Total race was 780 kms. I stopped in Monreal, 1/3 of the distance done in 2 days.

After just a little over one month after the Basajaun race, I think it is time to write my recap of the event, think about what I like and didn't like, what I got right and wrong in the preparations and in the race and what I've learned if I'm going to do another one of those ultra endurance bike races. Overall it was a very interesting journey that I enjoyed a lot the preparations and learning process, the thinking over and planning several variants of each day depending on performance and accommodations availability and the sense of freedom from riding without pre-determined stops or checks.

Let's start with the end: I abandoned the race on the morning of the third day after riding 323 kms in 24 hours of moving time or 44 hours elapsed time. And more especially after riding 14 hours on the second day and finishing with a very rough night which I couldn't sleep at all due to cramps in my right leg. The decision to leave the race was surprisingly kind of easy: the next phase on the ride would be crossing the Bardenas desert and the expectation was for a hot weather around 45 degrees Celsius. 

Because my leg was cramping so bad during the night, I knew I would suffer severe cramps during the day and I got scared to get stuck in the middle of the desert with complete locked up legs and no place to get water. This has happened to me before and I got stuck for 2 hours. So, despite very disappointed and frustrated, the choice from health and risk point of view was done quickly as I would have to abandoned the race at some point during that day for sure.


TRAINING - But let's go back to the beginning. The very beginning: when I signed up to the race I thought as this is a gravel race, the type of paths and roads will be smooth or loose gravel with gradients around 8 to 10%. Kind of off road rolling hills. So, I created a training plan starting in November focused on endurance and the idea was to be able to ride between 170 to 190 kms per day, maybe 200 kms. The training was comprised of long rides in the weekend at low-mid intensity, only one interval session and one ride tempo session in the week. 

Sadly, that was my first and biggest learning. The terrain of the race at least in the first two days was a 30% gravel, 30% mountain bike, 20% hike & bike/trekking and 20% asphalt. The gravel were OK and as I expected, with ramps around 10% gradient. But there was a lot of MTB trails with very big and loose stones, gradients above 16% and very small paths more akin to the single tracks mtb races we do in South Holland. Worse for me though were the complete off-road or hike and bike places. Areas that you had to walk, carrying your bike (that are heavy as hell) on your back or pushing it thru slippery terrain. More about that below.

All of this to say, my expectation for the race was completely wrong and therefore the training. My plan should have started focusing in strength and muscular endurance and with much higher intensity. Endurance training is a given, but the rides and intervals should have been much harder to prepare me to the very steep climbs. I also should have done a lot of weight training for legs, back & shoulders and core. The mountain bike climbs and especially rocky descends (not to mention carrying the bike) demand a lot from back and shoulders and I had quite some pain at the end of day two. I could see several guys where better overall body fitness managed to climb much better than me. This was a mistake from a road cyclist doing his first gravel ultra endurance event and from lack of knowledge of what to expect. 

Another aspect of the training that didn't help me was the 3 weeks before the race. I had two weeks of vacation with the family and one intense week of work before that. It meant I do much training on those weeks and the fitness could have been much better. I had to balance training, work and family vacations and only managed to do 3 small rides in that period. Looking at fitness level on the graph above (the yellow line), it was a very stable increase until the vacation and then a very steep decrease leaving me with the same fitness of beginning of June. If I had kept riding longer rides, I imagine my fitness and suplesse would be much better at the race day. Even the cramps might not happened as I would have better prepared by training longer with more intensity. If I do this next year, I will try to arrange the vacation AFTER the event, so I can train properly until the race day and use the vacation to recover. 

PLANNING - We received the route just 3 days before the race. That is normal and time enough to review the route, understand the profile of the race (and get a little shocked) and create a strategy for each day. I had a target kilometer for each day finishing on a reasonably size village that I could find accommodation. And a "Plan B" with fewer kilometers depending how I felt and fast things were going. One thing that I didn't want was to ride in the dark. 

For each "plan" I had made a selection of hostels and saved their phone number on my mobile, that I would call during the ride to search for places to sleep. My decision point was around the 90 kms mark of every day and that worked perfectly. By that point I knew more or less where I would be able to finish and start calling. I got hostels for both day and they were really nice people, both nearby supermarkets or restaurants. In the plan, I also market on a post-it that I taped to my top tube (see below in the "cockpit" picture), the name of the places I planned to stop, where to find water and the climbs with length, gradient and where they started. The water places was really important, as I was constantly running out of water due to the very hot weather (around 35 C every day).


BIKE - Most of the riders were in Gravel bikes with no front suspension and with smaller tires. I imagine that less than 20% were on x-country mountain bikes like mine. I could see the gravel bikes were having an easier time to manage the steep climbs and were faster on the flats and road. I checked after the race the difference of weight between the average gravel bike is just 1 and half kilo. Still that makes a big difference on effort and speed. On the smooth gravel or asphalt descends they were just cruising while I still had to pedal. 

On the other hand I could see I was having a easier time on the descends. Especially on the mountain bike trails with big stones, where the gravel riders had to balance and it was just easier for me because of my bigger tires. I could just power thru the descends as the tires could manage it much better the demanding terrain and I could turn without fear of slipping and crash. That being said, I still got 3 flat tires. One from a pinch flat from a huge and sharp stone hit during a quick desdent and the other two from sharp plant thorns. And this a second big learning: innertires tubes don't work really well for this type of event. Tubeless is the way to go. Had I had tubeless, the sealant would take care of those flats automatically and I would have saved a lot of time. 

