Is This The World’s Hardest Race? | E-Bike Tour Du Mont Blanc 2019

– With 16,000 meters of climbing, 18,000 meters of
descending, 350 kilometers. Is the Tour du Mont Blanc the hardest e-mountain bike race in the world? Well, over the next three
days and three countries, I'm about to find out. (rock music) That's hard days work,
Fabrice, hard days work. (rock music) Now it really doesn't
matter what direction you look here, from Verbier, there are some massive mountains. Whether it be the Matterhorn,
the Grand Combin behind me, or that most famous
mountain of all Mont Blanc. But it's actually from the
relative safety of the bike parks with their proximity to towns that I've always looked to these
big mountains and thought, "One day, I really would like to go for a big adventure".

But this three-day tour of Mont Blanc really is a pretty serious undertaking. Now, if the mountains weren't
already challenging enough, I've just been looking at the start list, the sixteen teams entered
for this Tour de Mont Blanc. We're talking the likes
of Olympic Gold Medalist Christoph Sauser. Marco Fontana, who's
also an Olympic medalist, and, of course, Tracy Moseley. These riders are pretty much lightweight racing
machines, unlike myself. So, what I'm about to
undertake is three days. Each day is over 100 kilometers,
about 5000 meters a day.

That's 15,000 feet of climbing per day. Plus, of course, all the descending. And, this event is largely single track. 85% of the 350 kilometers
are single track. In short, I've not actually
ever ridden this far, certainly not on single track. I've never done that much climbing, and I've never done that much descending in such a short space of time. It's going to be,
physically and technically, very, very brutal. I'm not even sure I can do it. Now, I don't know if you can tell, but I'm actually quite
nervous about this event. I feel pretty sick. Actually, I shouldn't joke, because Chris, at the
minute, is lying in bed and not feeling too well. But hopefully he's going to get better. But I've just come up into
the hills to check out- well, I say hills, mountains I mean. What we're about to tackle is going around that lot, over there. Which, to me, looks like
quite a long way to go. We're talking Verbier
to Courmayeur, day one. Then Courmayeur to Chamonix, day two.

Then Chamonix back to
Verbier on day three. Like I said, 100 kilometers per day, and I'm really, really unsure whether I can actually do this race. In terms of logistics, you've got three batteries,
well, four batteries to use in a day, 2,000 watt hours. So, how it works is, you start off in the
morning with a full charge.

You've got a spare battery in your bag, and then you get to a lunch stop, although we were told
it's not a lunch stop because, in the organizer's own words, "This is not a picnic, it's a race." Probably, that'll be
rattling around in my head for the next, well, for
however many years, I'm sure. So, yes, you get your fresh battery, if you need a battery, and then you press on
for the rest of the day. But 2,000 watt hours, I mean, I know that I can do about 5,000 feet on one 700 watt hour battery, but we're talking 15,000 feet in a day. So, plus we've got all
the technical terrain and the climbing to deal with. And the high altitude as well. So, I'm genuinely, really
worried about this race. (rumbling, bass music) Right, a crisp 6:00 am here in Verbier. Bad news, unfortunately. Chris has gone down with a
really bad virus overnight, so I've got a new teammate in the shape of French mountain guide Fabrice Cruser, so, hopefully he'll be able to help me through the hills, because I've got to say, I'm feeling a little
bit anxious about today.

It's a big, big day. 3,000 meters to the first checkpoint, which is a pretty big undertaking. But hey, look. Look at these mountains, It's absolutely stunning. There's part of me that thinks, "Yeah, I'm quite looking forward to getting out onto them." (cringing) So, my new teammate, Fabrice Cruser. – "Hey everybody!" (laughing) – He's got Chris' number plate. – Yeah – You feeling good, Fabrice? – Yeah. Pretty cold this morning,
but the sun is here. I think it's okay. – Yeah. – You feeling nervous? – Not nervous, no. It's just like, this
is going to be fun, eh? I get to ride with that person. (laughing) – And who's this crazy fool? – This crazy fool is Natalie Schneider. – The start. Always a nervous place. – [Announcer] Hey, we
are making history here! – First ever Tour de
Mont Blanc, on e-bikes! (pop music) – Within meters of the start, we were into mighty fine Alpine single track, and climbing strongly, before the mountains opened up.

The Grand Combin, stage right, and then straight into our first descent. The first of the 18,000 meters we'd be doing over the next three days. (pop music) Yeah! With two batteries to
support us before lunch, I was very aware that I
needed to be very careful in support levels. And my worst fears hit me halfway up the second climb. Having a bit of a mini-moment, here. I'm on red. I know that I'm going to
hit the first 5,000 feet on one battery. But I've got no idea at the minute how much I'll have to do then. So, yeah. Literally in a dark place at the minute. There's only 20-odd caves in a day.

