Rider Profile: Martin van der Valk (Dunhuang to Istanbul)
Hey, for posterity, tell us your full name, age, occupation and anything you’d like to tell us about yourself.
I’m 60 years old, with 5 children and 3 grandchildren so far. My youngest son married during the first week of the trip, that’s why I arrived so late. I put off the trip for the wedding because I couldn’t put off the wedding for the trip. I’m from Holland and in the hotel business and the special thing about them is that there is a bird park inside. I am an avid birder and normally when I’m cycling I have binoculars and a book with me.
Do you have any favorite ride that you do there?
Holland is the country to cycle in. I ride twice a week with friends. We just look where the wind’s coming from and take the headwind first and come back with a tail wind.
Why did you choose the Silk Route bike tour for your next adventure?
My wife said I could come. I also don’t think she would want to see these countries so I had to come on my own. Also the mystique that surrounds this route with regards to figures like Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan, it’s a bit of a pity sometimes that you have to stick to schedule and can’t spend some more time in some places.
What made you a little nervous about this trip?
What has been the highlight so far and what are you still looking forward to?
The Pamirs, because of the challenge and the landscape and the extreme circumstances. I’m not able to cycle in those circumstances in Holland and I enjoyed the challenge. That’s what cycling’s about. Cycling at 4000m is extraordinary. Kyrgyzstan surpised me because it looked so friendly and green, it was totally different as soon as we crossed the border from China and the area we were in was amazing.
What kind of bike did you bring?
World Traveller from Koga Miyata It’s a trekking bike, pretty strong and heavy, it might not be the perfect bike for TDA because it’s too heavy on pavement but I cycled through Africa on it and wanted to do it on this one, it has taken me all over the world.
How did you train beforehand? Did you feel prepared?
I did my regular cycling tours during March, April and May. Three or four weeks before I went to China I changed my race bike for my tour bike. Altogether I did about 2000km, 1500 on the road and 500 on the trek bike, that’s my normal training. But you can’t train for it really. You need to bike 700km a week or so in the heat. What you need to do is be in good shape. I checked my body with a doctor and checked the bike. My biggest problem at the beginning was saddle sores because I used a new saddle when I arrived.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone going on their first tour with us what would it be?
Don’t expect too much luxuries, it’s a cycling tour, not a holiday.
— Catharina Robbertze