By Pete Rees at mudstacle.com 5 Novmeber 2013
Last but by no means least, the final male athlete in our pre-Beast “Contender Series” is the man who has dominated the 2013 UK Spartan Race season. He needs very little introduction, so let’s get straight down to it. We are very happy to introduce the Flying Frenchman, Mr Thomas Blanc…
Name: Thomas Blanc
Height: 168cm (5’6″)
Weight: 62kg (9.8 stone)
Occupation: Retail manager & Student
Home town: Grenoble, France
Manager & Coach: Michael Cohen of TEAM Wild Forest Gym
Racing Team: TEAM Wild Forest Gym
On a scale of 1 to 10, how competitive would you say you are? 9
Hardest challenge to date: World Toughest Mudder 2012, 50miles+ in 24h though obstacles, night and freezing water.
1st Spartan Sprint Midlands 2013
1st Spartan Super Midlands 2013
1st Spartan Sprint Edinburgh 2013
1st Spartan Sprint Yorkshire 2013
1st Spartan Sprint Cambridge 2013
1st Spartan Sprint London 2013
1st of Elite wave Tough Mudder London North 2013
4th Brit 95th overall World Toughest Mudder 2012
1st Spartan Sprint London 2012
1st of Elite wave Tough Mudder London North 2012
What other sports do you do / did you do before getting into obstacle racing?
I always practised sports, as many as possible in competition or just with friends. I played 12 years of football in my local club, competed for a few years at table tennis and l always loved skiing, climbing and cycling when cross training. Because of my origins I have the mountain appeal, I’m attracted by summits and breathtaking landscapes. I climbed the Mont-Blanc last year and I’m planning a trip to Equator this winter where I’ll do my first attempt on a +6,000m summit.
And a funny fact, in my childhood me and my little bro used to follow my mother at her work (she is a birdwatcher), we would do our own mud runs around the fields; sliding, jumping, running and chasing each other on heavy mud. My passion for mud definitely started here!
Which team did you play football for?
I was playing for my village’s team “FLL Gergy” at a humble level. I’ve never been good technically but when it came to physical training I had to beat all of my team-mates, it was my goal at every single training session.
Well done for your domination of the Spartan events this season! Before the season started did you think that you would win as many races as you have?
Thanks! It was an amazing journey during those five weeks of racing. When I started training with Michael his goal was clear, he wanted me to go for a month of first places. I think I knew I could aim for the podium and maybe get a few victories, but not all 6! I’ve been lucky and the fact that Michael believed in me and invested so much of his time on my training, unconsciously convinced me that I could do it. I thank him for that.
Have you always strived so hard to win?
Honestly the only thing I want is to give my very best on every challenge I put myself into. I need to hit my limits and push further. I hope to inspire people (especially my relatives) and show them that impossible is nothing. So actually wining is just a nice bonus! But it’s true that I love competition, because the other contenders are helping me overcome the pain because I know we are all going through the same struggles.
There’s no doubt that there will be some heavy competition at the upcoming Beast. How does it feel to be the man to beat?
Hell yeah the race is going to be Epic, I’m really excited about it! I don’t think I’m THE man to beat, there will be many men to beat. I found it challenging being the favourite at the previous races, everyone is watching you looking for weaknesses that gives a bit more pressure. I prefer to race as an outsider, I can take more risks and use more of the surprise effect.
Where are you hoping to finish at the Beast? Are you confident that you can make it a clean sweep?
My motto is to give my best and have fun. It always will be like this. If giving everything I have isn’t enough for the first place well… that mean I have to train more! Of course it will be amazing to stay unbeaten, but this time it’s a longer distance and lot of parameters are changing. There will be new contenders who already proved themselves on this kind of races. It’s an obstacle race on a very challenging terrain with unpredictable weather that means all the top 10 racers will have there chances and that is the beauty of our sport you never know until the finish line!
Who do you think is your main competition?
As I said you never know what will happen during the race, especially with burpees… But the favourite is definitely the returning champion Jonathan Albon! He’s going to defend his title and I’m sure he wants to go back to the Death Race. I never raced against him or his friend Ross [Macdonald] but I know they are fast. I will have to watch my fellow Spartans very closely, with whom I’ve shared my podiums with this season. They are very good and are sure to be pumped up to take their revenge!
Looking forward, what are your plans for 2014 and what events have you got your eye on?
I want 2014 to be turned towards the international. If I get sponsorship I really would love to practice OCR in other countries! Definitely I’m aiming for the top 10 at the Spartan world championship, having an attempt at the Death Race, top 10 at the World Toughest Mudder or winning it as a team, winning one of the new Extreme Nation event and winning Spartan Races in Europe (starting with France in November). In the UK I basically want to try all the major OCR. I still need to define my calendar but The Nut Challenge is for sure on the list.
I love adventures as well, so I’m going for a 15 day trek in January in Ecuador, hopefully climbing summits up to 6,300m hight. The Fuego y Agua Survival is the kind of experience I would like to have in the future. The North Pole Marathon is also on my bucket list.
Are you looking forward to the growth of the TEAM Wild Forest Gym?
I’m very attached to that project, I want to see OCR becoming a recognized and developed sport. For that we need official leagues and elite teams gathering the best contenders [Ed: Thomas’ response was before the launch of the Mudstacle League – which he’s said is “Awesome news for the OCR world in UK”]. Team Wild Forest Gym will provide elite runners and aspiring obstacle racer the right training to enable them to perform to their full potential, and achieve their goals. Plus, TEAM Wild Forest Gym’s management program will aim to secure TEAM athletes sponsorship.
What would you say to anybody who would like to compete in obstacle course races as an elite athlete?
Go!!! Just go for it! If it’s what you like, don’t hold yourself back! But you have to be aware that there’s no turning back once you choose that way. The training will be tough and it won’t be easy to always keep your motivation high. But you won’t stop because the sensations you will feel are so strong and unique. It’s always during the toughest times that you learn the most about yourself.
And finally, a few words from your Coach, Michael Cohen of TEAM Wild Forest Gym:
Thomas has had the most awesome season so far. Six out of six wins against some of the best UK elite OCR’rs. The gauntlet has been laid down for the final of the UK’s Spartan Race series – The Beast. Thomas has trained hard and has committed everything possible into his training and race preparation. There will be some formidable athletes on the start line. I coach Thomas every day. I know what is capable of, its in his blood. A gift that few have. Thomas is an asset to TEAM Wild Forest Gym and is a shining example to any aspiring OCR’r who wish to join the TEAM and similarly achieve their goals and set foot on the podium.
Thanks Thomas and Michael. We can’t wait to see how you get on this Saturday. Good luck!
Thanks to Epic Action Imagery for the typically awesome Spartan Race pictures.