Saturday’s Double Vertical du Diable is so called because the height gained approaches two kilometres. The course takes runners from the banks of the Veneon at 900 metres to the summit of the Tête Moute (2814m).
In what seemed a good idea at the time, I entered this race in order to write about it, so early on Saturday morning, I collected my number and headed down the Venosc gondola with the rest of the runners. I could not help but feel a bit nervous at this point. Nineteen hundred metres is more than I had ever climbed in a race before, and it was also my first uphill-only race. Clear sunny weather did not help, as the day promised to be hot.
Few of the runners milling around the Venosc lift station seemed to share my trepidation. Groups stood around chatting or warming up, looking unfazed by the task ahead. The time crept closer to nine o’clock and people began to drift towards the start on the riverside track below the lift station. Around seventy of us lined up to listen to a few words from the organisers before a punctual start on the hour. The first few metres were runnable before we reached the steps leading into Venosc village. From here it was a case of finding a rhythm and keeping going up. At the top of the Venosc lift, a drinks stop and a short flat gave a welcome break from the climb.
All too soon the route led us back onto the hillside and straight up the Diable black run. I had anticipated using one of the zig-zag hiking paths at this point, but the route went directly up the centre of the ski piste. The slope was so steep that all I could see was the ground in front of my face. It was as much as I could manage to place one foot ahead of the other in a steady plod.
A second drinks stop at the bottom of the Super Diable chairlift gave some extra energy to tackle the final few hundred metres to the top. The stony Super Diable black was hard work and I needed to use my hands at times before joining the red piste to the summit. Beyond the top of the chairlift, a final fifty metres led to the finish at the highest point of Tête Moute. I had managed the climb in two hours and twenty minutes, or just over 800 metres per hour. Although a lot slower than the winners, who managed under an hour and a half, I was very happy with my time.
Benjamin Allouche took first place with an incredible time of 1hr26.33. Alvin Lair and Alexandre Masson came in second and third. The fastest woman was Fabienne Sestier-Carlin (2hr00.02), followed by Lula Martinez Perez and Marie Pascale Magnin.