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Racing the Deserts of Oman and over the mountains of Corsica

With the 2019 ultra racing season well underway now with first two rounds Oman 24th feb & Corsica 29th April of the bikingman ultra-cycling championship done and dusted its onto Laos 20th May next in south east Asia.

The opening round takes us to the beautiful country of Oman in the Middle East of the south-east Arabian Peninsula, the Hajar Mountains, the spectacular Jebel Shams Pass, the Ash Sharqiyah Desert and Arabian Seaside Roads proved a challenging race, 1050km with 7.500m of climbing in extreme temperatures totally unsupported with some of the best ultra athletes the battle went toe2toe as we blasted into the night starting at 5am an opportunity to get the legs moving just before the blistering sun popped up. The pace was frantic up front leaving Barka on route to the monster mixed surface climb at 330km “jebels sham “, and boy did it hurt. As with unsupported you carry everything and I mean everything cloths, food, lights, spare this spare that on a killer climb soon sapped your energy dry. It felt like it went on forever topping out at Cp1 at 358km with the most iconic views and breathtaking geography, soon it’s was into the night and I was getting stronger and stronger, sleep wasn’t an issue nutrition on point and access to water was ready available at the mosques gates, hoping it was pure an clean I hammered on. By now the race was been led by Peru rider Rodney Soncco as he opted for the optional gravel shortcut giving him a 2hr 30min head start on us chasing dogs. Uk ultra rider Josh libett was in second and I was closing in third position. Battling thru the night with moderately present warm temperatures a welcome from the blistering day time heat I soon seen Josh rear headlight ahead and pushed really hard catching him at the mid way point of the race, it was a welcome to have a pleasant conversation way better than the self hate conversations with myself as to why what for and never again which soon fade…staying with in sight of each other we had the healthiest battle as the sun came up over the Arabian Sea and we both entered checkpoint two at 770kms and only minutes separating us both. By now we had endured the harshness of the desert hungry thirsty and keen to stay ahead of the chasing riders of Michael Knudsen & Peter Sandholt. Shortly after Cp2 the respect shown between myself and josh was incredible as I was feeling stronger on this occasion & I pushed on with josh’s well wishes into second over all but not before the challenging coast road had it’s final say as the lack of water and supplies forced dehydration and flushed my salts and minerals leaving a race jersey as white with salt snowflakes.. limping home over the final few climbs close to muscat I got refuelled hydrated and delighted to power home crossing the bikingman Redbull finish line a healthy 2nd place overall.. covering the 1150km course in 40hrs 32mins.

Bikingman Corsica was next 700km & 14.000mtrs of climbing…

29th April at 5am the start line was filled with the nervous energy of excitement and from Bastia, we faced the mountains through the Regional natural Park of Corsica, to reach the Southern parts of the island, following the west coast heading north, passing by its enchanting beaches, through the desert of the Agriates and around the Cap Corse. Corsica like you have never seen it…and mountain roads like I’d never felt before roller after roller if we weren’t climbing we were descending never a flat road.. but it was unreal and a proper hard course and not for the faint hearted. Of course the light lizards were at home and the larger shaped riders badly penalised except on the down hills of course lol.

By now the sharp-end of the race was red hot and I was struggling to stay in contact with the super lite mountain climbers forcing me to ride like a madman on the technical down hill sections to catch up after loosing so much on the super long climbs. The temperatures were pleasant 25deg by day as we raced through the most beautiful old Italian / french villages architecture so impressive & so romantic in their setting. After checkpoint one at 170km I was feeling great and in control Physically and mentally & racing hard, by now placed 5th overall and feeling confident as the night rolled in I would pick some riders off, moving myself higher in general classification. Alot of race positives were unfolding like Oman nutrition and hydration was on point so following the same strategy and feeling strong I rolled into checkpoint two just before dark feeling optimistic content and happy with my performance to date, however things went badly downhill shortly after leaving checkpoint 2 and all my own doing.. I’d decided to go super light taking no extra clothing except what I was wearing and when I say super light I mean nothing nada and then the unexpected cold came at 11pm I knew I was in trouble I started shaking and by 12.30am at approx 500km I was uncontrollably cold and I’d no cloths no thermal top or bottom hands or head to keep me warm, I couldn’t brake or hold the handlebars my chest was in agony with the severe cold and my adrenaline was pumping my heart super hard to the sound of a marching band. I had to stop ,Knocking on doors in remote villages I could get no help understandably no one would answer. I needed to get warm I needed to get out of this cold I was shaking like crazy & I spotted a few cars along the road checked them all but sadly all locked except this last little old style white citron van it was open and it was like Christmas morning. Without hesitation I parked he bike up alongside and jumped in and it was as cold in the van as it was outside, taking the van seat cover off was my only hope of warmth, in fear of the van owner arriving I pulled it over my head and totally covered myself and looked exactly like the seat – no joke what else could I do it was fight or flight at least if the owner can out he wouldn’t spot me I joked to myself, I sat their until 6.30am – Sharon called my phone as my tracker showed me stopped for over 5hrs, not knowing if I could continue she screamed down the phone with some flowery language “Jason get on that f…kn bike and get your ass to that finish line” your not coming home till you do, she was right I laughed and took off climbing higher and higher awaiting for the sun to come up and it did but not till after 9am as I was on the leeward side of the dam mountain – never in all my days on the coldest most remotest mountains in the world was I as cold as I have been on this night…”you bollocks” Jason I called to myself over and over again. Until I decided right let’s get to this blood finish line and finish this out.

And while this wasn’t the race I wanted and that seams to be the case for quite a few other athletes who equally got caught out also, it was such great learning, I’d lost nothing and gained so much more for the next. Dragging my sorry ass over the finish line at Bastia 16th overall 40hrs 40min.

Off to the next and round #3 in south east Asia 20th May 780km 10.500mtrs of climbing through the jungles of Laos.

– through endurance we can conquer all.

Jason

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