want to conquer the highest asphal pass in europe* on rollerskis? The road to the la bonette is regularly used in Tour de france and declared imperial road by napoleon III – and you can participate in the very first edition of the rolleurope rollerski race to the top. mark the 22. of june in your calendar!
Louis Journault and two fellow students had to organize a race in order to get their university diploma (sports) from Gap in France. Why not then the highest roller ski race in Europe, they thought.
Louis, can you tell us a little about the history of the race Rolleurope up to Col de la Bonnette*? Who started it, what was the idea behind it, for how long does it last, are there special events or persons which have shaped the history ?
-Well, I hope I don´t lower your expectations, but our race does not have a very rich history if we take into account the
fact that this is the first edition of it. But the idea of the race originates from 3 organizers; all of us students in the faculty of sport in Gap (french municipality, ed. note) and in order to validate our diploma we have to organize a sporting event.
Hugo Soulier and I come from the world of skiing. Hugo is an alpine ski instructor at a resort in the Ubaye Valley ( in Alpes de Haute-Provence département) and I am a Nordic ski patroller in the Jura mountains. The idea of making a ski event quickly came to our minds, but what sort of ski ? Cross-country skiing or downhill skiing?
At this point, I was looking for passes to climb with rollerski to train myself to attend to the nordic ski instructor diploma, and so I thought about a ski mountain race. We could not organize it in Gap because the Bayard pass is a
road too busy and too dangerous for rollerski. Hugo challenged me to climb the Col de la Bonette which is in the Ubaye Valley and which is the highest asphalt pass in Europe. If I did, we would organize our ski race there.
In the end, I climbed it in two hours and thirty minutes and I set our goal for this year. To organise the highest rollerski race in Europe is not the easiest thing to do.
Who / which athletes have already marked the event (winning most times, etc.) ?
-As it is the first edition, we do not yet have any athlete who might have mark the event, but it is important for me to say that Lorenzo Romano, our godfather, for this first edition is very important for us. He does a lot for us and the race, and he gave xc-marathon.com the tip about the race also, right? Moreover, he is an exceptional athlete at the Italian and even European level and I am sure he will let us see some beautiful skiing! To my great regret we have not yet a French athlete of Lorenzo´s level to give him a little challenge. We were also contacted by Fabien Bonardel (french skier specializing in double poling, ed. note), with whom we discuss a possible double pole climb !
Is there an average profile for the competitors ? Nationality, gender, age, level of fitness…?
-According to the registrations that we have recorded so far, the regions of origin of the competitors are rather varied French, Italian and even English (PS! to the norwegian readers of norwegian ed. turrenn.net; not yet any Norwegians registered! We would be very happy to welcome them!) As for the gender of the participants, there are mostly men but we also have registered female participation.
Is it a free technique race or are there classic / skate categories?
For now, the race is exclusively in skating style but we are in discussion to add a simultaneous push category. But the reason for this choice is mainly logistic, because of the organisation of the time gate and the descent by bus.
How is the race organized practically ? How to get there, is there a site/camp close to the starting line with
activities ? Is there food and drink support during the climb ? How can one get down after the race ?
And which are the other important practicalities ?
-Good question! We are planning a departure village at the body of water of Jausiers where all the ordeals will begin,
where we will have the award ceremony and where our partners will stay, and also exhibitors and animations (Louis explains the french term animations: -We can understand it like that with the caravan preceding the tour de France. But in our case this show would be in our village starting jausiers and would turn to the sport to make the spectator discover the activities of skiing in summer) along the day.
The starts will be one after the other in mass start; 9:00 is the start of the solo category, 9:15 the duo category and 9:30 quattro category. Relay competitors will be dropped by bus at the relay point to avoid the problem of cars on the pass. Relay points will also be refueling points, so, it will have 3 points for every 6 km. Regarding accommodation we are in discussion with the hoteliers of the valley to offer discounts for competitors like L’Hôtel de la Placette in Barcelonnette. But camping will also be possible right next to the lake.
People can participate in different ´modes´, single/solo, duo and as a relay team. What´s the most common ´mode´ ?
-For now, competitors are mainly on the solitary mode, meaning most people have registered for going uphill solo ! Still, the race will take place in two months and I am sure that teams are going to be built for the relay.
Can you say more about the partners and local producers ? Who are they, what do they provide/offer ? Also the activities like equipment tests and demonstrations. Who will play at the concert ?
-We are currently partner with the sports shops of the valley such as ´Sports Technician´, Intersport
Barcelonnette, some cross-country ski tests and cross-country skiing and laser rifle tests. Local
producers are members of the cooperative of local producers of Jausiers. There will be producers of cheese, charcuterie, genépis … The concert is in free stage and we are at the present time gathering candidates.
Finallt, could you tell us a little more about the Pass de Bonette? It´s history and use by TdF and if other races has already took place here, as well. Is it usually used as a traning site?
-The valley of Ubaye (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) and the one of Tinée (Alpes-Maritimes) are connected by the pass of Bonette in the French Alps. It allows a connection between Grenoble and Nice near the Franco-Italian border. A good part of the road between Jausiers and Saint-Étienne-de-Tinée is located in the protected area of the Mercantour National Park. Formerly, this strategic route was only a mule track ; it was enlarged in 1832, but the current road was not completed until 1964. The road was classified imperial road in August 18th, 1860, by the Emperor Napoleon the Third.
On both sides remain the ruins of different military complexes which use to belong to the Maginot line of the Alps, which testify to the past tensions between France and Italy. Thus, the Forts camp was occupied until the Second World War.
As far as competitions are concerned, the Bonette is a non-category pass which and it is regularly used by the Tour de France. A cycling race is also organized for tourists, this year it takes place on June 28th from Saint Etienne de Tinée and two trails are regularly organized on these slopes. It is a popular track for the bikers but ascending on rollerskis remains anecdotal since the road was prohibited to objects with wheels other than bikes. However our race have all the necessary authorizations for this mythical road.
What is the closest international plane/train station?
-You can choose between 2 international airports in the area :
• Nice (Oslo-Nice 2h50) which is 3h40 by car from Barcelonnette and 6h by public transport.
• Marseille (Oslo-Marseille 4h30) which is 2h30 by car from Barcelonnette and 5h by public
It’s maybe a long trip for just one race, but our region is full of exceptional scenery and varied activity.
Perfect for holidays !
If there are any other things, feel free to add !
-The animations are still in progress and we will be sure of the program on June 9th. Concerning the
partners, we are still open to any material and other exhibition sponsorship until the end of May.