There are cyclists that, in silence, off the stage, decide to face transcontinental race. Toby Willis is one of them. Passionate. Sensitive. Determined. He himself and him riding solo throutgh continents. Facing hot shades, cold wind, hard climbs, infinite descents, pain, sore on horse. But most of hall finding courage to stay all alone with his own thoughts. We had a chat with Toby in the heat of the moment, after his sad and inevitable giving up during his Transcontinental Race (number 5), trying to know what is behind a race like this. What are the feelings. Where are limits. What is the philosophy at the roots of this challenge.
What encore you to face a transcontinental race event?
I have no clue!? There are so many reasons to do it and so many reasons not to do it. The goals are always the same, to achieve. The satisfaction of bagging the goal is what drives me. I see the finishers and have an overwhelming urge to want that. The finish. It’s all about learning about yourself and ultimately finding out what your capable of.
How do you approach ultra distance events?
I ride my bike…..lots. I test my equipment. I test my body and see where I’m at and try to improve the areas that feel weak. I’m still learning. Sometimes I get it spot on and other times I make mistakes. Learning from those mistakes is what makes you better at what you do. Taking the positives and applying them accordingly.
What is the feeling during your transcontinental race?
Emotions play a huge part in rides like this. They can swing pretty violently from day to day. One minute I’m singing away having the time of my life, whooping descents and wow’ing my way over mountain passes then the next thing my eyes are filling up with tears missing home and my girls. Loneliness taking hold. Before I know it I’m laughing and snapping photos ready to show friends the places I’ve been. Feeling proud.
Are you always solo?
I enter these events solo. It’s what suits me. I like to do things my way and stop/start in a way that my own riding requires me to. Doing things someone else’s way, for me, is recipe for disaster. Lessons learned.
I’m not always solo whilst out on the road. You meet people, sometimes doing the same event as you, sometimes locals. The company is always enjoyed and conversation a lovely distraction. Friendships formed that will last a lifetime.
Where are your limits?
Again, something that I’m still learning. I’d like to think that there are no limits but during TCRNo5 I found that my Achilles could ride no more. Having to scratch through injury has been painful both physically and emotionally. Had this not happened though I’m sure I would have found another Limit. Rides like this are testing in so many ways. The heatwave named Lucifer a huge test for many with temperatures over 40 degrees.
How much do you push them?
I am willing to push my limits to a certain point but getting home safely is number 1 priority. Especially given the tragedies during ultra distance cycling events in the past 12 months. Some limits are worth pushing but others are not.
A lot of thought or no thoughts during your ride?
Lots of thought. About everything. It changes depending on mood. My mind is so active during a ride. Music helps gives me some peace.
How do you feel after a transcontinental race?
Usually a huge sense of satisfaction. Providing goals were met.
This time however, I can’t help but feel a huge sense of disappointment in myself. Although the ride was something to be proud of, it wasn’t even half of what I set out to do. My aim was to finish. Minimum requirement. The finishers party in Meteora Greece was the goal. It will take time to pick myself up and move on but I know I will. The experience will benefit me greatly and I live to ride another day. I am thankful for having had the opportunity to be involved in such a beautiful race and plan to try again one day.
I’ve met a lot of really great people from different walks of life and I’ve made some fantastic memories so at the end of the day everything is wonderful.
Thnk YOU Toby! Keep ON!