From the boulevards of Paris to the dirt roads of Morocco, it is certainly not an easy transition, but Sofiane Sehili seems to be very comfortable in both situations. French, born in 1983, he discovered the world of bikepacking and UltraCycling in 2011: since then he has never stopped pedalling and during his long journey he has managed to conquer many important events such as Italy Divide, Inca Divide and the first memorable edition of the Atlas Mountian Race. Sofiane approaches the Ultra in a new way that breaks traditional patterns: he gives his all at the start of each race to lead the group and then slows down to a pace that allows him to ride practically without taking a break. An athlete and an innovator in his own way "just like us at Miss Grape," said Michele Boschetti (founder of the Italian bikepacking brand). "That is why we are really proud to welcome him into our small but tireless family."
Now Sofiane is considered one of the strongest ultracyclists in the world, but his first experience with racing was the Great Divide in 2014. At first he thought only crazy people could cycle non-stop for days, but the idea of taking part in this race attracted him more than anything else. Two years after that first recreational participation, he returned to that same track, but with a very different intention, that of competing, and in his first competitive participation he finished in third place. From there, his career in ultracycling began.
Sofiane has brought a new race strategy to the world of ultracycling, the 'tireless constant', which means that rather than going fast and then stopping to rest, Sofiane keeps a gentle pace, but hardly ever stops. He is always moving. What helps him is his ability to keep going without (or with very little) sleep. It is an ability that is both a gift and something that is acquired with a lot of training and experience.
A strategy that led him to triumph last year in one of the world's toughest races, the Silk Road Mountain Race, a 1,800-kilometre stage race through the mountains and valleys where the Silk Road once passed. Taking inspiration from the Transcontinental Race, Europe's premier endurance cycling event, the Silk Road Mountain Race shares the same spirit of adventure. Just like the TCR, the Kyrgyz race prescribes complete self-sufficiency: individually or in teams, participants cannot accept any form of external help to reach the finish line. Unlike the Transcontinental Race, however, the SRMR is on a fixed route - and almost completely off-road. Sofiane finished the 1,858-kilometre route in an incredible 8 days, 14 hours and 35 minutes (8d:14h:35m), defying brutal weather, technical and rocky terrain and the inevitable mechanical problems of the route through the Tian Shan Mountains. He is the third person to win the Silk Road Mountain Race, joining 2018 winner Jay Petervary (8 days, 8 hours, 15 minutes) and 2019 winner Jakub Sliacan (7 days, 6 hours, 46 minutes).
He is not obsessed with speed, he likes cycling without the obsession with performance and ultra cycling is perfect because it makes you discover places and meet people. The bike... that's where Sofiane Sehili is really happy.
With both gravel bikes and MTBs, Sofiane has proved that he is at ease on all types of medium. He prefers hardtail MTBs and rigid forks, with 2.25 tyres because they match his fast&light spirit as well as Miss Grape bags, as he explains:
"I like to use a full frame bag to make the most of the space offered by the front triangle. It is also very convenient for me because I like to use a water bag for hydration. I always have a Node horizontal tube bag for batteries, cables and chargers. I then use two Buds for food, because when I ride I like to have food at hand. Depending on the weather conditions, I use a Cluster 7 or Cluster 13 waterproof bag. For short adventures in hot weather, I use the smaller one. When temperatures are likely to drop and I need more equipment, I use the 13-litre version.