Rphil crosses the bar of the 600 km in Montreal
Hello Rphil, for now more than 3 years, not a single 24h competition seems to resist you. You led almost all the ultra-long distance competitions in which you committed (apart form withdrawals). At the 24 hours of Montreal (CAN), you crossed the mythical bar of the 600 km…
First of all, could you tell us when you started skating?
I started competing on the French Inline Cup in 2002 with 20 to 30 km races which I really found too short to be satisfying and balancing. And yet, they are the basis of my current level, I will go back on that later…
What attracted you in long-distance races?
The unusual format, the challenge to take up every year which motivates me to devote at least 3 to 4 intensive months in a row.
On that kind of competition, if you try to challenge yourself, you end up "dominating" your opponents, especially the ones who are looking for victory in the same way as on a classic format. Indeed, if you start with the idea of going as far as possible, you realize that in the end you are far, sometimes very far in front. I won all my 24-hour competitions with a huge lead, without really caring about the others except for their precious collaboration in the race.
Have you ever tried other skating disciplines?
I took part in the French Inline Cup in the veteran category, ending up 3rd of the final ranking in V1 in 2004 and 2005.
I had a hard time finding the motivation for classic races in 2006 and 2007. I would not have been for my belonging to the great team CDRS37 (Tours, FRA) of Gérard Hubert for team competitions, which is at the origins of the fulfilling of our team dreams (4th in 2006 and 5th in 2007 at the scratch in Le Mans), then Quebec with the 24 hours of Montreal where Gérard led us up to the Elite 2nd place in July 2007; I probably would have stopped skating by the end of 2005.
By the way, in 2005 at Le Mans we were 6th with the Lourdes Roller Vitesse of Philippe Cabarry. That year, I witnessed the victory of Pascal Fernandez in solo with 123 laps. For me, it was a revelation, thanks to him the solo category entered a new era, and 3 years later I lined up in solo.
My path crossed that of the CDRS37 indeed, but at the same time that of the LOU Roller (Lyon, FRA), a club with prestigious titles. Their skating culture finished to educate me between 2006 and 2008.
Do you practice other sports?
Yes, I do cycling and jogging.
What does your preparation for a 24h skating race consist in?
You have to be in good physical shape all year. During the fall and winter seasons I go to work cycling or skating, it is 10 km. I go jogging during winter from time to time, i.e. around 1 hour of sport per day during the off season.
Three to four months before the big day, I start the real preparation and little by little I turn from the average French jogger into the famous warrior able to endure the worst sufferings during a race.
I cycle as much as I skate for staying power, if I was in the mountains I would go cross-country skiing instead of cycling. The details of the sessions are quite complex, in-depth general training, interval training, fartlek, and everything is systematically timed from February on.
And what about your equipment?
Since the beginning I think that the weight of the equipment is a great enemy, I met EOSkates in the Spring 2008 and they gave me two pairs of 4x104 Diablo frames with which I still skate but which I have modified in order to put 108mm wheels (in fact, trimmed 110mm). The wheels are RollX wheels of the EndurX line, Xbird and Xdual. The latters, which are particularly successful, were on my skates in Montreal.
Contrary to a classic competition, the organization of the supervision seems essential…
Yes, without Pascal Maçon of the LOU Roller in 2008 and 2009 for Le Mans and the official world record of St Priest, without Youb in 2011 in Le Mans, without Daniel Sawyer my friend of Quebec for Montreal in 2009 and 2001, all of them very good and understanding, I would have never been that far.
What makes the difference with your opponents?
I am not an alien, consequently it is mainly their mistakes that make the difference.
At a strategic level: By analyzing the data saved by my cardio-frequency meters and GPS during races and trainings, I think I have understood, better than anybody else in the skating scene, the reaction of the body on that kind of non-standard effort, as I finish my races less and less marked.
