He took the lead from the very first days and never let it go. Five years ago today, Belgian participant Raf Van Hulle was reaching Astana et winning the Solar Challenge, as we can read it in the Kazakh Press Ephemeris. Second in 2015, he’s just a dozen days away from a new victory in Guangzhou in Chine. We took advantage of a rainy day where he rode very little to ask him a few question about his trip.
At this moment, do you think that you will be the champion in Canton? Or you’re not sure yet?
Always someone has to be the first, so for the moment it’s me. If I have no accident or technical problem, I can win. The roads are good, the traffic is ok, so it seems to be possible.
Do you think it was the right option to go north of alps at the beginning of the Sun Trip?
Yes, of course. The north route was around 500km shorter and I could visit, sleep and wash my clothes by my girlfriend in Olten. I like Switzerland and I know the roads there.
In Ukraine and Russia, Stéphane was just behind you. At that time, were you worried about him?
Of course ! If you want to win the Sun Trip, you don’t like having racers just behind you. So I gave my 100%, so I can be more relaxed later and enjoy the road, eating and sightseeing, but Stephane always stayed behind me… He is a good racer !!
You know that Eric rode 427km in one day… Did you choose to be very consistent and not trying to take over the record of km in one day?
This is not my competition. I always try keep a minimum 4 Ah in the battery when I stop, to start early in the morning, in case of cloud. That’s why I break no records in that way. My personal record is 390, i think.
Did you understand why Stéphane tried another road than you in China?
I did a lot of research regarding roads in China. For me, it was clear that taking the northern route would be less risky if you want to win. I don’t understand why he didn’t follow me.
You look so happy in your photos in China. Do you enjoy riding there? Is it hard?
Yes, I enjoy China! The roads are good and safe, perfect for my solar bike. The bike is made for this kind of country. The views are amazing, incredible, I love it. The passage through the Gobi desert was spectacular, but also dangerous : the wind blows extremely strong and side winds can blow you away. Twice I was really scared that I would blown away, but I had no damage.
Until the end of your adventure, the weather will be not so good. Are you worried about that? What’s your strategy?
The weather today was very bad. If I have a good place for sleeping or eating, I don’t worry about that since my advantage is more than 1000km. I just wait. The sun always shines after the rain. I don’t like to ride in the rain, because it is unsafe and I risk technical problems. So today, I waited and waited and I was not in a romantic place. Between trucks and drivers in Lanzhou, with much traffic and much noise. The security guard look at my bike when I made cappuccino. Special place.
I just keep safe and take no risks.