Michel Lanne (right), here alongside his teammate at Salomon François D'Haene, after the Annecy Maxi-Race (83 km) in 2017. -
Droz Photo Salomon
Michel Lanne, who only started racing in 2010, has a series of victories within Team Salomon.
His success in the Mont-Blanc Marathon, the CCC, the TDS and the Maxi-Race impressed the ultra-trail world because of his demanding profession: gendarme rescuer at the PGHM in Annecy.
Michel Lanne, who spends four days a week working in a helicopter in the mountains, has nevertheless managed to reconcile his two passions for ten years.
Michel Lanne's incredible double life just ended last month.
At the age of 36 and after ten seasons during which he has built one of the greatest achievements in French trail running, the rescuer of the high mountain gendarmerie (PGHM) peloton in Annecy is retiring from the racing world.
Within Team Salomon, the native of Tarbes notably won the Mont-Blanc Marathon (80 km) in 2013, the CCC (101 km) in 2016, the TDS (121 km) in 2017 as well as the Maxi-Race ( 83 km) in 2019. Not bad for those who hesitated, in 2010, to engage in climbing or freeride skiing rather than trail running.
“Until I was 25, I hated running, except for a devatting run once a year,” says Michel Lanne.
I was the biggest slacker in the world!
But I had achieved my three childhood dreams: to work at the PGHM, to become a mountain guide and a ski instructor.
I had to dream harder and explore my limits.
“These will quickly be tested with Team Salomon, which is betting on integrating it in 2011, while it still has few race references, apart from a 30 km night trail won in Sestriere (Italy).
Our dossier on the trail
"He accepts all challenges and then grits his teeth"
Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent, manager of this reference team of eight riders, tells about the beginnings of the first-aid gendarme, then stationed in Briançon (from 2005 to 2014), in this new adventure: "" Mitch "had never raced before. more than 60 terminals when I called him to suggest that he cross Chamonix-Briançon in July 2011 [203 km, 12,900 m of elevation gain] with François D'Haene and Thomas Véricel.
And there, he just replied "OK, cool".
He has such a carefree attitude that he accepts all challenges.
And then he
his teeth with his
Appraisal: a tendonitis in the foot preventing him from walking for two weeks… but a challenge completed in a time (37h51) remained a record on this GR5 for nine years.
“I pushed the machine a little too much that time, I didn't even have six months of hindsight on the discipline,” explains Michel Lanne.
We will say that it was a daring bet, moreover I have never run more than 200 terminals since.
In 2012, Michel Lanne savored, with François D'Haene, Julien Chorier and Andy Symonds, a 100 km trail in Hong Kong until then systematically won by the Chinese army.
- Jean - Michel Faure-Vincent
"They beat the Chinese army"
The following year, “Mitch” won the 31st edition of the Hong Kong Oxfam Trailwalker (100 km) with François D'Haene, Julien Chorier and Andy Symonds, breaking up the record for the event (11:12 am versus 11:49 am).
"I carefully kept the Hong Kong newspaper which headlined" They beat the Chinese army ", because it was systematically she who won until then", smiles Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent.
These performances are necessarily striking in the world of trail running, especially as Michel Lanne performs more than 100 interventions per year in the mountains (80% of the time in a helicopter), and has only one free weekend each month. , obviously dedicated to races.
"It was a huge puzzle, 24 hours a day, planning events with him," says Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent.
His life is about saving people, so there aren't many jobs that are more demanding than that.
And when you are like him an angel of the mountain, there are interventions which entail such a load on the physical and emotional level that it is necessary to cancel several races at the last minute because he does not feel like going.
The person concerned evokes the complexity of this double life, to which must be added the birth of his daughter in 2013.
I knew I was a handyman on the circuit.
Sometimes I found myself dragging a victim through the snow in the middle of the night, the day before a race.
Mentally, I therefore went through competitions because I had no freshness on D-Day. In 2017, I buried four friends who died in a helicopter crash and I cried all night.
Then I said to myself that they would have liked me to give everyone a big bitch on the Maxi-Race [83 km around Annecy].
So I took the start the next day and finished second.
"We do not have the right to weaknesses in this work"
For Michel Lanne, one of the 150 members of the PGHM in France since 2003, like his father before him, the priority has always been clear: “We have no right to weaknesses in this work, which is always very rich in emotions.
If I can save a guy, I'm obviously not going to save myself by thinking about the planned race two days later.
