Tor des Geants

Endurance Trail 330 km - 24000m D+11-18 September 2016

Nico Valsesia

Wed, 14/06/2017 - 10:03 -- Chiara Jaccod

Nico Valsesia at the Tor 2017: Enthusiasm, Fun and Preparation

It certainly cannot be said that he finds the high altitude to be an impediment. In fact, Nico Valsesia is training by bringing friends to the Elbrus (5642 meters in the Caucasus), and he has climbed the Kilimanjaro (5895 meters in Tanzania). Of course, making good time.

Nico Valsesia, is 46, but seems more like a teenager that is looking to have fun in everything he does, apparently, without being worse for wear. Not by coincidence, "Fatigue Does Not Exist" [“La fatica non esiste”] is the title of the book that he wrote with journalist Andrea Schiavon, published by Mondadori in 2014.

Of course, he has already been a recordman on these mountains, and has also climbed the Aconcagua summit (6963 meters) at full speed (world record), cycling from the nearest coast to Chile.

Something that he also repeated from Genoa to the top of Monte Bianco, to stay in our neck of the woods. Later, a trail in the desert of Salar, Bolivia, and other smaller "endeavors" also on two wheels, another great passion (and his profession, since jointly with his brother, he runs a bicycle shop in his native town of Borgomanero), bike racing in a few editions of the RAAM (Race Across America), which entails 5,000 kilometers, non-stop, from one coast of the United States to the other. He also rose to the winner's spot in this grueling, backbreaking race, winning second place in 2006, and third place in 2014.

It's just a small part of the sports biography of the Piedmontese athlete that will participate in the eight edition of TordesGéants® in less than 70 days.

Nico, what kinds of adventures can you tell us about?

In Russia I accompanied a group of friends to climb the Elbrus. The Kilimanjaro, on the other hand, was part of the project "From zero to ...” This time, it involved 380 km by bike, and then on foot to the summit, of course, within the shortest possible time.

In addition to these high mountain hikes, how is your overall preparation for the Tor?

I try to carve out some time between work, children, travel schedules, and events. In recent years, the time I have available has considerably shortened; it's become a lot harder to make time for races and biking. I think it is normal, priorities change, and we cannot always live in a world of dreams, a world where we can be carefree on the mountains thinking only of ourselves and our egos. My current life is much more hectic, however, it make me appreciate any free time that I can dedicate to sports, even more.

What does a typical day of training look like for such a race?

I always get up at 5:00 a.m.; I make breakfast for my son Santiago, who lives with me, and sometimes also for Felipe and Matilda who usually live with their mom. After he goes to school on his bike, I either run or cycle, or I exercise on the rowing machine. During my lunch break, I close my bicycle shop and, and as quickly as I can, go biking or running, taking advantage of that time to the last second. Then I eat something, between one customer and another. In the evening, I no longer train, like I used to, because I really want to spend time with my children. I can no longer make long trips, but I am very enthusiastic about participating in long lasting races.

You are able to find a good mix between having fun and competing. We imagine that the Tor will also be this way. Have you already set a goal to target or will you be taking the race one day at a time?

As always I hope to have fun. I will live in the day and I will improvise, as I usually do, but once my race bib is on, I will give it my best. In my opinion, it should always be that for anyone, otherwise, rather than competing, they should go on a hike.

What do you think is the worst 'enemy' of an endurance trail like this, with 330 km non-stop at 24,000 meters altitude?

In my opinion, your mind is your worst enemy. To always be happy, you must really like what you are doing. Otherwise, it's best to choose another hobby.

Those targeting the ranking are not usually slacking off sleeping. You can train for anything, except for sleep deprivation. How do you usually deal with this obstacle?

Sleep deprivation is a terrible burden when you are not familiar with its effects, and when you do not know what the symptoms will be like. The first few times that you experience hallucinations it is frightening. I think that at this point, I can now live with these symptoms after having participated in the Race Across America five times, where I slept ten hours in nine days...

Tor is an equally competitive race, a challenging journey, a unique adventure, an exploration of the area and of your inner spirit. What definition would you choose?

I would definitely prioritize racing competition. Then, a great adventure to enjoy all the way.

Diet under stress and under adverse conditions. Do you follow a specific diet to participate in the race, or just pizza and beer which are customary?

I try to avoid foods that I know are not that good for me, but without going overboard. As I said earlier, participating in the Tor is always great fun for me and I do not want to obsess over things. Not even diet.

Of course, there are many Endurance Trails now, but the Tor des Géants® remains a unique race in the world, considering the countries represented and the ever-growing number of foreign athletes wanting to participate. In your opinion, what distinguishes it from others?

The simplest and most obvious answer is that Valle d'Aosta has the most beautiful mountains in the world. Moreover, the VdA Trailers members were very good at conceiving this idea first and persevering in carrying on the project, constantly growing. The organization is really great. I am also the organizer of a world renowned event, the Red Bull K3, thus, I recognize the professionalism of those who work with passion and dedication.

You had participated, without success, in a few Tor editions. Therefore, you are familiar with the environment and the issues of the race. In a high altitude race like this, do you need to be more of a trailers or a mountain man?

I always withdrew while I was in the top positions. The first time, because of what I called headaches, and somewhat due to personal issues. I was fine but I was not fully convinced that I would be able to make it. In another edition, I had an insurmountable physical problem. I believe this race is more suited to mountain men who can also be trailers. Then, who knows, maybe someday a cocky young man with freckles will appear, carrying his little shoe bag, that will break the record and put everyone to shame, upsetting the race and the laws of the land and the mountain.