On 30 July, one of Alain Viguier's bicycle batteries caught fire. No injuries but the time to remove the saddlebags of the bike, the second battery exploded and the engine burned. Arriving at the southern end of Kazakhstan, on the most desolate route and in the harshest environment of the whole adventure, Alain is thus forced to abandon. He's going to look for solutions to get home and bring back his equipment.
Jean-Claude decided to continue his route alone.
Let’s have a look at the position of each participant in this great solar cycling rally:
4 have travelled more than 9000 km (3/4 of the course). They are : Raf Van Hulle, Mickaël Joguet, Éric Morel and Stéphane Bertrand;
15 have already completed more than 6000 km (half of the route) and 9 have arrived in China : Jack Butler, Auguste and Camille Colle, Herman segers, Laurent Souchet. Further afield are Daniel Jenni, Peter Helsen, Dirk Huyghe, Romain Neauport, Thierry Rassat, Lionel Serrat;
The other 15 are approaching half of the course: Paul baudry, Gregory Lewyllie, Françoise Denel who celebrated her 70 years during this trip, Michael Polak, Gilles Coural & François Médalle, Catherine & Didier Pozzobon, Corinne Courvalin, Youssef El Haouass & Mohamed Said Jeberi.
Justin Lemire-Elmore and Anne-Sophie Rodet flew from Tehran to get married in Canada, they planned not to go to China;
Patrice Plozner decided to turn back to his home, Bernard and Yann Cauquil had to be repatriated because of too many technical troubles, as well as Michel Bamps.
Stéphane Bertrand met several difficulties: he punctured twice on the highway, he had to be towed by a chinese cyclist and he was stuck a day and a half in a gas station.
Right now he is going through a storm in the desert, a wind of madness, sideways. With the aspiration of the trucks, he is anxious. The 10 000 km course is crossed but he is moving too slowly to his liking: 700km in 5 days.
RAF Van Hulle travelled 10 827 km in 41 days with his solar bike. He is currently in Hengyang (衡阳市) in Hunan province. He is only 500 km far from the arrival in Guangdong, a distance it could travel in 2 days.
The closest cyclist is Mickaël Jamil, currently in Xi'an (西安市) in Shaanxi province. He is about 1200 km from RAF Van Hulle.
Then comes Éric Morel, 900 km behind Mickaël.
Corinne Courvalin faces the heat of the steppes of Kazakhstan! Fortunately, she regularly finds Catherine and Didier Pozzobon and in the evening they also find Gilles Coural and François Médalle at the stage.
Day 37: Tonight I stop in hotel complex where you can eat, wash (for 500 Tinde = 1.2 euro) close to Kyzylorda. But then it’s a bit of a bedtime story: I ask them if I can sleep. It seems that no room is free. So the keeper makes me sleep for a while in his Mercedes while waiting for a place to be released! Then comes to pick me up around 11:30 pm and for 2000 Tinde, I will sleep where we eat! Finally almost… Because at 3:00 in the morning I have to leave my place and sleep on another bench.
Day 38: I go through the town of Kyzylorda (change of time zone), I stop at 180 km from the city of Turkestan. It’s a good road. The sun is there and I made 170 km today, which is pretty good! In the evening I sleep near to a mosque which makes me enjoy the prayers of the imam launched by speaker up to 22:45!
Today, in the Gobi desert, the wind blew with DS gusts to over 70 km/h, which caused the fall of Jack. He is not injured but the day of tomorrow will be devoted to the repairs of his bike and his trailer.
Raf Van Hulle has stayed near Xixia County (西峡县), and is now crossing Dengzhou (邓州市) after travelling 10 058 km. Today, 27 July, between 9am and 10am, he passed the 10000 km, 38 days after his departure from Chamonix.
He still has about 1300 km to arrive in Guangzhou. His nearest pursuer, Mickaël Joguet (9354 km travelled), is about 1000 km behind him. Then comes Éric Morel (8486 km travelled).
Corinne Courvalin meets big technical worries: her bike fell which damaged her plateau and a pedal. She waits for the delivery of spare parts which obliges her to a stop of several days. If the parcel does not arrive, she plans to give up.
This morning, it is with sadness that she sees her companions from the road, Catherine and Didier Pozzobon, Gilles coural and François Médalle. Meanwhile, she builds a sturdy crutch to hold her bike properly in balance.
Back to the continental climate: Today, despite the relief, they travelled 212 km, taking the time to see and look at what was splendid on their way. What about the beauty of a country that is not known to the general public? It is a destination for lovers of nature, biodiversity, displacement…
There are the fastest solar cyclists, some are already in China, others will get there soon. But the others, where are they? The majority of them are spread along the northern route traced by Raf Van Hulle.
The first ones cross the steppes of Kazakhstan:
Jack Butler who will soon pass the 6000 km heading,
Yann and Bernard Cauquil,
Peter Helsen and Dirk Huyghe, who ride together,
Daniel Jenni and his original bike,
Romain Neauport who is now inventing his own road,
and finally, Lionel Serrat who just passed the border.
The following are in Russia:
Françoise Denel the dean who totals more than 3600 km,
Eymeric Thuliez. No more cyclists are in Ukraine. Michel Bamps has abandoned the Sun Trip due to major technical problems.
Some have bifurcated to the south:
Catherine and Didier Pozzobon,
François Medale and Gilles coural,
Lewyllie Gregory with his bamboo bike.
They are approaching those who had chosen the southern route from the beginning:
Justin Lemire-Elmore and Anne-Sophie Rodet who are in Iran,
Alain and Jean-Claude Viguier who are in Georgia as well as :
All suntripeurs appreciate the welcome and solidarity of the people they meet, especially when they have a technical problem.
Here's what Michael Polak says: «The people of Borisoglebsk were very helpful: when I needed help with my wheel whose spokes were broken, not only did they manage to find bike spokes half an hour before the store closed on saturday, but in addition they offered me cold beer! »
The Impressions of Romain Neauport:
You could say that there is nothing to see and yet the extents of the steppes are striking beauty. We could feel lonely but the people we find are all available for anything. Some form of magic is at work. Sometimes it's impressive to sit down, contemplate, not fight and just soak up.
Justin and Anne-Sophie Lemire-Elmore crossed the border yesterday, spending their first night in Iran (4100 km since their departure).
Alain and Jean-Claude Viguier continue their route along the Black Sea, they left Turkey to enter Georgia today. They are currently in Batumi (ბათუმი).
Youssef and Mohamed, who also follow the Black Sea, have just left Trabzon in Turkey.
Then comes Patrice Plozner who is between Istanbul and Trabzon.
Raf Van Hulle suffered strong winds in the steppe. He did not sleep much for his last night in Kazakhstan. His place of bivouac seems very good in the photo but in fact, a thunderstorm lasted all night, with lightning, rain and the tent that flies. The nights in the wilderness have their drawbacks!