Athletes from all disciplines gathered in the rugged terrain of Oman to test out their endurance in the first of the six races of the 2019 BikingMan Championship, an unassisted ultra-cycling race series.
The second edition of the championship kicked off on February 24th in Oman with riders cycling a distance of 1,050km and climbing a total elevation of 7200m of the Hajar mountains then traversing across the Al Sharqiya desert to finally reach Muscat without any external assistance.
The time limit to finish this self-supported race is five days (120 hours) and each athlete has a GPS tracking system that monitors their progress.
The race brought together riders from 23 different countries, which also included a diverse bunch that represented the UAE and fared quite well in the race, who took some time out to talk to Sport360 about their adventures in Oman.
Niel Copeland had joined BikingMan last year at the request of one of his clients and ended up falling in love with ultra-racing, the Englishman won overall second place in the 2018 series
“I’m fortunate in that as a cycle coach I get to spend a lot of time on the bike preparing physiologically but it’s important to focus as much time on the mental, organization and strategy elements of the race,” the Englishman told Sport360.
BikingMan was a life-changing experience for the 44-year-old and had quite an eventful start for this year’s race in Oman.
Before he could reach the start line of this year’s series, Copeland suffered a crash in training just five weeks before the race and was unable to cycle for two weeks.
“With the crash, just getting to the start line was a major challenge,” said Copeland, “Taking on the shortcut section poses some really good physical and technical challenges with some steep climbs and gravel descents. Riding through the night is a major mental challenge with fatigue disrupting your decision making. I stopped twice through the night for a 20-minute nap and that really helped.”
Despite the initial hiccup, Copeland managed to secure eighth place in the race and he has now set his eyes on BikingMan Corsica in April.
Helle Bachofen von Echt
40-year-old Von Echt is a Danish expat who has been living in the UAE for the last five years and discovered her love for outdoor cycling while she was on a quest to make the most of the ‘all year summer weather’ in the Middle East.
As a seasoned fitness enthusiast, the Dane considers herself fortunate for getting some guidance from fellow UAE expats, Niel Copeland and Renette Raynor who assisted her with the logistical and technical side of the race’s preparation.
“It was quite exhausting,” she said, “I also tested out all my equipment on those rides as well creating a fueling strategy. My longest ride during preparation was 240km in 10 hours. I never trained sleep deprivation or riding through the night.”
Von Echt was absolute stunned by her own strength and even after all the setbacks and challenges, she managed to finish 10th and was one the two women who were in the top ten.
She said, “I am still a little bit in shock, over the moon and extremely surprised and proud of my time. I finished the 1,050km in 46 hrs 30 mins. This is a 10th place overall and right behind the semi-pros at the top. In fact, we were two women in top 10 as Jasmijn Muller placed 9th overall and 1st woman across the line in 45 hours 37 mins. On behalf of women, I am deeply proud of us!”
38-year-old communication consultant, Dawn Barnable was always behind the scenes in sporting events, but this time decided to join the band of cyclists traversing across the steep terrain of Oman.
She reinforces the polite Canadian stereotype, but behind that jovial smile lies an iron will and fortitude that enabled her to finish the grueling race and clock in a time of 105 hours and 50 minutes.
Barnable’s involvement with the sport started merely three or four months ago, so for a complete novice, she was very satisfied with her performance and established some great connections with her fellow cyclists.
She said, “the main highlight for me, along with the sense of accomplishment and awe that I actually completed 1037km, was the kindness from and connection with my fellow cyclists. I’ve never been welcomed into a sport as I have with ultra-cycling. Despite most of us being solo riders, there was a real sense of camaraderie and being in it together.”
Barnable is now gearing up for the Corsica edition of the BikingMan series in April and wants to put a stronger focus on climbing rather than just pure distance.
Omar Al Saadi
Emirati rider, Omar Al Saadi is a cyclist by passion and mechanical engineer for DEWA by profession.
The 25-year-old had the privilege to be under the tutelage of Niel Copeland who really helped him develop his cycling fitness and take it to a whole another level.
“I started training step by step, learning everything I should know about the bike and equipment, my body abilities, how to eat properly on the bike and off the bike and focused on my endurance training,” he told sport360, “And of course it was a long journey divided in two parts, my minor goal was to do the Coast to Coast challenge (which is 200km with 1300m of elevation) in November and then training for the big event BikingMan in February.”
Al Saadi struggled with a knee injury during the race, but managed to clock in a time of 89 hours and the highlight of his race was being able to meet and interact with people who were passionate about the sport as he was.
The youngster is now looking forward to the next BikingMan race in Oman and has set a personal goal of finishing the race under 72 hours.
For more information on the BikingMan series, please log on to www.bikingman.com
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