Fondriest bicycles will take on North America’s toughest bike race, the Ride Across America (RAAM), in June, with accomplished adventure cyclist and previous RAAM runner-up Nico Valsesia of Italy. He will be supported by his unique sidekick, famed Italian comedian Giovanni Storti.
But RAAM is no laughing matter. RAAM (Race Across America) is not a stage race but one long non-stop race against the clock. Participants leave the West Coast and ride across 18 states, reaching the finish line on the East Coast after nearly 5,000 kilometers of pedaling. The typical winning time is an unimaginable nine days and eight nights!
All riders decide for themselves when and where to stay, and more importantly, when to sleep, as time is the most valuable factor. Hours spent sleeping are lost hours not riding. While the physical labor required is never in doubt, lack of shut-eye is the most formidable opponent.
In the 25 years of RAAM only 164 athletes have finished the race — one being Valsesia, who finished second overall in 2006. This will be his third RAAM. The 2011 RAAM starts June 14 for women, June 15 for men, and 18 June for the teams.
Born in the Italian province of Novara 40 years ago, Valsesia has traveled the world participating in many “impossible” long distance cycling events: Paris-Brest- Paris, Rimini-Viareggio-Rimini, the Race Across The Alps to name but three.
At RAAM, Valsesia will be accompanied and supported logistically by one Giovanni Storti. Storti is well known to millions of Italians, but not as a cyclist. He is the Giovanni in the famous Italian comedian trio of Aldo, Giovanni & Giacomo. And, with all the suffering that goes into racing RAAM, having someone along to make the rider laugh probably isn’t a bad idea.
Valsesia took a break from training to talk about RAAM with staff at Fondriest, explaining his emotions, his relationship with Storti, and his expectations for the future:
How many times have participated in RAAM?
This will be my third time.
What was your best result?
Second place in 2006, but when I crossed the finish line I felt a great sadness, I realized that my dream was over.
Food and sleep are essential for such an effort. How do you prepare?
There is no training that prepares you for sleep deprivation. For the physical effort, I take extra protein, as well as train my body for some of the fasting that is required.
Who Fondriest bike will you be racing?
At the moment, I am using a Fondriest R10 but soon I will have the top-of-the-line Fondriest TF1. I find it rides really well. I’m not a freak about bike changes, but the TF1 is perfectly suited to my style of racing.
You will be pedaling along with comedian Giovanni Storti, right?
Yes, Giovanni will be there to lend moral support, while riding much of the way on his Fondriest R10.
As Giovanni is also in training, do you have any humorous anecdotes to share?
It’s like when he is on stage, he entertains everyone with jokes. He always has a joke ready. But what impresses me most is his humility, which is not easy to find in famous people.
What goals do you have for this year’s race?
As always, to win it. But to enjoy the experience and have fun, too. Without the fun you cannot ride 5,000 km.
What are the risks and dangers of this race?
Only sleeping a few hours a day is terrible and exhausting. But riding across the deserts is scary, too. Do not forget that we ride on roads open to traffic, so you must be careful. Many motorists are crazy and get mad are you.
From the physical standpoint, what are the parts of the body suffering the most?
A more accurate question would be: What are the parts of the body do not suffer?
How important is the mental aspect in a race so long?
Nearly every rider, 99 percent, train hard and ride. Your mind must be free and aimed at the goal – and you must be happy to make the necessary sacrifices to succeed.
How exciting is it to cross America on a bicycle?
Every year, different emotions, crossing a continent so vast and diverse as America is a unique experience.
How would you describe this race?
A brilliant exhausting enjoyment!