Taking place on 7-11 October, the 36th edition of Roc d’Azur in southeastern France continues to lay a claim as being the biggest MTB event in the world.
With racing across 5 days, there were almost 20,000 participants. Across varying race formats there were 35 races and rides on offer. Event organiser A.S.O notes that over 100,000 people visited the expo this year, seen a key event for all major brands that choose to exhibit.
“The seeds we planted are now in full bloom, it’s awesome!” said Stéphane Hauvette, the creator of the Roc d’Azur in 1984. “The Roc d’Azur has grown by several orders of magnitude, from just seven competitors in its inaugural edition to almost 20,000 participants from 40 countries in the 36th – including people from Peru, Russia, Thailand, Canada and Colombia, and has clearly lost none of its appeal to fans of mountain biking.
“The programme, packed with 35 races and rides, had something for riders of all genres. Timed races for bikers who need their fix of competition, recreational rides of different lengths for those who want to relax, bespoke courses for gravel grinders and a triathlon in the heart of nature —participants were spoilt for choice. Not to mention electric-assisted bicycles, gravel grinders, races for children, etc.
“It went well,” said a happy Pascal Quatrehomme, the director of Roc d’Azur. “Surveys show that many participants come back year after year and stay true to the Roc d’Azur. It proves that we’ve stuck to the formula that they’ve been coming here for since a long time ago.
“Thanks to our wide range of races and rides, people of all ages and levels can join in on the fun. The feedback out there has been overwhelmingly positive. From the sporting point of view, and despite our efforts in the lead-up to the event, we still had problems with pine needles causing punctures. However, the free technical support service that we arranged made sure that no-one had to quit because of that. We also set up many assistance points along the courses. The participants really appreciated it.”
Quatrehomme continued, “We extended the Roc Trophy from 4 to 5 days this year. It was a success, with close to 400 participants. The Rallye Roc XC, a race held as an enduro but on a cross-country course, also found its niche, with almost 200 people taking part.
“We want to step up our efforts in the field of CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility]. For example, on Wednesday we welcomed disabled children to the event. The environment is also one of our top concerns. We are working to limit the use of plastic, for instance, by ceasing to hand out plastic cups. We have set up waste sorting and will give waste a second life. It is a wake-up call for everyone, and we want to be part of it.”
The expo, featuring 300 exhibitors, again smashed the 100,000-visitor barrier. Visitors got to discover the latest products and services to hit the market, meet and greet the stars of their genres and ‘try out the bicycles of their dreams’ on the Roc Test Camp by Canyon track.
A women’s area was introduced this year, as were new leisure areas and the daily activities that make the Roc d’Azur a sports event and a celebration toegether. “The show keeps going from strength to strength”, added Pascal Quatrehomme. “Just look at how full the aisles were. The exhibitors ran out of stock and are delighted. It’s the main event of the year for the brands, which get to present their new products and services to the public but also use the Roc d’Azur as an opportunity to make an assessment of this year and prepare for next year.”
He continued, “We always send participants a survey because their feedback matters a lot to us. The response rate is very high, around a third, compared with the usual 10% for this type of event. This just goes to show how much participants are into the Roc d’Azur. We sift through all the responses to try and meet the expectations of all the competitors.
“Of course, we have to keep financial, geographic and organisational factors in mind, but we take note of every response.” The organisers found that some ideas have already popped up. “People travelling with the competitors, who often make up an important part of the visitors to the village, might want to see new activities. We might add new outdoor activities, much like we did with the Tri Roc, electric-assist bicycles and gravel grinders.
“We also want to stress that its wide range of races and rides makes the Roc d’Azur an event for everyone. People sometimes feel a bit apprehensive because they think it’s just for seasoned mountain bikers. Of course, Les Maures Massif is no piece of cake, but there are plenty of courses with easier profiles.”
The 37th edition is scheduled for 7-11 October 2020.