2012 Marathon French Championships at Valence d'Agen

Quality skaters but a lack of quantity…

 Arrivée serrée pour Julien Levrard et Brian Lépine

"Hawk" finish for Julien Levrard and Brian Lépine

…as for the circuit, it had some very interesting aspects (a few uphills, long straight lines) and harsher ones (a bit of damaged road and wind) which are the charms of the French Championships and of the Marathon. A damper however as for the number of participants, which seems to decrease, especially (that is worrying) in the Men's Elite Category. On the other hand, some categories expand (those of the Women's Elite and Junior). Let's see if it will affect the appeal of the races to the competitors. Anyway, what is certain is that all the medalled skaters of this weekend have a continental, even a world level. Quality is there, undeniably!

The summaries of the marathons

Women's Elite: Natalie Audoire changes names, but not numbers!

The category progressively expands with the arrival of a few Juniors of 2011 and with the massive investment of some clubs, Pibrac for example. But not all the Elite women took the start for the French Championship: some even came as neighbors and spectators. However, the 42 km results won't be a surprise. Nathalie Audoire wore her new outfit of the Beaumanoir of Dinan for the first time and with success.

After several attacks launched during the two first big laps, often relaunched by those of Déborah Marchand (ALC Bouguenais), the French and European multi-champion managed to surprise the pack 20 km before the arrival. She swerved to the left after the roundabout at the boat and managed to make a sufficient gap. Near the second bridge of the circuit, only Clémence Halbout (2APN Avon) clung back and stood the acceleration. The pair flew away for a long race against the clock in front of a pack that was taking a long time to react: during a lap, they were in the distance, but at the bell, they had disappeared from their pursuers' field of vision…

At the arrival, Nathalie Audoire could even afford to leave her young acolyte behind and seize an umpteenth national title: She still has a weakness for the number 1, there is no doubt about it! As for Clémence Halbout, she will have been "round about": second at the marathon and second of the CLM… Just like her sister Justine who managed to make the most of the pack sprint a bit later.

The story of the race by Nathalie Audoire

The racetrack of Valence d'Agen seemed easy on paper, but in the end there were a couple of nice difficulties. I took the start without specific tactics in mind except the thought that I had to harden the race. I had spotted the damaged part of the road and especially the fact that, after the two first laps, my opponents seemed to get tired on this part. This is where I placed my first attacks, but the pack clung back. I made the most of a slackening after an attack of Déborah Marchand to get out: Only Clémence Halbout could follow. We got on well to see that break through completion. Clémence being a sprinter, she did less relay work, which is normal. And honestly, I was glad to have her by my side until the end. This French title is not an umpteenth title added to a list: it is very probably my last one in marathon. And winning it at Valence d'Agen, one of the lands of skating in France, gives a particular taste to it!"

Men's Elite: Julien Levrard again (and always?) second

Le maillot de champion de France Marathon 2012It is not a common thing to write a headline on a number 2, but this time it had to be. The winner didn't prove himself unworthy, quite on the contrary: Brian Lépine (AL Saint-Sébastien) is a great winner, an excellent distance skater, fast and flexible (he also got the silver medal in the CLM competition). But in Valence, and for the fourth time, Julien Levrard (Levallois Sporting Club) missed the gold medal. The last three years, he saw Yann Guyader, Fabien Hascoët and Thomas Boucher walking off with it. The level was high but there were not that many competitors in the Men's Elite category. We might even start to worry about this flagship category.

The attacks launched by Yann Guyader (Métallo SC) as soon as the first lap scattered a 13-skater pack (only) and put an end to many hopes: after only 5 km of race, they were only 5 in the lead (after the withdrawal of Guillaume De Mallevoue, injured, and Joris Gardères), and then 4 when Yann Guyader, the super-favorite, stood up: He had rather shorten the race to gold in order not to amplify a pugnacious pain at the abductors and compromise the rest of his season. There were only four skaters left for only three places then… at the expense of Nolan Béddiaf (RIL Lamballe). The sprint was played between two skaters, Brian Lépine and Julien Levrard: if the latter seemed to have taken the advantage at one point, the skater of Loire powerfully came back up to him and passed him on the finish line. Elton De Souza (Roller Provence Méditerranée) witnessed the fight from behind and got the bronze medal -- which he had missed in 2011.

