"What is good? What is bad?"
As we rode up to a huge German chap on Day 3 of our 'race' we
were starving. We had ridden 150km that day, and only eaten 2
bananas so far...
We saw him leaving a village and asked if there was a village
shop there. He looked totally glazed so I repeated and asked if
there was any good food there. And he gave this amazing slow shrug
of his massive shoulders and said in his best 'Arnie' voice
"What is good? What is bad?". Which is either unbelievably
profound, or just the words of someone totally f*cked.
I was in Portugal, taking part in the inaugural BikingMan Portugal event. BikingMan
is a series of ultracycling events held around the world, where
your time is the 'gun time' and all stops and sleeps count towards
total time (hint: the winners don't sleep much).
They market this event as a 'sprint' as its only 950km
long - some events are 4000km! (for more details on the route
profile and our preparation, see
our recent blog).
Ultra riding is a growing genre, events like the Trans
Continental Race have inspired Instagram devotees and have exploded
It's a million miles from the world of road racing, skin suits
and marginal gains. Here you can lose days, not seconds, with the
wrong kit choice. I was keen to give it a bash; but very happy that
I was going as a pair with Ashley who was also keen to wet his
Hilariously Ash and I had only ever 'spoken' via email. We had
never met face to face and certainly not ridden together. So...
nothing like 950km to get to know one another (or massively fall
Both of us had done Iron Man events before and we both agreed
the lead up to this was very relaxed in comparison; there is no
pressure to eat well the day before to top up the glycogen. We even
had beers on the flight out. The shock!
But at the same time we were very conscious there is limited
support out there - you are given a GPS tracker on your bike and
that's it. There are no feed stops, no neutral support, no team
support. You carry everything with you. If it goes wrong, it can go
I slightly terrified Ash by asking him how to navigate by GPS:
all my head units have GPS but I only use them to analyse data
post-ride. I'd never ever used one to follow a saved route before.
Ash did his best to underplay his shock, but you could tell he was
thinking who was this clown he had signed up to ride with. As usual
I'd dived headlong into the event without a whole load of planning,
having to borrow some essential kit from colleagues; lights from
Rowan and Apidura bags (which proved to be excellent) from Rob.
Ash, on the other hand, was fantastic at pre-race prep. He had
recced the entire route in advance and knew the location of all the
petrol stations and supermarkets along the way. I'd done none of
this! It was a super competitive advantage because you knew exactly
how far to go before the next food and water. His planning and
attention to detail made all the difference, and I am very grateful
to him for that.
below: the faces of two men who don't know what they've let
themselves in for