Natureman Verdon – 2km swim / 90km bike / 20km run – 4 October 2015
By Alex Leger
For those who haven’t heard of the Natureman before, it is probably one of the most scenic races in France and probably the best way to close down a season.
It takes place at, around and along the lake of Sainte-Croix with its beautiful turquoise waters, at les Salles-sur-Verdon village, a charming typical Provence’s village.
The day before the race, the weather in the south was quite chaotic with storms, endless showers, provoking massive floods in some areas. Thankfully, the gods stopped the rains just a few hours before the bell and we had an amazing blue sky and shiny sunshine at dawn, exalting the blue colors of the lake.
The men’s start was given at 9:10 am, 15 min after the ladies – men are gentlemen in Provence… I decided to try to go on the front lines. A right choice but with some damages. During the first 300m, I was doing well and I could see the first swimmers just a few meters in front of me. However, it was not long before I got caught by some rapid fishy foxes. Involuntarily, some just smashed their arms over me, on my head, my arms, pushing me under and ruining my posture and gesture. I had to let them pass over before I could relax and get back to work… On the second half, I managed to stick to a group and we made our way to the shore under a beautiful sun in the crystal water of the lake. A real pleasure and good surprise for me when I pressed the “laps” button of my Garmin and saw I managed to close the 2km loop in only 32min.
For T1, the rain had turn the T zone into a muddy meadow and it took me some time to clean my feet before I could put on my socks… I said to my self that next time I’ll try with bear feet…
The bike ride, as you can guess, offered an amazing spectacle over the lake. The route has some challenging segments with two quite steep climbs, including the so-called Enfer du Sud with its 16%. But you are then rewarded with very enjoyable long way down on which you can reach some nice top speed of around 70km/h on a very good tarmac. I rode slightly more intensively than initially planned – probably excited by the views over the lake – but managed to keep the same intensity until the arrival at T2.
After parking the bike, we had a nice 18k trail along the lake waiting for us. Again, the rain had turned some segments into pure mud but it was always possible to sneak a way on the less-watered edges of the path. The main difficulties came from four very steep segments forcing you to walk your way up on your tired legs. I managed to find a good pace and caught up to around 15 to 20 competitors who had been probably too hard on the pedals…
When I passed under the arrival arches, the clock showed 5:00:16, as my Garmin – a bit frustrating. For some unknown reasons, my official time was just under the 5h mark, with 4:59:31 – I’ll keep this one for the record.
The Natureman has been a wonderful experience and for the Ironbask, I can only recommend you to experience this beautiful race.