Since 1984, Fréjus has played host every October to the Roc d'Azur, the largest European mountain biking event. As such thousands of enthusiasts flock to this large sports gathering each year. Here we present this extraordinary event, which in the space of a little over 20 years, has become the star event of mountain biking.
1984. At a time when nobody yet alluded to mountain biking, seven racers led by Stéphane Hauvette, the future president of the National Mountain Bike Commission at the FFC, decided to challenge each other on mountain bikes. Nobody suspected that this was the beginning of one of the finest ever mountain bike events.
32 years later, there were more than 20 000 participants, amateurs and professionals alike, of all ages, taking the start of the various races on offer. The success of the Roc d’Azur essentially lies in the choice and variety of the event routes. The varied and fabulous courses make this annual meeting the finest mountain bike event ever, gathering together the world’s top specialists in the discipline as well as fans of the countryside and mountain biking.
Fréjus, Roquebrune-sur-Argens, Sainte Maxime once again pulsated to the rhythm of the Roc d’Azur. For six days, a wealth of entertainment was on offer across the various sites of the Fréjus nature base, in particular the BMX shows and contests on ramps with ‘bump jumps’ and stunts, Dirt and finally Trial shows. We shouldn’t forget the numerous free mountain bike introductory courses (la Môm Roc/Roc babes) for children from 4 to 6 years old.
As such, over the years, the Roc d’Azur has become the high point of mountain biking. It has been transformed into an unmissable gathering for all fans of sport and nature from the ages of 4 through to 99. So don’t hesitate this year to come and share your enthusiasm and why not try your luck!
|Years||Roc d'Azur Men Winners||Roc d'Azur Women Winners|
|2015||Victor Koretzky (FRA)||Julie Bresset (FRA)|
|2014||Jordan Sarrou (FRA)||Margot Moschetti (FRA)|
|2013||Miguel Martinez (FRA)||Elisabeth Osl (AUT)|
|2012||Stéphane Tempier (FRA)||Anna Szafraniec (POL)|
|2011||Moriz Milatz (ALL)||Maja Wloszczowska (POL)|
|2010||Alban Lakata (AUT)||Maja Wloszczowska (POL)|
|2009||Roel Paulissen (BEL)||Aleksandra Dawidowicz (POL)|
|2008||Roel Paulissen (BEL)||Elisabeth Osl (AUT)|
|2007||Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA)||Henzi Petra (SUI)|
|2006||Christoph Sauser (SUI)||Alison Sydor (CAN)|
|2005||Christoph Sauser (SUI)||Maryline Salvetat (FRA)|
|2004||Miguel Martinez (FRA)||Alison Sydor (CAN)|
|2003||Jean-Christophe Peraud (FRA)||Alison Sydor (CAN)|
|2002||Peter Pouly (FRA)||Laurence Leboucher (FRA)|
|2001||Thomas Dietsch (FRA)||Laurence Leboucher (FRA)|
|2000||Thomas Dietsch (FRA)||Chantal Daucourt (SUI)|
|1999||Christophe Dupouey (FRA)||Laurence Leboucher (FRA)|
|1998||Christophe Dupouey (FRA)||Laurence Leboucher (FRA)|
|1997||Miguel Martinez (FRA)||Gunn Rita Dahle (NOR)|
|1996||Christophe Manin (FRA)||Gunn Rita Dahle (NOR)|
|1995||Bart Brentjens (HOL)||Sophie Eglin (FRA)|
|1994||Jean-Christophe Savignoni (FRA)||Sophie Eglin (FRA)|
|1993||Bruno Lebras (FRA)||Sylvia Furst (SUI)|
|1992||Tim Gould (GBR)||Eva Orvosova (SLQ)|
|1991||Tim Gould (GBR)||Eva Orvosova (SLQ)|
|1990||Bruno Lebras (FRA)||Sylvia Furst (SUI)|
|1989||Olaf Candau (FRA)||Nathalie Ségura (FRA)|
|1988||Patrice Thévenard (FRA)|
|1987||Eric Chanton (FRA)|
|1986||Jean-Pierre Morel (FRA)|
The History of the Roc d'Azur
The history of the Roc d'Azur merges with that of mountain biking in France. We situate its design back to 1983, when the first bikes with fatter tyres and three chainrings, then referred to in France as the classic ‘mountain bike’, were brought back from Canada by Stéphane Hauvette, with the help of Peugeot and the participation of Gary Fisher. That particular year the first competition was organised in the form of a demonstration at La Plagne...