Another factor was the gears: I had a 32 ring in front and a 52 cassette in the back. That helped quite a lot on very steep short climbs above 16% where gravel riders with cassettes up to 42 had to push their bikes and I could continue. I saw that there are hacks around to fit a 52 cassette on a gravel bike and that is worth the hassle!

I imagine that overall the pros and cons balance each other and it becomes a matter of personal choice and comfort as the mtb bike is still more comfortable as the bigger tires suck quite a lot of vibration. That being said, I will rent a gravel bike in the next months to try. And just got to know that Canyon launch a quite affordable Grail bike with front suspension!

BAGS - Talking about the bags and what I brought. I am I'm really happy with the packing and what went where. I have the feeling that I had exactly what I needed and no unnecessary weight. I had everything I needed with only requiring to buy a sandwich here and there, replenish water and still had space to store additional food I bought under way. Below about each bag and what was in it:

1 - FRONT BAG: here I had all my sleeping arrangements. This bag was very cheap. the harness holding to the bike frame wasn't the best. But it was very light and water proof. It did the job even though I had to stop a couple of times to re-adjust it. In there I had all necessary for sleeping in case I had to do it in the open: very thin isolation layer (the type you put on car windscreen to avoid heat), a Thermarest Neoair Uberlite matras, a sleeping bag Nordisk Oscar +10, a ultra-light tarp from decathlon that I cut in half and a headlamp. I tried several setups and finalyzed the one in the picture below, taken as my last preparation before leaving. Didn't end up using it but I believe it would work well. Only potential missing thing would be an inflatable pillow.

Last test drive before leaving: using the bike and tire as leverage with thin camping threads. This was a windy day in Holland and the "tent" was hold well in place.

2 - The "cockpit" of the bike was made out of a small bag for an additional water bottle where I had my energy drink, a front light if I got caught in the night, a couple of additional straps on the front bag and time trial arm rests. Those were the cheapest I could find made of plastic that mounted directly in the handlebar. They were great in the smooth roads to relax the back and I used it quite a lot, using the bag itself to rest my hands and control the bike. And to complete, on the top tube I had noted the most important information and used it quite a lot to avoid missing water fountains and know what was coming next.

Only one potential change: make the handlebar shorter and install end points to help with climbing. The top tube information was very handy and helped not missing two water fountains.

3 - FRAME BAG: this was the most expensive bag on the bike, from Blackburn. I bought it for two reasons: it fit on my frame almost 100% perfect and it had 3 compartments. The below small compartment is where I had my tools (multi-tool from Topeak, repair box with many small things, chain oil and swiss knife), small bike lock self-made and a first aid bag including painkillers, bandage, disinfecting cloth and emergency blanket). 

On the main compartment I had my energy bars, maltodextrin powder for breakfast, gels and salt pills and a lot of space where I store sandwiches and tortillas that I bought on the way. In both days I bought a big ham sandwich (Bocata de Jamon) that I would eat  half on the spot and save half for dinner, and a big Tortilla, half for dinner and half for breakfast.  I also stored there rain riding gear like arm warmers and visibility gilette / vest.

The third and small compartment on the side of the bag was just the bike pump and a roll-on sunscreen. Under this frame and in front of it there were my two spare inner tubes taped to the frame (This picture was taken at the end of day 1, where I had already used the first spare). 

4 - SADDLE BAG: This was a not expensive but perfect bag from a Spanish company called Columbus. I saw other riders using it and talked to one of them that also liked it. It was big if I needed (I only actually used 50% of it) and stable enough. In there I had the rest of the food for other days, toiletries which were very basic and a light short & t-shirt for the night. 

I had brought enough food to keep me going for half of each of the 5 days I calculated I want to ride. And food for one night in the event I didn't find a place to buy dinner. So, in fact I had food enough for half of the race and the rest I would buy on the way. I believe critical was to have always breakfast ready and I brought with me 4 packages of Decathlon dehydrated granola. It has oats, dehydrated fruit and milk and I used it on both days with a little water. Perfect to start the day. On top of that for each day I had 4 Powerbar gels, 7 small Decathlon fruit bars and 1 Cliff Bars to make sure I had something to hear for every hour. It had also the strap on the top where I could hold things I bought on the way to bring to the hostel, like the water bottle in the picture. 

I also carried a backpack with a 3 liters water bladder from Evoc, energy powder for the bottle, mobile, money and bank card. And off course the GPS transponder that was mandatory for tracking the participants. I saw people with more or less stuff, some had spare cycling shorts and jerseys, others have barely anything. My plan was to ride it with one cycling outfit and clean it with anti-bacterial cloth every night. The merino wol jersey was perfect, not smelling at all and keeping me cool. The jersey was a little uncomfortable at the end of day two and maybe I need to think about chamois. The rest was fine, everything just worked. 

All in all, not much more to add or remove and I was really happy with the arrangement, weight and easy of access of everything.


The race day started with a not too early breakfast, leaving the bike bag and normal bag stored in the hotel reception for when I came back and small walk to the start. I managed to find a hotel with 5 minutes from the start and they were great with everything, even storing my stuff for 5 days with no charge. We got to the Plaza Spaña at 7:35 and the race started at 8:00 sharp. Around 300 riders with all types of bikes and setup and many with their families and friends. We were escorted by the motorbike police to the limit of the city and then straight into gravel. Even that early in the morning, the temperature was already 25 C although a little overcasted.

