Consider, an adventure that includes:
An unforgiving 56-kilometer (35-mile) ride through dense jungle.
A 68K (43-mile) ride on a muddy volcanic clay trail at 1,740 meters of elevation.
And finally, a 77K (48-mile) mountain bike ride through steep, winding mountain highlands on gravel and grass.
That’s exactly what you can expect to see on the new Amazon Prime show, World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji, which premieres on August 14. Hosted by survivalist extraordinaire Bear Grylls and produced by Mark Burnett of Survivor, the 10-episode adventure series is being touted as “the biggest adventure race ever filmed.”
The show features 66 teams, with a total of 330 elite athletes from 30 different countries who travel non-stop, 24 hours a day, through 417 miles of Fiji. And among these athletes are cyclists with cross-country mountain biking, road racing, cyclocross, and track expertise.
Mountain biking is a big focus throughout the three main travel legs of the race, and along the way, athletes experience crashes, broken bike parts, and pure exhaustion from running on minimal sleep and fuel. During each cycling leg, participants are responsible for maintaining their bikes, as well as cleaning and packing down their bikes, which can be brutal in the conditions in which they’re riding.
“The show was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and by far the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to do in terms of racing,” Tim Cannard, an athlete from the show’s Team Peak Traverse, told Bicycling. Cannard is a former professional mountain biker with more than 25 years of experience in cross-country, mountain bike, road racing, and cyclocross.
Their travel methods include outrigger paddling, mountain biking, rappelling, climbing, whitewater rafting, and hiking trails through rugged backcountry terrain ranging from jungles, mountains, rivers, swamps, and ocean. Talk about a variation in elements.
[Want to fly up hills? Climb! gives you the workouts and mental strategies to conquer your nearest peak.]
“In addition to training on the bike, I had to learn whitewater rafting, ocean navigation, orienteering, back country medical, rock climbing, rappelling and most importantly, learn how to walk or run at high tempo over great distances with a 35-pound backpack on,” Cannard said.
Kevin Hodder was responsible for creating the race’s course, which required him to speak with locals, review maps and Google Earth, and study historical climate and weather patterns. For the mountain biking portions, he had to consider how to link together other legs of the race.
“In some places, we created our own trails to join traditional routes. At other times, the back roads in Fiji presented themselves as idyllic bikepacking,” Hodder told Bicycling. “We didn’t have to go out of our way to find challenges for the teams. There is an old saying in Fiji that ‘Even the ocean is hilly.’ You were either riding uphill or downhill … it was never flat!”
The show documents the grueling impact it takes on participants physically and mentally. Cyclists can relate their own grueling rides to those of the contestants attempt, such as “riding a long, grueling piece of trail that saps every shred of energy from their bodies and spirits, followed by the elation and satisfaction of having completed something challenging,” Hodder said.
And with the current Coronavirus pandemic preventing travel, the show, which was taped last year, will be a feast for your eyes, especially in a world where most races are canceled, and may even help inspire you to plan your own adventure.
“World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji is the type of programming that will appeal to the cycling community that probably wishes they could be riding in a foreign land or having a challenging racing experience of their own right now, but the current health risks won’t allow for it,” Hodder said. “This is the perfect time to be an ‘armchair racer’ while you plan your next grand adventure.”
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