After an intensive winter of high water, endurance training and skiing, freestyle competitions have at last started-up again. At the end of March, at St Pierre de Boeuf in the French Alps, French competitors started off the season with a white water stadium and an event which both lived up to their expectations. St Pierre de Boeuf is an old hand at organising events and all the free-stylers remember the crazy ambience of Zarbie. But, water has flowed under the bridge since then and it had been some time since the freestylers had scraped their bottoms on that particular river bed ;)
The youngsters, having heard the stories, entered the infamous American wave with apprehension. Owners of fibre boats had to grit their teeth during their first numbers – because of the sharp stones in the drop, much to the amusement of the paddlers who owned plastic boats ! So, a joyous and friendly competition, spiced-up by the organised fun and games between runs. Let's not forget the paddle fights during the Boarder Cross and the amazing talents of our paddlers who were stand-up paddling in freestyle boats.
Saturday evening, no rest for the paddlers ! All 70 of us shared an awesome tartiflette (a dish from the Alps with melted cheese poured over boiled potatos and bacon pieces.) and partied till the early hours. On Sunday, the finalists were treated to a new drop especially created for the final.
I won the the Senior Ladies category, while on the Men side scores flew off the charts with a run of over 1500 points for Sebastien Devred. In the Junior category, Thomas Richard stepped onto the top of the Men's podium whilst Nuria Fontane-Maso was on the Ladies top step.
The season continues at Tournon St Martin on the 26th and 27th of April. This will give some the chance to reinforce their first results and others the chance to win a place in Team France. So, the second heat of the Team France selections has taken place at Tournon St Martin (the Centre region of France).
The competitors were totally hyped-up and the water level was exceptionally low due to works on the river which didn't make things easier. So, the competitors fought it out in a drop that was designed to best suit the river conditions of the moment. The event organisers gave their all to create the best drop set-up possible for the demanding paddlers. After a hard fight and an impressive semi, the results were declared on Sunday.
In the Junior Ladies, Oceane Michaut took first place, beating Guenole Bourgoin, both of whom qualified for places in Team France. In Junior Men, Thomas Richard was classed 2nd behind Fabien Lanao while Lucien Schreiber snatched 3rd place.In the Canoe category, Sebastien Devred finished first in front of Jonathon Suc and Nicolas Fayol, all three selected for Team France. In Ladies, I beat Nuria Fontane-Maso (silver) and Jeromine Hervo (bronze) to take the gold medal. In Mens, the local boy, Sebastien Devred soared above his peers and surprised no-one by taking first place in front of Gael Kernin and Abel Thevenet.
Now I have my place in Team France, I can't wait for the world Cup in June and the European Championships in August.
A huge THANK YOU to all the organisers for the perfect event.
See you soon on the water !