The first kilometers were easy rolling hills of gravel the groups were already forming, with fast riders taking off immediately. My plan was to ride 170 kilometers on the first day and not knowing the terrain, I decided to take it easy. That was a good decision as we very fast went into climbing in the forest with very steep hike and bike trails. And that more or less market the pace for the first 90 kms of the day, with up and downs thru dense vegetation and slow mountain bike paths. Around that mark there was a restaurant on top of Sierra de Andia where I made my decision if I would reach my target and called to book the hotel, that was around 110 kms from there in the city of Larrasoaña. 

The rest of the day was very good, with rolling hills and tough mountain bike trails. The gravel hills were around 8% climbs and it they were going quite well. This was the best part of the day with incredible feelings in an amazing part of the world that you can't see very easy. The mountain bike climbs were tough and the descends very fast. In one of those I got my first flat when I hit a big and sharp stone with my black tire and had to stop to replace the innertube. We went thru beautiful areas with a stunning views and a lot of nature and a lot of horses. Big horses. In one moment I was with another rider and the horses got spooked and start running the trail with us and that was a little scary as they were very close in front and behind us and we could "feel" the vibration of their powerful roofs on the ground.

I got to the hostel in Larrasoaña around 7:30 and went to the only supermarket in the village just in time to buy my dinner (water and a big tortilla) having done 170 kms in around 10 hours of riding and 11:30 hours since leaving Vitoria in the morning. A total of 1:30 hours of not moving went into eating, replenishing water and fixing the flat tire. After showering, eating and fixing the spare inner tube, I went to bed around 11:00 pm ready for next day wake up at 6 am, with a new plan as I looked better at the profile and knew it would be much harder than day one, with around 4 thousand vertical meters to climb and after done around 3 k. 

Stunning views on day 1. Pictures are from the "easy" part of the day when I could actually take the phone and snap some views on the go. 

I was going to take a normal picture of something when the horses got spooked and start running with us. Scary and exhilarating at the same time. All done with one hand. Maybe a little stupid.

We had to walk in a lot of places. Going up paths that were not meant for bikes in my point of view. That took a bit away from the "cycling" event. 

Easy moment for a mandatory selfie of the day in the top of a plateau.

Horses everywhere from all sizes and ages!
And quite some people doing hiking as it was the holiday season. But I didn't take pictures of them :)


The Second day of the race started with me getting ready to leave and finding out that overnight the back tire got deflated. I had to changed it again and found out a very small thorn on the tire. Enough for the air to leat out slowly thru the night. If the tire was tubeless this wouldn't happen and I wouldn't lost that time. Another thing: changing tires with a thru axle is much more work then with a quick release system (just saying!). 

While I was finishing pumping the tire  another rider passed. We greeted each other, he asked if all was OK and continue. Later we found each other and did most of the day together. It is always good to have some company. I really like the camaderie of most of the riders and everybody was constant checking on each other.

The day started slow as I was feeling tired, with heavy legs and immediately got into a steep long climb. Even though being on asphalt, it was hard to get it going and the cold of the morning was not helping. I stopped to eat the second half of my tortilla, pop some ibuprofen and paracetamol and look at the plan for the day. After that it started getting warm and I felt better. The scenery was nice and the climbs on road were steep but doable.

Not a bad place to fix a flat tire. But it was slow progress in the morning.

Off road again the the path brought us thru some forest patch with a lot of cattle gates and points that one need to walk and push the bike. And got my 3rd flat tire and had to stop and change it again, due to another thorn. While I was fixing the tire a hiker passed by and we chat a little. Very nice man. It is good to speak to local language. I was passed by other two riders, but they didn't greeted me... too bad. 

At that point, I looked at the watch and got a little shocked: it was already 9:30 in the morning and I had cover only 20 kms. I figured out right there that completing the plan of 180 kms was not possible as the rest of the day promised to be super hard still. I looked immediately at Plan B to ride 150 kms, phone a hostel (Casa Rural for the Camino the Santiago the Compostela) and got a bed for the night! But I fist needed to get there...

After this point the path crossed the Irati forest and ride in the direction of Paso Tapla, the longest of the day. The forest was hard going and with many climbs in tick single track paths. In Azpegi village I stopped to replenish water and chat with a couple of locals. One guy asked me if I was doing the Basajaun and told me he went with the organizer of the race to show the ways around. He told me, half in disbelief of what we were doing and half in sarcasm, to get ready for a very hard climb, thru mountain walk tracks and a river swamp! And that is exactly what we got. I met a group of riders and started the climb together, thru normal gravel roads when the route send us left, to nowhere. It went thru the actual mountain with no path. It was the mountain up hill and small bushes and a lot of huge cows. I couldn't even bike there as the pedals were getting stuck on the bushes and stopping us. Had to push the bike or carry over my shoulder.

And once we reached the top we saw we still had to go thru 3 picks carrying out bikes. Sometimes throwing it and walking thru stores climbing up and down. I little surreal and dangerous (no mobile connection at that moment by the way). The place was also full of huge cows and some white bone of dead cows on the ground. There as a thick fog coming thru and although the scenery promised to be super beautiful, it was really surreal and slow going. It took me around 1 hour to go thru this part and I really didn't like it. This was not cycling but trekking, which is something I was not prepared to do. All the walking are not good for my legs and my lower back. 

Walk with a 15 kgs bike thru mountain passes is not exactly "cycling" in my book. I took the picture because if I tell people they wouldn't believe me! 

When we finally finished this part, we needed to go thru a lot of walking again to cross a swamp from a dried river. Again a lot of walking thru very slippery and moss covered stones, going uphill this time. At some points I had to fix my bike to a place, pull myself up hanging to tree branches and pull the bike after me. When we finally got out of the swamp and thinking we would get to ride our bikes, the path was just another hike and bike with people, dogs, everything. Really annoying and not what I was expecting. This was another 1 hour or 90 minutes lost there and I was really not enjoying the day. 

