Erik Horsthemke has now finished the first phase of one of the most audacious goals in endurance cycling.
The German road racer turned 20 in late May as he was finishing up the “alternative” Giro d’Italia. By completing the 3,410km tour — and biking through the transfers when most pros rest — Horsthemke has accomplished the first third of his planned Triple Alt Tour.
His idea is both simple and mind-boggling. Horsthemke plans to spend 2022 riding the biggest bike races in the world: the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España.
In addition, he will also bike through the transfers (traveling from one day’s finish to the next day’s start and from race to race), which the pros use to take much-needed rest between stages. The pros use motor vehicles or sometimes even helicopters to make these transfers.
He’s now “amazed and relieved” to be finished with the first stage, but Horsthemke said that riding for hundreds of kilometers every day took a toll. The journey from Budapest to Verona included its share of difficulties. At one point, he was mugged. At another, he was hit by a car.
The biggest challenge wasn’t those “randomly occurring struggles,” he said, but rather the prolonged loneliness.
“I was extremely tired, so it took some days to realize what I achieved,” he said. “The Giro was, altitude-wise, the hardest of the three Grand Tours. That really helped motivate me toward the Tour de France.”
Horsthemke has been recovering in Paris as he waits to begin the Tour de France. After catching a cold, he allowed himself to do only “easy training rides.” With the tour starting in 4 days, he said his legs would be well-rested when he departs from Kopenhagen.
Eating good food helps Horsthemke through the most challenging moments. In Italy, he often enjoyed pizza and gelato, he said.
“And I always made sure to have some peanut butter with me,” he said. “High calorie density combined with a delicious taste always was a good motivation.”
Completing all three tours involves 6,524 miles of cycling. But by adding the transfers, the total distance for Horsthemke comes to 13,670 miles by the time he’s finished.
He looks forward to this “special journey through a total of 10 European countries,” Horsthemke said.