The Tortour is known as one of the harder multi-day non-stop ultra-cycling events in the world. The start and finish is in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. The main event – the actual Tortour – leads over several alpine passes around Switzerland and covers 1000 km including 13,000 meters of elevation gain. Our project manager Michael Riehle went out for the sprint route. The sprint route of this year’s “Tortour” – 370 km and 4,600 meters of altitude.
DT Swiss employee Michael Riehle has decided to take on the “Sprint loop” as a solo rider. You need to know that whenever Michael talks about sprint races, most people would call it a multi-day stage tour: 370 km and 4,600 meters of elevation. For Michael, the general rule is „the longer the better“ and when he trains with colleagues they usually get a little tired after 80 km, but this is the when training really starts for him.
Before he actually got started on the 19th of August he needed to fight for his start number. This is what the 800 meter long prolog the day before was about. The fastest rider of the prolog was the first athlete, who started off for the sprint route the next day and all the others followed at appropriate intervals.
To be allowed to race, the athletes had to be equipped regarding to a strict checklist. The bike had to be provided with appropriate lights for the night hours. The riders had to bring reflector and all weather clothing, as well as mobile phone and adequate nutrition. Also the organizer equipped the athletes with a GPS chip to record the time and GPS route data or road book.
At 3 in the morning Michael’s alarm goes off, and since he is not really a morning person, this would have been the worst “tortour” of the day. After a small breakfast and a few last minute preparations, the start gun goes off and he rolled over the start line at exactly 4:26 am. Drafting was strictly forbidden which made it a day to just focus on yourself and deal with or enjoy the solitude. The first two hours were still in the dark and Michael managed to overtake many other participants – at least as far as he could see in the dark. After nearly 200 km he had managed to fight up Pragel pass and contrary to his expectations he still felt outstanding.
Everyone who has done a long race, knows there will be a point of time where you need to deal with some struggles, mentally as well as physically. The way you deal with those situation often determines the outcome of the race. The time between the third and fourth aid and control stations was long: 111 km. It was midday, the sun was up, and there was a lot of traffic on streets. And there it was: After 250 km, the long struggle began. For almost 60 km, our project manager asked himself the question
“Why am I doing this again?”
and said to himself
“This is really the last one!“
At kilometer 320, however, Michael felt increasingly better. A few clouds covered the sun and the ride became more pleasant. Already at this stage in his ride (and not only after finishing the race) he said to himself:
“Actually, this is a cool race. Next year I will definitely participate again.”
Michael stopped to fill his water bottle at a fountain with 40 km to go and was overtaken by three athletes – even by the fastest woman. Of course the ambition was awakened again and he managed to catch and overtake one of the three riders before he crossed the finish line.
At 7:00 pm after a good 14 hours of racing, he finished right in the IWC Arena in Schaffhausen just before the rain started and was promptly rewarded with a medal. What a day. Most other employees would probably ride this tour in 3 to 4 stages.
…But Michael is different. Already two days later he started thinking about racing the 525 km Challenge loop next year. We are excited to see what he decides.