From there we went to a long patch of road going uphill. I was just climbing on an easy pace and counting that it woud take me around 20 kms for the base of Paso Tapla. But I made a mistake on counting kilometers on my top tube reference and reached the first part of Paso Tapla top way earlier then expected (when the road end and we would go back to gravel).  During the climb another cyclist joined me and we chatted the whole way to the top. He was called Sergio and it as also great company.  We talked about what we like and didn't like so far. We really enjoyed the climb which was not too dificult and had great views. It reminded me why I actually like cycling: to go uphill mountains pedaling and not walking! 

Gravel part of the Paso Tapla. Great climb both on road and gravel. 

When we got to the top, we met again Pau, the rider that greeted me in the morning. We chat a little and started going up the 3 together but shortly after this Segio decided he had enough. He was not really enjoying the walking and very technical descends and decide to abandon the race there. I would see him again later after I leave the race myself.

The rest of the climb was on gravel and very nice. Hard but manageable. We were against very heavy wind and I was a little concern about going downhill the other side of the mountain on those conditions. But it turned out the descends were paths among trees and protected. Kind of rolling hills of 10% that were fast to go down as not too technical but tough to go up. What I did expect the whole race to be. From them on until almost the end of the day Pau and I rode together. 

At the end of this section we had around 100 kms in the legs and were happy to find a little restaurant close to the village called Aribe. This was 16:30 in the afternoon and it taken me 10 hours to get there. We stopped there to buy food, drink a couple of Coca-colas and a coffee. Other riders were stoping there as well and we chatted with them. Everybody was complaining about the route and the places they made us go thru. A couple of guys were actually drinking beer and smoking, which I found incredible. 

I looked at my watch and realized it was already 17:00 and wanted to get going. I knew the progress from there to the village where I had the hotel would be slow as we needed to go thru 5 official climbs, not counting the unmarked ones. I started riding alone and Pau catchup with me just a little after. From there to the hostel was a 50% / 50% mix of road (with some nice descends) and very tough gravel climbs, with ramps around 12% gradient. Tough going. In some of those ramps we had to dismount and push our bikes because they went to 18% with very loose sand. 

When we were getting close to Monreal, Pau decided to stop to have dinner in Urroz, a small village on the way. And there is where we separated. All I wanted to do was to ride to the hostel. The last 15 kilometers were tough and I even called the hostel to let them know I was still coming. I crossed many grass fields on the way, which were glowing gold with the sunset light while the farmers still worked on the hey harvest. I was really tired but this was a nice road and I manage to squeeze some enjoyment from the nice views. 

I got the hostel at 22:00 exactly. 14 and half hours after I left in the morning and was exhausted. The owner was a very nice guy and he is used to receive broken people from the Camino. As it was already late in the evening, he sent me immediately to the restaurant in front of the hostel before the kitchen closed. I got there the biggest hamburger with fries I could get, a coca-cola and a huge bottle of water. Warm food never tasted so good :). 


Rolling hills back to Pamplona. Frustrated but believing I made the right choice.

After doing the last preparations for next day and taking some painkillers because I had a lot of shoulder pain, I went to bed around midnight. But the night wasn't a good one. My right leg started cramping strongly and I was waking up almost every 30 minutes. I didn't manage to sleep well even after doubling my dosis of ibuprofen. I woke up in the morning around 6:30 and did a balance of my options. 

The next phase of the race would be thru the Bardenas desert and the forecast for the day was of 45 degrees Celsius. We were going thru the heat wave in the Spanish summer. My concern was if I would have a severe cramp attack that day, I could get stuck in the middle of the desert. With no way to move forward or back, I could ran out of water and that would be a real problem. I had similar situations in past rides / race but never in a place so remote. I decided that this was too risky and decided to quit the race.

From there it was a matter of riding the bike back slowly towards Pamplona, get a train to Vitoria and figure out how to get back to Alicante to enjoy the rest of the vacation with my girlfriend. In Pamplona I learn that carrying bikes on trains in Spain is a little more complicated and if you wan to bring it on a national big train you need to have it dismantled and in a bag, while in the regional train you can carry them as they are. But for that train I needed to wait another 4 hours in the station. I almost decided to go back by bike but it was too hot and better to wait listening to music and watching the people. And I was happy to meet Sergio there, the rider that left the race the day before. That helped to pass the time as we chat a lot about other similar races in Spain and France, about training and everything. Great guy!

I was disappointed but as mentioned in the intro of this long story, I knew that was the sensible thing to do. I prioritized my health (one other ride continue and had a heat stroke in the desert and they had to call a helicopter for him). Another big part of the reason for leaving the race was that I didn't enjoy big part of the two days. The hike & bike / carring bike / walking was not what I was prepared to do. Maybe I would feel different if I was stronger and my training would have been better tailored. But that was not the case.

Still, all in all, this was a great experience. I saw many amazing places, met great people from overall in Spain and had fun in the middle of the whole ordeal. I did one third of the event and now need to think if the feeling of unfinished business is strong enough to make me try again next year. As my girlfried said: right after a mother delivers a baby you don't ask if she wants to have another one. We need to give a little time! :). So, maybe I will try again, maybe not. Time will tell :)

Some more pictures of day 2 below.

PS: This was a brain dump. No editing or embelishing. Raw as it comes...

