Sam William Andrews Diary: #2 Badlands Granada -Spain

Jesse Yates and I embarked on this journey with a single goal at the beginning of the year: to win the pairs category and secure a spot in the top 10.

This race is infamous for its scorching heat, but we were fortunate to encounter storms and cooler temperatures, something we didn’t stress about, coming from the UK.

Our game plan was to maintain a consistent pace throughout the race. The start was intense, but we knew not everyone could sustain that speed. As night fell, we steadily overtook riders left and right, comfortably securing a position in the top 10 overall. We battled fiercely for the pairs position, sometimes wondering if first place was within reach.

Upon reaching Almería, we pushed hard up the climbs, creating a substantial gap between us and the pursuing pairs.

The last 100km proved to be the most grueling challenge I’ve ever faced. I experienced hallucinations, struggled to stay awake on my bike, and felt disoriented.

Crossing that finish line was an emotional triumph. We achieved our goal, rode efficiency, and the relief of finally completing this arduous journey was overwhelming.

See you out there!

Deux mille Challenge: MAX DID IT!

Maximillian Schnell did it! All 204 cols over 2,000 meters in the Pyrenees and Alps in 77 days, self-supported, with no rest days: 10,839 kilometers and 271,004 vertical meters.

He’s the first person ever to accomplish this, at his side a special edition of our Sterrato, a gravel bike made with custom Columbus steel tubing.

It all started on 27 May 2023 in Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the French Pyrenees, where a small group joined Max at the beautiful Pont Napoleon. Col des Tentes was the first col to be conquered. The Pyrenees showed their best and worst sides; the immaculate sceneries mixed with springtime weather, where sunny conditions would change the rain and hail, typically in the afternoons. It was a rough start for Max, who had to get up in the middle of nights to catch up on lost time. In eight days, Max had ticked off all 24 cols in the Pyrenees and could make his way towards the Alps.

The weather wasn’t much better in the southern Alps. The pattern stayed the same for days. Rideable mornings, rain in the afternoons. The highest top in the challenge, Cime de la Bonette, hadn’t been cleared of snow and Max had to hike the last 300 meters to the top.

During the planning phase, which started ten months ago, we put much effort into getting every paved col on the list. The community was a huge help. Our definition of a Deux Mille col is paved from start to finish, which is 1) a pass, 2) a dead-end, or 3) a significant end-point, e.g. a ski resort or a restaurant. Still, within these boundaries, it gets blurry. Some cols were included, but we weren’t sure if they met the criteria. If in doubt, Max would do them anyhow. In the end, of the 204 cols conquered, 198 met the criteria.

Not surprisingly, some of the best moments came from lesser-known climbs, like Cirque du Troumouse, Les Fonts, Lago del Naret, Lago della Sella, Steingletscher, Oberaarsee, and Petit-Mont-Cenis. Especially in the world of bike packers, where Max excels, these cols bring something unique to the table.

Summer finally arrived and through France and Italy, time was gained. Some tricky changes kicked in around the normally ever-so-beautiful Dolomites, where the weather turned bad again and the challenge entered Austria. The Austrian cols were, pretty much without any exceptions, incredibly tough. However, Max’s friend, and triathlete, Flo Mestdagh joined (on his tri-bike) and rode with Max for the remainder of the challenge. At the Tiefenbachferner, the challenge reached its highest point (but the col ends lower.) The mighty Tiefenbach, and the linked Rettenbach, were disappointingly fake.

Perhaps the hardest day was 26 July, when winter conditions halfway up the Grimselpass, kept Max and Flo grounded for hours, and Max got concerned about his health. He couldn’t keep himself warm, and ignoring the signals would only make things worse. Time was lost. Faced with hard weather conditions at the start of the week, and suddenly running behind schedule, it became “either you follow me, or I don’t wait for you” for Max and his friend Flo. But also day 35, in the Dolomites, with 12 hours of riding, 203 kilometers and more than 6,600 vertical meters gained was brutal.

A Forrest Gump-like trend started during the last 2-3 weeks of the challenge. More and more, especially bike packers, joined Max, and by the time they did the final Italian climb, Col du Petit Saint Bernard, a group of up to 15 was riding with Max. The group increased all the way to the penultimate climb up to Col du Galibier, where both riders, family, and friends at the top, celebrated the historic accomplishment on 12 August.


@deuxmillecc , @maxschnell555

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