Enduring when the bulk would give up is that this Austrian’s specialty.
The intense bicycle owner lives to attain the unthinkable: biking throughout the Himalayas in a document 39 hours, setting world firsts in excessive altitude.
This month he’s to cycle continuous the size of Cuba, from east to west, on gravel and grime tracks, in excessive warmth, maybe tropical rain. It will likely be humid. It could possibly be 1450km (900 miles) of hell.
No-one has tried this round the clock feat. The 28-year-old hopes to finish his mission — the equal of biking from New York to St Louis within the Midwest — in 57 hours. Skilled cyclists would usually take two weeks.
He’ll, he says, nap for a couple of minutes, climate allowing, and when nature calls he’ll hop off his bike. However important capabilities shall be transient. Time strikes ahead with out relaxation and so should he.
For just a little over two days, Zurl will primarily be pedaling, relentlessly so, preventing the aches within the physique, the manipulative voices in his thoughts and regardless of the components throw at him.
It’s his inquisitiveness, in addition to a love for adrenaline, which drives him.
“After I take a look at the world map, for me, as an extremely bicycle owner, I see so many attention-grabbing initiatives,” he tells CNN Sport.
“Why hasn’t somebody finished this problem earlier than? Cuba is such an attention-grabbing nation.
“I need to get in touch with the individuals, to know the nation. I’ve endurance in biking and the Cuban individuals have endurance in life.”
The Caribbean’s largest island is experiencing an unsure period following the loss of life of Fidel Castro in November 2016.
Castro, thought to be a revolutionary hero to his supporters and a ruthless autocrat to his enemies, was the person who created a communist state in America’s yard.
However earlier final yr, Barack Obama grew to become the primary US President to go to the nation in 88 years as relations between the Chilly Struggle-era adversaries thawed. It’s but unclear what coverage US President Donald Trump will pursue, however it’s doable he’ll harden America’s stance in direction of the island.
Cuba, a rustic 90 miles off the Florida coast, is famend for its coloration and spirit, however its vivacity won’t defend Zurl from the agony he’ll undoubtedly expertise as he forces his physique to cowl a frightening distance at speedy tempo.
Driving alongside, and up and down, rickety roads, his physique will rattle as if using on a pneumatic drill. Crouched for hours, his again will ultimately really feel as tight as outdated rubber and his muscular tissues shall be as onerous as week-old bread.
Whereas the lights on his bike will information him via darkish nights, it’s music — and an iron will — that may drive this son of a financial institution supervisor on when he’s sucked right into a black gap of bodily struggling.
Curiously, he’ll solely hear to 1 track, a well-recognized beat, lyrics he can simply repeat. Typically, he might even sing alongside. Quietly, after all, for it’s long-distance biking, not singing, which is his forte.
“I have never determined what track will probably be but in Cuba,” he laughs, revealing that his tune of alternative throughout a latest coaching stint in Spain was Mumford and Sons’ “Imagine” earlier than including that he rode up the Himalayas listening to “Free” by Natalia Kills.
“For the lengthy distance initiatives, the music makes it simpler,” he says. “As soon as my assist automotive drove over considered one of my MP3 gamers. That was s***.”
Zurl is the form of man who would really feel misplaced using with out music.
He’ll take three moveable music gamers to Cuba, a precaution towards a repeat of the earlier catastrophe.
For a lot of, listening to the identical track for hours, for days, seemingly endlessly on loop, can be as torturous as pedaling from one finish of a rustic to a different at 25kph.
However when life on the saddle feels easy, Zurl’s thoughts drifts. He’ll ponder about his yesterdays and make plans for his tomorrows. “I am occupied with every part,” he admits.
He hears the music, however does not hear. The music, he says, goes “beneath my thoughts.”
It’s when the journey turns into a chore that Zurl refocuses on the beat of his favourite tune which can push him to attain a feat no man or lady has finished earlier than.
“It is all the time only one track. It is form of non secular. When it is getting onerous and I need to hearken to music and there’s no music, it is an issue for me,” says Zurl, who has been biking a median of 20 hours per week in preparation for this experience, specializing in velocity reasonably than endurance.
“The worst factor to occur on this race can be if I misplaced my MP3 gamers.”