This is what I expected from a Gravel race. 8% climbing on smooth gravel roads.

Foggy and surreal landscape. Lots of huge cows that didn't pay any attention to us.

Getting to the first top of the mountain. In this place I could ride a little. Just before that, not.

Walk, walk, walk. Argh!

Rest a little in here before going thru the river swamp.

The top of the road part of Passo Tapla. Reminded me a little of the Galibier.

Mandatory selfie. Happy because I was cycling a mountain and not walking




As it is getting quite boring talking about my training routine without a
nice long ride with nice pictures to show, let's talk about preparation.

Part of the journey to prepare for the race in August is to learn what it means to go bikepacking from an equipment point of view. Researching the internet and watching a ton of videos on YouTube, I learned very quick that this is not only about being fit and strong. It is about being very careful in preparation and there is a ton of things that needs to be sorted out like sleeping stuff, lights, tools and replacement parts, food and water, what to wear while on the bike and out of the bike, etc. 

It is a lot of stuff to bring with you on the bike and the first thing that I decided to sort it out was the types of bags that I would be using. I had a lot of questions for what combination of bags should I use. There are many options, like: small frame bag with water bottles or large frame bag with a camelbag in my back or a large frame bag with a water bladder inside? A small handlebar bag in front for the sleeping stuff or shove everything in the saddle bag? Where to hold the battery pack, mobile, passport, etc.

I read many blogs and videos on youtube from people that have done this type of thing before and shared a lot of tips. But at the end there is a lot of personal trial and error and preferences and the advice to adapt for the type of event one is going. So a lot of thinking and experimenting during the training rides prior to the big event is required and that is what I'm planning to do. 

But there are a couple of general advices for any setup. The most common is to keep the heaviest items lower and centered on the bike to help with the center of gravity, the lightest items should be on the handlebar to avoid messing with the ability to manage and steer the bike and make sure they if you have a large saddle bag, they are very secure on the bike to avoid getting the bike off balance.

Another really important point is that a lot of stuff means and bags also mean a lot of weight. And more weight means harder climbing. So, it is not only the weight of everything one has to bring, which I will create a post later, but the eight of the bags themselves. Which added a lot of complexity to my search. It is not only a matter of throwing money at it and buy the most expensive. It has to be also light and considering that I'm not sure I will do an event like this more than once (I know, said the same thing about the Etape du Tour de France), I don't need to buy the strongest.

My research for the cheapest and lightest bags showed the follow results:


  1. Zefal Z Adventure R17 - 17l - 620g - 60 euros

  2. Apidura Expedition - 17l - 425 g - 149 euros

  3. Ortlieb 16.5 l - 456 g - 135 euros

  4. Topeak backloader - 565 g - 65 euros

  5. Woho - 13 l - 390 g - 85 euros

  6. Columbus - 18 l - 355 g - 42 euros

Handlebar bag

  1. ORTLIEB HANDLEBAR PACK - 15L - 420g - 

  2. RESTRAP BAR STUURTAS - 14 L - 550g -  100 euros

  3. Zefal Z-Adventure - 10 l - 340 g - 50 euros 

  4. Apidura Expedition Handlebar - 9 l - 250 - 109 euros

  5. Apidura Expedition Handlebar - 14 l - 275 - 118 euros 

  6. Topeak front loader - 8 l - 325 g - 60 euros

  7. No brand - 15 l - 200 g - cheap as you wouldn't believe

So, all the big brands are quite expensive. And I was very surprised how heavy some of them are. They feel very sturdy and nice when you pick them up in the store, but is that worth the price of the weight you need to carry? And while I was about to buy the hype of all those youtubers telling me to buy (maybe endorsed) stuff, the most expensive Apidura bags, I decided that I will do all my next training using the cheapest and light bags from Columbus and the one with no brand and see how they hold. The Columbus feels a bit wobbly but I will find a way to get it more secure with an extra strap. And the front one is a mystery. We will see in real life conditions...

If all good, then we will see how they last one crazy adventure and if tossed at the end, no big deal. If I get hooked and continue in the future doing this type of crazy shit, I will consider the expensive toys.

FRAMEBAG AND WATER SYSTEM - The only big brand bag I bought was the framebag Blackburn Outpost Elite (even the name is pedantic). And that was for two reasons: it is the only one that fit my frame nicely without leaving too much space unused. And because it has two compartments with a divider in the middle that I can keep or remove.

I thought that would be the perfect way to store water on the top and tools at the bottom. Water is is really heavy and I wanted in securely attached to the center of the bike and I don't have to carry it on me. I also wanted to have opportunity to carry 3 liters and not the traditional 2 bottles of 1 liter, just in case one of the stretches goes thru a desert and it is too long. Read too many stories about it! And I found the perfect one from Evoc that had exactly the dimensions of the top part of the Blackburn.

So, this is all sorted to start testing in real life and I'm really looking forward to get this junk on the road :)

Next decision: sleeping system! Not as simple as you might expect.



67 kms | 2 h 44 m | 25 km/h avg | wind force 5

Finally a full week of training done with a mix of high intensity training and one ride which was supposed to be endurance training with low heart rate, but it quickly turned into a battle against the wind and a heart rate going thru the roof just to keep moving ahead. The total in the week was 5 hours trained with 2 sessions of intervals on Monday and Wednesday and a longish ride Saturday of 3 hours. This is still 3 hours short of the indicated 8 hours of training per week for events such as an ultra-endurance cycling race. The agenda will have to be slightly adjusted adding one extra hour on the week and two extra hours on the weekend.

