A notable ambassador: Adrie van der Poel

Adrie van der Poel is an ambassador of Chasin’ the Sunset who is well-known: someone who knows many facets of cycling like no other thanks to his successes on the road and in cyclo-cross. He sees Chasin’ the Sunset as a new type of challenge, and we spoke to him at great length about it.

Why do cyclists constantly look for new challenges?
I see it as an opportunity to do something unique, something beautiful, and also something healthy – and in the meantime also enjoy the journey you are making. Features that together form a challenge, and Chasin’ the Sunset also has the extra challenge that you have to finish before dark every day. That means it is not possible to have two extensive lunches along the way and think “we will make up for the rest of the distance tomorrow”.
In any case, you will have to take into account that the route will become increasingly difficult towards the end, and looking at the wind direction you might be cycling almost 900 km against the wind. It is all about pacing yourself, and making sure that you have energy left on the last day.

How do you prepare for an event such as Chasin’ the Sunset?
That is a good question. I think you should cycle for six or seven hours two days in a row during a weekend to test how much saddle pain it causes. If you can survive that, then the two of you can certainly survive such a 300-kilometre stage.
It is important not to get overconfident along the way. If you immediately ride briskly from the start, do realise that you need to observe the traffic regulations. If you have to stop at a traffic light after a period of fast pedalling, it will hurt your legs when you have to start again after two minutes. I would rather save that little bit extra for the last hour of each day.
What you need to do most of all is eat very well, drink very well and take advantage of each other in order to reel off those kilometres the best way possible and with as little consumption as possible.

Chasin’ is cycled in pairs – what type of support can you give each other along the way?
I think that at certain points in time you have to talk each other to the finish, and you can also sit in each other’s wheel once in a while to catch your breath and recover. You really are a team, and to me the fact that you are doing it together is unique. It is not like one person can finish two hours before the other, and if something happens you have to solve it together.
If you are cycling in a pack, you can hide yourself away all day if you want, but here you will have to pedal a large part yourself, and that is a lot more exhausting. If you spend all day in the belly of the pack and the pace is not too high, you really reach the finish line with ease.

How important are recharge stations during and in between stages for riders?
You do the math: suppose you ride an average of 25 km/h, then you are on the road for 36 hours. That means that this provision of food, beverages, a massage or the treatment of your back is very important. Especially on days 1 and 2, because on day 3 you have arrived, and then it is okay if you are bust for a few weeks.

Naturally you are familiar with the route. What can riders look forward to along the way?
It becomes increasingly difficult, because the stage goes from flat to sloping, and when you ride in the direction of Limoges later on, you have climbs of 5 to 6 kilometres of 5 to 6 percent. After that you also go down again, which means that the flat part is largely cut out. First you ride through Belgium, then towards Paris, but then it all changes a bit. Examples are a different road surface, rougher asphalt, but also long straight lines that you have to cross.
If you want to see something of the surroundings and you keep your eyes open for animals or beautiful buildings, then you will definitely see them. It is a bit of everything, but I do not know how much you still see after 200 kilometres of cycling. It makes a difference how you approach the journey. If your average speed is 25 km/h, you have to go 28 or 29 on the straight parts, and then you have time to look around, but if you go to 30 or more on average you have a lot less time for that.

Naturally, you know the finishing point well because of your father-in-law. What will it feel like for participants to ride into Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat?
That should be a great feeling. Saint-Leonard is a village whose history has a link with my father-in-law. That is why people who love cycling will want to visit the monument after completing this challenge. For those people, it might also be special and unique to start in Kapellen with a visit to Cafe/Bistro Poulidor and then ride to his resting place in three days’ time.
Apart from the route, I also like Chasin’ the Sunset because it is a new concept. It is ultra, it is challenging, and it is a little bit extreme. I do think that this is in line with some moments in my career. I think it can become something very beautiful, especially if the circumstances are right.