RPhil: a UFO on the Bugatti circuit
An impressive performance
In late May, he hurt his abductor during the 6 Hours of Troyes. As a result 10 physiotherapy sessions were needed to put him back on his feet. Apparently 4 were enough. Yet Philippe slowed down a bit, and he must have recovered pretty well given his performances at the 24 Hrs. of Le Mans 2011...
Explanation of the situation
Imagine it’s a Saturday afternoon, the temperature is insane: more than 30°C in the shade and not less than 45°C on the asphalt, and you’re putting your skates on. Imagine that, during the following 24 hours you’re going to keep on skating, not even having a break to go to the restrooms. Imagine that during the following 84.600 seconds, all you’re going to eat is two tuna sandwiches, a couple of cereal bars, compotes and energy drinks. Imagine that you’re going to cover a bigger distance than Paris-Bordeaux by skate in one shot. Last but not least imagine that during this journey you’re going to climb the equivalent of 82,2km of Dunlop uphill and tear down just as much downhill. If you’ve managed to imagine yourself here, then maybe you’ll get a glimpse of Philipe Coussy’s performance.
A quick portrait
The man is not new to this game: official world record-holder of the 24 hrs. in solo (without aspiration) with 578km (and with 546,6km in Lyon St Priest on Sept. 26th, 2009), multiple winner of 24 Hrs. events in Montréal or Le Mans, Philippe Coussy doesn’t like to do things by halves. When he sets an objective, he makes every effort to reach it. He knows how to push his limits further as only a few of us can do, and how to go to the “dark side”, Youb would said.
His current objective: Being the first solo skater to reach the symbolic 600km bar... Although he didn’t manage in Le Mans this weekend, there is no doubt that he’ll know how to find the energy to go and get it at the 24 Hrs. of Montréal, in a couple of months. Let’s hope that the Americans will be there to launch the pace-setter of Auxerre into orbit!
Le Mans 2011 Edition
Assisted by Hubert Maniabal (his friends call him Youb), RPhil received top-notch support. Youb is used to ultra-endurance races: he won the 24 Hrs. of Calafat (Spain) in 2010. Let’s not forget his competences in sports dietetics, that’s another ace up RPhil’s sleeve.
In the morning: preparation
Qualifications are useless for solo skaters: better take your time to put your skates on in the best conditions rather than sprinting from the outset. Most of the solos don’t take part in this phase determining your place on the starting grid. RPhil thus stays in his hotel on Saturday morning, and arrives around 2:30PM. In the meantime, Youb is busy with logistics: getting the numbers in the morning, putting up the resting shelter at the opening of the paddock: armchair, table, ice chest, provision of supplies of water...
The beginning of the 24 Hours
The start is at the end of the straight line of the stands. RPhil’s objective is to be around 10min30 per lap. Let’s not get carried away with euphoria at the beginning: no matter if you keep on saying to yourself that you have to skate slowly, you easily find yourself skating in 9’30/lap. The key is to stay calm while everything is moving around you. There are many people starting like for a 6 Hr. race, thinking that the effort is more or less the same. That’s a big mistake: it’s how steady your efforts are that is going to make the difference in the end.
A well-planned strategy
RPhil opted for a strategy without breaks. Having a break tetanizes, it’s often hard to go back to the asphalt. The planning is perfectly followed during the first afternoon.
The quality of diet and hydration is just as important as training on D-Day. RPhil is continuously drinking, getting a small bottle of isotonic drink every 2 or 3 laps, and using the provision of supplies of water on the side of the road too... he’s drinking almost one liter per hour, night and day! As for food, salted food arrived at the end of the evening on Saturday around 11PM with a first tuna sandwich. The rest of the time: cereal bars, bananas and compotes every 5 laps or so. RPhil also has a pocket on him to store the essentials.
Youb writes him down the key-information on a paper so that he knows the procedure in real-time. He knows the time that separates him from his opponents, how long they stop, etc. Youb uses two stop watches, to follow RPhil, and his opponents. Dom does the same with his iPhone. Youb is being kept posted by an external assistant calling him every 30 minutes to give him the updated information on Matsport Website: the places of the skaters, the intermediary times and the differences of laps.