The ride on Saturday was absolutely crazy. Left home and decided to ride in the direction of a small island in the Northeast of Amsterdam, called Marker. It is a nice beautiful place with open fields and small wooden houses. But I didn't count on a crazy wind coming at force 5 and the route put me on a constant cross wind for the full 3 hours. On the way to the the wind was cross but sometimes helping, but on the 30 kms back which I decided to take a different route, it was either headwind os slightly from the right. It was a real hard training, pushing and pushing against it just to keep a meager 22 kms / h and sometimes going down even to 18 kms / h. 

At some point I passed a guy on a race bike hiding behind a woman on a normal electric bike. Later, 3 cyclists passed me on a comical slow motion way, advancing inch my inch and everybody having a blast! Há, blast of wind... not funny. It was really brutal and I got home completely empty and a bit dizzy from all the wind gushing thru my ears! I guess it was a good mental resilience training...

PERFORMANCE - Looking at Golden Cheetah,  the software I use to track my training load and how my fitness level is progressing, my performance seems to be going in the right direction. I recorded every training and ride into my Garmin or Tacx and then load into the app. It calculates training volume and based on that your fitness level and fatigue levels which I use to see if the training is going in the right direction and when I need to rest and recover. The graph shows that steady increase in fitness, going around 32 points on Sunday. The higher it gets the harder is to gain fitness but at this moment is pretty low, so I have a lot to increase. The goal is reach around 100 points by August.

The other part of the load is the amount of fatigue one is accumulating (stress balance = fatigue) and that should be used to indicated when to continue training and when to rest and recover. At the end of Saturday, my stress balance was around -24 points, which was a good result of the week but borderline when I need to rest. Indication is at any time below -30, the next day should be a rest / recovery day. Which is exactly what I did on Monday.

All of this is based on Trimp points (See below definition). This is a great way to check how much stress you are accumulating and how much risk of burnout / injury one has. 

A good solid week of training and some good preparations in the equipment front. Some decisions made in terms of water system, lights and bags. But that is a new post for later in the week. 

TRIMP is an abbreviation of TRaining IMPulse. It was originally defined as the product of training volume, measured in minutes, and training intensity, measured as average heart rate (beats per minute or bpm). For example, 50 min at 140 bpm TRIMP = 50 × 140 = 7000.


65 kms / 2 h 41 m / 25.8 avg km/h / wind force 5

Week 3 and 4 of my training plan came and went with a lot of unplanned interruptions again and I am falling even further behind what I expected myself to be doing in terms of number of hours training in the spinning and on endurance long rides. One good thing I managed to do before leaving Brazil to Holland on the 19th, was to squeeze one spinning interval session in the gym my brother arranged. The typical 5 times interval sessions of 3 and 5 minutes. That should have relaxed my body for the trip.

In Holland is when things got a little difficult. On the Sunday, I started the training week with a nice fitness session and thought it would be good start to get back in consistent training mode. Unfortunately I forgot that in the same day I had planned by Covid booster shoot and later in the day my daughter came down with a cold and self tested positive for Corona. So, since Sunday we are in quarantaine.

Monday I woke up feeling my whole body aching and feeling nauseated and I didn't know if it was the booster, the hard training after a long 26 hours trip from Brazil or I was going down with Covid. So, not to risk I had to cancel all sessions planned for the week and we went for an official PCR test. Which confirmed positive for my daughter and show negative to me. 

Things stay like that until Thursday when I started feeling better and planned a Tacx session at home with the goal of now try to stick to the training plan again and hope I don't get infected even if I'm living in a small 2 bedroom apartment with someone positive. We created a couple of rules to reduce the risk of contamination and so far things are going well. I didn't get sick and my daughter is no feeling too bad.

If I manage not to get sick during this time, this is a great proof of the obvious: distancing, cleaning your hands constantly, wearing a mask and vaccination really works. 

On Saturday I decided to do a longer ride and went out for a traditional 65 kms loop around my place. I do this ride quite a lot first because it is a constant ride to compare fitness and performance and because it is just nice almost with any city crossing (only in Hilversum there is a traffic light to stop).  The training was hard because a lot of wind was blowing from the south east, which meant my whole way back was with a very strong cross / head wind. I was not ready to push that much and the last kilometers was a drag to get back home. Felt completely exhausted but I'm happy for not being sick and to be back in training. 

SHOULDERS - Since November last year I started having very strong shoulder pains in both sides. My brother took a look and he believes I might have a calcification of the shoulder bones, which are pinching the nerves. The only solution is to strengthen the muscles around this area of go for surgery. As I don't want to go to the knife too quick, he gave for me a good upper body training scheme using elastic bands and my own weight. This takes only 30 minutes and I will be trying to do every day for the next 3 months before I call my doctor. Today was the first session and I can really feel my heavy shoulders now while I type. The plan is to get rid of this situation before the race in August. 

Training disrupted but not stopped

Tuesday and Thursday spinning interval training. First day 5 x 3 minutes interval. Second day 3 x 3 minutes + 2 times 4 minutes. Really hard training with big chunk of time on zone 4 and 5.

Once again my training plan got a little disrupted. I had to travel unexpectedly to Brazil last week and will be here for 2 weeks. This means just in actual travel I will loose 4 days in total and will be without an bike for those 2 weeks. Luckily I have two things that helped to stay active and keep some type of training during those days: a lot of time in my hands as I stop working after 16:00 due to the different timezone with Netherlands and access to a spinning bike.

