Nicolas and Simon

Land Grant

Nicolas R., Drilling Engineer at Total, and Simon S., 21, in his 4th year at INSA Toulouse, make up the winning team for the Total Land Grant ‘Totally Raidy’. The team entered Raid Centrale Paris sporting the Total colors in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region of France. A two man adventure and a week high in emotion…


Could you tell us a bit about yourselves?


N.R. I have been working for Total for five years now. I am a familiar face when it comes to the Raid competitions, most notably for the Centrale Paris, in which I participated in 2008 when I was an Arts et Métiers ENSAM student, then again in 2010 once having started working for the Group. We finished second in the overall ranking. My specialty is mountain-biking.


S.S. I participate regularly in triathlon at a regional level. I am also familiar with the Raid competitions, along with my flatmate, Oscar. To complete our team we ‘recruited’ Juliette, a fellow student, herself swimmer and triathlete at a national level. In order to be selected we emphasized our love of sport and our motivation. And it worked!


What sort of contact did you have with each other before the event?


S.S. Since most of the team are resident in Toulouse and Nicolas in Pau, it was very easy to organize a meeting. We met mid-March and spent the day mountain biking then again towards the end of the month for a hike with snowshoes. The meets allowed us to get to know each other better and to start training.


N.R. We all got on really well right from the start from a personal point of view as well as in a sports context. I found everybody open-minded and motivated not to mention very good at what they do! We all understood that we were going to the Raid competition with the same aim in mind: produce a team that would perform well.


What were the highlights of the event for you?


N.R. The moment we arrived, the day before the competition was due to start, we began competing in out-of-competition trials: an opportunity to ease us gently into the atmosphere, meet up with our competitors and to measure our level with those we were competing against. The weather was appalling on the first day, our bikes were sliding all over the place in the mud. We also had a problem with one of our maps which was soaking wet and therefore illegible during the orienteering event. Despite this help was at hand from both the members of our own team and opposing teams – we were joined to another group in order to decipher the maps after which we finished 4th! On the second day our bicycle chains snapped twice, Simon has to finish the race running and pushing his mountain bike!


S.S. The first day aside, we had sunny weather but not too much heat: ideal conditions. What I remember from that first day was the help we received from others in order to get us out of the sticky patch that we were in. The second day, I mostly remember the amazing landscape of ‘Les Terres Noires’ towards the end of the race and the Via Ferrata that brought the final stages of the event to a close. Nicolas helped enormously with logistics especially when it came to the orienteering task, his knowledge of symbols on the map being most impressive!


N.R. One of my favorite memories was of the 3rd day and the enigmas set for the orienteering event, we had to find letters that when put together spelt out ‘team spirit’, original and fun! We had a bit of a hard time the day after when an error at the beginning of the orienteering meant that we lost quite a lot of time. We managed to win back some of that time over the course of the day only to have some more bad luck when a sprocket broke on one of the bikes which meant finishing the race on foot.


S.S. The 3rd day was the hardest because it was the longest (65km) and began with a descent of 2000 meters. The hiking poles came in very handy when confronted with steep trails. There was a great deal of activity on the 4th day: running, cycling, canoeing, archery, running and cycling. All in all a fine souvenir in spite of the problems we encountered.


N.R. The 5th and last day was inaugurated beautifully by a night run and cycling event wearing frontal torches. As a team we were on top form: we finished first after having put distance between ourselves and our rival teams during the cycling part of the event.


S.S. I totally agree: it was definitely worth getting up at 3am in spite of the technical difficulties. We had two bikes for the four of us, two members of the team went ahead on foot, and those of us on bikes caught up with them and so forth. We handled it perfectly and ended up winning the final event… We came third in the overall ranking!


N.R. I would like to add that the whole week was an excellent experience: the general atmosphere, evenings spent in good humor, slideshows of the days’ events, meeting the students and the various partners from different companies of which Total was, of course, present.


S.S. Every night, at dinner, prizes were given to the winning teams of the day: a heart-warming and unforgettable adventure.


Your overall assessment of this adventure?


S.S. We loved everything: the organization, the trials, the atmosphere, landscapes… A big thank you to Total who financed our participation. The very same night we all swore to enlist for the next year if at all possible!


N.R. Very satisfying! I particularly enjoyed the sportsmanship of this Raid: with the opposing teams we would encourage each other the moment our paths crossed. The willingness of our own team to help out: over and above the differences in sporting levels, we were always there for one another, something that enabled us to build and realize a collective performance.