The challenge of Jacob Zurl: 1,450 kilometers in 55 hours to cross Cuba
By Guillermo Nova (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – Austrian cyclist Jacob Zurl has set himself the challenge to cross the entire island of Cuba without a break. It entails 1,450 kilometers (900 miles) and he plans to cover it in 55 hours.
Zurl, 28, wants to be the first person to meet such a challenge and has as his biggest enemy the bad state of Cuban roads.
“Most of the time the roads are not so bad, but there are often big holes in the road and it is very difficult to see them at night without street lighting,” Zurl told dpa during his previous training.
His parents and his girlfriend form the team that will support him, from April 19 to 21, during the journey from Punta de Maisí to Cabo de San Antonio, the two most extreme points of Cuban geography.
Zurl has calculated that in order to achieve the goal he has to consume about 450 calories per hour. During the route he will feed on energy bars or fruits such as bananas, rich in potassium.
In 2015 he wanted to cross Cuba for the first time, but during training in Havana he became ill with dengue and had to postpone it. Fevers and vomiting caused him to lose 15 pounds.
Determined despite the failure, Zurl recovered slowly until regaining his previous form, both physically and mentally because it was a hard blow to stay on the doorstep.
“When I left I told myself, I’m going to go back to Cuba and I’m going to accomplish it,” he told dpa sitting on the Havana sea wall promenade, popularly known as the Malecon.
In 2012, Zurl first entered the Guinness Book of Records when in his hometown Weinitzen, at the foot of the Schöckl massif; he overcame in 48 hours about 28,789 meters of high and low ground, equivalent to three times the height of Mount Everest.
The Austrian cyclist is totally focused on his next trip and still does not want to think about new challenges. Gone are challenges already overcome as when in 2014 he toured in the Himalayas Manali-Leh, considered one of the most dangerous roads in the world
The average of 4,000 meters above sea level in the Himalayan mountains was the biggest challenge he faced. In 38 hours and 40 minutes, Zurl covered more than 500 kilometers of route in which he managed to cross eight mountain passes without using additional oxygen.
In Cuba his greatest enemy will not be the lack of oxygen, but the strong Caribbean humidity that could dehydrate him during the tour. “I have previous experiences and I have prepared well,” he assured.
“The hardest time will be at night, I have to be 100 percent focused on the road all the time,” he added.
“I am fascinated with the Cuban people and how they understand life,” said Zurl, who considers the country a paradise for cyclists because of the few cars that circulate along the roads.
After arriving at the finish line on April 21, he will rest on the white sand beaches of Varadero, east of Havana, like any other tourist, although, he hopes with a record in his hands.