From 0 to the Top: An Interview with Nico Valsesia

Trail runner and cyclist, he starts from the sea to reach the highest mountains: let us introduce our athlete Nico, whose "hobbies" include breaking world records.

From 0 to Monte Bianco, From 0 to Aconcagua, From 0 to Kilimangiaro, From 0 to Elbrus, From 0 to Monterosa. Seems like our athlete Nico Valsesia enjoys starting from the bottom to reach the top of the world. After all, it must be inebriating, to start from the sea level to end the day at three, four, even six thousand meters.

Renowned trailer and cyclist, Nico Valsesia - with whom NRC is creating a high-quality eyewear, designed specifically for winter sports - has achieved a lot: ultra-trail record holder t(he made the fastest time to the top of the Ojos del Salado in Chile, the world's highest volcano), he can also claim a second and a third-place at the RAAM - Race Across America, the longest ultra-distance road cycling race in the world.

However, it's with his From 0 to project that Nico managed to ignite the imagination of the sports lovers. It all started when, back in 2013, he decided to set a new ultratrail+cycling positive difference in altitude record. Inspired by Marino Giacometti, he started biking from the Ligurian seaside and reached running the top of Monte Bianco in just 16 hours and 35 minutes, beating the previous record by two hours. From there on, he never stopped, grinding out kilometres to climb to the top of "monsters" such as Elbrus and Aconcagua. 

Here’s what Nico Valsesia told us in an exclusive interview.

Nico Valsesia (photo: Vito Delaurentis)

How do you prepare for your toughest challenges?

I always train. However, two or three months before a challenge, I start specific training. For example, spending more time in the mountain if I have to climb a peak, or working on my trailrunning skills. 

Do you try to become acquainted with the place?

If I have to reach a mountain abroad, I try to reach the spot about twenty days earlier, so to climb it up and down every day. This way I can get acquainted with the course and, if it's a really high mountain, also with the altitude, because after 5000 meters it's a whole different world. Or, if by example I have to do some days cycling, such as it was for the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco, I get from Piedmont to Barcelona or straight down to Sicily.

How do you organize your standard training during the year?

I cycle every day, because it has a less physical impact, while I go trail running two or three days a week. Usually, I wake up in the morning and do some gym at home, then I hop on the bike for at least two or three hours. Even five, if I have the time: after all, I have a shop to run, and I have three kids! During wintertime, I also practice ski mountaineering, because it's an excellent training.

Nico's favourites

I love X1.EARTH, because they are truly lightweight and I can wear them for a long time, even at night. This is very important, because I can’t bring many sunglasses with me, up there…

What pushes you to face these challenges?

I love it, it makes me feel good. Not the day of the challenge itself: that's the part I like less because it's like I have to prove something. I'm not interested in that, I would do these things also if nobody looked at me. What I really like it's the training. 

Is equipment important, during these challenges?

It is, because things changed a lot compared to twenty years ago, and now a boot weighs one kilogram instead of three. This is a thing that makes the difference, because the more time you spend in the mountains, the greater the risks you face. A performing bike can also make a difference. And it's the same for specific equipment: for example, glasses. Sunglasses with the wrong lenses may cause you big troubles, in the mountains. In such situations, you will need a proper sunscreen lens, and if you don't have side protections, your eyes will freeze. Sunglasses are fundamental. There are three things mountaineers worry about: boots, gloves, and sunglasses.

Nico Valsesia (photo: Vito Delaurentis)

The most challenging moment in your career?

Probably the RAAM, where I reached my physical and mental limits. Sleeping for nine or ten hours in nine days is a peculiar experience.

The achievements you are more proud of?

The first From 0 to, because I lowered the time by a lot. The Aconcagua, because I love South America and I managed to spend a month on the Andes. Monte Rosa, because I was home there. And the first place at the Italy Divide. Yeah, well… all of them!

Your next task?

From 0 to Everest. I should have already done that, but with the pandemic, it obviously went on hold. Let's see what it will be like next spring...

Nico's favourites

I also love X2.OLIMPO, those with the black and gold frame. The guys at NRC made me a model with special lenses and it’s truly impressive