A Bike To Race Around The World
Marin de Saint-Exupéry is on a mission. In 2024, he plans to cycle from his home in Switzerland to the start lines of The Atlas Mountain Race, Hellenic Mountain Race and Silk Road Mountain Race – and race all of them. That’s Switzerland to Morocco, then on to Greece and finally to Kyrgyzstan… before turning back around and cycling home. Marin estimates he’ll be on the bike for 11 months, covering around 30,000km if he successfully completes what he set out to do. Read on to hear from Marin himself about the reasons why he’s embarked on this monumental journey.
As much as I could I would avoid flying to races, using trains, boats and my bike. Global warming is impacting more and more our every day life so I knew it was a good choice. It allowed me to pursue my dreams of racing and adventuring while lowering my impact on the planet.
Back in 2019 I travelled to Kyrgyzstan by bike, an 8,000km journey, motivated by the idea of getting to the start line of the Silk Road Mountain Race without flying. I was 23 and highly naïve, I didn’t know what I was about to achieve, not only managing to get to the start line in time but also to finish 9th in the race. It was the craziest thing I had ever done as a cyclist.
Since then I made my way into long distance cycling, improving my skills, winning some races, learning to properly train and getting some support from sponsors. A rule stayed: as much as I could I would avoid flying to races, using trains, boats and my bike. Global warming is impacting more and more our every day life so I knew it was a good choice. It allowed me to pursue my dreams of racing and adventuring while lowering my impact on the planet.
The no-fly way is how I discovered the two siblings of the Silk Road Mountain Race: the Hellenic Mountain Race and the Atlas Mountain Race. Both races reflected my progression in long distance cycling as I managed to win in Morocco in 2022 and to take 4th in Greece in 2023 (despite a 38 hour mechanical stop). It showed me I could perform at the best level in bikepacking races, even following no-fly guidance.
Since my first trip to Kyrgyzstan, I couldn’t stop thinking about going back there. The country and its mountains attract me, as well as the race. I also have unfinished business in Greece and something to improve in Morocco. By chance, the three races are timed perfectly to link the three in a bike journey.
An 11 month travel plan that starts in Switzerland on 1st January 2024, heading south, towards warmer places, crossing France and Spain, taking a ferry through Gibraltar to get to Morocco – and then riding across the country to meet the start of the Atlas Mountain Race mid February. After the race and some rest, it will be time to head north again, back to Europe riding all along the Mediterranean sea, hopefully in some kinder spring weather, to reach Greece in May for the start of the Hellenic Mountain Race. Once again, race, rest and back on the road heading east for the next stage. I know this one, it’s the way I took in 2019 to reach Kyrgyzstan: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and it’s desert and finally into the Kyrgyz mountains.
The start line of the Silk Road Mountain Race has to be reached by mid-August. Then the harder stage remains, I will be tired but I will have to get back home before snow closes the Alpine passes. It would take half a day by plane, it will take up to three months by bike.
When first travelling to Kyrgyzstan, a recurrent comment I heard was that with all these kilometers in my legs I should be super well trained for the race. It was far from reality. In order to perform in modern sport you need a safe environment. Good bed, healthy diet, a masseur, well known training roads, adaptive training plan… When travelling you encounter the exact opposite. This year I will sleep in my tent, in the freezing European winter or burning Ouzbek desert summer, by my own, discovering knew roads everyday, eating food that’s likely to destroy any untrained stomach and everyday, no matter what, I will need to move forward if I want to make it to the next race in time… But don’t get me wrong, I still want to set performance goals. And that is, to my point of view, where the project get the more interesting.
How to perform despite the harsh conditions of the journey? While cycling such long distances, I should get good endurance training out of it. But during those 11 months I plan to also juggle with periodic training: intervals workouts, rests weeks and so on. A true experiment.
Since it first popped up in my mind more than a year ago, I have been obsessed with this project. It embodies everything I ride bikes for. The adventure, the game of racing, the challenge, all of that is thanks to the wonderful machine that is a bicycle, a tool for mobility, whether it’s for my daily job as a messenger or to race across three different continents.