeongChang Paralympics, photos of the great French victories

Same discourse among prosthetists.“For us, the ProCarve is above all a showcase, it concerns few practitioners”, says Jules Revais. These little jewels of technology nevertheless serve to improve the offer intended for an audience that is not looking to get on a podium. “All research and applications are available for athletesbasic, it makes prostheses easier to handle »argues Christian Fémy.

More than the technological arms race, it is the specificities of winter sports, which are less accessible, that keep most of the planet away from these Paralympic Games. Only about forty countries should participate in the Beijing edition. The skiers know each other well. “Everyone has their little secrets, but there is still a good understanding”, says Lou Braz-Dagand. “Our mindset is rather to share the solutions that can make our everyday lives easier”, adds Jordan Broisin, who doesn’t forget his goal either: to win a medal.


Six disciplines on the program

Six disciplines are included in the program of the XIIIand Paralympic Winter Games, held in Beijing from March 4 to 13: wheelchair curling, sledge hockey, biathlon, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding.

Seventy-eight titles are at stake. The alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding events are open to athletes in three categories: visually impaired, seated and standing.

The French delegation is made up of 18 athletes, including four guides.



Sailing: the Transaquadra, a race like no other

Everything is atypical in the Transquadra, this transatlantic race taking place every three years, and set off on Saturday January 29 from Funchal (Madeira) towards Le Marin (Martinique). Starting with this triennial rhythm, very rare in a world of sport more accustomed to even numbers. “Three years is perfect for amateurs who often have demanding jobs. It takes a year to decide to do the Transquadra, a year to prepare and race it, and another year to recover from it,” smiles the founder of the race, Michel Bolo known as “Mico”.

The course is another curiosity. The race is indeed organized in two serials separated by more than six months. The first leg took place last August with a departure from two different ports, Marseille and Lorient, the two fleets meeting in Madeira with a ranking taking into account the distance difference. The second left on Saturday January 29 from the Portuguese island.

“The two departure points allow sailors with a professional activity to leave close to home”, explains Catherine Écarlat, a communicator hired to tell the thousand and one adventures of life on board from a distance. “The division into two sections makes it possible to divide their absence and their entourage to take vacations to join them during the summer or winter holidays. »

A minimum of 40 years to keep the pros away

Finally, you must be at least 40 years old. “When the race was created in 1993, we didn’t want to be invaded by the pros and we considered at the time that a sailor over 40 without a professional track record was too old to have one. », continues Mico Bolo, dynamic septuagenarian reigning over the battalion of red shirts, uniform of the many volunteers.

These volunteers are mostly from the sailing club of Hoëdic, a small island off the coast of Quiberon, which already organized the famous race of Old Safrans, ancestor of the Transquadra. “Many of the sailors who competed in the Vieux Safrans or the Transquadra remain attached to the organization, we have a little sectarian side, jokes Mico Bolo. Many sail together all year round. “All, competitors and volunteers, are happy to be there, continues Catherine Écarlat. It’s a human adventure and a sharing with friends or family who helped prepare the boat, but also between competitors, who lend a hand. »

PORTRAIT.Transat Jacques-Vabre: Kevin Escoffier, the surviving engineer

If some of the competitors are retired, others have put a busy professional life on hold to “cross over”, as Alain Férec, boss of a construction company with 35 people in Seine-Maritime, says. “All year round, I run to meet deadlines and estimates, there I offer myself my share of freedom and solitude, it’s my birthday present”, says this fine helmsman accustomed to places of honor in races of lesser distance. “At 30, I paid for a participation in the Solitaire du Figaro, at 50, I’m taking the Atlantic! »

An adventure, but also a race

Still only its 13and place obtained at the end of the first stage is not enough for him. “We’re all amateurs, but it’s a real race, we’re not here to pleasure. We watch the others, we study the weather options and we learn: I let myself go for a few hours reading a good book, leaving the boat on autopilot, while the others steered by hand and slipped away from under my nose,” sighs the Norman, who is aiming for the top 10 on arrival.

→ EXPLANATION. A “backwards” world tour to promote the circular economy

Joyful, the race thus remains a serious matter, with real competition between the Mediterraneans and the Atlantics. “It does not mix too much between those who left Marseille and the others”, confirms Catherine Scarlat.

Among the registrants, a good thirty participate less for the spirit of adventure than for the win, not shrinking from any logistical or financial sacrifice. A group of sailors based in La Rochelle, for example, hired a coach. Others have spent large sums to afford the latest navigational equipment. “For some, there’s a ‘I’ve done well in life, I want to win this too’ side. concedes Mico Bolo. At the beginning, there were some who left to fish for tuna with their friends… That’s all over. »


Series boats cut out for the race

The 132 sailors (40 single-handed and 72 in duo) of the Transquadra sail aboard standard boats measuring between 10 and 12 meters. For safety reasons linked to the length of the course, they are equipped with a double rudder and all the modern on-board electronics. It’s an open race with boats of different generations, the oldest dating from 1987. All come from the best shipyards that are surfing on the notoriety of the race, little known to the general public but very prestigious in the sailing world. Cut for racing, they also offer cruising comfort.


