A story of hardtek, hallucinations, riding with a flat and half-naked cyclist
Rodney Soncco won the 1st stage of BikingMAN Challenge 2017 in Oman
1066km in 46 hours (total ride time 43h00m07s).
On a Bice bicycle created specifically for Rodney’s hard pushing pedalling style!
And here is Rodney’s Bikingman Oman Report (slightly late ehm..)
Recounting this experience is not easy at all. I don’t really know where to start so let’s start at my arrival in Oman, an amazing country. I landed on the 24th of February and, once out of the airport, I immediately jumped on by Bice bicycle. That’s when the adventure began. I rode 60km from Muscat to Al Nadha Resort in Barka where I met up with my good friend Axel Carlon, who I had met at the Inca Divide, as well as all the other participants in the race.
Ready? Steady? Go!
After the presentation breifing and equipment check, I got to know the other 30 cyclists with whom I’d share the next kilometers, sweat and strain. I tried to sleep. But the tension I felt made me rise early and I had breakfast at 1.30am. I ate to bursting to gain (stock) as much energy as I could.
It was 3am: everybody was nervous and ready on the start grid. Suddenly, the start. We all began to pedal at a good pace, some on one side of the road and some on the other side. After all, who’s around at 3 in the morning? I mean, who’s around at 3 in the morning on a bike? I mean: who’s around at 3 in the morning, by bike, in the desert?!
Bulky legs and great pace
I was confident in my strength so after a couple of hours, 5 racers and I left the big group and started to proceed at a faster pace. Everything was ok for the first 325km, physically speaking, and I passed the time munching a mix of dry fruit I had just bought and some sweet bars that Marcus George Leach gave me. The wind was constantly blowing against us.
At last, here it comes! The hill and the fun with it! 20km to get to the first checkpoint at the top of the Jebel Shams. But after each turn, there was a wall!
The bar-based diet worked: after climbing strenuously I managed to reach the checkpoint where I could finally have some proper food. I was starving. I scarfed down four plates of pasta and refilled my water supply within 20 minutes and set off again. Afterwards, at 6pm, surrounded by the dark, I started the descend, meeting those who were still getting to grips with the climb.
Hardteck and hallucinations
The slope was ending and I started to feel my head heavy and my eyes starting to droop. I decided to stop and sleep for 20 minutes. I set off to cover the last 250km to the second checkpoint. I pedaled all night through the hills, giant lampposts and shadows, listening to music to distract myself from this huge effort and struggle. Hardteck to keep pushing into this all night party!
It was 4 in the morning and my brain was going crazy. I needed to sleep a bit more, I decided conceed myself a half an hour nap. As soon as I stopped, I noticed Jason Black passing by. I couldn’t stand the challenge! I started again, I caught up with him and we had a chat. He hadn’t slept yet either. My mind started to play tricks on me. I could see shadows trying to catch me. I was having hallucinations! Pushing on the pedals became very hard due to the lack of sleep and food. I held steady for 30 km and finally I reached the second checkpoint where I stuffed myself.
A ride with Jason
Jason and I decided to rest for an hour (I would have gone mad otherwise): 650km ridden in 27 hours is madness! Soon after we left, Jason asked me whether I needed something to eat and he gave me a handful of energy bars. We rode together, there were only 420 km left, but being in the desert at 1 pm is not a piece of cake! It’s always too hot and the wind kept blowing against us.
Jason got back to back flat tyres. I lent him one of my tubes (to show my gratitude for the snacks that would help me till the end) and it was like being in a Formula one pit stop. We kept getting off the bikes to fix the tyre to move on. At a certain point in the afternoon, we were eating a hamburger, I saw a cyclist wearing white, with bags, passing by. I said: “Jason! Someone has just overtaken us! I can’t say who he is! Let’s go! Hurry up!” We left, looking for the mysterious cyclist, speeding at 35/40 km per hour for more than 40 minutes, but there was no trace of him. We stopped and took out the mobile, to check who he was. No one was ahead of us. Was it a hallucination?
Giving makes everybody happy and you lighter.
There were many turns now and I was still riding against the wind. My ears were burning, and I was running out of water, but I din’t want to stop.
My phone started to ring like crazy. Everybody wanted tell me that Bastien Fontaine had been disqualified due to drafting. He had been 80 km ahead of me, going at an average of 27km/h. It would have been impossible to overtake him. I had resigned myself to fight for second place when, in the blink of an eye, I was defending first place!
I increased the pace. I had to move as much as I could away from the second place holder (Paul Albaek in that moment). I reached a seaside city and I decided to get rid of the extra weight I was carrying. I gave away my main bike light and some clothes to a passerby who was kind of surprised. Thinking back on it now, I don’t think that made my bike lighter. But it surely worked from a mental point of view: to me, I was 2 kilos more agile.
I went on pedaling non stop all afternoon long. It was 7 in the evening when the organizer came to me saying that Paul was just 6 km from me. I thought “I must push harder or he’ll catch me”. 200 km still to go. “How can I keep a 40km/h average speed? On top of that, I have no water left. But I can do it!”. I believed in that. Really I did. So off I went, 40km per hour down those infinitely long and straight omani roads that remind me of Italian highways.
100 km remaining, and I had completely run out of water. My body hadn’t been sweating for 30 minutes and there were no more petrol stations. How could consume some liquids?! Eureka! I hitchhiked while I was cycling, hoping for someone to stop and help. After a little while, luckily, one car stopped. I wanted to scream with joy. A classy and kind man got out the car. He was pretty surprised: he was standing in front of a half-naked cyclist, in the desert, at night. He gifted me with a 1 litre bottle of water and he became my personal angel. I thanked him a million times, I ate and drank and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. 1000km done, 50 to finish. I felt I could do it!
Keep riding Shut up rim!
I was following the GPS signal. I only had an emergency light that was too weak, but still good enough to let me notice the asphalt turning into gravel. Gravel! That wasn’t said in the map! Was this the surprise the organizers had talked about? I was anyhow enjoying the gravel when I got a flat tyre. And in the meantime a dreadful doubt came into my mind: had I taken a wrong path? “Oh gosh oh gosh I can’t stop to fix the tube. Paul is close. I have to move on”. I decided not to stop. 18km per hour with a puncture. My stress levels spiked! “When is this hell of a dirt track going to finish?!” An hour later the road got so steep that looked like a straight mountain of tar. “Rodney don’t give up. Keep pushing. You’re almost there. It won’t be long ” I kept repeating to myself.
6 km left. I mustered up all the remaining energy I could. Still had a flat tire.
A white jeep overtook me, followed by the flashing lights of a police car. I wondered what had happened, but I kept pedaling with the rim screeching on the tarmac. Behind me, a car. Suddenly, I got it: I could see many lights, people cheering and spurring, other flashing lights and finally, the chequered flag! It was finished!
I couldn’t believe it! I was the first one!
I got off the bike immediately, I took out my card and I asked for the last stamp, at 1.17 am.
1066 km covered in 46 hours.
Just the time for some photos, some calls home and some interviews and I fell asleep on a mattress.
The days after were all parties, relax, sun, sea, beers, laughs and fun with the new friends.
I can say I really had fun, I went beyond the limits as I had never done before, I learnt how to manage my energy, to cope with stress and strain and above all, I met amazing people. I was, and I am, truly happy.
Now it’s time for Corsica. I can’t wait to start this new adventure!