Martin Kern, Grégoire Curmer and Baptiste Robin, during a training session last week on the heights of Talloires (Haute-Savoie). - Simon Pouyet

  • With the coronavirus health crisis, Grégoire Curmer, Martin Kern and Baptiste Robin had to put aside their passion for ultra-trail running since the start of the season.
  • This long period of confinement prompted the three athletes to plan an off challenge  , the crossing via the GR5 between Chamonix and Briançon (202 km and 12,500 m of elevation gain).
  • The trio will launch on Saturday, July 4 at 4 a.m. with the record held since 2011 by François D'Haene, Michel Lanne and Thomas Véricel in 37:51.

Confinement in March and it starts again. Ultra-traileurs Grégoire Curmer, Martin Kern and Baptiste Robin took advantage of the coronavirus health crisis to plan a sacred adventure together. The trio will set off on Saturday July 4 at 4 a.m. from Chamonix with the ambition of reaching Briançon in thirty-two hours (202 km and a positive elevation of 12,500 m) via the GR5. And this in order to claim the record for this emblematic crossing between the two capitals of mountaineering in France, held since 2011 by François D'Haene, Michel Lanne and Thomas Véricel in 37:51.

"Since I caught the ultra virus five years ago, I have noted this crossing in my little papers," smiles Martin Kern, originally from Vallouise (Hautes-Alpes). When I knew that Grégoire and Baptiste were planning to go after it, I immediately sent them a message. This 32-year-old engineer, who completed seven ultra races last season, including the Diagonale des Fous (5th at 1:20 from the winner… Grégoire Curmer) and the UTMB (12th), is keen on off-road challenges  .

Martin Kern, here during a mountain training session at the end of 2019. - David Gonthier

Towards "the spirit of mountaineering"

He notably became, in May 2019 alongside his Ariège friend Nahuel Passerat, the first Frenchman to complete the 109 km of the Bob Graham Round, "the world cradle of mountaineering" (8,500 m of D + and 42 summits to climb north of England). "Competition is good, but there is a more collective dimension to look for in the ultra-trail, which is a real family, with this type of crossing approaching the spirit of mountaineering", explains Martin Kern.

The three athletes have everything planned to exceed the benchmark performance of Team Salomon: five hard refueling points will allow them to take hot meals and they aim for “30 minutes of nap maximum” on the entire course “snow-covered to many of places ”.

"From the end of containment, it was '' open bar ''»

“We will inevitably have this time of 37:51 in mind, recognizes Martin Kern. I think it is largely takable. But when you know that around forty teams have failed for nine years, you still have to go find it. A short film will be made to immortalize this adventure, and it should be presented at festivals in September.

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When the trail runner of Team Arc'teryx ideally launched his year by winning the Xtrail du Ventoux (72 km) in 7:27 am on March 8, he did not expect to have to put his passion on hold for two months.

It is certain that our preparation is a little truncated since it was mainly necessary to be content with muscle building for a very long time. But as soon as I got out of the confinement, it was '' open bar '', I spent more than 30 hours a week running outside. If we do not do this volume of racing upstream, the body will give up in the face of such a challenge. We will arrive cooler than in a normal season. There, we release the beasts. "

Team Salomon of D'Haene then Thévenard will follow

The three friends waited for the first weekend of deconfinement to see each other and “trudge around forty kilometers” on the heights of Annecy. Finally, this delayed season, which saw Martin Kern give up notably the Maxi Race of Annecy (116 km), the Marathon du Mont-Blanc (90 km) and the PICaPICA (109 km, Ariège), allows the ultra-trail to reinvent itself.

On Sunday, attention will also be focused on the Grande Traversée, with eight Team Salomon athletes (including François D'Haene and Thibaut Baronian) embarking on a solidarity relay race of nearly 1,000 km and 41,600 m of elevation gain, on foot and by bike, between Alsace and Nice, via the Vosges, the Jura, and the Alps.

"These record quests add a mystical dimension"

Then the triple winner of the UTMB Xavier Thévenard will tackle from July 6 the record of François D'Haene on the legendary GR20 in Corsica (31:06 for 80 km and 14,000 m of D +).

"It's going to be a boom year of off challenges ," says Martin Kern. Lots of projects that we couldn't have envisaged having our heads in the handlebars, because of all our races, quickly came together. It's a great opportunity. All these record quests add a mystical dimension to our adventures. Like what, there were not only bad things in this confinement. "


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