Races & results
Paris Alsace 2015
3rd - 6th June 2015
Neuilly sur Marne - Ribeauville 1st edition
Isle of Man Centurion Karen Lawrie along with fellow Manx race walker Tony Mackintosh produced qualifying times at Bourges and Chateau Thierry to be invited to participate in the 2015 Paris Alsace (previously the Paris Colmar).
How it works
For the last few years, the Paris-Colmar/Alsace has been a stage race with a prologue then a transfer to vehicles and drive to the start of the next stage.
Apart from the prologue and final stage - the race for men and ladies are two distinct separate races, but the route merges at Vitry en Perthois on Thursday.
Each competitor must have an official vehicle (inspected by the organisers) decorated with the competitor's name, sponsor banners and flashing lights.
Along the route are control points with a closing time; just to complicate matters, the start of stage 2 and 3 are done in order of classification ie the lead man and woman go first and the rest follow depending how many minutes they completed the previous stage behind the winner.....sometimes it was difficult to find the results of the previous stage - so a lot of hanging around. Of course, it also meant that the slower walkers had less time to complete that section....
More than one walker, especially in the men's race, had to race very hard to meet the cut-off times. Sadly, a few didn't make it.
Timing, and a good sat nav, is of the essence!
Neuilly sur Marne to Torcy: 12kmtransfer to vehicles
Stage 2 (ladies)
Charly sur Marne to Chateau Thierry: 24.8km
transfer to vehicles
Stage 2 (men)
Chateau Thierry to Epinal: 356.3 km (with compulsory 2 hour rest stop at Bar le Duc)
transfer to vehicles
Stage 3 (ladies)
Vitry en Perthois to Epinal: 215.2km (with compulsory 1 hour rest stop at Neufchateau)transfer to vehicles
Stage 4 (men and ladies race)
Plainfaing to Ribeauville: 56km
Both Karen and Tony were supported by Centurions Suzanne Beardsmore, Kathy Crilley, Sarah Lightman and Mick Barnbrook along with Karen's husband Dave, Ronnie and a back up vehicle with 2 other walkers.
Karen walked extremely well - the mission being to complete the race and not race for a podium finish. Same for Tony. Unfortunately, the tight cut-offs and heat meant that Tony, having given his all, felt he had to stop after completing just over 100 miles. For any athlete to drop out of a race is a horrendous decison and can only be made on how it feels at that moment in time. After a nights rest, Tony rallied round and along with Suzanne, Kathy and Dave supported Karen for the remainder of her race. Tony's team and the back up team played their part as well. On Saturday, everyone had a chance to walk with Karen, and help with supplying provisions for Karen's team (fresh baguettes which we all loved so much). It was a good effort all round.
The rule about starting in order of classification was rather strange as it looks as though the slower walkers are penalised for being slower than the race leaders. The Stage 3 start meant that Karen was starting 40 minutes behind the leader Tatania MASLOVA. Thus had 40 minutes less to complete the next stage.... On the final stage the race leaders started one hour ahead of the rest of the field.... when you given everything and know you have some 50 or 60 miles to go.. this is not what you want to hear when you are very tired.
Race Director, Jean Cecillon did try to reassure Karen that she would have plenty of time, but it does play on the mind especially after 40 hours or so on the go.
But after all the worry and nerves, Karen, true to form, finished in fine style with plenty of time to spare!
What an amazing race it was.
10 ladies started, 8 completed. The attrition rate in the men's race was much higher - out of 24 starters only 8 finished. Apart from having to contend with the tight control point cut offs, the temperature on Thursday was heading towards 35 degrees and most of the route was totally exposed - no shade. The heat continued throughout Friday and Saturday when a short rain storm cooled everything down. Not the easiest of conditions to walk such a long way. DId I mention the hills? Just the odd mountain/col to contend with as well. The Vosges mountains are not called mountains for nothing!
Well done to Karen, Tony and everyone who took part - whether they finished or not. Just producing a qualifying distance for an invitation is a result in itself.
Karen and Tony had set up a Paris Alsace Face Book page which was brilliant to post their progress across France to friends and family on the Isle of Man - from the day we arrived to the presentation on the Sunday. For those not in the Isle of Man, their progress was also posted on the Centurions1911 Face Book page, which, during the week reached over 400 people - isn't that amazing!!!
Report by Kathy Crilley.