That's how it is, the PGHM has fascinated me since I was little, when I was going to sit in the helicopter next to my father.
”In the trail, it is alongside his“ super buddy ”François D'Haene, four-time winner of the Diagonale des Fous and three-time winner of the UTMB, that he keeps on vivid memories.
As in 2013, when Salomon's two friends cross the finish line of the 80 km of the Mont-Blanc marathon hand in hand.
“This arrival together is really how we conceive of sport,” summarizes Michel Lanne.
It makes the victory twice as strong.
"Despite the" mountain qualities "of" Mitch ", accustomed through his training at the PGHM to descend at full speed mountaineering routes with heavy shoes and a huge bag, he believes that François D'Haene has" always been 1,000 times stronger ”than him.
It's hard to prove him wrong on the queen distance of the ultra-trail, between 160 and 170 km.
Michel Lanne (white jersey) became vice-world champion in skyrunning, in 2014 in Chamonix, behind the inevitable Kilian Jornet (left).
- Jordi Saragossa
His turn to be the victim in a rescue helicopter
"He won the CCC and the TDS but the 160 km ultras were never his format," confirms Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent.
You have to know how to manage your race over such a distance, everything must be measured in the head.
"Mitch", he really needs to run recklessly.
"Fueling recklessness has sometimes been able to send him into the wall facing the most demanding events such as the Diagonale des Fous in Reunion.
If he finished 6th twice (in 2011 and 2015), his 2012 edition was chaotic to say the least.
He decides to take part only three weeks before departure.
A choice "a little suicidal", sanctioned during the race by hallucinations and dizziness, then by a faintness while he was in third position.
Whoever spends his life evacuating victims in a helicopter has therefore had the experience on the other side that day.
But even this painful episode never prevented the 2014 skyrunning vice-world champion (behind a certain Kilian Jornet) from putting the adrenaline and tension of trail races into perspective.
“When I felt like I was cooked during a race, I systematically took a step back,” says Michel Lanne.
I thought back to the times when we had managed with the PGHM to weather a storm by transporting a victim between life and death.
The real stress is not to race but to risk your skin at work.
Michel Lanne, here last summer for Salomon's off project, the Grande Traversée.
- Flyview Pictures
He nicknames Thibaut Baronian "the seed eater"
The UTMB was also refused to him, in 2018, with a retirement in full race for “problems of kneecaps”.
“But I never dreamed of winning a 170 terminals, he admits.
It's another world, and after 15 hours, I don't feel like running.
Seen as I shit after a race of 100 terminals, it is each time an ultra in my eyes.
"Especially for a trail runner who is keen on" devouring a burger the day before a world championship ", as Jean-Michel Faure-Vincent indicates.
If Thibaut Baronian, also arrived at Salomon in 2011, finds his trail in the trail “very inspiring” because of his position at the PGHM, this is less the case with regard to his diet.
“Seen as he did not pay attention to what he ate, his performance was still incredible, smiles the 32-year-old trail runner.
He often nicknamed me 'the seed eater'!
»A room assumed by Michel Lanne.
I started the trail by making the bet not to change my lifestyle, to still regularly party like everyone else.
I refused to weigh everything I was going to eat like the nutrition ayatollahs do.
Containment inspires him "12th degree videos"
His last race, the 2019 CCC in Chamonix, finally ended in a retirement.
Almost non-existent with the Covid-19 health crisis, the 2020 season only allowed him to participate last July at the end of the Grande Traversée Salomon, a
(from Alsace to the Alpes Maritimes) on which eight runners were mobilized.
"The races and the lap times no longer animate me, room for young people", sums up Michel Lanne, replaced in the Salomon group by the Grenoble trail runner Julie Roux (28).
Very active and very popular on social networks (more than 50,000 subscribers), over time he has become “modestly” an ambassador for the PGHM, posting behind-the-scenes videos of his profession and encouraging young people to apply.
The confinements then inspired him to “stupid videos, at the 12th degree”, in his house in Thônes (Haute-Savoie).
Away from the bibs, we see him dressing up as a yoga teacher or skiing on a treadmill.
His popular success, there too, encouraged him to prepare a web series for Salomon between humor and sport.
All in "carelessness", obviously.
Ultra-trail: Alexandre Boucheix, aka "Green cap", the "crazy" who was worth 10,000 terminals in 2020
Trail: “I discovered vegetables and a controlled aperitif”… The “metamorphosis” of Yoann Stuck, from party animal to high-flying runner