When in 1910 the organisers of the Tour de France included a mountain stage in the race for the first time, the outcry in the peloton was huge.
With 300 kilometres and 6000 vertical metres of climbing over five mountain passes from Bagnères de Luchon to Bayonne, it was a brutal parcours that struck fear into the heart of even the toughest riders of the time. Now, 105 years later, Switzerland’s Patrick Seabase is set to follow in the tyre tracks of those cycling legends by becoming the first athlete to complete this legendary stage … on a fixie. His challenge of a lifetime starts on 3 June 2015 in the Pyrenees. Fans can follow the adventure in real-time with GPS tracking and a live feed at www.redbull.com/Seabase1910.
Patrick Seabase performs on the way up to Simplon Pass, Switzerland on May 11th 2015
- Photographer Credit VA Images / Red Bull Content Pool
ZURICH (Switzerland) – “Vous êtes des assassins!” (“You are murderers!”) gasped Octave Lapize towards Henri Desgranges, the organiser of the Tour de France, as he passed him on the Col d’Aubisque. The race leader had already conquered three Pyrenean mountain passes but had a further 160 kilometres to go to the finish line. In the town of Bayonne, after 14 hours in the saddle, he somehow still found the energy to outsprint his last remaining rival, Italy’s Pierino Albini. Over a century later these early pioneers of cycling have inspired Patrick Seabase to recreate this iconic piece of sporting history. “As well it being a personal challenge, I want to know what those athletes went through during the first mountain stage of the Tour de France – riding over rough roads through the wilderness of the Pyrenees,” comments the rider from the Swiss city of Bern.
The bike: an homage to days gone by
The bicycles used back in 1910 were surprisingly similar to the modern two-wheeler upon which Seabase will attempt his feat of endurance. Seabase will go on his feat of endurance with just a single gear. Lapize and other riders in the early 20th century had two: one for climbs and one for the rest. There were no gears in the modern sense – the only way of “changing gear” was by stopping, getting off and swapping the rear wheel for different one fitted with a larger cog. State-of-the-art road bikes around 1910 weighed between 10 and 13 kilos and were made of steel and wood. Seabase, on the other hand, will make his attempt on a 7.2kg carbon fibre machine. As a cycling purist, the Swiss fixie fanatic will stay true to the brakeless tradition of track bikes. The only way to decelerate is by pedalling more slowly and occasionally sliding the rear wheel into a controlled skid. With no brakes to take the strain, descents are just as tough for Seabase as climbs – and without a doubt more dangerous.“On this bike it is all or nothing. You can’t just change into an easier gear. With the physics so primeval and basic, the mental aspect becomes even more important. You have to be able to block out the pain – that is why I have set myself a series of targets along the route.” Target 1: Col de Peyresourde
Patrick Seabase and Danilo Hondo (Sports Director and former Cycling Pro) seen in Centovalli, Ticino, Switzerland on May 11th 2015
Photographer Credit VA Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Seabase will set off at 4am on the morning of 3 June 2015 and begin his ascent up the Col de Peyresourde before sunrise. The main challenge will be to find a rhythm and stay relaxed in the knowledge of what is to come. A safe descent in darkness back down the other side of the mountain will signal a successful start to a long day in the saddle.
Target 2: Col d’Aspin
The second pass on the route is the Col d’Aspin. By now the sun will have risen and Seabase should be tapping out a steady rhythm, but it is still far too early to celebrate. Going too hard up the Col d’Aspin could seriously jeopardise the chances of making it through to the end of the stage in Bayonne. This second section is all about staying calm and getting over the mountain without expending too much energy.
Target 3: Col du Tourmalet
With 2000 vertical metres of climbing and two taxing descents in his legs, the 17km ascent up the eastern flank of the Col du Tourmalet will be a brutal rendezvous with reality. “This is the one climb I am worried about,” admits Seabase. If he passes the statue at the summit erected in honour of Octave Lapize, he will almost certainly be the first cyclist since the early days of the Tour de France to do so on a fixed-gear bike.
Target 4: Col d’Aubisque
The climb of the Col d’Aubisque is almost twice as long as that of the Tourmalet. Its changing gradient will make it hard for Seabase to find a rhythm. “These 30km will also be full of mental ups and downs,” he predicts. On this, the penultimate climb, it will be a question of mind over matter and pushing on through the pain.
Target 5: Col d’Osquich
Seabase may have left the giants of the Pyrenees behind him, but he is still only half way – and the second half of the parcours is anything but flat. A series of rolling hills on the ride to Bayonne will sap any remaining energy out of his shattered legs. “I really hope there isn’t a headwind,” he says. With just 290 vertical metres of climbing, the Col d’Osquich is a mere bump in the landscape compared with the passes he has already been over, yet Seabase will be so exhausted by this point that even this seemingly harmless col could push him over the edge.
80 kilometres to the finish
By this time, sunset will be approaching. All in all the final 80 kilometres are downhill, yet there are still quite a few small climbs on the way to Bayonne that add up to around 1000 vertical metres of ascent. These are the roads of cycling legend. With the tank empty and legs drained, it will be all about mental toughness and absolute determination on this final push towards the finishing line in Bayonne near the Basque coastline. If he makes it this far then Patrick Seabase will know something that only very few others do – precisely how those pioneers of cycling would have felt 105 years ago.
Danilo Hondo as directeur sportif
Seabase will be accompanied from start to finish by former German pro cyclist Danilo Hondo, who will act as directeur sportif for the ride. “In the early stages my job will be to stop him from going too hard and using up too much energy which he will need later on in the stage,” explains Hondo. “Later on I will have to help him through those moments when he thinks he simply can’t go on.” As well as Hondo, Seabase will also be followed by a support team and a doctor throughout the ride.
Patrick Seabase poses for a portrait in Centovalli, Ticino, Switzerland on May 11th 2015 Photographer Credit VA Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Live coverage at Redbull.com/seabase1910
To give you some idea of the challenge Seabase has set himself: completing the ride in 15 hours is equivalent to climbing to the top viewing platform of the Eiffel Tower 110 times in 45 hours (30 kilometres). He will burn the number of calories contained in 50 plates of pasta. The adventure begins on 3 June 2015and can be followed in real-time on the internet via GPS tracking showing Seabase’s exact location. There will also be a live feed covering the tortuous ride from start to finish. Viewers will be able to track physiological data from the athlete as well as technical information such as current speed, altitude and distance covered, emphasising just how tough the #Seabase1910 Challenge really is. Any change of date to #Seabase1910 due to adverse weather conditions will also be announced on the website