950km of riding, 10,000m of climbing, against the clock (with a 5 day/120 hour time limit)...
Ultracycling is not for the faint-hearted, but it's an amazing challenge.
From 23rd to 27th September the BikingMan series hits Portugal, and Bespoke founder Barry is taking part.
The BikingMan races are well organised, competitive events, complete with GPS tracking for each rider, but once you're on the route you're unsupported - riders must carry everything they're likely to need for the duration (and they are free to rest as little, and wherever, they can in the search for the fastest time).
below: the race route - see an interactive version at ridewithgps.com/routes/30298083
Barry and his riding companion Ash will be bringing us a post-race report, but in the meantime here's a look at the event, and their preparation:
The BikingMan ultracycling races are unassisted (without external assistance). This is the ultimate endurance challenge for athletes that are ready to cycle unassisted in all kinds of terrain and weather conditions.
The 2019/20 season is composed of 6 races and brings together some of the most demanding climatic and topographic conditions on the planet. From the desert of Oman, to the stunning mountains of Corsica, the jungle of Laos, the high altitude of the Peruvian Andes, the extreme south-west of Portugal and mountainous Taiwan...
Ashley and I had talked about doing these style of events for 6
months. He called my bluff by entering it himself, and saying we
could always swap into a pair. Gauntlet thrown...
I think we both thought being a pair was a nice intro into this scary world. Likewise Portugal is an "easy" intro (relative term!) into Ultracycling, compared to Bikingman Oman, Peru etc.
But who calls 950 km a sprint?!? Bikingman are not messing about - they categorise their events as either "Sprint" (actually meaning an epic) or a "Divide" (meaning something even more challenging).
If you go as a pair with your childhood friend or brother it's easy to be honest with each other. Ashley and I have never ridden together, so we'll be learning on the road. He has done some recce and equipment checks. I have done nothing...
When we first started talking it was clear 3 legs of 350 km and we sleep each night at a hotel in checkpoints. But we've one day to go before departure for Portugal and Ash is now saying if we bring double lights we can ride through the night... Can we be the first pair?
Amazing how the nerves and adrenaline rush in the lead up to the event can change your perspective!
It's definitely easier being a pair, riding as a shared adventure. But at the same time having a ride compantion also brings pressure not to let your mate down by poor performance or mechanical issues. So it's a double-edged sword, but on balance I'm glad to have a riding partner.
below: Ash's OPEN set up in test configuration
Here's Ash's list of what he's likely to take (although this is subject to refinements right up to departure!). This is very much a "trying to think of everything" list...
We'll revisit it post-event and see what was the most useful, what (if anything) he could have done without, and how it performed: