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Blog / / Even When it is Hard, There is no Giving Up
BLOG
Even When it is Hard, There is no Giving Up
Ever since I have exited my own and a couple of neighbouring streets on my bicycle, I am constantly pushing the boundaries, both spatial and of my own abilities. Back in the 80s, as a teenager, I covered distances of 40-80 km. That was the first time I felt a hint of those adventures that I would experience a couple of decades later.

At the beginning of 2000s I moved to Vršac, because I got a job in Hemofarm. It was then when I bought my first „serious“ bike. It was a Cilo Renagade, a mountain bike.

Vršac and its surroundings, with its specific terrain, seem ideal for cycling. My training then became more regular, which greatly affected the increase in fitness as well as general health. At that time, I made a tour of almost all the existing trails on Vršac hill and the surrounding area. Many beautiful photos were taken on such drives.

Since I had a great desire for even greater distances, in the early 2010s I purchased a Bianchi road bike. I visited a large part of Serbia on it, as well as the neighbouring countries, Greece and of course - France. We organized joint rides with newly acquired "cycling friends", covering distances of 150-200 km. That's when I covered the 200 km distance in one ride for the first time. That was my incentive to participate in ultra marathon rides, called brevets. These are not races, but organized rides along a predetermined route, which must be completed within a certain time limit. Standard brevets are 200, 300, 400, 600, 1000 and 1200 km long, but they can be even longer.

My first brevet was a 200 km long ride in Srem in autumn and the start was in Inđija. At the start, I met many cyclists from all over Serbia and the surrounding countries, and over time I became very good friends with many of them. I finished that first brevet after 10 hours. Already in the spring of the following year, I participated again in the same brevet and finished it in 7 hours and 30 minutes. In the following years, I participated in brevets which were increasing in length - 300, 400, 600 km... In the meantime, I learned more and more about adequate nutrition, clothing and the way to ride the long distances. I gained some of that knowledge from my own experience. I have been acquiring equipment adapted to long rides. The clothing was such that it allowed rides throughout the year, regardless of weather conditions. Lower temperatures meant shorter rides. A Garmin bike device is also required.

Then it was my turn to try brevets longer than 1000 km. The first such brevet was with a start from Belgrade. The time limit was 75 hours, and the route led from Belgrade via Vršac to Smederevo, then via Đerdap to Kladovo, to continue all the way to Bajina Bašta and along the Drina River, and then back to Belgrade. Riding for three days and two nights, with a few hours of sleep, just enough to not waste much time. I passed the finish line after 65 hours.

Already next year I rode a brevet in Bosnia and Herzegovina which was 1200 km long. The start was in Banja Luka and the brevet route was along the state border. I rode for four days and three nights on very steep terrain in almost all weather conditions. From a light rain on the first day, which became much heavier during the entire second day, at temperatures of around 8°C, and on the third day, after Mostar, the temperature exceeded 30°C. The finish was in clouds covered Banja Luka, after 86 hours of riding.

After this brevet, I knew I was ready for the fulfilment of my old dream: the Paris-Brest-Paris brevet, 1200 km long. The most famous and most prestigious event of amateur cycling, which has been organized since 1891. For two years, I have been intensively preparing for this event, which was scheduled for August 18, 2019. Preparations included several qualifying brevets, as well as intensive training. At the beginning of June I qualified for it, along with over 6000 participants from all over the world.

On August 18 of that year, at 5:45 p.m., I was waiting for the start signal, together with 300 other cyclists from my "H" group. Next to me was a friend from Vršac, with whom I drove most of the more than 30 brevets. We supported each other on this very exhausting brevet, during which we would reach the very limits of our physical and mental capabilities. During the 88 hours that took us to reach the finish line, we went through various ordeals - from extreme exhaustion, low night temperatures in Brittany, situations where we almost fell asleep while riding... People on the side of the road provided great support by cheering on each participant. The happiness after crossing the finish line was immense, because it represented the fulfilment of a longtime dream. At the same time, we joined about 15 cyclists from Serbia who have successfully completed this brevet since its establishment.

More than 25 years of intensive cycling, and especially the last 15 years, since I have been participating in brevets, have greatly influenced my attitude in life and my determination to never give up, no matter how hard it is. I didn't give up riding at any brevet, even after crashes, when I continued with torn clothes and a damaged bike. After every climb, no matter how long and difficult, there is a descent. Likewise, no matter how strong the wind blows in my face, after a while either it or I will change direction, and I will have the wind at my back.

This wind at my back is my desire to participate in the next brevet Paris–Brest–Paris in 2027.
AUTHOR
Boris Stefanović
Senior Expert Associate in Engineering, Hemofarm A.D.