Documentary: Oliver Bridgewood takes on the Tour des Stations Ultimate 1000
Our feature-length film, covering the highs and lows of this epic challenge in the Swiss Alps, is out now on GCN+
GCN’s Oliver Bridgewood has previous with the Tour des Stations, taking on the 250km trek through the Swiss Alps back in 2021, but he returned in the summer of 2023 for what would be the toughest challenge of his life: the Tour des Stations Ultimate 1000.
While the original event was hard enough, scaling the equivalent height of Everest over 250km, the Ultimate 1000 effectively quadrupled the stakes, at 1000km in length and with no dilution of the climbing. The total elevation gain would be 27,000 metres, accrued over the course of no fewer than 26 of Switzerland’s most brutal and beautiful high-mountain passes.
The Ultimate 1000 is a self-supported race, with eight so-called ‘re-boost’ stations dotted along the route. Riders set off at one-minute intervals, with group riding permitted but an understanding that it’s a solo challenge - an approach that’s enforced by the terrain itself, in any case. The fastest time was estimated to be in the region of 70 hours, with little to no sleep and mountains tamed in dusk, dawn, blazing sunshine and pitch-black darkness.
“My first objective was to finish, because this was by far the biggest ride I’ve ever done in my entire life,” says Ollie in this feature-length documentary on his ride, which is now available to watch on GCN+.
“The second objective was to finish as fast as possible, because I have a competitive streak – mainly with myself. I wanted to find out what’s possible, what my body is capable of.”
When Ollie says he wanted to finish as fast as possible, he actually worked out that he could well be in contention for the win.
With an FTP of around 325 watts, he and his coach set a target power for the ride of a more modest 200 to 220 watts.
“My target power was a lot lower than my FTP, something like the bottom half of my zone 2. That’s what we felt was a good pace to stick at,” he says. “It’s a power output I know is sustainable indefinitely. I can keep going at that all day long – as long as I fuel.”
The last part of that sentence would prove crucial to the plan.
Breaking fuel sources down into two main groups – carbohydrates and fat – the body tends to rely on the former at high intensity but is able to utilise the latter at a less strenuous tempo.
“We knew that riding at that 200-watt figure, I’d be burning a mixture of glycogen and fat, and burning glycogen at a rate it can be replaced, so I should be able to ride indefinitely at that pace," Ollie added.
Of course, the best laid plans tend to go out of the window at some point or another on these voyages into the unknown and beyond the comfort zone. So it was for Ollie, who had various hurdles spring up before his front wheel.
We won’t spoil the surprise here, and nor will we give away the outcome, but we’ll leave you to get stuck into the film with Ollie's parting words.
“That is, without doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
ULTIMATE 1000 is out now on GCN+. Watch on demand and explore our extensive collection of exclusive and original cycling films.
Patrick is GCN’s Deputy Editor, writing and shaping content across all areas of the website