The Obsession of Ultra Endurance Cycling or how the
Tour of British Columbia was created.
By Perry Stone C.M.M.
name is Perry Stone and I am an addict. My drug of choice is not a
pharmaceutical that enhances my mood or increases my abilities; my
addiction is the open road, chasing sunsets, climbing mountains,
fighting, scrapping and digging for every inch of an endless
journey against headwinds so
powerful the only justification for their manifestation can be the
cleansing of some resilient pockets of bad karma.
Back in the glory days of my riding I was never the
fastest, nor did I care to be, but in my own mind I was special.
Insanity, bravado or addiction, the call is yours to make, but I rode
155,000 kilometers in 5.5 years. All on the wrong side of the road in
the land down under, Australia. I rode so much, so far and so often I
literally lost count of how many crossing I made of the Nullarbor or how
many circumnavigations of the entire continent I cycled. I do know that
I am the only human on earth to ever complete 3 14,000+ kilometer laps
of the continent in ultra-race mode. I also remember one time on the
Nullarbor Plains, vacationers in their rented RVs pulled off the road
because the crosswinds were so strong they feared it might flip their
vehicles and families into the abyss. But I kept riding into the howling
force of nature, often making only single digit progress hourly. I was
ALIVE and as brutally tough as it was I loved it. I was lonely, I was
under nourished and I was filled with doubt, but my broken knees kept
going and my heart pumped muscle and dreams into my pedals and I just
kept going. There was no option.
Later on I met with a near tragic malfunction of my
body. The same body I promised a thousand times, “if you just get me
through this I will rest you,” but I guess it got tired of the promises
and it made me quit. An incredibly sore and swollen leg would be
diagnosed as two “lime-sized” clots.
I went from superman to death watch over night. I
was broke in a foreign country with an expired visa and I needed medical
attention. The triage nurse would not admit me but I will always
remember my two angels of mercy: An English nurse that put her hand on
my arm as I lay in my bed and told the nurse that they will be admitting
me and there will be no complaints. The other was a kind women who lent
me her credit card so that I might live.
I remember laying in that bed, staring out at the
ocean watching the kite surfers soar across the waves and the skies and
I was never so afraid of dying in my life and I was pretty sure I was
going to. It was Christmas time and the doctor treating me worked around
the clock to treat me and others, and then, while trying to drive his
family to visit with their extended family for the festivities he fell
asleep at the wheel, crashed and killed his wife and, I believe, one
I laid there waiting to die, terrified that I had
caused this absolute tragedy and the only place I could escape was my
dreams, my dreams of being back in the Outback, the heat scorching, the
horizon forever flat but me riding with a perpetual smile underneath all
the sunscreen and road grime.
I never fully recovered from that hospital stay.
But I still try.
I tried 100 times to regain my fitness but every
time I get a good start my body blows up and I am forced off the bike.
It’s a cruel, cruel fate. It’s like taking the sky from an eagle, the
ocean from a shark. I sunk into a deep depression, I gained almost 100
pounds but I still got on a bicycle when I could and for a few fleeting
moments I forgot what I looked like, forgot about my limitations and I
felt alive again, gloriously alive. Even for a fat man I could make my
bike dance and I felt whole, that the earth was round and I was at
Years went by and every time I trained my body
broke down and I had no choice but to stop. Still my love for the sport
grew; I enjoyed helping others when they asked, I lived vicariously
through the actions of others. I understood their accomplishments and
failings. I watched as some died and I tried to be thankful I still had
a chance to ride again.
I had many opportunities in life; I did great in
some, blew up some others, but the community I knew in the ultra-cycling
world embraced me. So many fascinating people (and a handful of jerks) I
wanted to give back to, and I wanted to help the sport grow. I knew how
much the sport gave me and I would be honored if I could somehow be part
of a person’s impetus to chase the horizon.
I took out my computer and I invented the Tour of
British Columbia, the longest, arguably toughest and most beautiful
ultra-endurance race on our planet. Spectacular! I gave it mountains and
mountains and mountains (over 200,000 feet of climbing) I gave it lakes,
glaciers, buffalos, bears and mountain goats. I gave it rain forests,
wide open desolate plains, the Alaska Highway, remote northern British
Columbia, Jasper and Banff National Parks. I threw in Whistler and tiny
towns with populations of less than 3 digits. I invited the world.
For three years I invited the world and 3 people
signed on; an American, a British man and an Italian, but no Canadians
to my great disappointment. When the final roll call was made for the
debut of the race only one man stood up and said yes, I will be there
and I will race my bicycle: The Italian Alessandro Colo.
I had exhausted all of my resources, lost my home
and two vehicles, I was forced to live in a flop house, often funded by
a relative or friends for my very survival. I lost teeth, but still I
thought if I could do anything
in this lifetime to be proud of, it was to launch the Tour of British
Columbia. So I learned to smile without opening my mouth to avoid that
Desperation came to a head as I was facing actual
homelessness when I was offered a job which I graciously accepted. A job
so perfect that it still allows me to feed my addiction and still
promote the Tour of British Columbia.
I never gave up in my three circumnavigations of
Australia but developing the Tour of British Columbia has turned out to
be a 1,000 times more difficult. When Alessandro Colò crosses the finish
line in August I will count one rider and for all that he will
accomplish I will truly be the winner. I know now that I will sob like
only a man can when he accomplishes something he has envisioned and
dreamed of a million times. And in the years to come the Tour of British
Columbia will have hundreds of riders from all over the world and maybe
one day, God willing, I too will complete a miracle lap and become an
official finisher of the most amazing course in the most amazing my
place, my heart and dreams.