It’s weird. For the first time I’m wishing my backpack were heavier. Even bulging with overnight kit it feels too light, which means I’m out of water. We’re 3000 meters up on a remote Northern Argentinean mountainside, beneath a searing sun. And then comes the hammer blow: “We are half way now,” says Francisco, our local bike guide. We’ve been out on this trail five hours already today but it will be another four before we reach our day’s end point and can finally rehydrate. We look at our limp hydration reservoirs and then at each other.
This mini adventure will be in my memories forever, how I guided two Mountain Bike celebrities over two days to two peaks above 3000m/ 9000ft.
In February 2012 I contacted Hans Rey, who I didn’t know at the time, to write a foreword to a new book I was publishing with VTOPO. He immediately accepted in a very professional manner. After several emails back and forth I also decided to publish the French edition of a book Hans had recently released about his 25 years of Mountain Bike Adventures, the French edition will be published in Oct. 2013. To kick off the book, I proposed to do a trip together in the French Alps.
Hans, who has done many adventure trips all over the world, wanted to know all the details about the proposed trip and the route, he also invited Dan Atherton to come along to join us. I liked the idea, because these two riders are from radically different riding styles. Hans is a former Trials rider and Adventurer, Dan is built for speed. An interesting combination of skills at 3000m of altitude.
I had never heard of the Lofoten Islands until I was approached by an old buddy of mine and former racer Manfred “Mani-Shoot” Stromberg from Germany who was the photographer on this trip with German Enduro racer and photo rider Tobias Woggon. We had never done a trip together before, but my curiosity was sparked when they showed me some photos of this stunning and rugged looking islands above the Arctic Circle in Norway.
This place is not very well known amongst mountain bikers , apparently because it’s a backpackers paradise and the hiking trails and terrain are just too steep to ride off-road, especially in the Southern part of the islands, where we were bound for. Sounded interesting enough for me to take a closer look and give it a go. Tobias had been there the previous year, but without a bike – he told me the place was amazing but wasn't sure how rideable these trails would be.
It was time again to head back to East Africa to follow up on some of the Wheels 4 Life work we have been doing there in the past years. Our charity has evolved and grown a lot, we now have an infrastructure in place with a team of field volunteers that enables us to run this non-profit organization pure, efficient and effective. Our mission was to meet many of our project leaders from Kenya and Uganda in the field, as well as a lot of our previous bike recipients to monitor first hand the impact the bicycles have had on their lives and give a whole lot more away at the same time, 270 bikes to be precise. We also wanted to learn, about the countries, the people, their needs and character. We are often asked the questions; “Can we make a difference, are we making a difference?” The answer is yes; most definitely we can and are.
The MTB Ayiti event was organized this year for the first time with the ultimate goal of developing mountain biking in Haiti through local, microenterprise Haitian businesses. The Haiti Ascent Mountain Bike Stage Race is a cornerstone event – it’s more than just a race. This race will develop a mountain bike ecosystem in Haiti and provide a transforming experience to participants.
I was contacted by the organizer in the early planning stages last year. It sounded very promising, even though I’m not a racer anymore and never was into endurance racing – I thought it would make a nice ride to traverse this beautiful but poverty stricken Caribbean Island at my own pace. There was a great opportunity to tie in a Wheels 4 Life charity project and to help develop a local mountain bike infrastructure that could potentially attract mountain biking tourism in the future and help the grim economic situation that country is facing, especially after the devastation earthquake in 2010 that destroyed many cities and killed over 300,000 people.
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