And three! We stay in Alpe d’Huez for the third round of ‘Behind the Scenes’, with an interview with Pierre-Alain Bonsacquet, one of the faithful members of the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon organisation. This man in charge of the running course has lived the whole history of the event, and shares his passionate triathlete’s view of the race.
Who are you?
My name is Pierre-Alain Bonsacquet, but in the world of triathlon, I am known as ‘Bilbo’, after Bilbon Sacquet, Tolkien’s character in ‘The Hobbit’. I’m a 45-year-old young guy from Besançon. Two years ago, I moved to Alpe d’Huez where I work as a maintenance technician at the Hotel Residence Daria I Nor. Triathlete since 2005 on all distances, I have participated six times in Ironman distance through Challenge events (5 times Roth / 1 time Barcelona).
How many editions of the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon have you been involved in?
To make sure I don’t forget any, I’ve been part of the adventure since the first edition, so I’ve lived 14 editions. I also started three times in the Alpe d’Huez Triathlon as a competitor, on the M distance.
How did you become an actor in the adventure?
My story with this event is the result of the meeting with Cyrille Neveu on the Embrunman in 2004, of these few simple exchanges between this Triathlon World Champion and the novice triathlete that I was. A visit to l’Alpe d’Huez with a warm welcome, a night spent at the Neveu family’s home and here is how, 15 years later, I am still a faithful volunteer but also a friend of Laurence and Cyrille, as well as a permanent resident in l’Alpe d’Huez.
What is your function in the event?
For a few years now, Laurence and Cyrille have entrusted me with the management of the running course. This mission consists of setting up all the signs (signposting, kilometre markers, banners) prior to the event. On the day of the race, my team’s priority is to ensure safety on the most problematic sections (the Europe crossroads at the exit of the bike park, for example), and I have to make sure that the 6.5km long course works well overall. Mountain bikers ensure the race openings for the first three men and women.
The good thing about my job is that I’m at the heart of the race, which allows me to experience the competition up close. As the safety of spectators and runners is a priority, you have to be very concentrated during the three races.
What is your best memory of the event?
You can imagine that in 14 years, there are many good memories and it is hard to choose one. Beyond the satisfaction of contributing to the happiness of the participants and the conviviality shared with the many volunteers I met, I will focus on a special moment that I greatly appreciated. During Victor Del Corral‘s victory in the rain and cold in 2011, I had the chance to open the run course on a mountain bike. As soon as he crossed the finish line as the winner, he came spontaneously to fall into my arms to thank me for cheering him on during the 21 kilometres. This moment of fellowship with a great name in Triathlon made me happy.
Do you have an anecdote to share?
I have a rather personal one. As for the good memories, fourteen editions would allow the writing of an impressive anthology. Before I had a team of four full-time volunteers during the running event, I carried out my mission alone. This gave me a few worries during an edition where I found myself setting up a U-turn in extremis at the place called ‘la Pierre Ronde’ on the Sarenne road, while the first runner arrived with the bike ensuring the TV broadcast. Seeing the rider a hundred meters away, I hurried to set up the reference tent but to avoid being filmed, I didn’t put it up and huddled underneath when the race leader passed by. Today, we made a lot of progress in our planning!
From your point of view, from the heart of the organization and with your experience, what makes the event so special?
What I appreciate is the friendly spirit that comes out of a triathlon of international calibre where very high level triathletes share their passion with all the participants in all simplicity.
If you could, what would you change in the organization or the schedule of races?
As I had the chance to take part in the Challenge Roth where the atmosphere is simply huge all along the course, I would dream of creating two spots on the running course where hundreds of spectators would gather to set fire to and support the runners in their effort.
Where will you be and what will you do on July 30, 2020, the original date of the Triathlon L?
I will be lucky enough to be in Alpe d’Huez, since I live there. I will be in the presence of the Neveu family and a few volunteers who will be there despite the cancellation of the race. We will of course take advantage of the occasion to celebrate in small groups and recognize all the race courses and sites that some people don’t know. We will already prepare the 15th edition which promises to be even stronger.