“The spirit of the Tor
soars at these heights”
Friday the 2nd September – One week to go until the Tor des Géants begins. I’m looking inside myself. I know among the various thoughts which crowd the mind, there are also insecurities. The usual gnawing doubts which you experience before facing huge challenges in the mountains. Understandable too. Reminding you of your human capacity, that tiny-great force which is confronted with the immensity of nature.
The Tor is a special kind of test. You must have kilometres stored up in your calves. Kilometres of trails, elevation, suffering and compensation for the suffering.
Perhaps it’s not even a race, at least not from my point of view. It’s too long and too hard to be one. It’s more like an incredible ride among the magical peaks and valleys of the Aosta. An attempt to reach new sporting levels. Less competitive, more introspective. Among nature. Among harsh and magical mountains. Isolation. Eve before the most obscure of fears: the darkness of the night, brief reflections, the tiny light of a head torch, the changing of the weather, the cold, hunger, the energy which seeps out of you… it’s like the solitary ascent of a great rock face…
The morning of departure on the first day comes back to me.
I am relaxed, or at least attempting to be. I’m taking photos and making videos on my camera. A couple a brief interviews. One is with Stevie Haston, honoured survivor from the first edition of the race in 2010. I ask him to describe the Tor des Géants in one word. He replies “pain”. And I think to myself again: pain, the path to spirituality.
Faces contorted, anxiety is written in the wrinkles around my eyes. We are all just little people. All with a great courage. Perhaps mixed with slight unawareness, but courage will surely prevail. As usual when I’m at the starting line, I joke around, a way like any other to dispel fear. In the end even I believe my light heartedness, and I set off.
One great snaking line of athletes winds around the streets of Courmayeur. Crowds follow us on both sides, with wide eyes, cheers of encouragement, children entranced by the spectacle, old people who seem to respectfully assist the passage of their “heroes”. Yes, heroes, like those who went to work in the mountains in times gone by. The handsome, courageous, pure. Who knows what we are? Perhaps not heroes, but we’re giving it a good go… If a hero is also an explorer, someone who leaves for the unknown, well then perhaps we are… because here the unknown is in abundance.
Federico Acquarone in Montagnard, 2011 / extract