BIKING, TRAIL RUNNING & MOUNTAINEERING
Corentin’s objective : to reach the highest peaks of each mountain range in France in the least amount of time.
Corentin chose to travel by bike between the five French mountain ranges. He then switched to trail running and mountaineering to reach their highest peak.
His videographer and teammate, Xavier, was alongside him to capture every moment of this expedition by following him in his car during the cycling stages and climbing the summits with him on foot. A support team was also present to manage equipment, meals, and assistance in case of need.
The motivation behind this choice of expedition
Several reasons pushed Corentin to conceive this ambitious project:
- The will to promote France and its various landscapes
- The achievement of a major physical feat by reaching all of these summits in less than 8 days
- To pass on a message of inspiration and motivation to do sports, whatever the level
The story of the expedition
It’s Saturday, August 13, 4:00 a.m., and the big start of the Trace of the Giants is underway at the summit of the Grand Ballon in the Vosges.
This will be a long day with 295kms of cycling, then immediately afterwards the ascent of the Crêt de la Neige, the highest peak in the Jura. On his bike, Corentin is in great shape. He is making good progress and is enjoying himself on the road with the sumptuous landscapes.
‘The Jura is really beautiful, no one on the roads, beautiful sunshine, I love it.’
For several hours, Corentin is joined by a friend who met the team early in the morning. Spirits are high and the kilometres pass by effortlessly. There is a bit of a rough patch during the long climb between Bois d’Amont and the Faucille pass, but that’s part of the adventure.
After more than 12 hours of cycling, it’s time to put on the running shoes and to reach the top of the Crêt de la Neige. After having eaten a good meal concocted by Soline, the entire team follows Corentin up the mountain. His friends, Xavier and Lisa, take care of the videos and photos, Bastien and another friend are there to make Corentin laugh and help him forget how difficult it is. Back at the camp, a good meal awaits the whole team. Sweet potato pancakes, vegetable wraps, and a good beer, are enough to get our athlete and the entire team back on their feet.
Sunday, it’s an early wake-up call (4 a.m.) and time to head for the Alps.
Since the ascension of the Mont Blanc was forbidden due to significant rock fall along the route, Corentin had to find a solution. He decided to follow an itinerary representing a trail of 60 kms with 4,800 m of positive elevation gain, like the Mont Blanc.
A difficult leg awaits Corentin (130 kms with 2,600 m of elevation gain).
The day starts with a magnificent sunrise atop Mont Blanc, enough to make you forget the disappointment of not climbing it. With some ups and downs, the beginning of the day is complicated, especially during the climb up to the Croisette pass.
At the top, a superb aid station created by Soline and Lisa awaits him : Saint Yorre water, rice cakes, and ham, a real treat for Corentin. Afterwards, before arriving in Abondance, he meets a cyclist who was doing his morning ride and who rode with Corentin for more than an hour.
It was raining when they reached Abondance and their spirits were low after such a difficult morning. Corentin finds a smile with the arrival of his parents and the presence of two friends who will be running on the trail with him. A good meal, a good nap, and 2 hours later, it’s back to work, this time for 25 kms and 2,200 m of elevation gain.
Everything goes well for 3 hours thanks to the presence of Bastien and Clément, who are there to tell jokes and play music when times are rough. Then comes another blow, the ascent of the Cornettes de Bise is completed with a lot of difficulty. The descent is better and Corentin gets his strength back. A beer and a plate of French fries are enough to motivate the troops before leaving in the rain to finish the day and the remaining 5 kms.
A good night’s rest and it’s time to finish the trail running section and the remaining 2,600 m climb.
Corentin is in great shape and is progressing very well. ‘I was very surprised by my condition, and the landscape is so beautiful that I didn’t have time to think about the pain’.
At the top, what a pleasure it was to finish, but especially the joy of eating a burger prepared by the whole team !
It’s Tuesday and the team heads to the Massif Central, with 305 kms of cycling on the program. After having seen beautiful landscapes around Annecy lake, Robin, Corentin’s brother, joined him for a few kilometres. A wonderful moment for Corentin who needs encouragement during this difficult time. In the afternoon, although it is less attractive for everyone in terms of the scenery, Corentin continues to push hard on the pedals and covers a lot of ground. At the end of the day, they arrive in Forez.
It’s Wednesday, with 150 kms of cycling and the ascent of the Puy de Sancy on the program.
The beginning of the day starts off difficult. It’s raining, Corentin is quite cold riding on the bike, and he feels exhausted after 4 hours in the saddle. ‘I have never been so tired. A general sense of fatigue came over me, and I was no longer able to keep going. I stopped and had a short blackout where I couldn’t remember everything. My mom helped me get changed, and I went to bed for an hour nap. A meal, with the sun finally back, and it was time to go. Another 60 kms on the program’. Corentin then rode a few kilometres with Nicolas, one of his partners, and a great moment of cycling was shared.
At the parking lot of the Puy de Sancy, it was time to change and put on the running shoes. Accompanied by his father, his uncle, and his cousin, Corentin has a smile on his face to make this climb. Xavier and Lisa are at the top to immortalise this moment and check off the third summit. There is only one more to go ! The descent is much more difficult.
Knee pain makes our athlete grit his teeth. Some doubt sets in, and the question is raised whether he will be able to leave the next day.
A good massage, a superb meal, a first-rate team, and a night of recuperation ; everything comes together for Corentin to leave without pain, in the direction of the Pyrenees !
Up and down, up and down, that’s the program this morning heading towards the Puy Mary. The fog up to the summit prevented us from admiring the view, but the sun broke through, and it turned out to be a beautiful day. Robin accompanies Corentin again and the descent is magnificent, between some sun, clouds, and breathtaking landscapes. A mostly downhill profile gives Corentin a boost of morale. ‘I really want to have a great day, I almost feel like nothing can go wrong today’. 310 km on the odometer when we stopped. Emotions run high for Corentin after this dream day on the bike with his little brother by his side, but also because the next day will be his last day of cycling.
It’s Friday, here we go, the last 207 kilometres on the bike. In the beginning, it’s quite long, the roads are straight, flat, and the mind has to take control to keep Corentin moving forward. Once the Pyrenees appear in front of them, they forget all the difficult moments and enjoy themselves. ‘It’s not every day that I ride here, so I really appreciate it’.
The final climb to Gavarnie is long on paper (30 km) but the wind at their backs and the joy of finishing make Corentin move forward at a rather impressive speed.
At the end of the road, there was a dirt path. It was time to get off the bike and savour the moment.
‘Really strong emotions came over me. I was happy to finish the bike section, but I still had to concentrate to climb the Vignemale. It was sad to see my parents leave us, but happy to finish this adventure with the team’.
It’s Saturday, 3 a.m., and time to leave for the summit of the Vignemale, accompanied by Xavier.
The climb is long, the fatigue is noticeable, but the traverse of the glacier is handled well with one last more delicate section in the rocks. Then, finally, the summit. ‘Tears well up, and it is a mixture of joy and sadness to have finished. The ultimate happiness of being the first to link the highest summit of each of the 5 mountain ranges of metropolitan France without a motorised vehicle (not including the Mont Blanc because the conditions were too dangerous). 7 days and 4 hours later after the departure from the top of the Grand Ballon, and here I am at the top of the Vignemale, I can hardly believe it. We take the time to take some great pictures with Xavier, and it’s time to go back down and join the rest of the team to celebrate our victory’.
‘I want to thank the whole team, my parents, my brother, and my friends who helped me throughout this project. But also a big thank you to all our partners for their support during this adventure !’
The adventure continues !
Next spring, a documentary will be released retelling the story of Corentin’s expedition.