On November 8th, I completed the 10,000th kilometer on my bike. Or so I thought. Then I uploaded everything to Strava and opened Veloviewer to create an infographic with this impressive statistic. Only to see that I had reached just 9,989km.* Still dressed up, I ran into the basement, picked my bike, and did easily some of the fastest 12.5km of the entire season. I was still done before sunset. Finally I got my pretty infographic.
* In my defense: Veloviewer’s summary screen had me at 10,000km before the added sprint. Veloviewer’s infographic used the same total distance of cycling kilometers that I also see in the Strava app on my phone. Here’s a funny tidbit: Strava on desktop had my cycling kilometers beyond 10,000km about 250km earlier. In either situation, I had unselected virtual/trainer rides and commutes. Eventually, I decided to follow the lowest value of all.
I’m now a legitimate applicant for membership in the 10000km.cc. It’s impressive to plot this season against my personal history. (The plot includes virtual kilometers.) I bought my first road bike in 2007. During my first decade, I rode consistently between 3.500 and 5.000km. That masks the evolution that actually took place. Rides got fewer, but longer. I also got faster. I moved three times (from Berlin to Rotterdam, from Rotterdam to Milan, and now from Milan to Munich), each time adjusting to new realities and new roads. Still, two years stand out: 2017 and 2018.
In December 2016, I joined Zwift. You can see the uptick in the orange line on the very right of the graph. With the help of Zwift, I had done 1,500km in 2017 by the time it got warm enough to cycle outside. In 2018, my first outdoor ride was already in January. (And I crashed on black ice.) Still, Zwift played a crucial role. I could expand my FTP and I could actually start the season on a good level of endurance. Guys, there was this one day in winter when I did 100km on Zwift. It’s among the hardest things I’ve ever done mentality-wise. But you learn to ride on. And if you want to do 10,000km, at some point you will have to ride on. Quite often you have to ride on.
There’s a good reason as to why in 2018 I still out-cycled 2017 by good 2,000km. This year I was out of contract at Bocconi at the end of August. I then gave myself a small sabbatical in which I would focus on myself to develop a strategy and a relevant personal profile. At that point, I also agreed to pursue the 10,000km as a goal in itself. I’m glad I’ve done it. I’ve achieved a major goal. This drives my motivation to achieve major goals with whatever my next challenge is going to be.
Elevate, a nifty add-on to Strava, estimates my training stress based on my heart-rate data. It’s arguable not as good as watt-based training stores. For a non-competitive athlete, it does good enough of a job. The graph shows my training stress from mid May 2017 to, well, now. I like the view on this season. Without much planning, I avoided long periods of overload. I even nailed some periodic rest which, where each block would push me up a little higher. The first block ended with my break-up. The second and third block were interrupted by visits of family and friends in Milan. In August, I was traveling for a conference, to a friend, and with a pancake. Things came to an end mid October, when the weather turned bad.
And then there’s the final micro-block to finish things up. I felt both freshness (low fatigue) and fitness, i.e. I did have a great form. Those rides were among the fastest of the entire season. All of a sudden, I could ignore my rescue ring (the smallest cog on the cassette, which in my case is a 30).
I invested a lot of time into this. In other words: Unless I’ll make a living out of it, it’s not likely to happen again. It doesn’t have to happen again either. 10K only became a goal when kilometers accumulated. The 10K kept me motivated for planning more day trips to roads I had not seen before. Not to get lazy and just do repetitive trips around the block. To cycle the way that I enjoy most: out there on some climb (and another and then again another) and then ride home and finish the day with a cup of gelato. (Yes, I still had gelato in November.) I’ve been on many climbs. I’m amazed by how engineering made all these Alpine beauties accessible. I recognize how it did harm to the environment; I hope that we move on to protect the environment and these treasured places. Truthfully, I look at my personal heatmap of 2018 with loads of satisfaction.
There are some highlights that I remember fondly. And why not just give you one per month of riding. That’s eleven of them. (Since it’s November.)
