It’s a cold morning in Geneva. It’s January 15th 2019. The “New Year, New Me” leitmotiv is swinging to and fro among friends still recovering from New Year’s eve hangover… And yet today I am expecting news that might change my 2019 Summer for good. Actually, now that I think of it, it might change me, as a person, for the rest of my life. It’s been a bit more than a fortnight that I completed my registration to the Silk Road Mountain Race 2019; a 6-page questionary inquiring about my cycling experience, my race manual knowledge and my aptitude to deal with difficult and tense moments on the field. Why? Because this race is a 1670km unsupported ride across Kyrgyzstan, in the middle of mountains and deserts. The total amount of vertical climb is mind-boggling: 26’000m. The positive or negative answer is expected by the end of today. Still, for a man who’s never been out of the Western world, who’s never cycled outside a sleek paved road and who doesn’t even have a gravel/hard tail MTB… I am strangely calm. Faith isn’t in my hands… yet.
“Why on Earth did you register to this race then?!” you would ask me. Well, I am no stranger to the cycling effort. I have cycled my way through life since my memory started to work. I used to cycle in the Dolomites with my dad, on a steel bike way too big for me, and with a helmet that wouldn’t pass any present safety test… #90sThrowback . During my College years, I used to dance around cars on my bike from one street to another in the middle of Geneva’s traffic jams while carrying parcels back & forth (I will probably write an article about that experience)… From that day onwards, things grew exponentially. I purchased my first bike: a carbon fiber Trek Emonda SL6, I started to take part in sportives in Switzerland and then exported myself to Italy and France. I was literally exuberant and my eyes were shining at each event’ starting line. “Race” mode was on (I’ll write a bespoke article on this matter too!)! After two years of discoveries, I started to become jaded… mostly due to crowdedness of those events. I quickly became in need for new experiences that I could only find by racing against myself. That’s how I got acquainted with the world of ultra-cycling. For me, ultra-cycling is first of all a solo discipline, where you ride with the purpose of discovering different landscapes at different times of the day (from dusk til dawn) with different levels of energy. A total new experience even though my bike tours consisted in home-to-home loops. My ultra-cycling experience climax happened in 2016, when I registered and successfully completed the Tour du Mont Blanc with less than 3’000km in my legs! All this ultra-cycling in my “backyard”, enlightened me to look for something more profound and meaningful: the quest for mindfulness on my bike. That’s why I decided to revive my love & hate relationship with going-out-of-my-comfort-zone thing, by registering to the SRMR 2019.
That’s how I am presently checking my inbox every 5 minutes, expecting that little “+1” sign! Mind you, in these last 14 days I have been checking every bikepacking forum and website in order to get the feeling of what might expect me… it’s scary and exciting!
11:07 “Ding”! I forgot I had turned the notifications on for this special event; the email sender is Silk Road Mountain Race. My heart beat feels like I was on a 9% slope… I hurriedly open the email and before I even start to read it, my mind is playing tricks on me; I picture myself reading one of the hundreds of letters I received back from companies to which I sent my application, starting with “We appreciate your interest in our company… blablabla After reviewing the applications blablabla yours was not selected for further consideration.”… “Keep calm Stef, and carry on!” I tell myself (I feel like this sentence will be my 2019 mantra).
SH*T JUST GOT REAL!