Where: La Faurie, Haute-Alpes (05), France
When: Sunday 24th May 2015
The Trail des Cimes du Buech is a short trail race now into it’s second year. I ran the first event last year and was pleased to place 6th, but lining up on the start line this year I realised that word had got round, and some serious competition had turned up. This was confirmed when I bumped into eventual race winner Gael Raynaud on the start line, who would eventually obliterate the course record in 1h22’39”.
The course is pretty simple and takes in the Cimes in the area, the mountain ridges and peaks that give a great panoramic view over the surrounding mountains. Just short of 17km, it’s mostly uphil for the first 7km, before taking you along a ridgeline giving great views, and then plunging you into a steep and technical descent followed by some fast downhill running on 4×4 tracks. There’s a few undulating forest tracks in the last couple of KMs as well.
104 racers lined up under the starting banner and headed off at the 9am start. The weather was kind – clear blue skies and the ferocious winds that had been battering the southern Alps for the last few days (invigorating as the race director posted on Facebook) had thankfully dropped.
Like a lot of these races there’s a bottleneck straight after the mass start, in this case we exit the football pitch where the race starts, cross a road and then straight over a narrow bridge so it’s quite important to get to the front. From then on the route crosses a few fields and then kicks up to some steep forest tracks for a couple of kilometres before opening out to show great views over the pays du Buech.
The day quickly became quite warm, and the climb up to the summit was hard, but the aid station with food and drink at the 7km mark was very welcome. Another short climb and a fantastic run along the ridgeline gave out to a very steep and technical descent into the forest, which then eased out into rutteed 4×4 tracks. This meant a consistently fast, hard downhill for nearly 10km – a real quad-killer.
I rolled in with a time of 1h45’01”, over a minute more quickly than last year but it was only good enough to manage 15th place, showing how the popularity, participation and competition level of the event had dramatically increased – it thoroughly deserves to do so as its a great, well-run, friendly event on a fun but demanding course – I’ll definitely make this a yearly outing.