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.