Team TIME had committed to a 2,200 km bike race between Chengdu to Lhassa from 21st May to 2nd June 2015 to raise funds for CWS’ emergency relief and recovery efforts in Nepal after the devastating earthquake of 25th April. There were 9 riders in the team, including Pierre Arnaud Le Magnan (Founder of Chiru Bikes), Jacky Boisset and Myriam Guillot ( 2 X World Champion of Adventure racing ). Their target was to finish the race within 7 days or a little less and climb over 35,000m D+, with an average riding altitude of 4,000m and 14 passes between 4,500 to 5,000m. Local temperature ranged from -10° C to to 25° C which made it the highest non-stop race in the world and probably the hardest. Team TIME had to adapt to the very cold weather at high altitude, facing snow and icy rain. They only had drop bags, and no assistance was permitted.
During Day 4, only 6 Chinese participants were allowed to enter Tibet. However, other team-members didn’t give up and choose a new road and establish a reference time on another “classic” bike road to LIJIANG. This road was 1,550km, but was in fact much tougher as the road were destroyed and they were sent through trails or very slow roads.
“We are actually very lucky to finish as every day the body /mind / bike wanted to give it up as it did not make much sense to ride in such conditions…but we are no quitter, so we made it to Lijiang.” – Pierre
It was a MASSIVE challenge! What an achievement and well done to you all!
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An already Epic Day One !! all the competitors started together with volunteer pacers taking really at the front of the pack to impose a fast pace from the start ! We finally splitter after the first 100km in the dark as some riders were having technical problems, so we kept riding strong the 3 of us. We arrived in Ya’an at daylight and enjoyed local breakfast street food, while surprised locals were wondering where the hell are we coming from !! The following 100km were not fun at all as road were destroyed an either muddy or full of trucks ! Plenty of stops to clean the bikes and the chain in order to avoid mechanical problems…We were soaked, but managed to dry along the first climb to 2,200m elevation where we had to take a 6km tunnel to reach the Luding valley, with a nice 20km + slippery downhill. Weather got warmer during the day, and we sweated all the way up to Kanding instead of reaching XinDu Qiao 80 km further as we did last year. So we will have a good rest tonight and hoping for an early start tomorrow…
Day 2 Ultimate challenge 2015, Tibet: 155 km, 2,770 m D+. 2 pass at 4,300m: Kanding to Yijiang
Got to taste our first low temperature with 3 to 4 degs, no problem when keep moving !! I had to wait for almost 2 hours at the top of the first 4,300m pass, it was actually very cold as we were trapped in the clouds. Now we are riding on the tibetan part of Sichuan, and the weather is great ! First Tibet Stupa and local architecture are our reward! Wind picked-up, and as usual , it’s not blowing in our back…so we have to keep aero position on the bike in order to make good progress on the flats!! As usual the pass are on muddy road as the tunnels are not yet completed, and it is a real nightmare, trucks, sticky mud…not a pleasant 20km uphill… A t the end of the day we enjoyed the long Downhill to YiJiang , and thanks to the Fludity AKTIV bike helping us to smoothen vibrations from the poor Road conditions, our body is not broken and we are in high spirit so far!! Tomorrow aim is 180 km with several passes up to 4,700 m.
The day started with a long 30 km climb to a 4,700 m pass, with a half climb interlude at a local hostel where a “welcome Tibet scarf” and Yak milk tea were handed over to us for a safe passage. Before reaching the top, a brand new tunnel was awaiting us ( cutting town 400 m climbing), it could have been the effect of the “lucky scarf”!! Further down the road was a non stop roller-coaster riding smooth Silk Road at insane speed before climbing back500 m before heading downhill again !!, all of this between 3,800 to 4,300 !! Our gear-changing skills were also tested several times during the day as we got hit on several occasion by rain and icy-rain. The high elevation of day was strongly felt, and night was not an easy one as sleeping a 4,100 m is not common business !! But nothing can’t be solved with Chinese medicine!
Day 4 Ultimate challenge 2015 : 150 km, 2,000 m D+. 1 pass 4,700m: Litang to Daocheng, 9:00 hrs
Sad news today : Our entry permit to Tibet was denied, we have either to stop at Tibet border or keep riding outside Tibet… New plan is to ride south then !! Towards Lugu lake and Lijiang. We left today Litang (4,200m), one of the highest city in the world road today the smoothest Tarmac since we left Chengdu, the road was perfect!!. We went through 3 different mountain landscape type during the day from no trees cold and dry to warm cultivated valley with more farming land. At the first pass, were initiated to the “holly paper through” which locals practice every time they pass through a monastery or holy mountains. Further down the road, just after Tuer pass ( the rabbit pass due to 2 rocks looking like Rabbit ears on nearby mountain ) We met Leigh from UK who has been cycling for 5 years around the world and clocked 39,000 km so far!! We have unbelievable to have a chat on the side of the road and exchange about our ridings trips, …we had to go as we had to cover some kilometres, but I am sure we will meet again!