A few words about siblings to conclude: Some siblings are famous and seize medals by the dozen, like for example the Haboult sisters in the Women's Elite category. As for the Men's Elite, Gary Lépine and Michaël Beddiaf, the brothers of you-know-whos, fought bravely too: catching a train running at nearly 50 kph at the beginning of the marathon, they crossed the finish line a bit late indeed, but gained in experience which will enable them to improve in the future and honor their categories. Unfortunately, the retirements of Thomas Boucher, Maxime Provost, Sébastien Babault and Julien and Adrien Despaux were not followed by the corresponding replacements. This category still lacks linking between the top and low levels…

The story of the race by Brian Lépine

"As soon as the first kilometers, Yann Guyader started to mine the race on several occasions. Julien Levrard and myself came back up to him and tried to break through with him, but it never worked. After a couple of laps, Yann left the race so that it was only the two of us skating and trying to make a break. In the last lap, I attacked once again and I managed to unhook Nolan Beddiaf. Julien and me got along until the last kilometer to maintain the gap. Then, it was "every man for himself"! I launched the sprint at 300/400m and the title was decided at the front lunge."

Aurélien Roumagnac franchissant la ligne devant Alexandre Guyomard

Men's Junior: The title goes to Aurélien Roumagnac

This is another category expanding. Only two years ago, the Juniors were not very numerous at the start line of the Marathon French Championships in Lyon. This time, they were 19 at the start, including a few top skaters medalled at the European or World Championships.The race was shaken by two men essentially: Tomy Lépine (AL Saint-Sébastien) and Pierre-Yves Péridy (POL Longjumeau). But the pack remained quite compact in the end: the breaks never managed to get more than a few seconds ahead, probably because of the very long straight lines and the head wind.

In the end, Tomy Lépine, in peak form the previous week in Lille, couldn't reap the fruits of his efforts in Valence: he ends up sixth. His team mate Pierre-Yves Péridy gets out of it better in the sprint and gets the bronze medal. Aurélien Roumagnac, very attentive and steady, gets the first place after 1 hour and 14 minutes of race in front of the excellent performance of Alexandre Guillomard (Guingamp RS) who adds from now on the skill of distance skater to that of sprinter!

Viktor Thorup, the sensation that came from the North

He is Danish but he has been a member of the club of Pibrac for two years now. It is the reason why Viktor Thorup could register for the French Championships. This weekend, the big blond guy created a sensation in the Junior category: he got the best time of the CLM with 7 min 51 sec (a time that would have placed him at the fourth place in the Men's Elite category) as well as the fourth place of the marathon. The one who was adopted by a whole club deserves better than a tribute: We will certainly hear of Viktor this season, either on the French Cup marathons or during the European, even the World Championships! For the record, the European rules enable the sports federations to award national titles to non-French European citizens taking part in a French championship (cf. principle of equality of treatment for the non-nationals in individual sports competitions). Only the French Federation of Gymnastics has adopted this principle today.

Women's National: Four out of four for Flavie Balandras

This category will have to be renamed the Balandras Inline Cup if things go on this way! The woman of Lyon, just arriving from the -16 category (Cadette), gets her fourth title in 2012 -- out of four available (two indoors and two in Valence). As comfortable for sprints as for solitary efforts and long distances, Flavie Balandras proves that she has quickly passed a stage.

In this race, Ludivine Houze (ROC Steoruellan) takes the bronze medal, her second bronze of the weekend: a good steadiness and good results! Laure Guillard (JS Coulaines) got in-between Balandras and Houze: already second last year at Pornichet, she misses the gold again this year. She will certainly meet the occasion to defeat the indian sign very soon!

L'arrivée serrée des nationaux hommes avec Robin Duez, Benjamin Douchin et JS Sierra

Men's National: Robin Duez on his lands

The favorites stroke! In the Men's National Category, the podium is at the top level. Robin Duez (ALVA) gets hold of the title quite easily while his team mate Benjamin Douchin passes Jean-Stéphane Sierra (Grenade-sur-Garonne RS) on the finish line. Just to tease them, we could say that we're longing to see them (again) in the Elite category next year. However, they wear the flag of a category that is also melting away in number (yet they were 53 at the start, a nice pack), but not in quality. To quote only a few of them, athletes like Philippe Poirier (VSF La Ferrté-Bernard), Thierry Zocca (Grenade RS), Stéphane Pineau (Roulettes Herbretaises), Antoine Lesavre (Paris Université Club) and Bruno Tavant (RS Gujan-Mestras) give as much value to the podium. Special mention to Gaël Jacob (Mont-Blanc Roller) who tried to break through the pack several times, and again one last time at the red flame, to avoid a massive sprint, but it didn't work this time…

Cadettes (Women -16): Margaux Vigié wins the gold medal

Massive sprint in the Cadettes' category. At the end of a reasonable race, local skater Margaux Vigié (Roller du Touch) makes the difference in front of Anaïs Laurent (POL Longjumeau) and sprinter Jessie Fernandes (ALVA). The time is average (1:32), but let's not forget that these Cadettes will come and join the ranks of the Women's Elite next year. In 2011, a certain Déborah Marchand (ALCB) had won the title at that same race, and this year already, she became French Champion for the CLM in the Women's Elite Category.

