When I was laying in bedside this summer it was not clear yet that my health recovery would allow me to tackle the Atlas Mountain Race (AMR). So I kept my eyes open for alternatives as motivation to get me back on the bike as soon as possible. And by accident I stumbled across a post shared by Roman Baltes on Facebook about the Last Man Riding in Nancy (France). It was scheduled a little later than the AMR, the race mode sounded like fun and the starting fee was cheap. So why not throwing my name onto the list of 100 contenders for the LMR?
The rules of the race are quite simple. Every hour all riders are obliged to wait at the starting line to tackle the course of ~23km involving 260 altitude meters to climb. If you are not able to be back on time for the next start due to lack of speed, technical issues, tiredness, everything around nutrition or for any other reason, you are out. After several hours the field gets smaller and smaller and at the end only one rider should appear at the starting line anymore. That’s the „Last Man Riding“ and the winner of the event.
But why did I show up at all even though I was able to travel to Morocco and just finished the AMR there on Wednesday November 5th? I don’t really know. But in fact, I had a few short recovery rides on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that felt quite okay and also the skin touching the saddle felt promising to sustain a longer ride again. On private side of things, we didn’t have any plans for the weekend. So my wife and kids sent crazy dad for a last season closing to France only five days after I returned from Morocco (or at least gave their favorable travel approval 😉).
Thursday evening was really packed with all the preparations so I could start towards France after work on Friday afternoon. Thanks to my teammate Thomas Georg I even had a spare bike with me in case my ORBEA ORCA would show any mechanicals during the race (fortunately that was not the case, otherwise I would have had to clean-up two bikes afterwards).
I arrived on Friday evening, picked up my starting documents, did the AMR podcast with Martin from bike tour global and felt asleep in my camper. Every time I woke up during the night, I heard rain popping on the roof of the camper… best conditions for a long day in the saddle…
After breakfast I did a last bike check and prepared replacement clothes, nutrition and spare parts in an easily accessible way to be ready for short pit stops during the race.
Just in time for the start of the race on Saturday 10am the rain paused, and I was quite optimistic and started without rain jacket which turned out to be a mistake already after a few kilometers when heavy rain started again. For the next rounds I corrected it, but I didn’t feel like a real racer anymore when wearing even rain shorts…
In the first rounds the fast guys at the front pushed up the hill (that came at km 7 and accumulated around 140meters to climb) quite hard. I could have followed but decided to go for a more even pace that I could sustain for the whole race. That was mentally quite hard because I had to ride long parts of the course alone due to that decision. Fortunately I had my aerobars attached so I could hide from the stiff winds even without a lot of drafting opportunities.
At 6pm the field of riders was already visibly reduced when everyone had to attach lights to the bike. The speed in the uphill sections also became less and I was able to start riding most of the course in company with other riders.
Between midnight and the early hours of Sunday morning the pack got reduced step by step.
When the sun rose, and we were allowed to switch off the lights again at 8am, only three of us were still riding: Dam Vuillier, Alix Masson and I. We had formed a community of destiny during the night already and rode most of the course together to also share the burden working against the strong wind. But while riding together we also realized we were all still feeling strong, and the durations of the laps stabilized between 45 to 48 minutes. So no end in sight and the light of the day even brought new energy into our sleepy minds… so this could have continued “forever” …
We finally agreed to call it a day and to stop together as “Three last men riding”. As a racer who is used to fight to the end this felt little strange for me at first. But while we finished the last two laps rounding up the event to 24h my mixed feelings turned into real pleasure. It was great to finally share the success after so many common laps.
After taking a shower at the finish I was more than happy to get back to real food after more than 24 hours of solely liquid nutrition. After that my way back home in the camper was only suspended by some short sleeps and an additional stop for food.
Even though the weather was far from good I really enjoyed the event. An extraordinary race mode combined with a great team from the organizer made it very special. I can only recommend the “Last Man Riding” and it was a perfect match for my season closing 🙂
For all statistic nerds: duration 23:44h, moving time 19:08h, 555km, 6.500m to climb, avg. 29,1km/h, temperature range 9-12°Celsius. Full Strava recording: https://www.strava.com/activities/7970005610
Now ready for offseason with my teammates and enjoying the pleasures being dad of a newly minted teenager who just turned 13 this week 😉 Let’s see what surprises will be unveiled by the next season …