“Don’t Surrender” those two unforgettable words of Trans Siberian Extreme 2018
Red Bull Trans Siberian Extreme (TSE). World’s Longest Stage Bike Race.
9100 kms from Moscow to Vladivostok. This crazy distance is to covered in 25 days in 15 stages. It takes you across 7 different time zones. The total elevation gain is 77,321 meters which amounts to climbing 9 times Mount Everest. This really makes it longest and toughest endurance challenge on the planet available.
When I started the race in Moscow, I was 2.5 hrs behind India time after 25 days when I reached Vladivostok I was 4 hours ahead of India Time. The stage plan itself is crazy, in the initial 2 stages we biked around 320 kms and 350 kms. In trans siberian language these are short stages and are kind of warm up for the race and an opportunity to settle into the race. Settle into the rhythm of the race, get your food intake right, understand the support you are getting and understand other riders.
Then comes the third stage which is 690 kms from Kazan to Perm. It has 4900 meters of elevation gain. This is where you start getting the real taste of TSE and terrain of Russia. The terrain of Russia is mostly these Siberian mid-highlands. You can never settle into a continuous steady rhythm on this terrain. The terrain is very typical. There is a grade of 1 to 2 % for 2 to 5 kms, which will end up in a steep hill of 5% grade to 12% grade of 1 kms to 2 kms. The same pattern keeps repeating for hundreds of kilometers. Same up and down and again up and down, which keeps killing you in the mind.
Stage 4 and 5 are relatively short stages covering 331 and 314 kms with elevation gain of 3500 and 1500 meters respectively.
Stage 6 and Stage 7 are crazy as one has to ride back to back 614 kms and 611 kms. I remember I finished the stage 6 around noon and the same day at 10 PM we were going to start stage 7 from Omsk to Novosibirsk. This really tests you as I had only some 8 hours of rest and again I was back on the road. The 8th stage is relatively easy with only 260 kms. The 9th Stage is 557 kms.
The 10th Stage is 1054 kms with an elevation gain of 9500 kms is I think second most toughest stage of the race. It was all raining during this stage, sometimes it was drizzling and sometimes heavy. It rains cold in Siberia and I had to change my clothes 4 to 5 times during this stage because the cold rain water will still seep in in-spite of wearing best possible rain gear. When I reached Irkutsk it was all raining heavily in last 100 kms. It took me time but we made it in the end. There was almost a 24 hours break in the next stage.
The 11th stage was short 440 kms but with lots of climbing of 4500 meters. We went across Ural mountains and magical Lake Baikal. This stage is magical and most beautiful of all the stages. The 12th stage was 660 kms from Ulan Ude to Chita another beautiful section of Russia.
After riding 6,300 kms comes the King’s stage from Chita to Svobodny for 1360 kms with an elevation gain of 13,000 meters. This is truly the King’s stage and a dream of ultra-cyclist. It has everything the distance, elevation, forest and all the beauty. The beauty of Russia as a country is unparalleled.
After getting through the King’s stage, you have this feeling that you are almost there with two more stages to go. The 14th and 15th stages are still super long with 689 km and 760 km and elevation gain of 3000 meters and 6800 meters respectively. The last stages test your patience and focus to finish the race. Everyone is tired and you want to finish the job as soon as possible to go home but still one has to ride these long distances and be on the bike for another 60 hrs. It’s a sitting on the bike competition.
The weather is also extreme in Trans Siberian Extreme. As soon as we hear the word Siberia we generally picture snow and freezing temperatures. It’s summer in Siberia when the race gets organized. In the initial 5 stages it was really hot in the day time and night temperature was also pretty comfortable. From the stage 6 on wards it started to become very cold in the night with night temperatures falling up to zero and 2 to 3 degree Celsius. apart from that it used to become very foggy in the night and early morning and result in poor visibility and reduced average speed. So the rider is subjected to all kinds of weather heat, light, cold and rain. You need to be ready for everything.
The day is very long in the initial stages with sunrise at 3 AM in the morning and sunset at around 11 PM in the night. This exposed me to heat and sunlight for almost 20 hours in a day. As we kept riding towards East the day became shorter and the night became longer and also more humid.
It is most amazing feeling when you see the Japanese Sea in Vladivostok after 25 days of riding. This bike race is not about cadence, heart rate and power meter. You need truck loads of guts and determination. You need a mind to sit on the bike for 30 hrs, 40 hrs and sometimes 60 hrs to get through every stage. It is a test of your physical and mental strength. Cycling 9100 km in 25 days is just a tool to demonstrate your endurance and power of the mind. You will need to have long big conversation with your own self on the bike to get through these distances.