From this first visionary experience was born the need for a structure to regulate and promote this new sport. Stéphane Hauvette founded and became president of the French Mountain Bike Association (AFMB)
The following year, Stéphane Hauvette decided to create a "Mountain bike competition open to mountain bikes, cyclo-cross, bi-cross and prototypes of all kinds. Formula: long distance straight race along an exceptional circuit of nearly 60 km" between Ramatuelle and St Tropez: The Roc d'Azur. Seven competitors rushed towards the line: Raymond Creuset – the boss of Mecacycle - Alain Kuligovski – creator of Bicross magazine - Aniel, Pourpre, two journalists Hennet and Tribhout, and Larbi Midoune - cyclo-crossman and the first winner of the event. Nobody could have imagined that the "Roc" would become, in the space of a decade, the greatest mountain bike event in the world.
Clearly there was already something magical about this idea. First of all it was the first time that real mountain bikes had appeared in France and it was virtually their very first event: The "Roc" was born with the "Vélo Tout Terrain (all terrain bike)". There was enthusiasm and passion from discoverers and inventers. There was an enchanting site, bathed by sea and sunshine. There was a perfect long course, at a time where all the circuits were yet to be discovered. Quite simply the idea was to find a new way of riding a bike, which was closer to nature, and to share this enthusiasm with the greatest number of people.
It was also the year where French constructors launched themselves into the adventure. Peugeot offered the VTT/ATB1, MBK the Tracker, Raleigh the Maverick. With a steel frame, triple chainring for 18 speeds, cowhorn handlebars, the first models weighed in at between 17 and 20 kg.
In 1985, the AFMB developed the sport in metropolitan France, and competitions like the Roc d'Azur, Paris-Deauville, the 24 hour Auvergne, Chalmazel-Montbrison… began to gather together an increasing number of enthusiasts : the second Roc d'Azur gathered together 30 participants. In 1986, the Roc expanded to 120 competitors. The Japanese transmission manufacturer indexed speeds and switched to a 6 speed cog cassette. Fluorescent colours were very fashionable at this time and mountain bikes were no different, with the clothing also generally regarded as being fairly "fun".
1987: The first edition of VTT/ATB magazine was at newsstands: the first French magazine fully dedicated to the mountain bike. The first show entirely dedicated to bicycles at the Vincennes Floral Park was dominated by mountain bikes.
Whilst the first French championships took place in the Montmorency forest in the Val d'Oise, Georges Edwards ‘evangelized’ the first enthusiasts with "the dogma of the modern mountain bike" by laying the foundations of the cross-country (the "Be Green"), the downhill sections, the rallies and the trials.
The "mountain bike" is recognised by the French Cycling Federation in 1988. The AFMB became the national mountain bike commission and Stéphane Hauvette took presidency.
Furthermore, there was the creation of the Transvésubienne, a fabulous 72 km course between a resort in the southern Alps and Nice.
In 1989: the "mountain bike" was at the forefront amongst retailers and hire companies. The mountain bike was geared towards a wider audience (40,000 units sold), and it went on to become the Vélo Tout Terrain or All Terrain Bike, more commonly referred to in France as VTT or ATB elsewhere. Shimano brought out its first automatic pedals and the success of the Flexstem stem suspension was to be replaced by the first suspension fork: The Rock Shox RS1. Vélo Vert (Green Cycling) was the first monthly mountain biking magazine. Olaf Candeau and Nathalie Segura won in their category in the Roc, whilst the 1,000 competitor barrier was broken.
In 1990, the first world championships of cross-country mountain biking and downhill racing took place in Durango in Colorado. Grip Shift developed its twist grips whilst Shimano offered the SIS (Speed Indexed System). The first rear suspensions appeared at Proflex and Cannondale.
1.5 million mountain bikes were sold in France in 1991. Shimano added yet another cog, that of 3x7 speeds.
