How does a day look like when riding 1300km in 8 days – Day 3 of Bikegear.cc The Ride

1300km in 8 stages with start and finish in different places.

In addition to riding for more than 5+ hours per day, there is much more to do to keep the wheels moving – literally.

Here is an overview of my “typical” day during ‘The Ride‘:

By now, day 3, I have settled into the rhythm what it means to be part of The Ride – the cycling challenge that goes from Italy to the Netherlands through 8 countries in 8 stages.

The day starts around 4am. Usually I wake up to go to the bathroom. While contemplating if I could wait it out or if I really should go through the procedure – scrambling myself out of the sleeping bag, putting shoes on, unzipping the tent, half-sleep walking to the bathroom and then remembering where my tent was afterwards – I often lied on my air mattress long enough that when I made a decision I was already fully awake. So I went.

But, usually there was a wave effect. One person unzipped the tent and then the next and the next. Everyone seemed to wake up at the same time for the same reason.

In the morning, there are certain things everyone is doing, only the sequence is different depending on the type of morning person one is: Breakfast, putting clothes on, packing, bringing bags to the truck, getting the bike ready and lining up at the start line.

My priority was coffee. Everything else could wait.

Everyone had their own strategy to get themselves ready for the 8am start.

At the start line, we would start in groups of around 10 in one minute intervals to avoid a big group on the road.

For directions, we would follow the GPS routes that were given to us. Or follow other riders.

Today were 200km ahead of us crossing Switzerland. Only one major climb but multiple minor hills. After I was pushing hard the previous two days, my goal was to take it easy today. Enjoy the ride. Stop for coffee if there is a chance and only push hard during the challenge segment.

I found myself in several groups from time to time, did stop for coffee and did push hard up the timed segment. Everything went according to plan. Except one thing. I underestimated the heat!

It was sunny and very warm.

Because of the headwind, I didn’t realize how much water I was losing. It came with a bang: dizziness, feeling sick to my stomach and my blood felt like it was boiling.

I knew I am getting into trouble. I told my group that I needed some water. We would stop at the next water fountain. Luckily, one of the event-supporting motorbikes passed by and he gave me a bottle. Instead of drinking, it went straight over my head.

I felt like a million bucks.

After a long, hot day in the saddle, we arrived at around 16:00 at our destination, the next camping ground in Sempach, Switzerland.

From there on, I resumed the routine: After signing in and some post-ride soup, I collected my bags from the truck and put all my belongings into one free of the 260 tents that have been assembled by the event volunteers before our arrival. All were equipped with air mattresses. The only thing you need is a sleeping bag. What a service!

Beautiful Switzerland

After choosing a tent (and remembering which one I chose), it was time to locate the showers, then recharging all devices at the massive recharge station, then maybe a free massage. When writing this, it sounds like everything is going quite quick – but far from it. The beauty of everyone staying at the campground is to be able to catch up with the fellow riders, getting to know the tent neighbors while sharing stories about the stage. I got fully absorbed by the cycling atmosphere. My world has become a small bubble. And I loved it. I only had to worry about cycling to the Netherlands.

Laundry is another task post-ride

At 19:30 dinner was served, prepared by a chef of one of the Pro Tour teams. It hit the spot. A combination of good carbs, meat and salads. We were sitting on benches under a tent with a stage at the front which gave me a bit of an Oktoberfest feeling. Thanks to the organizer there was always a great vibe because Carlo used to be part of a rock band. So he definitely knows how to put on a show!

At 20:30 everyone assembled at the tent for the daily meeting. The organizers Gijs and Carlo talked about the happenings of the day, the route for the following day, the challenge winners and a video that summarized the emotions and actions of the day.

 

By 21:00 after the meeting, a lot of people went straight to their tents. I was never able to go to sleep right away because the video got me too fired up and excited for the day ahead.

Bikegear.cc The Ride 2017 – Etappe 3 – Kleine Reuzen from CuttoblackNL on Vimeo.