Day 5 Ultimate challenge 2015 : 127km, 1,300 m D+. 1 pass 4,500m: Gaocheng to Wo xi, 2,600 m 8:30 hrs ride
Brand new road leading Us to Sichuan Shanghai-La , spirits were high as we enjoyed a nearly 50 km downhill after passing REWU Buddhist temple and Bowa pass at 4,500m elevation.
But this perfect day did not last very long as the dash on the map showing the 216 road quickly turned into a dirt road ( even Flour Dust Road ) where we lost control of our bikes a couple of times. The gorge we followed was very narrow and deep and beautifully rough!! and surprise !!… the road dissapeared into a massive landslide. Locals were not keen to let us go across, but after seeing 2 of them going through, we decided to go as well..this is one of those moments where you hope Mother Nature keep it still…Rocks continue to keep falling while we went through…we were glad to leave this place in one piece and avoid a 500m straight down to the river which we wouldn’t have survived…
We finally road 55 km down this canyon before we found another group of bikers from Kunming who offered us rice and show us place where we could spend the night at a local farmhouse. Very typical and roots !! Day 5 was intense even though we did not cover much, it was for sure a highlight!
Day 6 Ultimate challenge 2015 : 97km, 1,300 m D+. 1 pass 4,400m: Wo Xi to Gu Zheng Xiang, 2,200 m, 10 hrs ride
It was not an easy day as we were still on dirt road the all way, some bad and some worst!! The day started with a 40 km climb to a 4,200 m pass from we could see the jade dragon mountain ( 6,000 m ) in the background. The highlight of the day was our new Tibetan doggy companion which we named “216” ( from the name of the road where he found us ), he followed us for 95 km! But he lost us as we were picking up speed towards the end. The whole team is now sad with no more mascot !! The downhill towards the end was the worst as our hands, neck, and lower back got hammered by the rocky dirt road, we have pushed way beyond the limit of where a road bike could be ridden, and our body and average speed are taking serious toll for it, but that’s part of the adventure I guess…
Day 7 Ultimate challenge 2015 : 100km, 1,600 m D+. Gu Zheng Xiang to Muli, 8 hrs
Our voyage to Lugu Lake is getting more and more complicated and slow as road quality is getting worst! This whole section of the 216 is completely destroyed before being re-built, leaving only few patches of proper road. We have to brake all the time and slow-down our speed as we are loosing control of the bikes…we are biting the dust big time. After couple of stops due to some punctures, landslides ( small and safe ones…) or food stop, we finally reach the holy bridge , full of buddhist prayer fabrics and had to ride another 25km climb to Muli on destroyed road full of trucks ! We were glad to reach Muli and stopped at the Fruit market and ate couple of Kgs of bananas, watermelon, mangos and other local fruits…took us an hour to eat it all..then we were ready to go find a place to sleep.. The bikes made it today, but not sure the bodies can keep going like this in those conditions.. Words from the locals is that the next 100km of road is in worst conditions than what we rode today.
Day 8 Ultimate challenge 2015 : 229km, 2,500 m D+. 1 pass 3,400 m Muli to Lugu lake (2,700m), 13hrs
Really bad internet those last 2 days, sorry for late posting! The 3 of us have recovered from our harsh yesterday’s ride. Despite slight hand and wrist pain, dehydrated lips and face sunburn, our bodies are in quite good shape after more than a week of high altitude and long days in the saddle. It’s agreed among the 3 of us we have to thank the TIME Aktiv fork for taking care of our bodies ( mass damping system minimizing harmful vibrations). Today was no different from yesterday with half of the road being under construction, but I guess it would have been harder for our mind to accept it if the destination would not have been the so much awaited Lugu lake!! The second part of road was of reasonable quality, and we are now riding below 3,000 m with rising temperatures close to 45 degs. We drink more and eat more watermelon to stay hydrated!!
The arrival to Lugu lake late afternoon will leave us a strong memory, this place is pretty!
Day 9 Ultimate challenge 2015 : 203km, 3,000 m D+. 2 pass 3,800m: Lugu lake to Lijiang (2,600 m elevation), 15 hrs
Almost our longest day, although we did not guess it would take us so long!! It all started on a great road, but after about 95 km, the road was again under construction for more than 100 km. We finished in the dark through diversion dirt roads and had to knock at several houses and ask our way as no signage and completely lost at night !! It reminded us a lot with adventure racing !! We finally made it to LIjiang at 10 pm. My friend Alex (a long time Lijiang resident) kindly waited for us before closing his French restaurant. He hydrated and fed us more than we expected to celebrate Jacky’s birthday and the completion of our long bike Odyssey !! We are proud to have completed this tough ride and we hope that completing this crazy challenge will help raise funds for Nepal earthquake!
This is already the end of the trip, it went to fast ! and I guess some figures will talk better than long sentences:
Duration : 9 days
Distance : 1,550 km
Distance on dirt road : 450 km
Total elevation : 16,500 m
Highest pass : 4,700 m
Longest downhill : 60 km
Total flats for 3 bikes : 6
Km ran by 216 the Tibetan doggy : 100
White rice eaten by jacky : 60 bowls
Watermelon : 25 pcs
Banana’s eaten by the 3 of us : 186
And countless other fruits and veggies..
To conclude: Amazing adventure, incredible scenery and incredible life experience!!