So, Fabrice, I think we're going
to do a battery change, yeah? – Yeah, it's time to change for you. – Yeah. – I change. You can take your battery. – It's all about teamwork. Fabrice boss me around. – Yeah. – Two work, too. It's quite interesting
how the different bikes and different batteries- Some bikes will go 500 watts on a battery, so they're going to be changing at different points during the day to what we are, on a
700 watt hour battery. So, interesting, the game of catch and pass, during the day.

So, I can see, like about five teams ahead of us, which I've not seen for about an hour. Which is actually quite reassuring. – Everybody's changed
battery in the front. – Yeah. (laughing) – It's like in Formula One. – It is like Formula One, yeah! (laughing) With the terrain getting
more and more remote, we soon became aware that there was now no turning back. And, after a quick energy bar, the first of many dozen, my mood lifted as the
mountains rose all around us, as we skirted the South
side of Grand Combin at almost 10,000 feet. (piano and guitar music) – When you get up to
these altitude numbers it's not just about the technical riding, Aah! Sorry about that.

It's about dealing with
the altitude, as well. So, we're heading on for another 10,000 feet. [Inaudible] – Fabrice has told me that this is the highest pass on the trip. Wow! Wow. (guitar music) – The descent from Fenetre Durand is technical, fast, and
with no room for error for bike or for body. Marco Fontana showing just how challenging the high Alpine terrain is. Soon, though, we were
back over the treeline, more earthy tones, before pit stop number one. (piano music) – Can't beat a bit of beer for after, when you're absolutely knackered.

Sauser and Bundi rolled
in with a healthy lead. Woo-hoo! Argh! You seem to be in a bit of a jam, there. – I'm too fat! (laughing) – Fat, he is not. (guitar music) – Whoa. So, me and Fabrice have
gone through in 11:34. And Christoph Sauser got here at- Sorry, we got here at 1:34. Christoph Sauser got here at 11:34 – Yeah. – Two hours ahead of us. – Yeah. (laughing) – Two hours ahead of us! It's, like, 30-minute lunch, and then we've got a 1,900-meter
climb this afternoon. And finally, there's a 15-minute push, and a ten-minute carry. – I guess. – Like we haven't done that, this morning. – Yeah. – Good morning, though. – Yeah. – It's nice today, good weather. Very nice, yeah. – Yeah. Some more chocolate. (guitar music) After some bread, cheese
and some chocolate, me and Fabrice hit the slopes which, as we were to find out, would be some of the hardest on the tour. Not far from the notorious
summit of Malatra, it seemed Sausa was in trouble, pushing Rigolet and Grossrieder, with [Inaudible]. (guitar music) (water splashing) – [Fabrice] How are you? – That's a hard day's work, Fabrice.

A hard day's work. – [Fabrice] Yeah. – So you get to 9,000 feet, and you're confronted with this wall. Not funny. Just not funny at all. – [Fabrice] No. Not at all. (laughing) At this moment. (coughing) (dramatic music) (bike tires on gravel) Malatra was no place
for the faint-hearted. As we carried our 20 kg bikes through the precipitous scree, now deep into Italian terrain. Two tired bodies, our mood is lifted by our first sight of the magnificent Mont
Blanc in early evening light. From here, all that was left of the day was the descent to Courmayeur.

Easier said than done, but still we cracked on, as our day pressed close to ten hours of ride time. (dramatic music) Day one had been a
brutal start to the race, and even stage winners
Golay and Grossrieder, and Mosely and Schneitter confessed to sore bodies
after a tough day. (dramatic music) Early morning on the Southern
slopes of Mont Blanc. An easier day is in the cards, but still, a huge ride. The day begins as day one ended, more rocks, high speed,
to technical terrain. So, day two. They've almost managed to convince us that today is easier than yesterday.

But still, it's a 4,300 meter climb. So, our destination today
is Les Houches in Chamonix, so, yeah, let's hope it's
slightly easier than yesterday. Please? (pop music) – Yeah! – We have a big climb today. The big place for today, stage two, here, [Inaudible] and the Val- [Inaudible] And here, it's France, my home place. – [Narrator] Yay! [Inaudible] – [Patrice] Yes! Now, it's farther on here, yeah.