70 different brands of mountain bike were competing on the French market, the sales of which continued to increase. 70% of bicycles sold in France in 1992 were mountain bikes: the fashionable phenomenon became a phenomenon full stop. Shimano became an established technology with the XTR group and an eighth cog. There were over 2,000 competitors in the Roc.
In 1993, the world championship in Métabief was a colossal public success and still remains a reference today. The Olympic Committee chose to integrate the cross-country in the new Olympic disciplines in Atlanta.
The FFC and ISL France took over the event in 1994 and took up its organisation. On this occasion the Roc d'Azur became the French Cup Final and grouped together 4,000 racers. The French Post Office became the largest mountain bike partner with the FFC in 1995. Shimano brought out its V-brakes. It was the first VTT/ATB Tour (Mountain Bike Tour) and first Mégavalanche at Alpe d'Huez.
The original site of Ramatuelle reached its size limit and another site was envisaged for the event. 1996: cross-country mountain biking appeared for the first time at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Dutch rider Bart Brentjens, winner of the Roc in 95, became the first Olympic champion whilst Miguel Martinez was third. Italian Paola Pezzo was crowned in the women’s category. Moved to a new location of Cogolin in a hurry, it was a transition site to be forgotten, and the Roc passed the 6,000 barrier.
In 1997 the mountain bike phenomenon went from strength to strength. It became a genuine business with the associated pros and cons. As such mountain biking was better publicised and recognised by everyone, but excesses also spread to our sport. Doping put in an appearance at the same time as its media coverage and the result didn’t spare mountain biking.
The event moved for good to Fréjus in the Var region of France, an ideal site for the scale of the event, which by then was gathering together 8,500 mountain bikers and a mountain bike show which was soon to become unmissable. Miguel Martinez won the Men’s category. Finally, 1998 saw the Roc d'Azur grouped together over 10,500 participants to become the biggest mountain bike gathering in the world. France took 8 world titles of the 9 awarded, disk brakes put in an appearance in cross-country, whilst Shimano continued to add cogs with its 3x9 transmission.
Mass events then became all the rage. Indeed it was here where the future of mountain biking lay given the loss of interest by the media in front of a stronger French contingent than ever before in all the disciplines. Though attendance literally exploded in 1999 with 12,900 entrants, it didn’t go without setbacks: Too many people over 2 days, races which overrode each other (in both sense of the term!), jams at the entrance to the single tracks, etc. However good the weather conditions were, some left a little disappointed.
As such for the 17th edition, the difficult choice was made to extend the event to the Friday (in addition to the Générations Roc on Wednesday) in order to divide up the race and long distance courses more wisely. As a result the start waves were more staggered and no race, or barely any races, crossed paths with the previous ones. The progress was tangible, even though there were the inevitable rare jams at the first bottlenecks.
The deluge of rain the previous week cooled the ardour of more than a few people. As such, despite the glorious sunshine, there were just 11,138 mountain bikers from 23 different nations present to sample the magic of the Roc; this grand festival of mountain biking which groups together enthusiasts and gathers up the onlookers.
The Roc 2005 appealed to all generations as well as a vast number of countries. From the youngest to the oldest, from French to Australian, there were a total of 14,132 to take one of the starts of the 17 races on offer. That was 1,070 more participants than the previous edition, which itself had already amounted to no less than 13,062 racers. 40 different nationalities decided to participate in this 22nd edition! Also of note was the success of the Internet registrations. Nearly 50% of registration was done via the net.
The Roc d’Azur isn’t just about races and long distance courses. There are also a number of shows. All the entertainment put on that year guaranteed a great atmosphere right across the Roc d’Azur site. Shows about BMX, Trial mountain bikes thrilled spectators present in Fréjus throughout the weekend. All the top specialists from these disciplines were in attendance to really put on a show!
As such, thanks to an exceptional location and an equally exceptional course, the line-up saw the world’s best cyclists, with spectacular entertainment, an unmissable show, with indispensable media coverage, rigorous management and above all the same essential enthusiasm managed by all the people who make up the organisation. The Roc d'Azur remains THE number one planetary event which must be experienced at least once in your lifetime!