Around 23:00 I found myself in the tent studying the course for the next day. I got excited again. It didn’t help. I knew I had to sleep soon because at 4am I would have the contemplation with myself again whether I should get up or not.

Monika, good night! Go to sleep!

Awww….loving it, living the European cycling adventure!

 

Thanks to Eppo Karsijns from Red Pixl Media for the fantastic pictures!

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Day 2 of The Ride: A test of physical and mental limits: How I won it!

The Ride. Day 2

Waking up in my camp, I was tired and groggy. It was 5am. I might have slept for 5 hours. The anticipated coffee got me out of the tent.

Today’s stage was 142km long with 3150m of elevation all done in two climbs: Spluegen Pass (30km/1817m elevation gain, 6% average) and Glas Pass (11km/1145m of elevation gain, 10.4% average).

This stage tested us not only physically but it had a huge mental component. The timed segment for this stage was on Glas Pass, the last 30km. The ascent was the same as the descent with the finish line conveniently located at the bottom of the climb. Thus, it was not necessary to climb up Glas Pass to reach the finish line. However, to stay in the overall challenge, you need to complete the cruel climb, no matter how much you want to turn into the finish line before that.

So what is Glas Pass? Chances are you never have heard of it. Me neither. Since the climb does not lead anywhere it cannot be incorporated into a loop. It starts from the bottom of Thusis and climbs up an exposed grassy mountain side with an average of 10.4%. Three of the last kilometers averaging 15%. (For comparison, Alpe d’Huez is 14km with 8% average, steepest part 14%).

Because of sunny and warm weather we would be getting baked heading up this climb. For me, there was no opt-out. I needed to do this climb. I wanted to stay in the competition.

I started with a group of guys which quickly left me behind. Now it was only me. I had to keep myself motivated. At first, thoughts crossed how much time I would lose in this challenge. I was going up in snail tempo. It was so hot. There was no single tree that would just give a second of relief from the burning sun and heat. With the exposed area comes that you also can see far ahead. It would stay steep. This is going to be a killer climb. Keeping my motivation and focus up was key!

I settled into a pace that I thought I could sustain.

A few kilometers into the climb, I found myself with a few other struggling cyclists. Looking at their faces I knew I was not alone. My thoughts about the challenge have evaporated. This climb was about completing it, that was an accomplishment by itself. Instead of focusing how I felt, I wondered what the other guys were thinking? Maybe they are struggling even more than I.

I started to thank my body for no significant injuries and for going through this struggle with me without major complaints. I told myself that I am fortunate to be out here and to do this. Just because it is tough is no reason to give up. Quite the opposite, that is the best time to excel, to show myself what I can achieve.

So instead of thinking of how many cruel kilometers are ahead, I celebrated the ones behind me. I also compared this climb to other challenges that were more difficult than that to gain perspective. Is it really that bad, Monika?

After the last brutal kilometers of 15% gradient I was approaching the finish line. Big cheering and clapping brought me across the line. There was a special atmosphere among the finishers waiting at the top. This was not just another climb. This was a true test for our physical and mental limits. And we did it!

Tomorrow will be another test – a test that required a bit more creativity to get me going.


Day 1 of The Ride: When Stelvio is only the beginning

What a beautiful start of the event it was. Sunny and warm. I looked around at the start line. You could feel the excitement but also the nervousness of everyone embarking this big ride. In 8 days we would be in the Netherlands but until we have a long trip ahead of us. And we are not taking the easiest route.

Day 1 proved the point.

We would be facing three challenging climbs: Stelvio from the Prato side (26km/1800m of elevation gain/7.7% average gradient), Foscagno (22km/1000m/3.5%) and Bernina Pass (4km/300m/7.1%).

129km was the route with over 3900m of elevation gain. This would be the shortest of all 8 stages.

Although this event is non-competitive, it has a competitive component. Each stage has a timed segment– the challenge – where you can test your legs. The accumulation of the times led to an overall challenge winner.

For stage 1 we would be timed on Stelvio Pass. As I like the idea of testing my legs, I gave everything climbing up the first climb. Exhausted at the top I had to remind myself that I just completed 30km out of 129km route. Wow! This would be a long day.

