Cast your mind back to 2012 when Juliana wowed the long-distance cycling world with a new women's record for the fastest time to ride around the world unsupported. Just a year later, she raced the first edition of the Transcontinental Race and subsequently the Trans Am Bike Race winning the women's category for both. This year, she's jumped the fence and has set up the Two Volcano Sprint, a new unsupported ultra-endurance event in Italy this November.
You’ve been behind the scenes of ultra racing for some time now, do you miss the racing and competitiveness of racing?
At the moment, I have so much else going on in life that I haven’t had much time to miss racing. In any case, it was never about the competition for me as much as putting myself in an environment that would force me to push myself in ways I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. I raced for myself, to satisfy a personal curiosity about my capabilities and limits more than anything else. I have learned all I wanted to in that level of cycling, so I am interested in growing and stretching myself in other ways and with new experiences. I still enjoy cycling over long distances with a bag strapped to my bike and every year I cycle one new country for fun. So far I’m at 53!
There are rumours circling around ultra-endurance world about a new race happening this year that you’re organising. Tell us more about that.
The Two Volcano Sprint (2VS) is a single-stage challenge running the length of south Italy starting and finishing at its two iconic volcanoes, Mt. Vesuvio and Mt. Etna. It covers just over 1,000 kilometres with 23,000+ meters of elevation gain; a worthy challenge for the intrepid “crazies” out there. The difference between this and other unsupported adventure races out there is that the 2VS is a not-for-profit event, where 100% of the riders’ entry fees after tracker rental will go towards a young entrepreneur’s chosen project for environmental sustainability, nature preservation, eco-tourism and boosting economic growth for underprivileged communities in southern Italy.
What inspired you to put on your own event?
I have multiple TCR winner James Hayden to thank for pushing me to put on this event. He visited me this Spring on his way to ride the Italy Divide and gushed about how much he enjoyed cycling in Italy. He asked whether I had ever considered putting on a race here and I told him I’d thought about organising a ride along the route I had ridden from Etna to Vesuvio back when I was training for the RAAM. He simply said, "well why don’t you?" I gave him some excuse about not having time or energy, but it got me thinking, "why not?" I thought that if I organised an event, I wanted it to have some purpose other than just adding one more to the plethora of cycling races sprouting up across Europe and the world. I suppose my thinking about the 2VS was to create a ride for a reason. I also want to bring attention to how great southern Italy is, as it's unjustly gotten a bad rap over the years. Most cyclists stay north around the Alps and Dolomites or Tuscany, but there's some great riding, the best food and fun, warm and helpful people and I think riders will enjoy these aspects enroute.
What are some of the most challenging parts of the race that entrants can look forward to?
Riders can expect tough climbs from the very first ascent up Mt. Vesuvio; a good 10–12% gradient most of the way. That will be an intense warm up to what will assuredly be a very intensive 1,000km "sprint" with fairly consistent climbing all the way to Mt. Etna. Some highlights include the historic Greek temples of Paestum and the stunning cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. Once they hit the Appenine mountains, the difficulty level doubles with long, steep ascents all the way to Sicily. By the time Etna comes into view, riders will likely be so tired, that the final 30km ascent may prove the toughest of all. Keep some fuel in the tank for that last climb!
A fellow event organiser once told us that you can’t run a race in Italy without adhering to strict regulations. Will your event be one of the few competitive races in Italy?
There’s a reason “race” is not in the title. I should be clear that this is not a race. It is a tough challenge for a cause. Riders should target the cut off time of just under 5 days if they want to make it to the finishers' party. While this sounds simple in theory, the reality is pedaling an average of 2,300 metres elevation every 100km. If riding 200-250km a day, it will mean over 5,000 meters of climbing a day. Putting “sprint” in the name is meant to imply that it should be ridden as quickly as possible and giving a cut-off time to get a finisher’s classification gives riders that much more incentive. Oh, and the free-flowing Italian food and wine at the finish party should double that incentive!
And if that doesn't tempt you, head over to the Two Volcano Sprint website to find out more and sign up. We look forward to dotwatching!