There are few photos of Sofiane Sehili in full flight, because he’s usually ahead of the photographers… Working as a bike messenger in Paris, Sofiane first dipped his toes into ultra-cycling in 2016, when he rode in the epic Tour Divide, the race that runs along the crest of the Rocky Mountains from Canada to the Mexican border. He came 3rd in this first attempt.
Last year, he started to race more seriously, and he won the Italy Divide, tied with another ultra legend, James Hayden. Then Sofiane led the Tour Divide for a whole week before snow wreaked havoc on the race. Sofiane climbed a 10,000 ft (3000 m) pass in the middle of the night, before turning around after realizing that conditions were too dangerous. He finished the season by winning the Inca Divide, a 1700 km epic through the Andes of Peru.
His success story continues this year: In February, he won the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco against a very strong international field. And just 10 days ago, he came second in the Hope 1000 that criss-crosses the Swiss Alps. The photo above was taken just before the start of that race…
Sofiane has brought a randonneur’s approach to mountain biking. He’s surprised everybody by riding through the nights and stopping only rarely to sleep, thus opening up gaps on his competitors that become almost unsurmountable. I asked him about the appeal of riding that far and fast, and he simply said: “What attracts me to long distance is both the will to see how far I can push and the fact that I really feel at home on the bike. When cycling, I don’t want to stop because I never seem to have enough. There’s is nothing I’d rather do. Just being there, outside, completely free, it makes me feel complete.”