(electronic music) – [Narrator] The day was going well, but still, we couldn't resist
a pre-pit-stop pit-stop. Just done a famous Tour de France col.. – Cormet de Roselend, exactly – Yeah. – Tour de France place. – Yeah. But we couldn't resist getting
some saucisson (sausages) and some cheese. – You have good sandwiches. – Yeah, look at this. Oh, can't wait to have
some of that, later on. What do you say, Holger,
a bit of wine, later? – That looks good. – It does, doesn't it? – We should go for it. – This is not a picnic, though, right? – No, this is a race. – Yeah. – Too bad. – So you call, you call
lunch stuff, though. – Well, we do, but the real
lunch stuff is still coming up. (electronic music) – Now, if you're wondering how we manage batteries on this monumental loop, well, we start off in the morning with one full charge on the bike, and also one charge in a bag.

pexels photo 6249461

Remember you got to have quite a big bag to carry a battery. Then, the team has a selection of boxes. You have a box for your night-time stuff, and also a box for you daytime spares. And that also carries your lunchtime battery replacements. So, as you can see, we're now
at the lunchtime stop, here. You get checked in, you get 30 minutes. Yes, just 30 minutes,
and you have to leave on the dot of that 30 minutes. So, that's the only spare time you've got during the day. Brutal. – Stretching is very important. You get a sore back. – Looks like Mosely's doing push-ups. – She's a pro. – [Narrator] Golay and Grossrieder are now leading up the race, hunted down by Sauser and Bundi, as we head into quite
different, lowland meadow.

(electronic music) – Now, a really interesting
aspect of this trip is that, for the heavier riders, they're going to be climbing slower from the lighter riders. Plus, they're going to be using significantly more battery. So that means you got to be really careful on what mode you use on the climbs. Fabrice, here, however, is riding on eco, and getting a ridiculous amount of range. But, this is where, this
is the interesting thing, is that, the guys in the lead, like Flo Golay and- – Hey, he is here! – Oh, there he is! Oh my god! – We got to follow the lead! – So, there you go. Now, I'm the turbo, right? Look at these guys. Sixty-five kilos, they've absolutely
disappeared within ten yards. Fabrice, that was ridiculous. (laughing) In one kilometer- – Yeah (laughing) – One kilometer, you and
Flo Golay and his teammate pulled one minute on me. – Yes. – That's crazy! – Yes. I was in climb mode, I think he was in turbo mode. – Yeah. – But, just one kilometer, we pass. Yeah, it's really fast. But, I think it's faster
in downhill for you.

(pop music) – [Narrator] It's been a tough day, but we've only an hour left. I have motor problems and have to make a swift decision, and divert for a serious pit-stop. So, as with anything
mechanical or electrical, there's always the danger
of something going wrong. So, today I struck a problem just before the last climb, and fortunately, I've
just come to Zero-G Bikes, and Ben and Blo are helping out with fitting a new motor to my Levo. I guess it's fortunate to have a peddler. Awesome, Ben, thanks for sorting that out. – You're on the go.

Cheers, man. – Cheers, Blo. – You're welcome. (electronic music) – Hey, [Inaudible]. Hey, it's 5:00. (laughing) – Now, it's 6:00 in the morning. And we're about to start. Ten hours on the bike. We will be dead, too. (laughing) – [Narrator] Day three dawned earlier than most of us imagined. But then again, dawn
in the Chamonix Valley was something else. And soon, I'd get a view
of this iconic valley that I've never seen before. (dramatic music) It's a beautiful place
to change a battery. – It's beautiful, yes it is. – Huh? – Yeah. In the sunrise. I can't imagine better. – Look, look behind you. – Yes. Le Mont Blanc. – The mid-morning climb
promised to be a tough one, Holger Meyer and his teammate, skier Jereme Heitz took
a swift coffee stop. We simply had to join them. So, like Fabrice says, what is five minutes, in life, eh? (laughing) – Yeah – It's probably ten minutes, now.

(laughing) – I may be fondue, next. – Yeah, too [Inaudible] – This afternoon. You just have to decide, cheese fondue or fondue chinoise? (techno-rock music) – So now, we're the [inaudible] team follows the [Inaudible]. (techno-rock music) – So, it's ten to one, we've been riding for pretty much six-and-a-half, seven hours, and it sounds crazy, but we're now taking a chair lift halfway up the mountain, which will set us off on our
final 10,000 feet of climbing. Which would mean, I think,
it's about four or five sets of those 10,000 meter attempts
we've done on this trip.

I've been really emotional, actually, no more so than on the last downhill run where I followed Christoph Sauser and Marco Fontana. Probably one of the scariest things I've ever, ever done on a mountain bike. And when you consider these guys are racing at that pace
for four to five hours, it absolutely blows my mind. And, I mean, those are full-on
tactical downhill runs. So, yeah, if this sport
of e-mountain bike racing- It's been quite an
eye-opener, that's for sure. My amazing teammate Fabrice hauled me up the penultimate climb, as my back started to scream at me. Been carrying that 700 watt
hour battery for three days. I've actually had it
angled the same position in the bag, because of
an old collarbone injury. It's really, really stinging. It's been stinging for
quite a few hours now. So, what I'm going to do is, if you'd come in here, Fabrice, I'm going to change the angle. So, rather than have it this way, I'm going to swap it over and
have it the other way round.

