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The brutal Two Volcano Sprint from Etna to Vesuvius covers 1,180km and climbs 26,000m

A guide to the Italian ultra-endurance cycling challenge

Emma Cole
14 Oct 2021

Described as 'brutal', the Two Volcano Sprint is a single stage, self-supported ultra-endurance cycling challenge, which takes riders on a route of 1,180km with over 26,000 metres of climbing between Italy’s two most notorious volcanoes.

The race starts in the town of Nicolosi on October 15th at 5am at the foot of Mount Etna and finishes just outside Ercolano, by Mount Vesuvius.

100 riders will compete for the crown and to make the finisher’s party they must finish the route within 110 hours.

Organised by ultra-endurance cyclist Juliana Buhring, the race is now in its third year and the 2021 route will be the first which runs from south to north.

'This year's event is exciting for many reasons, not least of which being the fantastic line up of ultra-racers participating,' explains Buhring. 'We have a new route, slightly longer mileage and much more altitude gain, with an extra tough mountain, Monte Gelbison in Cilento.'

'If I could give riders any tip it would be to not take themselves too seriously. This is meant to be as much fun as it is a challenge and I hope they will enjoy seeing some incredible parts of southern of Italy en route as well as partaking in the famous southern hospitality and congeniality with the locals they encounter.'

The Route

The Two Volcano Sprint is a fixed route event, unlike the Transcontinental or the Transibérica, and riders must follow the GPX route unassisted and carry their own gear.

Riders will summit Etna twice following the course of the 2020 Giro d’Italia before heading through three national parks and contending with an 18 switchback climb to reach the statue of Cristo Redentore of Maratea, the fifth highest statue of Christ in the world.

Then they will head towards the epic 15.4% climb of Monte Gelbison and descend to Paestum, a place famous for its ancient Greek temple ruins.

Finally, for anyone who has made it this far, all that is left will be to summit Vesuvius and roll down to the finish line.

The riders

Last year's winner Ulrich Bartholmös finished in 52 hours and 50 minutes, his second consecutive Two Volcano Sprint win, and is excited about the route this year.

'I'm really looking forward to come back – it has become something of a good tradition for me to end my season with this awesome event in south Italy,' says Bartholmös. 'I really love Sicily so cycling this whole stretch in daylight will be super nice. I am curious about the 18 switchbacks to the famous Cristo Redentore of Maratea – can't wait to climb this one!'

Bartholmös also won the Transpyrenees and Transibérica this year so will be one to watch.

The reigning champion is up against Omar di Felice who will be hoping to improve on his third-place podium last year and the Frenchman Steven Le Hyaric who just won the North Cape 4000.

Last year's runner-up Sofiane Sehili will be riding in a pair with Adrien Liechti.

2019 Transcontinental winner Fiona Kolbinger will also be competing, although in conversation with Cyclist she played down her chances despite her talent for hilly terrain.

The main conundrum for her revolves around the question of sleep, when and for how long. She doesn't want to take caffeine pills or painkillers, but knows she won't be able to do the race without sleep.

'I like hills and I think I am quite good at them, but cycling is still a hobby for me,' says Kolbinger. 'It's not my job so I don’t want to put pressure on myself, I just want to push my body to its limits. That's what I like to do but I want to do it naturally. I will need to sleep so realistically I won't win this race.'

To watch the race, head to dotwatcher.cc.

Image Credits: Charlotte Gamus

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