→ PODCAST. Clarisse Crémer: “During the Vendée Globe, I took the time to contemplate the oceans”



Transat Jacques-Vabre: a race without wind but not without interest

Above all, do not slack off. Remain vigilant, until the end. Even with a good margin maintained for days on its pursuers, the Thomas Rettant-Morgan Lagravière duo did not let themselves be put to sleep in their last hours of navigation by sometimes amorphous trade winds.

The tandem crossed the finish line early in the morning in Martinique this Thursday, November 25, winner on LinkedOut in the Imoca category (the 18m monohulls in the Vendée Globe), at the end of a Transat Jacques-Vabre quite tiring for the nerves as the weather conditions, with capilotade winds, forced all the sailors to work .

The Sébastien Rogues-Matthieu Souben pair, the first to complete the crossing on Tuesday 23 November – more or less depending on the categories – on his trimaran Primonial, knows something about it. The nocturnal arrival was played in a pocket handkerchief after more than fifteen days at sea, the rivals of the Ocean Fifty class to its basques less than three hours away. Dominators in the category of Ultimate giants, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier certainly evoked “A long quiet river”, but specifying “Even if it is constant attention”.

High sports intensity

And this is what the race director Francis Le Goff retains at the time of the first assessments: “We can regret the absence of highlights from the race, but I would like to underline the sporting commitment of all the sailors, who had to demonstrate their ability to race in a short time. We had to fight, and this will also be the case for the forty Class 40 still far from the finish, with a dozen boats that can play for the win at the beginning of next week. “

In a world where bad fortunes are often legion, the Transat can suddenly congratulate itself on an edition without much damage, 75 ships out of 79 at the start are still likely to return safely. “It is all the same reassuring for the community and its economy, and in particular for the sponsors”, supports Francis Le Goff. The Ultimes engaged, above all, avoided too much damage as during the Route du Rhum 2018.

A satisfaction for François Gabart, second with Tom Laperche on his very recent SVR-Lartigue, launched this summer: “It’s been four or five years since I finished a race with my appendages, and it’s heartwarming, relish the skipper. Afterwards, the conditions were easy, but with our new boats, I expected that we would have more technical problems. All the teams have improved. “

The Route du Rhum 2022 already in the minds

An observation shared by Francis Le Goff: “Some people came mainly to seek reliability, and that is why we had proposed a course of more than 13,000 kilometers. I believe that sailors have gradually taken the measure of their mounts. It promises some incredible brawls in the years to come. “

→ PORTRAIT Transat Jacques-Vabre: Kevin Escoffier, the surviving engineer

Some are already pawing. Armel Le Cléac’h, third in the Ultimes with Kevin Escoffier, is more than satisfied with his Banque Populaire XIlanded on the water in April 2021: “The boat is healthy, it is sailor, and that gives prospects for the solo sailor. “ On the horizon, the Route du Rhum 2022 is exciting the entire fleet. Who in the meantime crosses their fingers so that social unrest in Martinique does not spill over onto the pontoons.

This Friday, the award ceremonies are maintained. “No one asked for an expedited return, says Francis Le Goff. The race was still long and tiring, and it’s not easy to get back to sea right away. “



Solitaire du Figaro: Pierre Quiroga wins the race

Pierre Quiroga is the big winner of the 52e edition of the Solitaire du Figaro, after having crossed in ninth position the finish line of the fourth and final stage, won by Pierre Leboucher, Thursday off Saint-Nazaire.

→ ANALYSIS. Sailing: final sprint for the most difficult race in the world

Pierre Quiroga (Skipper Macif 2019) won for the first time, in his sixth participation, in the prestigious race which saw the birth and hardening of the greatest sailors. He succeeds Armel Le Cléac’h, winner of the Vendée Globe 2016/2017 and triple winner of the Solitaire.

“I have sailed as I like”

At 29, he finished first in the general classification with a cumulative time of 14 days 16 hours and 24 min, ahead of Xavier Macaire (Groupe Snef) in 14 days 17 h 13 min and Tom Laperche (Bretagne – CMB Performance) in 14 days 18 h 58 min. A native of Brest but having grown up in Marseille, the skipper had never been on the final podium of the Solitaire. His best result so far was a sixth place finish in 2018.

“It’s a Solitaire on a small cloud. I’m not getting over it yet. She will stay in my heart for a long time ”, said moved this graduate in transport, logistics and international trade.

The sailor, who won the second and third stages, remained very focused until the crossing of the line in the pitch black night before bursting with joy despite the great fatigue. He also breathed a sigh of relief after taking an option that didn’t really pay off in the last twenty-four hours – further offshore with less wind – which could have cost him the final victory.

“I sailed as I like, I believed in the option further offshore, it was not the right one. It was hot ”, he whispered to the journalists present in Saint-Nazaire, posting a very big smile.

Only 48 minutes early

Leader before taking the start of the fourth stage with almost two hours ahead of his direct pursuer Xavier Macaire, Pierre Quiroga only posted a 48-minute lead at the end of this final clash, which led the 34 competitors from the Bay of Morlaix (Finistère) to Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique) bypassing the Irish Fastnet lighthouse (685 nautical miles, or approximately 1,270 km).

