48 years of behind-the-scenes stories from Southwest Cross

1 1974: Pilgrimage to the Spaniards

In 1966, Jean-Claude Bottain, then a teacher of physical education and sports and director of the athletics department of Gujan-Mestras, organized the first challenge in the Louis-Bezian stadium, behind the town hall. “But in 1971, with the Gironde tournament held in Chant-Segall, we thought we could organize…

1 1974: Pilgrimage to the Spaniards

In 1966, Jean-Claude Bottain, then a teacher of physical education and sports and director of the athletics department of Gujan-Mestras, organized the first challenge in the Louis-Bezian stadium, behind the town hall. “But in 1971, with the Gironde tournament held in Chant-Segales, we thought we could stage a mass event. We were inspired in everything by what Le Figaro was doing,” he recalls.

Franco’s dictatorial regime was still in place. To come to Gujan-Mestras and run there was a pilgrimage.”


Racing photo, dating back to 1977.

SO Archives

“From the start we had 3,000 entrants, including more than 600 Spanish riders. Franco’s dictatorial regime was still in place. Coming to Gujan-Mestras and running there was a pilgrimage. This year it was Fernando Aguilar, from Aeron, who won the race The first is for Aces.

2 From 1977: Celebrities on the starting line

Multiple world and Olympic champion Carlos López ran the cross country in 1977. “The Portuguese community came to see and support him. We made 2,500 more entries, around his name alone!” Jean-Claude Poutine recalls quoting, in his wake, As Race Plateau, from Guy Drouet, to Alain Mimoun, via Michel Gassy or Jean Galfione.

Guy Drot during his participation in the cross.


Guy Drot during his participation in the cross.

Michael Andre

  • Athletes Alex and Francis Gonzalez with Thierry Watris.


    Athletes Alex and Francis Gonzalez with Thierry Watris.

    Jean Francois Grost

  • French champion Joëlle Debrouwer at the Cross


    French Champion Joëlle Debrouwer at the Cross “Sud Ouest” (end of the 70s).

    Jean Francois Grost

In the 1990s, at its peak, Cross Sud Ouest drew more than 20,000 people in two days.

3 1999: Sand from the Dunes rescues cross-country

In 1999, the Chante Cigale terrain had not yet settled down. The rains did not stop during the month of October, and the water reached 50 centimeters in some places. “The mayor then supported the abolition,” Jean-Claude Poutine recalled.

And then, on Wednesday evening, Robert Lefort, who was working as an assistant at the time, explained during a security meeting that he might have the solution. He’s making his earthmoving company available to us, and all night long his trucks will be driving to bring sand to the site for greater absorption. as much water as possible.” The sand that Lefort will bring… At the foot of the dunes of Pilate.

Here, they compete in slushies.


Here, they compete in slushies.

Bonaud clouds

4 1991: Georges Marchais and Catherine Lalumiere are announced

“In 1991 we had the idea to camouflage two runners,” Jean-Claude Poutine still smiles. “I was animating on the microphone and announcing an exceptional turnout for lunch on Sunday. I saw the gathering and said: Here are Georges Marchais and Catherine Lalumiere! »

Georges Marchais, Jacques Chirac or Catherine Lalumiere: contestants continued to dress as political figures.


Georges Marchais, Jacques Chirac or Catherine Lalumiere: contestants continued to dress as political figures.

Southwest Archives

The joke, he recalled, did not satisfy the purists. However, there is a credible joke in that, every Saturday of the appearance of the cross, political figures follow each other at the table of Michel Bizian who was the historical mayor of Gauguin Mistra from 1965 to 2006.

Well, for a while we were invaded by snakes and rats … “

5 Under the mound, partition stumps

Wanting to add excitement to the course, which is considered to be very flat, its organizers thought of creating a hill. Thanks to the construction of the Chante-Cigale division, they succeeded. “We piled logs and debris from the ground,” Jean-Jacques Germaneau recalls. “Well, for a while we were invaded by snakes and rats…”

During the women's aces race, the mound is a selection item.


During the women’s aces race, the mound is a selection item.

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Jean-Jacques Germaneau specifies that the mound, which has since been reconstructed and concreted, has become a real subject of choice for runners.

6 Trucks and post offices strike

If Jean-Jacques Germaneau remembers the truckers’ strike that lifted on Friday evening, the day before the cross, leaving in its wake many clubs on the ground, Jean-Claude Poutine recalls with greater ease the post office strike.

“In the 1980s… while we were managing all the postal commitments, the Postal Service, Telegraph and Telephone went on strike. We continued to receive recordings throughout the next year!”

7 Shepherds who mobilized

“When Coca-Cola announced its sponsor, the teachers refused to allow the children to use the designated entrance,” recalls Jean-Claude Bottin. On the other hand, when the Poulain Chocolate Company announced that it was going to distribute a brochure to the participants of the family run, the crowd gathered there. They gave away 1,700 in total! »

The start of one of the first races for children.


The start of one of the first races for children.

Jean Claude Poutine

Until 2002, cross restrictions were paid. “All means were good to participate. We’ve seen people paying for their apron with no intention of running,” smiles Jean-Claude Poutine.

8 2018: The only cancellation

For Jean-Jacques Germaneau, the memory is still painful. That year, at the request of the deputy governor, the cross was abolished for the first time in its existence. “We are in the midst of the yellow vest crisis and the police have been mobilized and the authorities are afraid of the arrival of the demonstrators…” he added.

On November 23, the Saturday afternoon races were canceled due to weather conditions.


On November 23, the Saturday afternoon races were canceled due to weather conditions.

Bonaud clouds

The following year, in 2019, a storm forced him to cancel his Saturday afternoon races. As for 2020, it is the health crisis that prevents the competition from being held on the site. “To continue to exist, we have organized a Connected Cross.”

Last year, in 2021, health passes and masks were mandatory. The 2022 edition truly represents a return to basics.

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About the Author: Irene Alves

"Bacon ninja. Guru do álcool. Explorador orgulhoso. Ávido entusiasta da cultura pop."

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