Azur Bike Park played host to the 4X ProTour finals in 2016 and after amazing feedback from the riders, this new 4X track situated on the French Riviera opened the 2017 4X ProTour season last weekend.
The riders all love this track. Located at the heart of the new Azur Bike Park, what has been built is amazing. Built on the side of a mountain, the track winds its way through huge berms, multi lines, and some of the biggest jumps in the 4X ProTour into the finish arena. There were several changes to the track, with more width on the first two straights, fresh berms added and a new section into the tree line.
The track in Roquebrune overlooks the French coastal town of St Maxime, so as well as being an amazing track, the views are incredible. The longest track currently used on the 4X ProTour this year, at around 50 seconds this was going to be a wild race.
The riders arrived on Friday and practice was underway. It was interesting to see the top 4X riders in the world getting used to this track again. This track had a few riders torn on what bike to use as the smooth first straights were vitally important but then the rough lower sections were tough on a hardtail.
Hardtails, Enduro bikes and DH bikes were all being used and each one had its pros and cons!
By the end of Friday practice it was great to hear the riders feedback on the new changes. All agreed the track was better and even more challenging than in 2016 and it certainly had more passing chances. The talking point was the huge triple jump step down near the finish. It is huge and the riders were pushing the limits to get over these jumps.
Saturday rolled around and the 2nd practice session got underway at 10.00. The track crew at Azur Bike Park had been working hard watering the track and making repairs, keeping it in prime condition.
You could tell that the riders were in qualifying mode as they were railing the turns and carrying speed. After the practice session, it was time for qualifying. In 4X, riders get just 1 lap of the track for qualifying. It is a high-pressure time for the riders as they must get everything just right to qualify.
In the women’s it was incredible to see Sabrina Jonnier. Racing again. Living close to the track she decided to come out of retirement and race at this event. She looked fast all day and in her qualifying run, she nailed a perfect run to take the fastest time! Natasha Bradley also looked fast and was jumping the step down into the finish which was great to see. Fiona Ourdouille from France rounded out the top 3.
1st – Sabrina Jonnier
2nd – Natasha Bradley
3rd – Fiona Ourdouille
Men’s qualifying and it was Austrian rider Hannes Slavik, who set the early pace with a 45.05. It turned out this was an impressive time as rider after rider came down the hill and couldn’t touch it. Four riders from the end and Tomas Slavik stepped up to the gate. In his usual style, he absolutely destroyed the track to set a new fastest time of 44.02. The final rider on track was current UCI World number 1 Scott Beaumont. He looked on it and was the only other rider to below 45 seconds, stopping the clock at 44.89.
1st – Tomas Slavik
2nd – Scott Beaumont
3rd – Hannes Slavik
On Saturday night it was a nice touch by the organisers to invite all the riders and mechanics to a local restaurant for a free BBQ. It was great to socialize with everyone outside of the race site and chat about how the winter months had been for everyone.
Sunday 9th April and it was time to get the 2017 4X ProTour started. The forecast was for sunshine all day and it really delivered. Blue skies and dusty conditions were a welcome sight for the 4X ProTour.
In the first round there were a few shocks but mainly the top 32 riders from qualifying moved on in to round 2. Again, in round 2 most the top 16 riders moved forwards and the action heated up in the quarter finals.
In the quarter finals, 4X World Champion Mitja Ergaver went out after a big crash. Luckily he was ok. As did Alex Metcalfe but again thankfully ok. Some real shocks early on for the French crowds.
In semifinal 1 it was Tomas Slavik on gate 1, Quentin Derbier in 2, Roberto Cristofoli in 3 and Jakub Kantor in 4. The gate dropped and it was Slavik with the holeshot. Heading towards the lower section, Derbier was in 2nd with Cristofoli in 3rd challenging. On the final straight Derbier did enough and moved to the final with Slavik.
In semifinal 2 it was Scott Beaumont in gate 1, Hannes Slavik in 2, Felix Beckeman in 3 and Luke Cryer in 4. The gate dropped and Beaumont battled with Slavik all the way into turn 1. Beaumont held strong and battled his way into the lead. From here he checked out leaving the others to battle. Felix Beckeman made a great pass and moved through on Slavik to grab the final transfer spot.
The women’s final lined up in the gate. Sabrina Jonnier in gate 1, Natasha Bradley in 2, Fiona Ourdouille in 3 and Helene Fruhwirth in 4. The gate dropped and Jonnier got the holeshot with Bradley close behind. Fiona Ourdouillie was in 3rd and made a great pass on Bradley in turn 1. Holding the inside lines Jonnier kept her head and led from start to finish to take her first ever 4X ProTour victory. Ourdouille finished 2nd, Bradley in 3rd and Fruhwirth in 4th.
In the men’s small final, Hannes Slavik took gate 1, Roberto Cristofoli in 2, Jakub Kantor in 3 and Luke Cryer in 4. Slavik got the holeshot with Cristofoli in 2nd. The race looked to be pretty settled after Kantor and Cryer lost touch with the leaders. Hannes Slavik took the win and with it 5th for the day.
So it was time for the men’s final. Tomas Slavik in 1, Beaumont in 2, Derbier in 3 and Beckeman in 4. The gate dropped and the riders were banging bars. Beaumont got squeezed and Slavik took the lead from Derbier who dived into 2nd. Beaumont just had 3rd in turn 1 but a slip allowed Beckeman through. These guys were absolutely flying, making this track look easy. It was a perfect lap from all 4 riders and so the positions held all the way to the finish line.
Immediately after the race, the award ceremonies took place for the race with the sponsors and local community all present.
This event was fantastic and starts a great season of 4X racing. Our French hosts made the whole weekend a tremendous success and we can’t wait to hopefully return here again next year.