Patrick Seabase has conquered five Pyrenees passes, 309 kilometers and more than 7611 meters in altitude on his fixed gear bike. It took him 12 hours and 54 minutes – using only one gear ratio and no brakes.
Bayonne, June 4th, 2015 - I really don't know how I made it here, Patrick Seabase from Berne says as he gets off his bicycle in Bayonne. What he knows exactly, even 15 hours and 52 minutes after the start, are the figures: 309 kilometers and more than 7611 meters in altitude (according to Yellowbrick). These statistics have literally been brand-marked into his mind during the past weeks. "For the first time in my life I had doubts as to whether I was good enough, whether I would be able to achieve what I had planned.
He had planned not only a seemingly endless ride across five Pyrenees mountain passes, but also a unique way of doing so: on his fixed gear bike. Due to its fixed gear mechanism the pedals continue to move with each turning of the rear wheel, so there is no resting as long as the bike is in motion. Bicycle purist Seabase also limited himself to a bike with only one gear ratio and no brakes. This reduced-to-the-max bicycle is the reason why he started tackling longer and longer distances and finally mountain passes.
Start under a full moon
He had taken off at 4am. A full moon lit his way up to the Col de Peyresourde. That was the most beautiful part of the day. I felt as if somebody was pushing me up that mountain», Patrick enthused after having reached his goal. At sunrise, he conquered the Col d'Aspin before facing the ultimate test: the Col du Tourmalet, a pass feared even by seasoned cycling pros. After five kilometers with an moderate ascent, there were 12 kilometers with a gradient of 8 to 12 percent. Still, I made it up there better than I had expected, not least because Danilo Hondo kept on motivating me. It was astounding to see how Seabase enjoyed his journey all day long in spite of all the strain.
The former German cycling pro Danilo Hondo was with Seabase as athletic director. From the beginning, I had to remind him to eat and drink enough, not to start out too fast, and finally I had to help him on during those dark moments by telling him that the next flat stretch was coming up and he would be able to recover. One thing didn't bring Seabase any relief, though: the descents. The racing downhill was thus just another feat of strength.
Tribute to the Pioneers of the Tour de France
On his way to the Col d'Aubisque, Seabase cycled through one of the most beautiful landscapes he had seen in his entire life, as he would later put it. On the flat stretches between the Col d'Aubisque and the Col d'Osquich, he still held up an average speed of over 40 km/h with amazing ease. After that, he entered the lowlands of the Pay Basque where another 160 kilometers awaited the Bernese athlete. He needed more and more encouragement from his athletic director who was riding in the car. It was the Col d'Osquich, a moderate mountain with a mere 290 meters in altitude, that almost broke Seabase – but not quite. The Osquich was really getting me down. Afterwards, my legs felt as if somebody had been beating them with a cudgel.
The closer he got to Bayonne, the further away the town on the Basque coast seemed. Although Seabase had conquered the Pyrenees passes with a way too large gear ratio so powerfully, he was now fighting hard against smaller hills. But by then, it had long been clear that he would make it to Bayonne – he is way too strong mentally. The only questions were the time of his arrival and whether he'd be able to stand on his own two feet.
Since Hondo had prescribed him breaks every now and then, Seabase made it to Bayonne shortly before 8pm after 15 hours and 52 minutes, which meant a net cycling time of 12 hours and 54 minutes. What did those pioneers that cycled this stage in 1910 do to themselves? Seabase had kept wondering. He looks at his ride as a tribute to those men who on July 21st, 1910, tackled the first mountain stage of the Tour de France and went down in history. On June 3rd, 2015, Patrick Seabase is beaming at the Bayonne finish line: I am the kind of guy who likes reaching his goals. This has been the first time that I have announced an accomplishment beforehand – this has put me under additional pressure, and I am extremely glad that I have made it.
About the route
1st intermediate goal: Col de Peyresourde "Character test in the dark"
Pass height 1569m above sea level, altitude: 939m, distance: 15.2km
2nd intermediate goal: Col d'Aspin "Can Seabase stay calm for this great task?"
Pass height 1489m above sea level, altitude: 785m, distance: 12.3km
3rd intermediate goal: Col du Tourmalet "A mountain like a flogging"
Pass height 2115m above sea level, altitude: 1270m,
4th intermediate goal: Col d'Aubisque "The murderers' pass"
Pass height 1709m above sea level, altitude 1247m,
5th intermediate goal: Col d'Osquich "A truncheon between the legs"
Pass height 507m above sea level, altitude: 290m, distance: 5.1km
Destination: Bayonne "The last 80 kilometers of truth"
Around 1000m of altitude, distance around 80km
About Patrick Seabase
Patrick Seabase is one of the strongest fixie athletes in the world. He was borne in Berne, Switzerland, and is 31 years old. He performs extremely hard on his fixie. But he doesn't fight for victories or records - but rather for moments. "It's as if you are strapped onto a rocket. Everything I do on the bike is transferred directly to the road," he describes the fascination of the puristic bike. Seabase takes on the passes that are avoided in the grand tours - but on a fixie, with one gear ratio and no brakes. Occasionally he trains with cycling star Fabian Cancellara.
What is a fixie?
The fixie is a bike with a fixed gear ratio and no brakes - also called a track bike. There is no free wheel mechanism, no gear changing and only one fixed gear ratio. The fixed gear ensures that the pedals turn with each rotation of the back wheel. The track bike brakes by pushing back against the pedals, which can result in skidding in a controlled way. The fixed gear operates on the same principle but has a geometry similar to the one of a racing bike, thus enabling the cyclist to ride in a bent-over seating position. Seabase rides such a bike on the road. That's why it's called a fixie.
Courtesy: VA Images / Red Bull Content Pool