I am doing this for many reasons, some of which I don’t fully understand. That there is an inner urge is undeniable. – Sir Ranulph Fiennes
Tour du Luxembourg by bicycle
Small as it is, Grand Duchy provokes some people to accomplish remarkable adventures and push their limits. 2017 saw a few athletic feats: touring Luxembourg on a scooter (Sebastien Cayotte) or pursuing the total length of Luxembourgish borders by bicycle, kayak and on foot in 10 days (Yannis Bastian and Sebastien Cayotte). There was another accomplishment which caught our attention and instantly inspired our admiration and awe. Le tour du Grand-Duche de nuit. The total length of Luxembourg’s borders. By bike. Without any overnight stop. 360 km with over 4 000 m of elevation.
It didn’t come as a surprise to hear that this exploit was achieved by Christian Huberty (Belgium). Followed by many on Strava, admired by many athletes and bike users (including us in B:loft) for his regular work-out and long-distance daily rides, Christian embodies an incredible stamina and passion for riding. We asked Christian to tell us about the tour, his training, the route, experiences. And we found out that the idea to make the tour was devised by another seasoned cyclist…
I gave up the car
Christian says that he is a man with two lives. “Before I turned 44, there had been no sport in my life”, he admits. The turning point happened in October 2012. “Then I began running. I completed my first race in late October. In December, I did my first short-distance trail run. In March 2013, a few weeks after my 45th birthday, I began to ride a bike! Just once a week. At the end of summer, I challenged myself to ride daily. My first ride was less than 20 km and I felt tired. First year, I covered only 5 000 km, but from the second year onwards I’ve been increasing the total distance of my commute to work, from 15 000 km in 2014 to 25 000 km in 2017. In 2014, I gave up the car.”
Taking the most of his free time and probably having some magic ability to stretch a 24 hour day, Christian ran 3 marathons, 3 trail races, including the ultra-trail La Bouillonnante (55kms) in 2014. “My personal best was 1h23’40” in the Diekirch half-marathon”.
The only problem was to recharge my Garmin
Christian did not do any extra training to meet the challenge of Le Tour du Luxembourg. He couldn’t. The invitation to cycle the total length of borders came four days before. “It was a surprise. The idea came from Laurent Tesch. He is a regional ultra-cyclist!” Christian couldn’t refuse. “It’s an honour to ride with him, perhaps an obligation!”
The route was meticulously designed by Laurent who took the idea of cycling along the borders literally. He designed the itinerary so that it followed the borders as close as possible. In effect, it turned out very ‘mixed’, to say the least: road, gravel and MTB sections, mud, roots, high grass and stairs. All ridden on their road bikes. The route was not tested before by either of them…Asked about the most memorable moment during the ride, Christian said it was cycling on trails in the woods, at midnight. The most critical moment? “The last 50 km in fog. Good for us that we had enough power in our bike lights.” During 16 ½ hours that the ride took them they stopped five times to eat bread and cereal bars. They topped their water bottles up in a cemetery. “The strategy was to finish the ride without any external assistance. The ride was easy for us and for this distance it is advisable to not take a long break to sleep. The only problem was to recharge my Garmin.”
Cycling to work is sport to me
It is quite a distance from Christian’s home in Belgium to his office in Luxembourg. He cycles daily 35 km one way to work, in winter battling with elements: sub-zero temperatures, fresh powder, ice-covered roads, ghastly winds and short days. For him though commuting by bike is a perfect solution to reconcile work and sport. “I must work 40 hours per week. My two grown-up children don’t need me all the time. That all makes it easy!” To those who think of getting to work on two wheels, he advises “Select a good bike, preferably a gravel bike with discs brakes, especially when cycling in rain. Buy a good rucksack and clothes, mountain bikes pedals and shoes are better than race pedals. Ride always with lights and be visible.”
Christian’s agenda for 2018 boasts extraordinary cycle events: Normandicat and Trirhena1000. Normandicat is a one-stage cycling event, with a total length of 900 km without assistance and in complete autonomy. Trirhena1000 is another ultra-ride: 1000 km across Switzerland, Germany and France (time limit is 96 hours). These two rides are meant to help Christian get prepared and fit for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2019. It is a brevet of 1200 km. Each rider can ride at his or her own pace but within a specific time limit. Riders are self-reliant (no support vehicle). A brevet is not a race. There is no ranking and all finishers are winners.