Thierry Crouzet

Automatic translation from french

Or to be exact, how am I preparing my third raid. By raid, I hear an organized event, French Divide for example, possibly with a big start, following a predefined course. On this course some will race, others will try to reach their limits, others finally, like me, will set the reasonable goal to finish by taking pleasure.

In general, the organizers provide a GPX track, a map with points of interest, possibly a text presenting the difficulties, they indicate a forum where the participants can discuss and set the date of departure, which does not prevent to leave as it pleases, it is then in the category ITT (individual time trial).

When I got involved in my first HuRaCan, I talked a lot about the forum. It was my first bikepacking outing and I had some apprehensions. Some of the participants laughed at me because I had enriched the official map of annotations, trying to anticipate where to camp. According to them, the bikepacking was adventure and you should not take the head (many of my critics have not finished the test).

To begin, I lack experience, I do not know what my body is capable of events of several days, with a loaded bike, on land that I do not know. Besides, I do not do bikepacking to prove anything to me, but to experience the world, to revel in it, to meet people. I'm not going to fight against the clock, against the roads, or against myself, I want to enjoy cycling in all its dimensions.

To spend time studying the course of a test is to prepare myself mentally, to try to set a reasonable goal, which I will not try to stick with obstinacy, but that will allow me not to ignite the first day to give up the second.

Sunset (photo chilhoweeoutdoors.com)
Sunset (photo chilhoweeoutdoors.com)

Measure your strength

Before leaving the United States, I'll be doing The Mountain 420, a mountain bikepacking raid that takes place in the southern Appalachian Mountains between Georgia and Tennessee, between Atlanta and Nashville. The figures speak for themselves: 690 km for 15 000 m of elevation gain. Halfway through, it is possible to take a shortcut to save 180 km and 4000 m of elevation gain. I will try to make the big loop, without knowing if I will be able.

On the forum, some set daily goals in kilometers. I spoke with S, a participant a little older than me who told me that I wanted to travel 130 km / day and sleep no more than 4 hours / night. I quickly realized that I will not team with him.

We will start on May 18, one month from the summer equinox. It will be clear before 6 pm and until after 9 pm, or at least 15 hours of good cycling, well enough to exhaust me because of the altitude difference. I have no intention of driving at night, unless unforeseen. I do not want to miss anything of the landscapes.

During my second HuRaCaN, I moved 65% of the actual time, measured between when I start my GPS in the morning and when the cut in the evening. Between 6 am and 9 pm, I can pedal for ten hours. In May 2018, I went on a mountain bike trip in four stages with a 1000 m difference in altitude / day, taking an average of around 14 km / h. By lengthening the distances, increasing the altitude, loading the bike, my average will drop and will not exceed 12 km / h. I can hope to travel about 120 km / day, not far from what S expected, but spending less time riding than him. Simply, we will not ride at the same pace. Finding companions at your own pace is vital. Too fast, we shoot. Too slow, we end up having to drive at night. If I have this ambitious average of 12 km / h, it will take me 6 days to complete the loop.

But in the mountains, distance is only an accessory parameter. If I try to make the raid in 6 days, I should climb 2,500 m / day, which seems difficult for me on mountain bike (everything is relative, of course). Better so I aim for 7 days and 2 150 m / day which is already plentiful, knowing that if I need one more day it will not matter. My average should not go below 10 km / h. When I look at the 2018 results, I discover that more than 50% of the participants gave up, which is not to reassure me.

The Mountain sur RWGPS
The Mountain sur RWGPS

Study the map

On RWGPS, the organizers are offering beautiful augmented maps for The Mountain 420 and The Vista 300 (the shortened version). It's very beautiful, but without subscribing to RWGPS, I can not edit these maps and enrich them. So I export them in GPX to be able to use them elsewhere (because I can not pay, I can not export the points of interest).

La trace sur Komoot
La trace sur Komoot

I start by creating a new map under Google Map where I import the traces, and any variants, on which I will place my points of interest. I also import on Komoot and sometimes in the Garmin BaseCamp software. Why complicate my life? Because each service offers its advantages and disadvantages. The ideal tool does not exist yet.

Calcul du dénivelé sur Komoot
Calcul du dénivelé sur Komoot

For example, to estimate the elevation, I learned not to trust BaseCamp (21,366 m) or GoogleMap (11,746 m), the other two services offer estimates close: 13,790 m for Komoot, 14,760 m for RWGPS (the latter being according to my most precise experience, in any case in phase with the measurements of my GPS). Unfortunately, on RWGPS, it is difficult to select a stretch while discovering in real time its cumulative elevation. It's more immediate on Komoot.

Début de carte enrichie sur Google Map
Début de carte enrichie sur Google Map

What to become crazy. There must be rules of three between what the organizers say and what the various services display. I survive. On Komoot, I spot my steps located every 2,150 m vertical (every 1,957 m after rule of three) and post on my Google Map (I use a library of icons).

Here are my 7 ideal steps with 2 150d + / day:

  1. 118 km.
  2. 73 km.
  3. 98 km.
  4. 89 km.
  5. 98 km.
  6. 125 km.
  7. 86 km.
Carte enrichie
Carte enrichie

Then, on Google Map, I add my points of interest. In general, I just zoom on the map to find campsites, restaurants, grocery stores ... I report the missing points identified by the organizers and those suggested in the forum. Gradually, my card is enriched.

Sleeping, refueling

The previous division is very theoretical. My ideal steps are unlikely to fall right on a campsite. From the first day, I will have to push further to be able to camp. So on, I adjust, knowing that it is always possible to sleep in an undergrowth provided you leave no trace when leaving.

  1. 144 km/2 640 m, Jake Best (c’est une première étape sans doute trop lourde pour moi).
  2. 75 km/2 100 m, Sourdwood (219 km/4 740 m).
  3. 74 km/1 780 m, Camp Reggae (293 km/6 520 m).
  4. 79 km/2 000 m, Jacks River Fields (372 km/8 520 m).
  5. 108 km/2 530 m, Murray Lake (480km/11 050m).
  6. 132 km/2 300 m, Chilhowee Recreation Area (612 km/13 350 m).
  7. 68 km/1 650 m.

This beautiful picture will depend on my legs, the often rainy weather in these mountains, the state of the roads. I plan to tell myself that it is possible. It remains for me to check that I will find to refuel at least once per stage, which will prevent me from overloading myself.

Enriching the map often involves enriching the trail, adding routes to reach campsites or other restaurants. I prefer to think about these alternatives in advance, knowing that I can not think of everything and that the surprises will be numerous.

Once my program is established, I publish it on the forum to see if other participants will be at my pace. I do not like driving alone, I prefer a mini group is formed before departure, otherwise I'm afraid to get sucked and roll too fast at first, which can be expensive later.

This work has another interest. During the raid, the enriched map will serve as a landmark (with my GPS, I just follow the trail). I export it in KMZ format from Google Map, then send it to the MapOut application, which on my iPhone works even in airplane mode. This card often helps me decide when I have to stop, when I have to do the forcing, when I have to go out of the way to refuel.

With that, I have to prepare my equipment. History to follow.