Cadets (Men -16): Raphaël Planelles above the rest

Most of the time, as far as sports are concerned, the whole attention is turned towards the winner, whatever happens. In France, we also like the noble gesture, the elegance. Raphaël Plannelles (Les Fous Rollant de Villetelle) happens to have gathered the two this Sunday. At the half of the race, we didn't rate his chances highly anymore when he had to stop and change two broken wheels (and resume his race 40 seconds behind the pack) while Benjamin Soulet (RAC de Saint-Brieuc) was the only one in the lead, almost 45 seconds ahead of that same pack… And yet, the skater of Montpellier came back up, first to the pack and then to the leader! He fairly passed the skater of Bretagne in the last meters to seize the title: a very great feat to start the season! Winged Elphège Pédicone (AM Sports) breaks through the sprint of the pack - to get the bronze medal a few meters behind the leading pair.

Raphael Planelles passe au stand et monte sur le podium !

The story of the race by Raphaël Planelles

"As the beginning of the season was complicated during the winter preparation (slipped disk and broken wrist), the objective of the marathon was to be careful in order to manage to arrive at the end of the race and do the sprint. Half-way, a mechanical problem forced me to stop and change two broken wheels. At that very precise moment, a few of my opponents decided to attack… I left the stand all alone behind the pack. Three kilometers later, I finally came back up to the head of the pack which decided to counter-attack again. This is when I said to myself that I was done. But the leaders also started to give up. Three kilometers before the arrival, I decided to set off for Benjamin Soulet who had broken through one lap before. It's only 500m before the finish line that I passed him and won the marathon!"

Changing wheels during a race: a closer look at the rules

Unfortunately, what happened to Raphaël Planelles during his race is not rare: Wheels, bearings and screws sometimes break. In such cases, the concerned athlete should warn his "technical assistance" if possible. Some skaters choose to carry on no matter what: Yann Guyader won the 2007 Marathon of the Goëlo despite a loose frame all through the second half of the race… Even if the athlete stops, nobody should help him directly. He can be given a tool and/or spare parts. That is exactly what happened on Sunday during the Cadet Marathon: Raphaël's mother placed a tool and spare wheels on the ground in order that his son may fix his problem and resume his race without the judges having anything to say!

Nathalie Planelles explains:

"At the second lap, Raphaël warned us that he had a wheel problem. Then we got organized to find him wheels and a tool, which he didn't have on him of course. On the track, skaters of Lourdes told him that we were waiting for him with his equipment on the finish line. In fact, two of his wheels had come off!"

The race against-the-clock

Two nice "surprises" in the Elite category

When the speaker announced that the titles went to Déborah marchand (ALCB) and Guillaume de Mallevoue (2APN Avon) on Saturday, one may have been surprised. The two athletes have just changed categories (Déborah Marchand is still an outclassed Cadette), and here they are making the difference in the flagship category. It is always thanks to the first (and second) runner(s)-up that you realize the value of the champion. Déborah Marchand has defeated the Halbout sisters (Clémence and Justine) in order to seize the title on the CLM; as for Guillaume de Mallevoue, with his arms behind his back, he has relegated Brian Lépine (ALSS) and Nolan Béddiaf (RILL) to the second and third steps of the podium! Great feats!

In the Men's National Category, no surprises: Erwan Le Corre (RC Rochefort) gets the title in front of Robin Duez (ALVA) and Cyril Carcano (RS Dijon Bourgogne). Antoine Lesavre (PUC) ends up at the foot of the podium. The Women's National podium is the same as that of the Marathon: Flavie Balandras (LOU Roller) in front of Laure Guillard (JS Coulaines) and Ludivine Houze (ROCS). It couldn't be more significant: the best skaters have monopolized the podiums as they should!

Hopefully, there are (also) the Veterans!

The number of participants tends to decrease in some categories. But hopefully from now on, the Veterans are there to improve the figures. They were 43 for the Men's V1, 23 for the Men's V2 and 13 women. Indeed they are less than last year or than on some mid-season marathons (like Dijon for example). But it was enough to make great races. First of all, there was that of the women where a 3-skater break was quickly implemented: Catherine Coustes (ALVA) and Nathalie Poujol (TUESG), both in V1, took with them tireless Claudie Duval (CS Brétigny), registered in V2. At the sprint, Madame Coustes took the lead and seized the title, but Claudie Duval managed to squeeze in-between her juniors. Hats off!