The first weekend after I arrived I decided to dedicate it to fitness strenght and stretch. That meant I did 3 days of core and mobility exercizes of 45 minutes with the following sequence: squad + plank + side plank, ribbon upper body 15 pulls for shoulder and upper back, mountain climbers and abs). The upper body work with the ribbons were especially tought because of an injury that I have in both shoulders. My brother (who is a personal trainer) gave me a set of drills and that should be helping in the mid/long term. Just doing those sessions already helped me to go into the midset of stay active and not write off completely the week.

And because of that I decided to look if I could arrange a place to do my interval spinning sessions. Luckily my brother managed to arrange for me to have access to a gym close by that I could use their spinning bike. Simple and nice gym place and OKish bike. But perfect to drive the interval sessions. The first day was on Tuesday when I did 5 x 3 minutes intervals. The heart was jumping very quick to zone 4 (above 156 beats per minute) and also to zone 5 (above 176 bpm). But I manage to complete all intervals without slacking on the bike resistance. On Thursday, the heartrate was going up a little slower and more "in control". And I even managed to increase the size of the last two intervals to 4 minutes and finish the last 10 minutes with a tempo push. I felt much better for doing those sessions and today (saturday), I will go again for my 3rd and last session  before going back to Holland. 

In total, I won't loose completely the two weeks but won't be able to do any long endurance weekend ride that I was planning to start last week. Something around 2 hours. But as the weather in Holand is staying cold, just above 0 degrees Celsius and very misty, I'm not sure I would have done that either... Anyway, good to see the family and the 30 + degrees weather that I actually never missed...



13 degrees and sunny on January 1st! Global warming anybody?

Today I finishes the 3rd week of training. Coming back to routine of interval training twice per week and an longer endurance ride on the weekend. The first part of the week after coming back from Spain on Tuesday was to log a interval training in the spinning bike on Wednesday and on Friday. Both were 5 repetitions of 3 minutes interval, with some 20 seconds all out sprints in the beginning. Sadly without the heart rate monitor. This is to build up strength and muscular endurance. 

The second part of the training is to build up endurance with longer and longer rides.  Today it was a fantasy weather for a chilled ride to burn calories. 13 degrees of sunny and very mild wind conditions. Did an easy ride from Diemen to Almere Haven in the Markermeer. Totally on feeling as I didn’t have my bike computer with me. I only pushed twice when I was climbing a long bridge. I could feel the heavy legs from the interval training and my back was hurting from the many days sitting and eating. But it was a good start of 2022.

The second week didn’t  count as it was a Christmas break week and I did very little other than rest and eat a ton of good food and calories. One core fitness session and a couple of easy skateboard rides was all I could manage. 

Christmas break in Alicante was great to rest and catch up with my adventure companion. 


Top of the small and challenging mountain bike trail by the Nedereindse Plas: cold,
muddy and no place to hide when is out of shape.

Finally the first full week of real training. Finished today with a short and hard 1 hour 45 minutes mix of road and mountain bike. This week felt like a proper one with two sessions on the Tacx on Tuesday and Thursday and this one "longer ride" on a real bike outside. I didn't feel particular strong in any of the sessions with clearly low power output especially today in the climbs. I really felt out of shape and high heart rate and sucking air like a vacuum cleaner. But let's consider this is just the beginning and take this as motivation to get down to business for go. No more "kidding" about it.

The ride today is a short mountain bike trail 20 minutes from my home. That is great because with 40 minutes of travel time back and forth there, which leaves me with 1 hour or pure mountain bike training. The place is a single trail route of 6.5 kms that goes up and down a kind of man-made hill. It is the type of dikes / sound barriers the Dutch build alongside their highways. The good thing is when you are going up the inclination is up to 15% in a narrow single track. And this being the end of fall season, was really muddy and slippery. Adding more difficulty to just clear the climb to the top with the back wheel going everywhere under you. It was cold around 5 degrees celsius but at least it wasn't raining

After every climb and one is on the top, it doesn't get easier. The ride on the very narrow single track requires constant attention or else you will be on the ground in a heartbeat, with the front wheel locking in. And the downhills were really nasty with all the mud and dead leaves. No time to really rest before one is down and start climbing again. I think that is good to train technical skills and start getting confidence with the handling of the new bike, which I'm still getting used to the big 29 inches wheel.

I did 3 loops today and decided to call it a day. In a good day I could do 4 or 5 loops but that will be later in better conditions and when I'm back in shape. For now good enough for a winter training.

Top to bottom: heart rate, speed, profile, inclination.


Finally since Thursday I felt good enough to go back into training. Thursday and Friday I did a small and fast mobility training to get the muscles unlocked and supple again. Just 15 minutes of quick stretch and a serie of 2 x10 repeats squat-planks-side planks-plank-squat, followed by 20 mountain climbers, followed by 30 abs and finished with arms curls. The muscles felt really stiff and sore for 3 weeks of inactivity due to the flu but that was expected.

On Sunday I had planned the first actual proper training on the spinning bike. But also had to start conservative. I decide to do the training as a tempo riding / aerobic training keeping my heart rate stable around 150 bpm. Which is the middle of my zone 2 if you follow training based on heart rate zones. After warm-up I kept the resistance on the pedal to a point where I could do around 80 rpm and keep the heart at 150 and just kept on going for 50 minutes. For the last 2 minutes of each 10 minutes, I did standing up on the pedals with more resistance but lower rpm.

The training felt good and legs and body were supple. Not much burning sensation or muscle tearing apart like I had in trainings like these after a long stop of training. I think it came from the two "warm-up" days before. So, I will keep doing that :). And this is a sequence I learn from the bootcamp I started doing with Andrew in Diemen. If you are around Diemen, I recommend. Every Saturday and Sunday under the yellow bridge (Diemen Aalscholverpad) at 10:30 am.

