I’ve always wanted to complete a Strava challenge but have never been able to finish one because of time, schedule, or training constraints. But when I heard that Strava was doing the Eddy Merckx 1969 Challenge to honor one of my all-time favorite cyclists, “The Cannibal”, I just knew I had to participate and finish it. The challenge was to ride 700km in 20 days.
45 years ago Eddy Merckx earned the first of his five Tour de France victories. It was a race he unquestionably dominated, finishing almost 18 minutes ahead of the second placed rider, Roger Pingeon of France.
Beyond the overall, Eddy won 7 stages (6 individual and 1 team time trial), the points classification, mountains classification, combination classification, team classification (with FAEMA) and the combativity award. It was an incredible feat that has never been matched, and likely never will.
I just completed the challenge today, after doing 11 rides. Nine of them were in the last ten days, with eight happening on consecutive days last September 27, 2014 to October 4, 2014. The reason why I had to do some catch up was because we were in Boracay for five days after the challenge started, so it wasn’t as easy as riding 30+km a day. I tried to find people to ride with as much as I could, but four of the rides were done solo because of one reason or another.
Here are a few things I learned while riding the challenge:
- The body adapts. There were some days when I was really fatigued, especially when I was doing long solo rides. I would wake up tired, feeling like I would cop out and just do a shorter ride. However, in the middle of my ride, I would feel better and would actually hit some decent splits in some of the Strava segments (considering that I was riding everyday of course). I guess it’s a glimpse of how grand tour riders doing 21-day stage races cope with the stress on their bodies.
- Laundry is important. I really had to keep tabs on my cycling clothes because there might not be enough time between rides to get them washed and dried. It’s also nice to be able to cycle through all my kits, especially my socks!
- Misery loves company. I didn’t know anyone also doing the challenge so no one could keep me company everyday. What I did was to look for people to ride with on different days and look for different group rides I could join. The extra accountability helps, since you know someone’s waiting for you and you need to wake up and get out of bed. And it’s nice to mix up riding partners and bike with people you normally don’t ride with.
- There’s solace in solo rides. There were times when I couldn’t find anyone to ride with, especially on the weekdays. Sometimes people also suddenly can’t make it because of one reason or another, so I was forced to go solo for some rides. But it’s also nice to just go alone, on your own pace, and just have your thoughts for company. I know I can be an extroverted person, but sometimes, I just like being alone, doing my own thing.
- Goals get things done. The Strava challenge really helped to get me out on the road and on my bike. Whether it’s the chance to get gear available only to challenge finishers, gunning for a personal achievement, like weight loss or distance, or training for a race (this is a good build up for my upcoming Tri United 3 bike relay), having a goal in mind helps you accomplish things.
Thanks to my friends who accompanied me throughout the challenge and entertained me with chitchat and stories: Jimmy Moreno, Jeff Mendoza, Leo de Guzman, Vince Santos, Anthony Balaguer, Gilbert Simpao, Mariela Martinez-Powell, Ani de Leon-Brown, Dan Brown, Raeanna Cranbourne, Nestor Tinio, Vince Corpus, Gabby Lichauco, Anton Lorenzo, and Hans Kristian Juan.
Special thanks goes out to my wife for letting me do this madness!