In the Men's V1 category, it wasn't long before a break took shape too: the pack had been shaken since the beginning by the attacks of hardened skaters such as Thomas Dauvergne (AM Sports), Damien Ducreux (Générations Roller), Jean-Marie Coustes (ALVA) and Frédéric Técher of the Reunion, who had already delighted the French packs at the end of the 90's when he used to skate for the Briec-de-l'Odet Club and the Salomon Team. From a small dozen of skaters, the leading group soon melted down to five, then four around the last lap -- when Stéphane Pujos (RS Grenade) gave up too. The title was finally decided in the sprint: Damien Ducreux was the most winged even if he must have felt Thomas Dauvergne's menace, hot on his wheels until the finish line. Frédéric Técher got the bronze medal: he didn't make the long trip for nothing! Jean-marie Couste will have to wait a little longer before he can lift his arms again, as he had done in 2011 in Angers…

Last but not least, there were great skaters in the Men's V2 category too. Quite logically, Jean-François Lenotre (Pibrac RS) got the title in front of Jean-Jacques Morpurgo (Paris Hockey Club) and Jacques Houssais (ASTA de Nantes). The arrival was decided between 8 opponents in the sprint too, and this time at the expanse of Olivier Heuzé (USM Villeparisis) who ends up at the worst place…

Main Results

Ranking of the Men's National against-the-clock 5.000m

1) Erwan Le Corre (Roller Club Rochefortais)
2) Robin Duez (ALVA)
3) Cyril Carcano (RSDB)
4) Antoine Lesavre (Paris Université Club)
5) Philippe Poirier (VSF La Ferté Bernard)
6) Ludovic Pouilloux (POL Longjumeau)
7) Mathieu Miquel (Pibrac RS)
8) Gaël Jacob (Mont-Blanc Roller)
9) Benoit Gamba (Générations Roller)
10) Kevin Riandière (RS Marigne)
11) Pascal Allexandre (POL Longjumeau)
12) Vincent Masse (Elan des Sorinière)
13) Sébastien Miqueu (Lourdes Roller)
14) Thomas Ouvrard (Roulettes Herbretaises)
15) Olivier Weber (JA Patinage)
16) Stéphane Pineau (Roulettes Herbretaises)
17) Samuel Guérin (RS...)
18) Antoine Voitou (Mont-Blanc Roller)
19) Nicolas Prat (Longchamp Roller Team)
20) Grégoire Leclerc (RSDB)

Ranking of the Men's Elite against-the-clock 5.000m

1) Guillaume de Mallevoue (2APN Avon)
2) Brian Lépine (AL Saint-Sébastien)
3) Nolan Beddiaf (RIL Lamballe)
4) Elton De Souza (RPM)
5) Joris Garderes (Valence RS)
6) Vincent Esnault (Levallois SC)
7) Mickaël Beddiaf (RIL Lamballe)
8) Sylvain Cabotin (ROC Steoruellan)
9) Benjamin Bourlier (LOU Roller)

Ranking of the Women's Elite & National against-the-clock 5.000m

1) Déborah Marchand (Amicale Laique des Couets)
2) Clémence Halbout (2 APN Avon)
3) Justine Halbout (2 APN Avon)
4) Juliette Pouydebat (Pibrac RS)
5) Luce Peruzzetto (ALVA)
6) Mélissa Chouleysko (ROC Steoruellan
7) Ysia Clausses (Pibrac RS)
8) Marion Kay (Pibrac RS)
9) Lena Labat (Pibrac RS)
10) Camille Cochet (POL Longjumeau)
11) Lyse-Anne Planchenault (CPR Château-Gontier)
12) Agnès Peruzzetto (ALVA)
13) Léa Réguer-Petit (POL Longjumeau)
14) Julie Ouvrard (Roulettes Herbretaises)
15) Margot Pouydebat (Pibrac RS)
16) Meggan Perray (AL Saint-Sébastien)
17) Pauline Combes (Pibrac RS)

Complete results here: MARATHON VF1-VF2-VH1-VH2

Useful Links

Website of the ALVA
Complete results of the Marathon French Championships
Complete results of the Marathon (Cadettes, Cadets, Women's National and Elite Categories)
Complete results of the Marathon (Men's Elite, Junior and National Categories)
Results of the Veterans
TIME NW-EW - 3.000m
TIME JM - 5.000m
TIME NM - 5.000m
TIME EM - 5.000m
Photos by AM Sports (01)
Photos by AM Sports (02)

By Alfathor
Translated by Close Yr E's