The centenary of the formation of Czechoslovakia is certainly an occasion to commemorate. ŠKODA, a proud sponsor of cycling, has chosen to celebrate this milestone in Czech history by persuading Bohemians, Moravians and Silesians to get on their bikes and experience the joy of exercise on a highly unusual route. They will be encouraged on their way by athletes, and in particular by Milan “Forrest” Silný, who has decided to take on the whole route of more than 2,000 kilometres.

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His nickname, Forrest, is borrowed from the legendary film character Forrest Gump, who one day simply decided to start running, and off he went. The difference being that “our” Forrest has a planned route to follow and knows exactly where he’ll finish. As he rides more than 2,000 kilometres around the Czech Republic, his GPS signal will draw a double-tailed lion, the national symbol of the Czech Republic. The event looks set pedal its way to new world records, not just in terms of the number of kilometres covered by everyone involved, but also as a result of the sheer unprecedented scale of the GPS-created national emblem.

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Milan plans to average about 160 kilometres a day, ranging from a 70 km burst to a drawn-out stretch of 200 km. Anyone – individuals or whole families – is welcome to join Forrest for a ride at any point on his journey. Milan, though, will be the only one to “sketch” the whole pattern of the lion on his bike. You can track his progress in real time on the Lion Trail’s website and social media account, where you will also find all the details you could possibly want to know about the project. Accompanied by a ŠKODA OCTAVIA, Forrest set off from the Prague district of Podbaba on Saturday 2 May. As this remarkable feat requires him to have put in special preparation, to be in good shape and to relish the challenge, we asked him a few questions we thought would put him through a few extra paces.

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HOW DID CYCLING BECOME SUCH AN IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR LIFE?

I played ice-hockey, football and futsal when I was a kid and cycling was a part of the training routine. So for me it started off as more of a complementary activity, like a hobby. After I gave up the other sports, I was left with my bike, so I became more serious about it.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CYCLING FOR?

My granddad taught me how to ride a bike way back when. Just the basics though. We would ride into the forest to forage for mushrooms. For me, my bike was a means of getting from one place to another. It came into its own when I needed to visit my friends in the village or get to football matches. When I was a bit older, I bought a road bike off my friend. To test it properly, I told myself I’d take a trip from the town of Slaný to Austria, more than 400 kilometres away. When I got there, I sent a postcard to my family and rode back home the next day. I must have been around 20 at the time.

 When I started going on more rides with my friends, I struggled to keep up and I would lag behind them for the first 30 kilometres. But when we reached 50 kilometres, I was on a par with them. By the time we hit 60 kilometres or so and my friends were ready call it a day, I was only just hitting my rhythm. Since then I’ve been pushing the limits of how many kilometres I can cover in one ride. Last year, I got to the stage where I was able to ride 1,000 kilometres without stopping.

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Milan "Forrest" Silný

YOU HAVE WRITTEN FIVE BICYCLE TOURING BOOKS SO FAR, CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THEM?

Four of them deal with the best routes in the Czech Republic and abroad, guiding the reader across places such as hills and mountains. The fifth, Cyklistické maso v České kotlině, discusses various curious and bizarre facts, such as the most challenging and longest bike races in the Czech Republic, and even winter racing on dog-drawn bikes. I’m proud of all of these books, but I would say Cyklistické maso is closest to my heart because it really took me through the pain barrier – the races I cover and write about in this book are among the most difficult I have ever entered.

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WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION BEHIND THESE BOOKS? DID YOU WANT TO INSPIRE OTHERS?

The original urge came from expeditions with my friends, such as when we were cycling across North Africa or climbed its highest mountain – after we met up again a couple of weeks later, we found out that everyone had taken home a different experience with them. So I decided to record all these different points of view and write up an account of all of our adventures. Then I came across a contest for amateur cycling book authors, so I decided to send this compilation of stories, which came second. The publisher had pledged to publish the top three entries, and my first book went on to become the third best guide of the year. The next four flowed easily after that.

IF YOU WERE TO PICK THE MOST INTERESTING, OR PERHAPS THE STRANGEST, ENCOUNTER YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED ON YOUR THOUSANDS OF KILOMETRES SO FAR, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I once managed to ride 84 hours without a break, not even to sleep. It was caffeine tablets and guarana that kept me going. By the end of the journey, I couldn’t distinguish what was real and what was just my imagination. I remember seeing a tree next to the road which suddenly turned into a lamp. This lamp then turned into my co-worker, only to turn back into a lamp again. Just as I was trying to convince myself I was hallucinating because of my fatigue, that lamp walked across the road before my very eyes.

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HOW DO YOU LIKE TO SPEND YOUR TIME WHEN YOU ARE NOT RIDING A BIKE?

I don’t know (laughing). No, seriously, I spend most of the time with my family, my friends, watching TV or playing football. My job also keeps me busy and can get stressful. After work, it all falls like a weight from my shoulders when I saddle up, so by the time I get home I’m calm and clear-headed.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE LION TRAIL PROJECT? WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO BECOME THE LEAD RIDER?

After clocking up that 1,000 kilometres last year, I needed another challenge, but I was struggling to come up with anything. When ŠKODA approached me and told me about this project, I was happy to say yes. When, out of all 10 million people in this country, they come to you and ask you to be their “Forrest”, that’s an offer you can’t refuse. As for the individual stages of the Lion Trial, I haven’t picked out a favourite. I’ll let myself be surprised. Personally, I was itching for the Saturday start for more than a week.

WHAT WOULD YOU ADVISE CYCLISTS WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE LION TRIAL BUT WHO HAVE NOT YET DECIDED WHETHER TO PARTICIPATE?

My advice would be to go for it as there’s nothing to fear. Cycling is a sport, not a race, everyone can ride the way they feel comfortable. The more people who join, the happier I’ll be, as I really don’t want to be suffering alone! (laughs)

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