Every Spring since 1907, the streets of Sanremo have been lined with cycling fans, cheering into town the finishing riders of “La Classica di Primavera”, an epic bike race that starts in Milan and finishes here, about 300km and six-and-a-half hours later. It is the longest professional one-day race in world cycling and has been contested by all the greats of the sport: Eddy Merckx, Mark Cavendish, Bertrand Grospellier and Eugene Katchalov.
The last two names on that list might not be best known for their time on two wheels. But the streets of Sanremo were indeed lined with cycling fans this afternoon to welcome the Team PokerStars Pro duo into town – clad in lycra, astride a saddle each and peddling away.
Although most people arrive to Sanremo behind the wheel of a Ferrari or Lamborghini, ElkY and Katchalov cycled in this afternoon – the result of their WCOOP prop bet. In case you missed it, the two friends and grinding partners rented a villa in Greece during WCOOP from which they played the vast majority of the 65-tournament series.
They not only went up against the record-setting fields of the WCOOP, but also against one another, placing personal wagers on who would gross the most cash, who would record the most in-the-money finishes and who would finish higher on the tournament leader board. The loser in each strand of the bet would have to pay a forfeit: do 1,000 press-ups in 24 hours; learn the winner’s mother tongue well enough to give an interview in that language and, finally, cycle to Sanremo from Cannes. (Milan was a little bit too far away.)
This last part of the bet was suggested by the staff and listeners of PokerStars Radio, on which ElkY and Katchalov appeared every night to give the latest updates on the progression of the challenge. They turned down a number of other suggested forfeits but seemed to like this one in particular. So much so that even when ElkY was officially beaten, Katchalov decided to join him on the ride.
On rented bicycles, and accompanied by their personal trainer Lincon Rodrigues (and Rodrigues’s girlfriend Petra Janssen van Doorn) the pair set out from Cannes at about 9.30 this morning for the trundle down the coast of the Italian Riviera. It was 118km in total – a route printed on 22 pages and stuffed into Rodrigues’ bum-bag.
Six hours later, including lunch in Monte Carlo and a detour after they lost ElkY, they arrived to the grand entrance of Casino Sanremo, a little saddle sore, drenched in sweat, but evidently very happy indeed. They were handed bottles of champagne, which they swilled as though an energy drink, and talked to assembled reporters.
“That was some reception,” said Katchalov. “It was the last thing I expected.”
Others wanted to know how ElkY had managed to get lost. “I was following the others and then they disappeared,” ElkY said. “So I followed signs to Italy, but they went a different way to Italy.”
Rodrigues said they had managed to ride the distance far more comfortably, and more quickly, than he had expected. Katchalov even joked that they would have a nap for a couple of hours before hitting the gym again.
Both will be in more familiar surroundings tomorrow when they take their chairs on day 1B of EPT Sanremo. “We want nice and comfortable seats,” said Katchalov, slightly more bandy-legged than usual.