In a year in which some of the most well-known unsupported cycling events have been canceled, each of the ones that have been able to go forward despite the circumstances drew the attention of the ultra-distance cyclists eager to test their fitness. The Two Volcano Sprint (2VS) also caught our interest after taking a look at the route that participants would have to face, and the amazing scenery they would encounter.
Dealing with uncertainty
Instead of ruling out the possibility of running the event in 2020, the organizers of the 2VS fought hard to make it possible. Not only that, they decided that all proceeds would be used to supply the families that the Italian government is not able to assist during the COVID-19 crisis.
Juliana Bühring had the goal of helping people who needed it the most, and she also wanted to offer endurance cyclists the chance to forget about the current situation for a handful of days and had fun riding bikes. They didn’t know until the very last week if they would be able to start the event due to the changing restrictions, but in the end, a good field of cycling enthusiasts showed up and the Two Volcano Sprint could take place.
As its name suggests, the route included, among many other climbs, the iconic Mount Vesuvius and Mount Etna. The former was the start of the race, while the latter, which featured in this year’s Giro d’Italia, was the last obstacle before reaching the finish line in Nicolosi, Sicily.
In between the volcanoes, the Amalfi and Cilento coastline, together with the Apennine mountains, kept riders entertained contemplating the landscape while overcoming the +24.000m of elevation gain accumulated in 1.039km. On Sunday the 18th of October at 05:30 am, the riders set off on an expedition that would last more than three days for most of them.
The start list included the names of Fiona Kolbinger, Sofiane Sehili, Ulrich Bartholmoes and James Hayden, some of the best well-known cyclists of the discipline. Being the last event of the year and with such a stacked quality field, there was a lot of excitement around the race.
Towards “the toe of Italy”
Most of the contenders chose to pack light, suggesting that they didn’t pretend to stop to have a proper sleep, only a few power naps. The distance was relatively short compared to the current trend in endurance cycling, but the toughness of the terrain, although being on road surface, made it a tough race. In October the nights are already long, so riders had to embrace the darkness and keep pushing, waiting for the sun to rise.
The only pitstop was located in Positano, and from then on it was a matter of following the coastal line until they reached the province of Cosenza, where they headed to Reggio Calabria through the Apennine mountain range, which is spread along the whole peninsular Italy. There, they caught the ferry to Messina, Sicily, and what was left were two proper climbs: the Portella Mandrazzi and the final push to reach the Crateri Silvestri in Mount Etna, just below 2.000m of elevation. The first five riders caught the ferry already on the second night, covering around 850km in less than 48 hours.
Ulrich Bartholmoes claimed the victory in the race, as he already did in the first edition of the event in 2019. He lowered his previous course record in more than 7 hours, finishing the race in 52 hours and 53 minutes. Before the start of the climb up to Mt. Etna, he had a comfortable lead of 40 km ahead of Sofiane Sehili and Omar Di Felice, who were disputing the second place on the podium. In the end, Sofiane arrived after 55 hours and 13 mins of elapsed time, with less than one hour between him and Omar, who finished third. Ana Orenz finished inside the top 10, arriving in Nicolosi at 4:30 am on the verge of freezing after the last descent. She was the first solo woman to finish this year’s edition.
All the finishers enjoyed the Sicilian cuisine after their arrival, recovering after a hard effort with some traditional arancini, a snack consisting of a rice ball coated with bread crumbs. Some of them spent some additional days in Italy, riding under the sunny weather before heading back to their respective countries.
The 2020 season
The 2VS wrapped up a 2020 season with fewer amount of ultra cycling races than expected. When Sofiane Sehili won the Atlas Mountain Race back in February, no one guessed that most events coming after it would have to be canceled. After that, there was a long period without ultra cycling racing, until the Hope 1000, won by Jochen Boehringer, took place in June. A handful of races (including the three events from Transibérica) could also maintain the dates they planned in advance, but overall the season was clearly truncated.
With most countries heading back into lockdown, the cyclists that had the chance to ride 2VS or accomplish any other challenge they had in mind, were relieved to end their season on a high. Now it is time to obey, but whenever you encounter the chance of doing something epic again, do not wait. We have learned that we cannot take things for granted and now we don’t want to live in any other way.