International electric bike race ‘The Sun Trip’ to start in Brussels this year
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International electric bike race ‘The Sun Trip’ to start in Brussels this year

Photo from The Sun Trip

A cross-country electric bicycle marathon that’s traversed distances as far as from France to China will have its start in Brussels this summer on 15 June.

The Sun Trip is a cycling marathon that this year will take participants in a 10,000 kilometre loop between Brussels and Lyon via Riga, Constanta, the Sierra Nevada and Porto.

Thirty-two cyclists will be taking part, riding electric bikes equipped with solar panels as ambassadors of green energy and eco-mobility. Among participants are endurance sportsmen, tinkerers and other technophiles, adventurers, and athletes of all different levels of ability.

“It will still be a long time before we see this type of vehicle in our cities used to go to work, to do shopping, or to travel longer distances,” said the Groupe de Recherche et d’Action des Cyclistes Quotidiens (GRACQ), which represents cyclists in French-speaking Belgium.

“Nevertheless, the achievements show the potential of the bicycle in pushing back the limits of its use and its possibilities of travelling without any constraints.”

The Sun Trip receives financial support from the European Commission for its promotion of the use of bicycles throughout Europe, making their use more visible and ideally prompting people to question their current travel habits.

Its origins are in France, when back in 2010 cyclist Florian Bailly travelled from that country to Japan, covering more than 10,000 kilometres on an electrically-assisted bicycle equipped with solar panels.

At the end of his journey, Bailly came up with the idea of organising a major rally-raid, bringing together several dozen pioneers on a wide variety of innovative machines.

Three years later, the project came to fruition as 28 solar-powered bicycles set off on the first official Sun Trip, linking France to Kazakhstan over a distance of almost 8,000 kilometres.

That first edition was won by a Belgian, Raf van Hulle, who covered the distance in 38 days, averaging 200 kilometres per day.

The 2015 Sun Trip was a loop between Italy and Turkey for a total distance of almost 7,500 kilometres. That year, a cyclist on a recumbent bike equipped with a solar roof crossed the finish line first with daily averages of almost 300 kilometres.

In addition to the first place prize, the 2015 edition also rewarded other aspects of the unusual competition like human performance, and the quality of the blog kept by the teams.

In 2018, the marathon was a 12,000 kilometre route between Lyon, France and Guangzhou, China. Belgian cyclist Raf Van Hulle crossed the finish line as the winner after just 45 days, with an average of almost 270 kilometres per day. Van Hulle has emerged victorious in three different editions, and will be participating again this year.

The oldest participant, Françoise Denel (70 years old at the time), crossed the two continents in 103 days, despite being in poor physical condition due to an illness.