On the 16th of August, Mikel Azparren will go up against Biscayan native Julian Sanz in a 24-hour cycling duel that will cover 750 kilometers.
This is a return to the road of suffering, a battle against time, a race against the clock, one that tests the very limits of the body itself. Gipuzcoa-born Mikel Azparren will repeat his attempt to cover a 750 kilometer stretch of St. James Way on bike in 24 hours or less. On this occasion, however, he will have a formidable opponent, Biscayan native Julian Sanz, who has completed this course three times and possesses a personal best time of 27 hours, 30 minutes versus the 24 hours, 56 minutes obtained by Azparren a year ago.
On the 16th of August at 4 pm, both cyclists will start at Roncesvalles, with an interval gap of three minutes between the two. Who departs first will be decided by the flip of a coin. The race represents a challenge for both cyclists, a trial that was organized a year ago by Andni Grijalba from Skoda one year ago and will be spearheaded this year by the cycling firm, Orbea.
The two cyclists have very different styles, according to Mikel Azparren. “Julian is an ultra-distance cyclist and is used to covering long distances at a pace of 31 to 32 kilometers per hour in races that cover 1200 kilometers or more,” he says.
“I am a middle-distance man, I tend to do runs of 200 kilometers, sometimes 300 at a higher average pace of 34 to 35 kilometers per hour.”
Neither man has covered the St. James Way stretch in less than 24 hours. That will be the most demanding part of the challenge. Azparren is preparing assiduously for the trial: “I am going to do the Pas Avant, La Querbrantahuesos, and the Abraham Olano races. All of these have mountain passes. I set my own training schedule and have as a reference what I did in 2013. I combine my workout with my job as spinning instructor and ork for the clothing shop, U51 Pro.”
A VERY HARD FINAL
This latest attempt means having to train three or four hours daily, with six-hour workouts on the weekend, morning and afternoon. “I also watch my diet very carefully, it is basically a macrobiotic one with protein consumption three days a week during which I eat fish and red meat. Right now, I am two kilos heavier than I was a year ago at this time.”
Azparren will try to avoid the mistakes of his first attempt. “The first error I made was starting at noon; this forced me to climb the La Cruz de Hierro mountain pass at four in the morning, when there was no light. The second mistake was failing to feed myself adequately during the trial. With the new timetable, we should arrive to La Cruz de Hierro at daybreak, not at night.”
From the experience, he has learned that “the most important thing is not to go out to win, but to try and do the distance in less than 24 hours. Last year I did not get off the bike for 12 hours and near León I was cruising at a very speedy 35.2 kilometers per hour. I still had La Cruz de Hierro and O’Cebreiro ahead of me. In the final 150 kilometers of St. James Way the terrain wasn’t flat. The hardness of this final stretch favors me, but I have to try to arrive in the best physical state possible.”