→ PORTRAIT. Sailing: Violette Dorange, the offshore princess of the Apprentis d’Auteuil

Xavier Macaire, a 40-year-old Vendée, has his third overall podium in twelve participations (2e in 2013, 3e in 2015). Tom Laperche has two podiums in three participations (3e in 2020). The 24-year-old sailor is preparing to set off in tandem with François Gabart on a flying maxi-multihulls during the Transat Jacques Vabre (departure on November 7 in Le Havre).

→ PODCAST. Clarisse Crémer: “During the Vendée Globe, I took the time to contemplate the oceans”



Sailing: final sprint for the most difficult race in the world

“I was warned, I thought I knew what to expect, but it’s even worse than I expected. “ At 24, Charlotte Yven, one of the most promising sailors of her generation, took the start of the fourth and final stage of the Solitaire du Figaro on Sunday, September 12 at 4 p.m. After an experience that she will remember all her life: in sight of the coasts of Roscoff (Finistère), Thursday September 9, at the end of a third stage where she occupied an unexpected fifth place in a bay of Morlaix that she knows by heart she hit a rock. “I was in tears, I wanted to give up everything, I felt bad, she says. Then I slept and understood what had happened to me. “

To sleep. Everything is there, in this merciless race of four navigations of three, four or even five days, as for this fourth stage, announced as one of the longest in history (between the bay of Morlaix and Saint-Nazaire, via the lighthouse of Fastnet all south of Ireland). “One night, I was so exhausted that I had hallucinations, said the sailor (1). I also realized that I had barely eaten. I was in a daze on arrival, both euphoric and too exhausted to understand that I was lacking lucidity, hence this error. But that’s it, the Solitaire: a ruthless race, where only the very best manage to manage. “

→ PODCAST. Isabelle Autissier: “When sailing, superstition is never far away”

In fact, the winners of this race launched in 1970 make you dizzy. All the big names in sailing over the past forty years have signed an overall victory, a podium or at least one stage. Philippe Poupon, Lionel Péan, Laurent Bourgnon, Jean Le Cam, Michel Desjoyeaux, Alain Gautier, Armel Le Cléac’h, François Gabart, Charlie Dalin and many others shone on the Solitaire. “People are more familiar with the Vendée Globe, which remains incomparable, but for sailors, it’s the best”, Yann Eliès often says triple winner, who repeats like a leitmotif: “Go Solitaire first.” “

Less adventure but more sport than in the Vendée Globe

Seen from the land of neophytes, these four stages never far from the French, Irish or Spanish coasts do not seem very bad, in the light of the heroic epics around the world. “There is not the adventure side that makes the general public dream, it’s true, concedes Alex Picot, deputy director of the race. But in terms of sporting performance, the Solitaire is second to none. ” Unlike the big ocean races where sailors set off with unequal weapons on boats with very different performances, the Solitaire is contested on identical boats: the Figaros 3, 10m monohulls from the famous Bénéteau shipyards in Saint-Gilles-Croix-de -Life (Vendée).

→ PODCAST. Clarisse Crémer: “During the Vendée Globe, I took the time to contemplate the oceans”

The few minutes often separating the first to finish are won or lost at the helm. Or on a tiny road option or a tack triggered too early or too late. “We sail by sight, we see what others have done, resumes Charlotte Yven. Sometimes, when they are not on the bridge, we tell ourselves that they are preparing something inside or that they are resting for five minutes, so that we will be able to attack them. EThey say the same thing to each other, it’s thrilling but exhausting. “

“The fact of sailing in a fleet and seeing others makes things complicated, because sailors are constantly tempted to modify a small setting, to give a little boost to make a difference”, continues Alex Picot, who compares the Solitaire to a four-day marathon run at the pace of a 100m. ” One hour, one day at this rate is fine, but from the first night, it becomes very hard. “

The new wave of skippers

The competition is very high this year, since three quarters of the entries have the level to win. And this 52e This edition is particularly well attended, because none of the historical bosses is at the start: the one who will put his name on the prize list will therefore open a new chapter in the history of ocean racing. “We are all in full swing all the time, even if the very best are able to let slip a place or two on one stage to reserve for the next. Recovery is the secret, in any case it is what I will remember from this first participation, explains Charlotte Yven. Until he has made a Figaro, a sailor does not really know who he is and how far he can go. Me, I made a big mistake, I did not think that it could happen to me. Now I know, I think I know myself a little better, it’s a force for the future. “


Pierre Quiroga, on his way to becoming the new star

At almost 29 years old, the Mediterranean Pierre Quiroga has imposed himself so far, in the middle of the squadron of sailors from the Atlantic or the Channel, winning two of the three stages already run. Supported by the Macif group, which is banking on him after having ceased its partnership with François Gabart, he is on his way to the Vendée Globe 2024. Before the start, Sunday 12th, for a final stage announced without much wind (therefore very long and hazardous), he had a mattress of less than two hours on the second, Xavier Macaire. After more than ten days in three stages, the first five were held in just over three hours.