I’ve mentioned my crash on ice in January. That day, I abandoned any further plans to ride up and down the hills between Lago Maggiore and Lago di Lugano. Instead, I safely rode down the lake-side of Lago Maggiore. It made January look like May.
Soon I’ll have a separate post up about winter cycling in Südtirol, which is based on my rides in February. Those were rides of independence. I confirmed myself in my identity: I am because I cycle.
There was an amazing ride that I did in March: The roads in Lombardy’s valleys were clear of snow, but the shoulders where as white as were the higher summits. I cycled from Bergamo through the canyon of Val Tallegio and ended the ride at Lago di Como. On Strava, I posted this as probably the most beautiful route in the Alps.
And then in April, I famously fainted in front of my students four days after cycling almost 240km from Torino to San Remo. I’m biting my nails that I didn’t continue to Ventimiglia to close off the 250km. It would have been more worth it to faint.
May had me visit the Giro d’Italia at three occasions. I met Carlos from Barcelona during the stage to Cervinia. People on the roadside cheered us as if we were the professionals. This atmosphere of riding with many people I find personally very empowering.
In June I had lots of visitors over. In between their visits, I could only ride after work during the week. I focused on KOM hunting around Milan. I had gained and lost a few and it was time to get them back. Still, the mountains drew me in. At the very end of the month, there was just enough Swiss time for a bottle, a donkey, and a train. I figured that three hours drive one-way are still within limit of what I consider a satisfying day trip. Also, fuel is cheap in Switzerland.
On to July. I had moved to Munich and started exploring an entirely new area. At the peak of summer, five friends and I kicked off our Transalp to Venice. On the last day of the month, we crossed the Großglockner. I have to say that the feeling was more uplifting going over the Stelvio. I think that was because the Großglockner hurt quite a bit more and I needed a moment to enjoy it. Or maybe it was the flat tire I caught on the way down.
Summer long wasn’t over. The group re-united for the Wendelstein bike marathon in August: 208km with more than 2,500m climbing. I had a very low point at the third feed station. Yet, I knew that Tom would finish this thing at all cost. There was no realistic scenario in which I could give in and not finish. Kudos to Reik who pulled me over my low point and finished together with me. I still don’t know exactly why I did it.
Instead, I do know why I crossed the Passo del Rombo (Timmelsjoch) in September: In 2011, I had crossed it in opposite direction. I had no GPS recordings of that ride. There was a big gap on my heat map. It had to closed, no? And if on top of that you get to ride one of the hardest, longest, most spectacular climbs in all of the Alps, who wouldn’t sign up for that? (See, that’s the strange thing about us cyclists. We are sort of suffer brothers.)
I still did some big rides in October, but my favorite got to be a small trip that I did with Tom. Days were still longish prior to the end of Summer time and we met up for just 70km into and out of the Alps. Nothing difficult. No major climb really. (References shift. Two years ago, I would have considered 250m elevation gain a major climb.) But lots of fun. And gelato.
Interestingly, the final highlight of the season shares a bit of road with Tom’s and my trip in October. Vegetation changed a lot since. See, until October, it could have been August. And in November, it was finally October. This ride was awesome because we could gather the entire group from Munich again. Indeed, most of my rides were solo. I enjoy riding solo. But when I have good folks around me, then this multiplies the pleasure.
So, here we are and it’s mid November.
For 10,000 kilometers, my bike and I shared our passion for fields, forests, and altitude. I’ve been riding 60,000km with my bikes in seven years. Never did we have a year like this. We climbed the toughest mountains. We saw the best lakes. We smelt the shittiest cows. We crashed in the most stupid ways.
We loved every meter of it.
When the wind came from ahead, we ached, and then we threw us into the fight. When the slope went up in double digits, we thought about the descent and about the moment we would reach the top. We found new roads, good roads, terrible roads, and blocked roads. We’ve reached a lot. We are not done yet. A 12th monthly highlight is missing.
But to celebrate the best season that we could have thought of, we did something good. I donated 100 Euro to the Qhubeka foundation to get some kids on the bike and feel what I feel: inspiration, freedom, and future. Because bicycles change lives.