4. Tourmalet on a spacehopper
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Big: Climbing the Tourmalet on a spacehopper is something definitely out of my comfortzone. Probably this is a challenge within the comfort zone of nobody. Would it be possible, that's the question I tackled the first km's with.
Right: BRAVE goals aim to make the world a better place. All the good things on this planet come from people (or Gods, who knows?) who acted on their dreams. That's why I decided to collect money for the 'Association Petits Princes', which realizes the dreams of severly ill children.
Attractive: A spacehopper should be fun... for a couple of minutes. I knew this one would hurt a lot, but the curiosity of whether I would be able to make it made it feel a very attractive challenge! Having the company of a wonderful friend helped :)
Visionary: On my Instagram I present myself as: adventurer/dreamer/creative animal. This is who I want to be. I guess climbing a famous Tour Col on a spacehopper is a nice translation into practice of this identity.
Emotional: Of course, there was some fear of failing, after having told so many people I would climb the Tourmalet on a spacehopper. Mentally, the climb was tough... making progress so slowly while all your muscles are screaming for the top. When finally there, the excitement was beyond borders.
"Where did this crazy idea came from?" That's a question I was asked a lot. During Corona-lockdown, I started writing on a book for which I interviewed adventurours. In my research phase, Googling 'funny adventurer' led to a man called Steven Payne. Steven Payne is doing mostly pilgrimages in a medieval setting (costume/mode of transportation), but decided to cross the Alps on a spacehopper in 2018. In 17 days, Payne completed 76 miles, thereby honestly admitting he walked on the steepest slopes of his crossing.
Interviewing not only Steve, but 49 other amazing adventurers, inspired me to become one myself. This is the job of my dreams! But how do you get the ball rolling without any name or fame?... Maybe by getting it bounced first?
With the Tourmalet being the mother of all Pyrenean famous 'cols' and with myself living at the foot of these Pyrenees, the challenge was shaped. I ordered a spacehopper and started hopping 1-3 times a week in my garage (meanwhile still running and cycling a lot).
June 13th was D-day. I woke up at 4a.m. after a night of wildcamping in Luz-Saint-Sauveur. 1 hour and 15 minutes later I started off for 18.6km of climbing at an average slope of 7,4%. The first 3 hours passed quickly and after 7km on the hill, my good friend Anthony Ripoll joined me. He would follow me for the rest of the climb with warm clothes, nice food, spare spacehoppers and a car trunk full of encouragements.
5km from the summit, mental and physical fatigue threw down my mental state. I decided to put in my earplugs and listen to some pump-up music. 1km further, I was going into a dark place, screaming out loud on Linkin Park's 'In the end', while thinking about feeling misunderstood and unaccepted by my roommates, tears were coming up, and the rain symbollicaly joined them. At that moment, a car turns up, parks in front of me and a young man walks up to me.
"Je suis du journal Sud-Ouest. Est-ce que c'est bon si je fais des photos de vous?" My mind flipped into a positive mindset again, and while Quentin -the photographer- made wonderful portrays in this fairylike landscape, I found back the fast climbing rhytm I'd started the day with. Before I knew it, I was at 2km from the top. That's where hell started.
The last 2km of the Tourmalet are steep, very steep. Gradient 10%. Every muscle in my body hurt in getting over these slopes. Meanwhile, -to make it look more heroic- I was bouncing literally into the clouds with rain pouring down on me. Where previously I had to take a breath and stretch my legs every 100-120 bounces, I now found myself having to stop after every 50, then 40, then 20...
It took me 2 hours to complete these last 2 km's. The feeling while crossing the finish line was incredible. I had finished it in exactly 11 hours. It was tough, very tough. Mentally and physically. But it's a day I will never forget and thanks to Quentin Top (photographer) and journalist Romain Bely (Sudouest) this challenge spread widely and put Association Petits Princes in the picture!