“I didn’t have much time to prepare,” says Ana Orenz, describing her spur-of-the-moment decision to attempt the record for the greatest vertical ascent by bicycle in 48 hours. “I have a daughter – I’m a single mum – and we were building a new life in Spain, so I had to be very spontaneous for this one.”
The 39-year-old wasn’t targeting the women’s record, but the outright – 29,623 meters, set by American Craig Cannon in 2015 (since broken by UK rider Alan Colville). No woman had ever attempted it, so Orenz was going to make history whatever the outcome, with the one minor proviso that she would have to keep climbing and descending for two days non-stop.
Until four years ago, it was horses rather than bikes that took up most of Orenz’s time. A wandering spirit, she was born in Germany, but after finishing, school got a job looking after racehorses, which took her to Portugal, then Ireland, then the UK for 16 years, and now Spain. Switching from reins to handlebars was literally a pilgrimage.
“In 2016 I did the Camino de Santiago [Pilgrim’s route] with my daughter. She refused to walk as she was an avid cyclist. I wasn’t. We did 300km in four days.” Along the way, Orenz’s head was turned by svelte-looking road bikes. “I said to my daughter, ‘When we get back I’m going to buy one of those and I’m going to race it.’”
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