I can also see the mistakes made every year by my immediate followers who end up logically quite behind (from 1 to 3 hours), and other big mistakes made by the skaters getting the following places who yet train for the race, some ideas die hard. I think that what motivates me the most (besides the challenge) is to surpass myself, that is to say managing feats, it is the fact of seeing or feeling my rivals so self-confident that they speed up during the race to try to take a lap, like on a 6-hour race for example, I just let them do, and it really becomes exciting to find them adrift a couple of hours later, very often they suffer from a badly trained supervising staff. Counting on the cooperation and exchange between skaters I skate in a pack as much as possible, and keep my pride (nasty fault) for the end of the race, for the last hours which are often horrible, when I am alone, in the 'dark' (ibid. Youb's expression), in order to fight against myself, I do not use my pride to dominate the others, it is not noble to me.
At a physiological level, thanks to Mother Nature my body can handle that kind of effort and my digestive system is perfect, I digest and assimilate very fast any kind of food items sweet and salt things during a 24-hour race, my pulse is at 40 bpm resting, my hematocrit level at 50, my hemoglobin level close to 17, my respiratory capacity of over 6 liters, and my legs are too long for my size. Many times I have measured my pulse at 20 bpm below that of the other skaters and even more in the Dunlop, while skating at the same speed. But this is not a question of luck, I work hard on basic endurance outdoors during winter, while others do violent efforts with interval training, going to the gym's etc. instead of 'rehabilitating' their cardiovascular system.
At a technical level, the weight of the skate is indeed important on short distances, but it becomes essential on ultra-long distances, as well as the rigidity/performance of the frame, that is why I have been skating with EOSkate carbon frames of 125g for 4 years. As for the wheels, RollX has improved so much these last years, with for example the Xduals recently and the EndurX and Xbirds, which I mix in my set-up. The liner should be low cut in order to favor performance.
According to you, what is the best age for the 24 hours competitions?
I would say between 35 and 50, and even more, because even if you lose a couple of points of VO2max (which still remains to be proved) you gain in sensations and experience.
Let's talk about the record: How long have you been preparing for it?
You talk about the bar of the 600 km in 24 hours? In 2009 I missed it by 20 km in Montreal but there were very few solo skaters, which meant no or very little drafting, 2010 was a year off as I did not train a lot and I only took part in Le Mans which I did not completed, I started training seriously again in 2011 with only 573 km in Le Mans (heat wave) and in Montreal 2 months later, there was a heavy rain during 17 hours, the race was neutralized after 21 hours and I am sure that I would have crossed the 600 bar that year, because Daniel my friend of Quebec was assisting me, unlike this year where I did not have a real refueling staff (well yeah), I think that I can reach 615/620 km on the short or mid-term if I train for it.
According to you, which skaters have the potential to break that record?
The former competitors of classic format (FIC and marathons which develop respiratory capacities) because if you directly have a go at ultra-distances you have a lot less chances to get close to the 600, I could mention: the elites with a prestigious list of honors at the OneEleven or at the A2A (Athen to Atlanta) or at the 100 km of New York, for example Tristan Loy, Philippe Boulard, Benoit Perthuis and others. There are also excellent national skaters who have a good racing spirit, robustness and talent to handle the effort, for example: Antoine Lesavre, Thibaut Dejan, Sylvain Cabotin, Erwan LeCorre, etc. One of them should do better one day.
What is your next goal?
The bar of the 600 km at Le Mans 2013 seems to be a logical stage.
While we are talking about records, there is indeed Montreal 2012 with 607 km, but I am still the holder of the real official 100% solo record with 544.6 km in September 2009 in Lyon-St Priest, even if I feel able to skate faster currently, I suffered so much then that there is no question of doing it again.
I was talking sooner about key-people who crossed my path and who helped me constitute my list of honors, Gérard Hubert de Tours, Pascal Maçon of the LOU, but also Yves Lambourd of the LOU who co-organized with Pascal the attempt at breaking the record of the 24 hours of St Priest, Benoit Bourlier president of the LOU and the volunteers of the 2009 record, Régis Calmus the coach of the PLPB Auxerre, Daniel Sawyer of Quebec and Youb for assisting me during races, each of them mattered, there are also many other helpers and volunteers. I never could have done it alone.
LinksBy Alfathor and Philippe Coussy
Translation: Chloé Seyres
Photos: all rights reserved