The Basel Boys
The annual WOW Cyclothon is a 1332 km relay race, circling Iceland where one cyclist passes the baton to the next in teams of 6-10 people. Held from June 19-22, the longest days of the year, in rain, mud and lots and lots of sun, the event is becoming quite the summer highlight and for some it’s the highlight of the year.
The WOW Cyclothon isn’t just a race and a good time, it’s also a charity event where teams collect pledges and all corporate sponsorship goes directly to charity. In 2013 the WOW Cyclothon raised 4,274,328 ISK for the Save the Children Iceland foundation. The event is also meant to encourage outdoor activities and subsequently healthy living. This race is becoming increasingly popular among work colleagues from all kinds of companies. And it’s not just Icelanders who compete. We got in contact with a few enthusiastic boys from Basel who are preparing for the race.
Team “Basel Boys” consists of cyclists Kristinn, Antony, Hans and Rubén and a driver, Tom, who, besides driving will take care of the food, mechanics, schedule and overall physical and mental well-being of the team during the race, including massages “although we are still working on convincing him on that last one,” say the Basel Boys’ cyclists. “Meanwhile, we are in the process of getting a local assistant to help us out during the race, bringing some local knowledge and sharing the big burden with Tom.” Did you hear that? The position of the sixth member is open!
The Basel Boys all work together in the legal and IP department of a multinational agricultural company based in Basel, Switzerland. The first idea of participating in the WOW Cyclothon was brought up by Kristinn one evening during a departmental meeting. “Everyone took to the challenge, although perhaps not yet considering all the consequences. We have since then been getting good support from our colleagues, our bosses and also the company who has agreed to further support us. The company we work for is very international, which is well reflected by the composition of our team. Although we all have lived and worked in Switzerland for a long time, Kristinn is Icelandic, Antony is English, Rubén is Spanish, Tom the driver is American, and last but not least, Hans is the only genuine Swiss guy in the team, even though he was born in the UK,” they explain.
Although they’ve never cycled together as a team, before the idea of entering WOW Cyclothon was raised, the team members say they are looking forward to getting to know each other on the bikes outside work. Some are more experienced than others. “We have all been active cyclists for pleasure, but without any question Antony and Hans are the team’s most experienced and enthusiastic bikers.” Antony is the fittest member of the team and the boys say he is actually a cycling maniac. He recently finished the Eiger Bike Marathon in Switzerland and the South Downs Way Cycle Race in the UK. Meanwhile, Hans has completed the Swiss Cycling Alpenbrevet one of the most challenging public cycling events in the Alps, a few times, and he has cycled the infamous Mont Ventoux five times over the last two years for personal pleasure, but the Brevet du Ventoux is still to be achieved. For Kristinn and Rubén this will be their first real cycling event, and as they feel like they have some catching up to do, they are training the hardest. “Little else comes to their minds when they meet at the coffee machine than their training programs and results. Tom the driver, being from the US, has driven hundreds of thousands of kilometers in his life,” the boys say.
Why WOW Cyclothon?
“First of all this is a great opportunity to raise funds for a good cause while forcing guys like us, who spend most of the week sitting on a chair in the office, to go outside and stay healthy… and where else can you experience such breathtaking landscapes with lava fields, glacier lagoons and hot springs?” the team members say. “Kristinn has the added challenge of beating his cousins’ team, the Bike Company’s last years’ time of 41:51.”
The team has already started training: “After gathering some further information about the competition, we realized the level of fitness required, so we started our winter training late last year. We have set up customized individual training plans based on our current fitness levels and needs—to best prepare for the big physical challenge the WOW Cyclothon will be for a bunch of office dwellers like us. At the moment, we are training mostly indoors on the roller trainer, in our living rooms, laundry rooms and garages but try to cycle outside on weekends if it is not snowing. Someone suggested we should replicate the race at the Swiss Indoor Velodrome, cycling 48 hours nonstop around their 250m track but we realized that the Icelandic wind factor would be missing. In the meantime, Tom trains by continuously playing Mario Kart for 48 hours,” say the Basel Boys.
When it comes to strategizing for the race the Basel Boys admit to having gotten a little overexcited. “We started planning for the race already in November last year, before we even started training. We have discussed a lot about sleeping, food, changeovers, repairs and massages, but we still need to sort out these things in detail. Kristinn also met over Christmas with his cousins who participated in last year’s race and gathered lots of helpful information about tactics, road conditions, eating sleeping and timings.”
What to expect?
“The weather will likely be one of the major unknowns and that scares us a bit. To be on the safe side, we will bring everything from sunglasses and shorts to gloves and other winter gear Overall, we expect the road to be rather smooth and compared to most of the training areas here in Switzerland, the mountains in Iceland should be manageable; although we are concerned about the unpaved section in the East which will be hard to replicate in training. On the other hand, all of the 1,300 km will be unknown to us, so there will most likely be some odd surprises for us to cope with as we pedal along.
“Rubén is our team’s chief technical officer and in charge of computing and electronics and has done some extensive research and technical analysis. We trust his graphs and figures so we don’t expect any major surprises.”
%Q: What do you think will be most difficult during the race?
“Sleeping while Tom is driving! Although seriously, maintaining the speed throughout the race will likely be the most challenging part and having to perform without any real possibility to rest and sleep will be demanding,” the Basel Boys say.
Are you aiming for victory or just gathering experience for next year’s race?
“Of course, we always take on such challenges to win! However, we are not underestimating the major challenge awaiting us and will be more than satisfied with finishing the race in a decent time! This will be our first WOW Cyclothon after all and for most of us, the first time in Iceland. At the end of the day we are taking part for the experience, and we are sure it will be great fun no matter what.”
The Basel Boys say they are looking forward to celebrating and enjoying Reykjavik’s famous midsummer nightlife after the race. Actually some well-deserved sleep and a long recovery at the Blue Lagoon is at the top of their agenda. “In addition, Tom has set up an incentive program for us; if we finish within our target time he will buy us the best dinner in town, and if we don’t we will need to compensate him for driving the extra hours,” they add with a smile.
“Once we have crossed the finish line, we will surely have achieved something to be proud of, raised money for a good cause and hopefully have many funny and interesting pictures to share with our loved ones and our colleagues at work.”
The Basel Boys: Hans, Anthony, Ruben and Kristinn.