Someone once asked George Mallory why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. “Because it’s there”, was the laconic response.
When I asked Mara Magni why she wanted to ride 4,200 kilometres on a bicycle to go to the North Cape, her answer was more articulate, but started from a simple assumption that reveals her passion.
«Because I love cycling and I wanted the trip to have a deeper meaning, a usefulness.»
Mara Magni is a 26-year-old undergraduate studying at Bologna University. Her subject is energy sustainability and her master degree thesis examines passive houses. From a passion for cycling it is a short step to a passion to clean energy: after almost a year of preparations, she has decided to get on her bike and start pedalling.
«I’ve been trail training for a year (click here to watch some of her achievements) but I wanted the trip to carry a message. For some time, I’ve been working with the Terracini in Transizione group, a living sustainability lab at Bologna University’s architecture and engineering faculty, so it was natural that the message should be linked to sustainability and conservation of the environment.»
What route will you take?
«Each stage will be monitored by a different European university, which I shall visit to discuss the attainment of sustainability goals. Bologna University has produced a paper on the action needed to achieve the UN’s 17 environmental sustainability goals. I want to find out what’s happening in other countries and bring back suggestions, experiences, advice. The first stage will be Innsbruck, where I researched and drafted my thesis. That’s where the passive house concept began. I want to see what progress has been made.»
Where will you go after that?
«After Innsbruck, I’ll be riding to Munich, Copenhagen, Stockholm and finally Turku, and from there I’ll fly back.»
I hope Europe’s cycle paths are more efficient than Italy’s.
«Luckily they are. Some Dutch friends who live in Italy have found it difficult. Not only because of the shortage of cycle paths, but also because those there are often not safe and cross major highways. For the journey, there are a number of very useful apps and tools to help you plot your route.»
You won’t be by yourself though.
«No, my friend and cycling companion Pietro Albamonte, an engineer at Ducati, is coming with me. Bikes, tent and camping stove. That’s all we need.»
What distance do you plan to cover each day?
«Mostly, we have planned sections of 150/200 km a day so that we can be ready to come back by 26 August. The real problem could be the weather. Once we’ve crossed the Brenner Pass, which is the most physically demanding part of the journey, the rest of the way is flat.»
Have you got any sponsors for the project?
«Bologna University has paid for my air ticket to come home. Culture Velo of Cesena is supplying technical equipment, apart from the bike, which is an old Cannondale R800 that belongs to my father. We’ve fitted it out together, and this trip will be its greatest adventure.»
When will you be leaving?
«Saturday 29 July, at about 6 in the morning.»
«Yes, and also very determined.»