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Illustration: Joe Waldron

Column

Mr. Strasser, what do you think about …

Planning?

Michael Strasser, extreme athlete from Vienna, about his bicycle world record attempt.

Illustration Joe Waldron

At the end of July, I’ll be at the northernmost point of Alaska, in Prudhoe Bay. I’ll hop on my bicycle, put on my helmet and take a deep breath. In front of me is a route of 24,000 kilometers— I’ll be riding to Patagonia along the Pan-American Highway, crossing the entire North and South American continents. Amateur cyclists need between two and three years to complete the journey, but in the best case I’ll need fewer than one hundred days. 

My goal is to break the current record of 117 days. This challenge is the logical continuation of my athletic ambitions, ambitions I’ve been pursuing for a long time. Most recently in 2016, when I set a world record by cycling 11,000 kilometers from Cairo to Cape Town in just 35 days. For me it’s about seeing how far I can push my own limits. 

The public will see me as a lone warrior, as someone seemingly left to his own devices. But hardly anyone notices the complex planning behind this sort of project. Without the will, there’s no way—but without the planning, there’s no way either. I’ve spent two years working with ten volunteers planning this tour.

Navigating it all is a challenge: across fourteen countries, there are plenty of rules to be respected. Sometimes I’m allowed to bicycle on highways, sometimes it’s prohibited. Therefore a team from Austria is coordinating my route—so that my four support workers and I can focus on the riding when we’re there. It’s also important for my timing. The plan is that I will leave North America in the Northern Hemisphere at the end of the summer and reach Patagonia in the Southern Hemisphere at the start of spring. I can achieve my best performance when the weather is warm. 

My daily routines will be as meticulously timed as they are flexible. On a perfect day, I can ride four hundred kilometers. But it’s difficult to calculate for uncertainties. There can be less headwind and good roads—then I can ride further. If I’m having a bad day, I have to take more breaks. Road closures are unforeseeable, aside from which I’m riding during the hurricane season. I can be as well prepared as possible, but if a hurricane is looming, I’m powerless. So it’s always a mix of strategy and flexibility that is the key to success.

I’m already looking forward to the final meters. I dream of setting a new world record, how the strains and tribulations of the tour will all be worth it in those final moments. Until that time, there’s a long road ahead, but I’m optimistic: I could hardly be better prepared.


 

Michael Strasser, 35,
is a professionell extreme athlete from Vienna who especially enjoys cycling and triathlons. He is also a book author and lecturer.