Frenchman Sofiane Sehili completed the 2,268 km course in less than nine days, in this famous bikepacking event. When an ogre shows up, the share left to others suddenly becomes starved. This is often the impression Frenchman Sofiane Sehili gives when he lines up for a long-distance bikepacking event.
Bikes or Death podcast caught up with Sofiane Sehili
The French cyclist, engaged in the French Divide, won it on Monday, after eight days and ten hours of cycling through stony paths, cobbled sectors, forest paths, “single track” and very small roads (2,268 km in all) , from Bray-Dunes in the Basque Country. And leaving almost no suspense to weigh on the outcome of the event. To measure the level of the French, we must take into account the start, carried out in two waves of competitors 24 hours apart, on August 8 and 9. Sehili left in the second. To then swallow all the others involved. Contrary to his usual strategy of not sleeping during the first days of the race, the Frenchman chose to change his approach: “Since I knew we were going on an eight to nine day race, I knew I couldn’t go the first two or three nights without sleep. I opted to sleep every other night, and at the hotel. I didn’t have any bivouac gear, just a survival blanket and slept in it twice. “
What the French Divide is The French Divide is one of the important events of European bikepacking, co-created by the Lille native Samuel Becuwe. The route is imposed, largely on the GR of the Camino de Compostela and is done independently – no personalized assistance, everyone must be able to get by with what they have or do what they need to do by themselves. get it (sleep, eat, repair …).
It is done essentially off the main roads across the diagonal of the French void, during a single stage. This type of racing in full swing, taking advantage of the craze around the gravel, has been modeled on the benchmark of the genre for more than a decade: the Tour Divide, which follows the paths and trails from Canada to New Mexico (United States). States) on the ridges of the continental divide between east and west, across the Rocky Mountains.
We only win these journeys alone. But in this case, Sofiane Sehili had to deal with tough competition from Belgian Lieven Schroyen, who arrived only two and a half hours later. Schroyen first outstripped the Frenchman for two days and nearly 1,000 kilometers, before the latter overtook him at night, in the Morvan, to then keep the lead until the end. Did that put pressure on him? ” Yes totally , concedes Sehili. When he got closer, I accelerated. It got me going. Lately, I was more used to being the one in second place who puts pressure on the first ”
The success of Sofiane Sehili – where adversity has nevertheless slightly lacked density – is part of a year 2020 turned upside down for the French, thwarted in his great goal of the year which was to finally win the Tour Divide, “the” benchmark for autonomous gravel events. At the start of the year, the Ile-de-France courier had clearly indicated to us his intention to finally be on the North American race list, but above all to break the record: last year, when he was in the lead and ahead of the best mark, he had to give up, stuck at night in a snowy forest, in a mountain range. r
Before generalized containment upset the calendar of events this year, Sofiane Sehili had emerged victorious from the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco, the first of the major races of its kind of the season in the northern hemisphere. Glutton Sehili then took 2nd place in the Hope 1000 (the first Swiss post-containment event of 1000 km with a maddening difference in height) and the Three Peaks (a hopping journey between several alpine passes perched high between Vienna and Nice). From now on, the Ile-de-France courier will catch up with the sleep left behind on the shoulders of the trails. Sofiane Sehili: “It’s an absolute killing, it’s the French Divide” “You have already participated in many bikepacking races, but this was your first participation. How did you experience it?
I found it to be an exceptional race. Whether in terms of landscape, organization, audience, quality of the track, the variety offered, this is undoubtedly the best race in which I have participated. You take it all in your eyes all the time. We can really be proud to have it in our country.
On the road, the French Divide is a special race, with a lot of public, a lot of people who come to greet you. It’s difficult to be in a super efficient mode, where you hardly ever stop. There, you have to to say hello to people.
What makes it so special?
It offers a lot of mountain biking, compared to all races which are more gravel oriented. There, on the French Divide, there are a lot of sections with real rolling single track. It’s not boring mountain biking, where you gotta get off every two minutes (la Hope 1000), where you have tree trunks or the tracks are poorly maintained (Italy Divide). There you take a step not possible to go mountain biking and finally do it often and a lot on a bikepacking race. To my knowledge, this is the only bikepacking race that offers so much.
Can it find its place in the great references of the genre?
I’m going to tell everyone who’s strong and I know to come and do it. I just want to start talking to James Hayden (in particular double winner of the Transcontinental Race in gravel races), à Josh Ibbett (winner of the TCR 2015), to Jay Petervary (winner of the Silk Road and one of the references of the discipline), all these big names in sport to tell them:
“There is a race that you passed when it’s an absolute killer, it’s the French Divide.” ”
Cross France from North to South on 2,200 km of trails, paths and small roads … Magic!
Do you know the legendary Great Divide? The French Divide is also becoming a great classic for bikepacking and unassisted crossings!
From Flanders (Franco-Belgian border) to the Basque Country (Franco-Spanish border), via the famous route of Saint-Jacques de Compostelle, you will travel the most beautiful gravel and mountain bike trails in France in total autonomy.
A 100% sporting and human adventure! The route of this 4th edition is offered in 20 sections, from North to South. You will find the gpx, the 3D videos, the details of the route, section by section. !