- Associated Press - Thursday, July 13, 2017

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - If Bloomington artist Thursday Gervais is nervous about her upcoming 5,700-mile bike ride across Siberia, it doesn’t show.

You read that correctly: 5,700 miles. Siberia.

Gervais is among 12 people competing in the Red Bull Trans-Siberian Extreme ultra stage bicycle race.

In the two years it has been run, only three solo riders have completed it. All have been men.

Gervais is looking to change that.

An ultra-cyclist who won her age group in the 2015 24-hour World Time Trial Championships in Borrego Springs, California, the 47-year-old Gervais is no stranger to overcoming challenges off the bike, too. Four years ago, she battled through ovarian cancer.

“I actually feel pretty confident going into it,” she said, referring to the race that begins July 18 in Moscow.

The 5,700-mile race, which concludes Aug. 10 in Vladivostok, crosses five climate zones, seven time zones and the Ural mountains. It follows along the borders of Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. The shortest stage in the 24-day race is 124 miles; the longest is nearly 870 miles.

For comparison, the Tour de France covers about 2,200 miles in 23 days.

Gervais has been training hard since being selected for the race, rain or shine, wind or calm, day and night.

In fact, the windy weather Central Illinois has experienced is like a “secret” weapon, providing both physical and mental training.

She recently returned from doing hill-training by riding in the Appalachians in Kentucky and Tennessee.

“I felt really fast with my climbing,” Gervais said, calling the rides there “exactly what I needed.”

Each stage must be completed within a set amount of time and within 7 hours of the first finisher of the stage.

Jerry Keen, who raced bicycles from 1988 to 1998 and owns the Trek Bicycle Store, told Gervais, “When it starts to hurt, just remember the people you are competing against are hurting, too.”

Keen said with confidence, “She’s going to finish” and added it will be great for her “to inspire other ladies to ride.”

Initially, Gervais was to be the only woman in the race, but a woman from the Philippines, Shangrila Veniegas Grube Rendon, was a last-minute addition.

Gervais’ major equipment sponsors are Trek Bicycles and Bontrager. She will use two different bikes in the race with different tires for different conditions. Each bike costs about $16,000, because of the high-tech lightweight materials used and electronic components.

Her $45,000 entry fee is being covered by sponsor Hampton Inn-Hilton.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Pantagraph, http://bit.ly/2uLoZek

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Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com

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