BIKEPACKER SEIDL SNATCHED GOLD FROM THE FIRST YEAR OF IBERICA TRAVERSA MARATHON
14. 05. 2019
I took part in Iberica Traversa 2019 race this April. It is a bikepacking race where racers ride 24/7 without any backup or support team. The only thing racers have to do is to follow the trail which they have in their GPS navigation. Everyone decides about their own riding time, breaks for food, rest or sleep. The race route started in Tarifa, the southernmost point of Spain and at the same time the southernmost point of continental Europe and led us northwards through the mountains, forests, country lanes and even deserts, across the whole Spain to the French town of Saint-Jean-De-Luz on the Atlantic shore and it was 1,710 km long.
I signed up for the race sometime in November and started the preparation at the beginning of December. In addition to bike training, I also included cross-country skiing and swimming in my physical training routine. The main part, of course, was the bike. Mere physical preparation would not have been enough, though. It was necessary to prepare and properly test the equipment and also to study where the track would lead and what to be ready for. It was the first year of the race, which made it much more challenging because no one knew what they would be going into, and there was no experience of participants from the previous years to draw from. On the other hand, the bigger the adventure it was for us all. So in winter I weighed every gram of equipment and tested how to pack everything in the bike bags, but also how to unpack the sleeping bag and the sleeping pad as quickly as possible and lie down in a bivouac and how to pack up as quickly as possible so that all the tasks are automated and you do not waste any time during the race.
We experienced almost everything that can be encountered in Spain in April in the course of the race. It was sultry and cold, there was drought and rain, we even rode across snow fields as the remainder of a snow blizzard, which had been there perhaps only a week before the start, in one of the mountainous sections. The temperatures ranged between -2 °C and +40 °C, so we really tried everything. In the first days, we were plagued by intense heat and we had trouble getting enough water at all times. Then the temperature dropped rapidly and we rode for two and a half days in continuous rain, or better, in a downpour, and it was nearly impossible to keep warm. When the rain had finally stopped and the track started to dry, we had to be extra vigilant because there were mud traps on the trail stretching for several kilometres. The mud stuck to the bike and there was no way out but to carry the bike on your back together with all the baggage.
Each participant goes through some sort of a crisis at a race like this. The worst one for me came on the very first day when I had run out of water in the heat in the mountains and the nearest place for replenishment was further 20 km ahead. I needed 60 more kilometres to recover from it. On the other hand, the most beautiful moments for me were sunrises or breathtaking views, which we could enjoy countless times.
From the performance point of view, the race was a success above all expectations. From the first day I tried to stay in the lead and together with Nicola Canziano from Italy, we disengaged from the rest of the racers and gradually increased our lead. Then the race turned into our duel. Each of us was in the lead for an hour or two, depending on who had a better day. After 8 days, 9 hours and 28 minutes we reached the finish line together on the shared first place. Another racer, Alexandre Antrope (FRA) reached the finish 22 hours later. The fourth person to cross the finish line was my good friend Jesse Blough (USA), with whom we had travelled together for 200 km from Malaga Airport to the starting line before the race. All the others gave up the race, which proves how difficult it was and what conditions we faced.
I brought so many experiences from the race that it would be enough for two lives. I saw an amazing landscape and I got to know Spain definitely much more than an ordinary tourist. What's more, I also met a lot of great people, both racers and locals, during random meetings on the route.Luboš Seidl