However Zurl has skilled deeper distress than the crushing of his moveable music participant.
It was whereas in Cuba, earlier than his first try and cycle throughout the island in 2015, that Zurl contracted dengue fever.
“I felt instantly not good,” is his understated description of the day he was rapidly taken to hospital, his temperature rising to 40 levels.
In 9 days, he misplaced seven kilos. He says he caught the tropical illness, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, when biking in heavy rain throughout a coaching session on the island.
He’s higher ready for this his second try, although that doesn’t imply he has forgotten simply concerning the fright of two years in the past.
Requested what he feared essentially the most concerning the journey forward, he gravely replies: “Catching dengue once more.”
“There was a heavy bathe and I did not have the (mosquito) spray and, I feel, that was the issue,” says Zurl, remorse nonetheless in his voice.
“I didn’t assume it was going to be so harmful.
“I took the aircraft again to Austria and for the subsequent two months sport was forbidden and, after that, I began to biking once more, however in 2016 I fell sick so many instances.”
It’s Zurl’s expertise with dengue which partly explains why his household shall be shut behind in a assist automotive this time round.
His mother and father, Paul and Brigitte, a medical physicist, and girlfriend, Nina Almer, are those who will drive behind with meals provides, isotonic drinks, spare wheels and, after all, his MP3 gamers.
The mum who as soon as advised her then 18-year-old son he was “fully silly” for spending an unlimited sum on footwear for his new two-wheeled passion is now absolutely supportive of his long-distance expeditions.
“First my mother and father have been skeptical,” admits Zurl, as soon as a promising sailor of worldwide class earlier than biking took maintain.
“It wanted plenty of vitality for me to persuade them, however within the final two years or so it is simpler they usually know, for me, it is necessary.
“If it isn’t too harmful they are going to let me do it. Previously it was troublesome as a result of my father liked to sail and I would sail in regattas.
“That is all modified. Not solely do my mother and father now cycle, however my uncle and aunt do too. Typically we cycle collectively and now we have our personal jersey. I made it for them with the household identify on it.”
It’s maybe becoming that Zurl’s mum shall be available to verify her son eats correctly, although he doesn’t want his mom to remind him of the risks of not consuming the precise energy on the proper time. Each engine wants gasoline.
Consuming for endurance, says Zurl, is a talent. “I actually need to eat lots,” he says, sighing.
Expertise has taught him he must eat or drink 500 energy an hour to compensate for the minerals he’ll lose via sweating.
Even meals lovers would balk on the considered consuming 30,000 energy in two-and-a-half days — particularly when offered with a weight-reduction plan of rice and potatoes, important for this race towards the clock.
Will Zurl discover recent greens alongside Cuba’s grime tracks?
He says he would like to, however is uncertain what shall be accessible en route. Protein bars and drinks, he says, will suffice if recent meals can’t be discovered.
“On the one hand it is actually necessary that I’ve sufficient energy to do that experience, nevertheless it’s onerous to eat a lot in solely this time so now we have to set protocol about what number of energy I am consuming each hour,” he says.
“It is necessary you do not have an excessive amount of one hour and the subsequent hour nothing. It must be each hour the identical energy.
“It is crucial to maintain your abdomen in order that you do not have issues. Your physique actually is sort of a machine. It is fully superb.
“Whenever you’re biking for that lengthy after all you get drained, however you may’t drink 5 Pink Bulls or coffees to remain awake as a result of caffeine makes you go to the bathroom and you’ll lose time.”
Zurl, who works as a private coach to assist his adventures, has been acclimatizing in Cuba this final fortnight, conserving his vitality, easing off from the weekly 200-250km rides, dwelling within the humidity that has pressured him to readjust his ending time from 55 to 57 hours.
The 90-minute strengthening routines on the gymnasium 3 times per week have additionally stopped. The second is almost upon him.
“It is not a traditional situation for biking in Europe or America,” says Zurl.
“It’s a must to practice plenty of years to have the ability to do issues like this.”
“I’ve a few years making ready my physique and likewise my head for issues like this. There is no such thing as a secret about it. It is biking and you probably have the fervour to do issues like this then you might be additionally quick.”