On January 24, 2015, Nico Valsesia achieved his goal of setting a new world record for covering the greatest positive difference in altitude in less than a day. He ascended Aconcagua, the highest mountain in both the western and southern hemispheres. After cycling from sea level to an altitude of 2,900 meters, he completed the rest on foot. Nico reached the summit at 7,000 meters in a total time of 22 hours and 41 minutes. Read the diary of Nico’s Aconcagua experience here.
How long have you been cycling in distance events such as Race Across America?
After ten years of mountain bike competitions, my first long-distance race was the Italian Coast-to-Coast (Rimini-Viareggio-Rimini), 360.4 miles, in 1996. I rode my first RAAM in 2003 (I was 32 years old at the time), and qualified in sixth place overall. Since then, I have kept competing in long-distance races. This was my fifth RAAM.
Where did you start and finish during the 2014 Race Across America event, and how long did it take?
This year it took me 9 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes to finish the 3,000-mile race. I started in Oceanside, California, and arrived in Annapolis, Maryland. I slept approximately one and a half hours per day, generally in the afternoon. In total, I stayed on the bike 22 hours per day all along the race.
How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically to ride for such a long period of time?
Physically, I practice on a regular basis for many hours per day. In the weeks before the race, I ride on my own for a five-day tour, trying to simulate the race conditions. Last May I also participated in a long-distance race in Slovenia (DOS-RAS Extreme, 745.7 miles) to test my preparation. This requires mental preparation as well. It gets you in the habit of being alone with yourself for a lot of time and concentrating exactly on what you are doing at any precise moment. I would say it’s a sort of meditation, if it wouldn’t sound too serious!
What does it mean to be a RAAM cyclist? What is a typical day like?
There is no “typical day” at RAAM. Even if the only thing you do is pedal day and night, every day is deeply different from the other. The road, the landscape, your physical condition, the millions of unforeseen events that can happen in such a long trip. Probably the main thing you must keep in mind when you are a RAAM cyclist is to be very flexible and ready to face the unexpected. It’s one of the most difficult parts of the race, but it’s also the most exciting!
What was the most memorable part of your 2014 RAAM event?
Probably the storm we met on the Appalachian Mountains, during the night. Lightning struck very close to my bicycle, with a deafening sound. A few minutes later, I rode into a hole in the road because visibility was almost zero. I managed not to fall down, but I broke both of the wheels. A pretty frightening experience!
What was the greatest challenge?
In the end, the greatest challenge is to keep your concentration and maintain your motivation to complete the race. RAAM is a mental endeavor as well as a physical one.
Did you ride in the RAAM event to raise awareness for something?
I’m linked to two Italian associations: Tincontro, which is involved in premature newborn assistance, and Associazione Nazionale di Volontariato Cornelia de Lange, which promotes research on CdLS (Cornelia de Lange syndrome), a very rare syndrome affecting children.
What’s your next event?
I hope it will be Aconcagua 7000. It’s a new project that we’re trying to organize. I’ll start biking from Vina del Mar (Chile) and then climb the summit of Aconcagua mountain in Argentina, which is 22,966 feet above sea level. It would be the world record for difference in height.
What do you do when you’re not cycling?
I manage my bicycle shop in Italy, stay with my family and practice other sports like trail running and skiing.
If you do things with a real passion, you’ll be able to reach big results, even bigger than you think.
What would you like people to know about your cycling?
I don’t like speaking about me. I prefer that the facts speak for themselves. In any case, I hope that my story inspires someone else to try some big challenge. My motto is “fatigue does not exist.” What I mean is that if you do things with a real passion, you’ll be able to reach big results, even bigger than you think.
What does it mean to have a company like INVISTA supporting your efforts?
INVISTA had a key role in my 2014 Race Across America endeavor. They made it possible. Not only for their financial support, but also for their technical assistance, providing me and the entire crew with high-performance garments made from INVISTA fabrics. In a race like RAAM, apparel can be crucial for success.
And more than this, I felt myself supported in full, with an enthusiasm and friendliness I didn’t expect. When I arrived in El Dorado, near Wichita, Kansas, it was very early in the morning after a really difficult night. I found that people from INVISTA had come to cheer for me. It was a really exciting moment, and I felt myself really supported in every sense.