Peru is not internationally renowned as a cycling destination but for a bikepacker it has all the elements. Steep, unforgiving mountains, untouched scenery, friendly locals and an unnerving sense of the unknown. Not only does it have these in abundance, the countryside is also littered with an ancient road network used by the Incas…
With all of these ingredients it is of no surprise that an epic, ultra-distance, unsupported bike race was going to happen at some point…
This week in the Draft we report on Jonas Deichmann’s experience racing the Peru Incadivide in the BikingMan Ultra racing series.
Fairly new to the scene, the BikingMan race series has made a big impact in the ultra distance cycling community and has attracted some of the best athletes in the world. The series consists of six races, set in Oman, Corsica, Laos, Peru, Portugal and Taiwan with each stage consisting of (on average) 1000km through extremely tough landscapes and high altitudes. The races are also open to amateurs and professionals alike with on average 80 entrants competing in one race.
Jonas had been chosen by BikingMan as the 2019 race ambassador because of his incredible achievements in ultra cycling. These include an incredible 96 day ride from Alaska to Ushuaia setting the new Pan America Record and the Eurasia cycling record.
The previous stage in Laos saw Jonas’ bike suffer irreparable mechanical failure with a fair chunk of the race still to go. So instead of scratching (the cycling term for your race ending due to injury, bike failure or simply giving up) Jonas decided he was going to walk the remaining 200km.
Pushing his bike on foot along remote jungle passes, through tropical storms and up steep mountain roads to complete the race before the cut off time. A truly heroic effort. Hopefully we would not see a repeat of this in Peru…
The race started and ended in the coastal town of Trujillo. Bursting with energy and character, the 50 riders gathered in the square of the town (which was still busy with folks enjoying the previous evenings activities) at 4.30am.
Excitement grew, nerves were amplified and with a long loud blast of the klaxon, the riders clipped into their pedals and pulled away into the night with a mind boggling 1600km and 32,000m of ascent ahead of them. Bike lights and coloured cycling outfits soon turned into blurry shapes and disappeared into the morning darkness away from the coast and into the unknown of the Andes mountains.
Being an unsupported race series, the cyclist have to carry their own kit, source their food and find places to sleep along the route. Some choose to camp as well as stay in hotels depending on how remote they are during the course when night arrives. The more hardcore of the cyclists often choose to ride through the night to gain advantage and miles over their competition.
The Oman, Corsica and Laos stages were incredible adventures. But Peru was something truly hard to beat.
We followed Jonas on the road and rugged tracks as he made his way up and across the Andes through sleepy mountain villages up into the high national parks. For the last 4 or 5 days of Jonas’ race we passed through Punta Olympica National Park and the Canyon Del Pato. Snow capped peaks and ancient glaciers flanked us as we traversed across the range in and out of deep canyons and green valleys. so far the trip had delivered the most incredible landscapes we’d ever seen.
The days ticked by as Jonas rode with a seemingly bottomless pit of energy, occasionally stopping to refuel. Unsurprisingly it was very difficult to find anything with enough of the protein, fat or carbohydrates needed for cycling such a long distance. This only added to the jeopardy and adventure of the race.
The people we met along the way were friendly and more than happy to help us, the women wore beautiful hand woven, colourful shawls and impressively high hats covering long dark pig tails. A traditional Peruvian way of dressing that is just so wonderful to see first hand.
By the time the halfway stage of the race came, a few cyclists had already finished. The winner, a French rider called Sofiane Sehili completed the 1600km race in staggeringly short amount of time of just 5 days 15 Hours. His first 600km was undertaken with no sleep at all. A truly super-human effort. Second place was taken by local cycling legend Rodney Soncco. A regular competitor and winner of the BikingMan series.
Jonas had decided before the race that he was going to take the full ten days to finish. His reasons being that he wanted to save his legs for his big world record attempt in September of this year, where he will be cycling 18000km from Norway to South Africa.
Jonas finished the race with a final dash through the night, back along the busy but impressive Pan American Highway, with endless sand dunes to one side and the deep blue of the Pacific to the other. Eventually he rolled across the finish line at 4.40am. Just 20 minutes from the race cut off time. An exciting end to an unbelievable cycling race, and a hugely memorable adventure for both cyclists and everyone else involved.
If you are looking to go cycling in Peru Yellow Jersey bicycle insurance will provide travel and bike insurance for all forms of bike packing.