The Tinkoff-Saxo team are on their way home after successfully reaching the top of Mount Kilimanjaro on Tuesday morning. In the end, 51 of the 71 team members made it to the summit, with five calling it quits in the opening days and 15 forced to give up just metres from the finish line.
The 70 per cent success rate means that the team will double the donations made, which will go to support the Matonyok Parents Trust orphanage and the Arusha Cycling Club.
Among the 51 that made it to the 5,895-metre summit were directeur sportif Bjarne Riis, Alberto Contador and new signings Peter Sagan and Ivan Basso. “It was a new experience in which the whole team has been together, sharing good times and some really complicated,” Contador said of the trek.
“The weather did not help us. For the first three days it rained a lot and we did not have time to dry the clothes we wore, the tents and sleeping bags. More than the physical exertion or altitude, as until then we didn't pass 3,800 metres, the worst of the first days was the rain.”
The team was split into smaller groups at the bottom and made the ascent with guides, to ensure they didn’t go off-course. With Contador was another of the new signings Robert Kiserlovski, who joins the team from Trek Factory Racing, and Danish champion Michael Valgren. Kilimanjaro is the tallest in Africa and the ascent to the top is attempted by hundreds every year but many have to turn back because of altitude sickness, which can hit the most experienced of climbers.
Contador managed to escape the altitude sickness but saw some of his team members forced to turn back because of it. “I was lucky that the altitude did not affect me, there were teammates who went bad and had to turn back, others needed help to get to the summit and there were others that back at camp did not remember anything that had happened," he explained.
It was Contador who made it to the top first on Tuesday morning. After safely making it to the bottom with the rest of his teammates, his thoughts now turn to 2015 and his next big challenge. “[It] has been a pretty good experience that marks the start of the 2015 season, probably the most challenging of my career with the dual objective Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. Now I have to recover from this trip and focus on my own task, which is the bike.”