Questions about the race
The Ghetto of solo remained in first position for a long time, running in-between 8’30 and 9’ per lap. He cannot hold it out the whole race. He burst out around 10PM with a pain in the knee... RPhil became first during the night. He had stayed 3rd and 4th behind GoldJM and Rouliroula for a long time... Philippe Poirier skated hard for one hour, but then having a too long break he lost the advantage he had won.
You’ve got to have a strong mental to bet on a no-break strategy. Those who opted for that one often gave up psychologically.
Hi Philippe, could you tell us a bit more about your strategy for this edition?
Last year I loudly proclaimed that I wouldn’t have any break. As a result, my main opponents like Tonyo had adapted their race to that. They played the game as a team. The aim was to get one or two laps ahead of me and then play it safe. I had been too transparent. This year I let them think that I would have three breaks. I didn’t have any. I’d rather bluff this time.
How do you determine at which speed you’re going to skate?
I don’t have any speed or precise rhythm set in advance. There are too many parameters to take into account to set a time and follow it. First I do a couple of laps to evaluate the situation: cardiac rhythm, sensations of the moment, opponents in the race, opportunities to take favorable wheels. After a couple of laps, I can determine at which pace I’m going to settle.
Solo also seems to be won thanks to the trains you manage to get...
Le Mans is about skaters’ collaboration. I’m thinking about mutual aid between the duos and solos, and I’m also particularly thinking about the Chartres Roller duo, “Fields Riders”. They have a fantastic spirit of solidarity! Anthony and Damien... this year we skated together during the 4/5th of the race.
In having breaks, they still managed to skate at my pace. It was a huge collective work, I owe them a lot. We helped each other physically as well as psychologically. We mutually found the motivation when we were down.
Some times at night, we found ourselves 20 or 25 solos and duos skating together. It could have become dangerous. We are slow on the Dunlop but fast on the rest of the circuit. We skate, hands in the back, at 9’30 per lap. During these moments you’re aware that you need everybody. So we wait for each other on the uphill to be more efficient on the rest of the circuit. Even the skaters who had a modest level really improved their performances thanks to that pack, particularly during the night when it’s psychologically harder.
How do you cope with the heat?
Without hesitation, the worse moment is Sunday between 10AM and 16PM: the last third of the race. The heat comes back and you realize that it’s hotter than the previous day. You’re not hungry but still you’ve got to eat. You don’t really have the lucidity to eat. Youb helped me a lot then, it was really beneficial: he was holding out food, I was ingesting it without being hungry but I could feel that it was doing me good. All the same for hydrating: you’ve got to drink all the time, and spray yourself with pure water. When it’s hot, you cannot swallow anything, you can only drink and this is not enough.
Any moments of doubt?
No, I played safe with the two first ahead of me. I knew it would work. I voluntarily stopped myself from going faster. I was still fresh after 8 hours. I knew they would stop at any moment to have a break. I didn’t do any. Obviously this affected me in the end. I saved myself a bit for Montréal but not that much...
How do you train?
I do one or two long distance trainings per week (3 or 4 hours) as well as two sessions of interval training uphill with 15 min of warm-up, 30 min of uphill and 15min of cool down.
I practice biking a lot, nearly more than skating. I go out for 120 to 150 km, it saves my knees and ankles while working on the in-depth preparation.
What type of skates do you have?
I have classic C6 Powerslide skates, The Yann Guyader version. That’s the ones I had for my world record in 2009 already. They are set up with an EO Skates Carbon frame and 108mm RollX EndurX wheels.
After the race...
It’s really impressive to realize that after so much time spent in the skates, Philippe Coussy’s feet are still in good condition. A couple of blisters for sure, but nothing really bad, one at the end of the big toe, and one under the arch of the left foot.
First words after having reached the finish line: “Hold me, guys!”
The day after the race, Youb and RPhil talk on the phone, RPhil had a leg massage with balm. He looks serene, appeased with a feeling of dream came true close to euphoria, he’s high. No pain in the abductors, but still he’s going to pop in to the physiotherapist’s back home.
Philippe Coussy has won a great win, forged in time, not for a couple of months but for years. He knew how to make the most of his experience and his dedication to work and training. Go on, Philippe, only twenty kilometers left, and without this damn Dunlop you’ll be the first skater to reach the 600km in Montréal...
Liens utilesWritten by Alfathor
Translated by Close Yr E’s
Photos: Daniel Busser and Alexandre Chartier