This week, the plan is for 2 interval sessions of 3 minutes and 1 tempo training + fitness. Let's go.

On the bike I have a Garmin. But I found the Wahoo app much better than all others on the spinning bike. Even thinking about switching to them if I buy a new bike computer. Unfortunately for this training, my HR belt stopped working right at the end of the training in the cool down section. That HR at the top is not correct. Should be something around 120 bpm.


The original plan for next year cycling challenge was to ride the Badlands ultra-cycling event, which is very similar in terms of distance and climbing meters to the Basajaun that I end-up signing up. The two main differences are the location and the dates. Badlands is around Granada and Basajaun is around Vitoria, in the Basque Country. And the reason for signing up for one instead of the other was just bad luck or timing. For some reason, Badlands is way more popular and it was sold-out in minutes, while Basajaun still had open places. 

Another big difference are the dates. Badlands was at the end of September while Basajaun is at the end of July. Which shorten the time to get in shape and training by almost two months. Which will put a little more strain in the training ramp-up. And while I still can't go training due to the strong cold and throat infection I have for a week now, it It was a good moment to review the initial year training plan and adjust for the new dates, the type of training I will do and the number of hours I will be investing on a weekly basis. That also to make me feel better that I'm not out in the rain training or suffering in my Tacx/Spinning bike.

Every year I have an event to participate I like to create a plan with detail of what training I will do every week and which type of training every day of the week. I also plan the intensity and type of training per phases with a ramp-up towards being at top fitness just around the event dates.  I have been doing this for years now out of the The Cyclist Training Bible book from Joel Friel, which was a tip from a good cycling buddy 12 years ago. It is a great book to learn how to train effectively and focus effort, time and ways of training for best outcome. It had helped me a lot in the first years of cycling and I still use it every year to prep and review my plan.

Now the training is more or less completed and I need just to start getting the hours in. I've planned 2 "spinning" bike sessions per week, 2 fitness sessions and one long ride in the weekend. Leaving two days of  rest and recovery. That should be good enough. Later in the year I will select which events I will be participating and complete with more of them as they get confirmed or cancelled due to Covid. I have already included some of the traditional race bikes races that are around my region and will need to look for some new events for gravel / off road riding. The good news is that apparently gravel riding is really hype right now and I should have plenty of opportunities. Another thing I will be planning is a multi-day training ride (maybe two or three days) to get use to it and test myself and my bike setup prior to the race day. Maybe in the south of Holland and Belgium where the steep hills are.

Now I just need to get rid of this cold and start training! 


Yesterday I signed myself to a new cycling challenge: the Transiberica Basajaun. An unassisted ultra-cycling multiple day event that will take me thru 760 kms of forest, desert and mountain and make me climb 15 thousand vertical meters. That is if I manage to finish it. Running a strong cold, coughing my lungs out and feeling like shit, felt like a great moment to find a new grueling challenge and re-discover motivation to start training when I'm feeling better again.

After 12 years participating in the L'Etape du Tour de France without missing an year, I had decided in 2020 that I was ready to a new challenge. Tired of the same training and 1 day event that usually involved a lot of stress, waking up early and not even riding that much in the week that I was in France. All because we were saving our legs for racing day. So, I didn't sign-up for the race and was ready to hook up with a group of colleagues to do a 12 days race bike cross thru the Pyrenees from France to Spain. 

Sadly, between sickness in the family of one of the organizers and the pandemic, the event got cancelled. Most of the guys were coming from USA and that was not possible anymore. The Etape itself got cancelled and all other events. With no race / cycling event to participate, my training start to slack more and more. And if it wasn't for the annual visit to the Alps with a group of friends to force me to go out training, my condition would have deteriorated to a very bad state. I am the type of cyclist that needs to have a goal. But if that is there, I will train at all costs in any condition.

Well, now I have a goal. A real huge challenge to cycle all those 760 kilometers without any assistance other what you can carry on your bike and what you can find or buy on the way. You are not supposed to arrange anything upfront, like hotels or other places to stay. You are not going to be helped by the organization and they will track you whereabouts all the time to make sure you follow the route and rules. You need to be able to carry your food and liquids, navigation equipment, lights and clothing and sleep in the open in some points. 

I have never done anything like this. Hell, I only once did camping in my whole life. And that was it the backyard of some people. The wildest thing that day was that those people had two basset puppies that wouldn't stop playing! This is whole new level. Of fitness, mental and physical and of planning and preparation. This whole thing will will require a lot learning. 

And that is why I decided to come back and write in this blog after 6 years of absence. I want to document the next 7 months of training and preparations leading out to July 30th and the event itself. All the good moments, frustrations, doubts and hopefully accomplishment of this adventure. And the good news is that I'm not alone. I'm doing this with broader in law, which apart from company and support during the event, will mean I have someone to compare notes during the next training months.

And that gave me a reason to buy a new bike :) some say that was the actual reason why I signed up...


130 kms | 4 h 25 m | avg speed 29.6 km/h | avg hr 135 bpm | 2.264 kcal

Great ride today around Ermelo with the men that participate on the Tour du AlS and climbed the Mont Ventoux in the last 3 years. Good speed, good legs and nice sprints to test the power. Rode the whole day not looking at my heart rate but only at cadence and speed, with the idea to see if by looking at it is making me save too much. It worked quite well as I pushed to my limits during the sprints and sticking to main bunch. Happy with that.