See if that'll stop it hurting too much. But, I'll tell you what, it really is hurting quite a lot. – [Fabrice] Put it in the middle. – Huh? – [Fabrice] Here. – You think, put it in the middle? – [Fabrice] Yeah. Go this way. – Yeah? – [Fabrice] Yeah. You can, you can, yeah. And so, here, then you have to open. No, it's open. – Oh! – [Fabrice] So… – So, here we are, three days in, I've just learned that I
can put that down there. What an idiot. So, honestly, learned so
many things on this trip. (laughing) It's taken me three days! – [Fabrice] You have to ask me! – Argh! (expletive) (laughing) Argh! My God! What an idiot! – [Fabrice] It's pretty steep! – That's not pretty steep, that's ridiculously steep. (laughing) – Look at it! That's probably the steepest
climb we've done all trip! (laughing) – Look at it! Look at it! So, 1:45, it's like hitting a wall. Come on, let's get stuck into it.

The climb to Col du Miel
is one of the most exposed of the whole trip, but it was utterly spectacular. (techno music) After an hour of climbing, it was now time for an hour of descending. This was something very, very special. A piece of track that every mountain-biker should have on their list. (techno music) – That is crazy! That is ridiculous! Oh, my God! I've never been on anything like it! Please go right! (laughing) Bloody hell, girls, you took your time. It's been three days! Three days! What've you been doing, hanging around in the shade? – [Fabrice] You think
they understand English? – Oh, they understand well.

(laughing) (water splashing) – Ah! Oh, my God. One more climb. One more climb, Fabrice. – [Fabrice] Yeah. Last climb! – Ahh! – [Fabrice] Last climb. (techno music) – Well, that's it. No more downhill- No more uphill, eh? – No more uphill. – Ah! (laughing) – All downhill, now. – What's this? – [Fabrice] 13th team! – [Man In Yellow Jacket] This is the- – [Fabrice] Ah, okay! (techno music) (cheering) – [Fabrice] Hey! We did it! (beer glasses clinking) – So, three very, very challenging days round an iconic mountain in the Alps.

45,000 feet of climbing, about 60,000 feet of descending. I couldn't believe that
today, the last day we climbed for an hour, and it took us just as long to get down the mountain. – Yeah. – Fabrice is my teammate. Unfortunately, Chris went
down with a virus, bless him. Though he's still wearing our colors. Fabrice, that was probably
one of the toughest and longest days, today,
that I've done in my life. – Yes. It's what I said.

Maybe it's the longest day of my life. I'm 51, and I have
hardest day, but this one, is biggest, yeah. – Yeah. Well, I couldn't get away
with, with the trails, was that, in three days, I
think I've probably ridden some of the best mountain bike trails in my life. And I've been a journalist for 20 years, and it just was, kept going on, and on, and on. The single track trails are amazing. – Yeah. I remember the last descent, very long, on the ridge, amazing. – Yeah. – Yes. Awesomeness. – But, it's also
dangerous, as well, right? – Yeah. (laughing) – So, Fabrice said to me, "You need to focus, you need to focus". – Yeah. Up there, you need to focus.

(laughing) – But, I learned so much. I've learned so much about
what I can do physically, now, I believe I can do 12
hours on a mountain bike. I've learned about battery range, I've learned about line choice, I've learned about how to deal with altitude. But, I've also learned that
the guys that race this race are actually some of the
greatest mountain bike racers on the planet. – Yeah. – Because, I followed Chrisoph Sauser and Marco Fontana down a mountain, probably one of the scariest
things I've ever done on a mountain bike.

They were fast, right? – Yeah. We can't imagine how we can do a race of this type. It's very dangerous, a lot of people are on the trail. – Yeah. I mean, it would be- no other place in the world
could [Inaudible] Track. – Yeah. – Yeah. – Fabrice, amazing couple
of days, thanks so much for being- – Nice to meet you and
share this good adventure. – A great, great, yeah. Chris is definitely
going to do it next year. So, that's about it. If you want to see more adventures, check on the [Inaudible] and the crazy free-rider. Or, Into the Wild with Hannah Barnes, which is a different kind of riding. And, I can highly, highly recommend coming and riding around Mont Blanc, whether it's an event or non-event. And let us know your thoughts. There's so many questions. I think I've probably learned more about e-mountain biking
in the last three days than I have in ten years.

It's been absolutely insane. Fabrice, how you say in French? – Uh, cheers! (laughing) Sante! – Sante.

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