Stelvio in the direction Bormio.

And yes, it was.

But along the way, I started to get to know my ride mates. And I tended to ride with a few people for the entire route. Today I did not know yet that I would see those guys for the entire 8 days along the route. We would get to know our strengths and weaknesses very well. We would challenge each other and support one another.

But today, those guys were strangers.

The first day seemed like an epic one-day challenge. I didnt feel like that this was just the beginning of 8 tough but beautiful, memorable days.

The only thing that gave a hint of what is coming up was the camping part. Instead of packing up my stuff and go home like during a normal weekend ride, I shared a camp ground with 260 other participants.

So which one was mine?

Picking a tent was quite easy. Look for one that is free and throw your stuff inside. Now, it is yours. Then, only remember which one of the 260 blue tents was yours. This might be the difficult part.

As I am not used to camping, this would be one of the biggest challenges for me during this trip. Getting enough sleep.

But it is still early to tell what made this event so special. Tomorrow would be the first of many tests that give The Ride some touches I will never forget.

With no earplugs or eye cover I tried to sleep. Beginner mistake. It was my first night in a tent in 20 years.

I would need to learn how to camp again. I had another 7 days to figure it out.

In the next post, I will write about how I dealt with the steep, hot and long Glass Pass – a climb that left many turn around early because of its cruelty.


1300km with 17000m of elevation gain in 8 days – BIKEGEAR.CC THE RIDE –

A few months ago I googled about epic cycling events in Europe and I came across a Dutch cycling event called “Bikegear.cc The Ride”. 1300km from Stelvio (Italy) to Cauberg (Netherlands) in 8 days through 8 countries.

I was immediately hooked.

How awesome would it be to ride through Europe, especially that particular route: from the Italian Alps to the Flatlands through regions that are world famous for cycling.

I got very excited. I had to do it!
1300km in 8 days is already an impressive ride. The 17000m (!!!) elevation gain would make this event a real epic ride. Throw in camping and you got a complete adventure.

Soon enough I was registered.

One day before the event start, I signed the white board in Prato alla Stelvio. I looked around. Participants from all stages of life and fitness levels made up a peloton of 260 cyclists. Now, we are strangers. But soon enough, faces become familiar, riding styles recognizable and the morning faces at 5:30am memorable.

Surrounded by snowcapped mountains it was hard to believe we would be in the flattish Netherlands in 8 days. Joining this event alone, I was excited to get to know the other participants, helping each other, suffering together and exchanging stories of our days.

Before getting into what really happened behind the scenes each day, I want to share a few details about the event itself. The organization was absolutely top notch! Although all communication was in Dutch, I knew exactly where and when to be. The camp sites were professionally set up with everything what I needed. An entire camp village moved with The Ride. All tents were set up before we arrived, a recharge station for phones and bike computers, free massages, dinner prepared by Pro Tour chefs and an event atmosphere that clearly indicated that the organizer knew a thing or two about putting on a show.

8 days later having arrived in Valkenburg, I would never have thought that I would feel as I do now. I am incredibly exhausted having ridden 50+ hours in the last 8 days. I am extremely tired from sleeping 4-5 hours a day.

But all these are minor disturbances compared to that huge feeling of accomplishment and achievement. This ride put me through extreme ups and down – physically and mentally. Events occurred I could have never foreseen: a tire explosion and close elimination from the event, severe heat exhaustion, picking the right fights, a nasty descending crash, my pursuit for supermarket pic-nics and the dedication of another cyclist becoming such an incredible teammate that showed once again to me that cycling with a team is so much more fun than a solo goal.

I will also share how I recovered after each stage, what I ate and what I think is important along the way – especially when I was mentally and physically exhausted.
But let’s start from the beginning. Day 1: From Prato alla Stelvio to Silvaplana. 129km with 3900m of elevation with Stelvio, Foscagno and Bernina Pass. For those who have been in that region know that this ride by itself would be tough enough. How I managed to make it even tougher on day 1 will be in the next post.