The Wysam 333 is more than a ride - it’s a celebration of grass-roots cycling. It is the only endurance cycle ride in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and includes 3 challenges for cyclists riding road bikes and one challenge for cyclists riding e-bikes.
333-kilometres, 4,200 metres
This is the most difficult and it gives the event its reputation and kudos. This challenge targets physically sharpened cyclists who are used to long-distance, endurance and speed.
222-kilometres, 2,000 metres
Designed for the experienced amateur that prefer rides with a distance equivalent to a stage of one of the Grand Tours such as the Tour de France or Giro.
111-kilometres, 1,000 metres
Open to all cyclists who train regularly.
The VOénergies challenge
For cyclists riding e-bikes. The objective is to promote this means of transport offering the pleasure of cycling but in a different way other than self-propelled road cycling.
Moreover, the organizers promote the formation of youth by offering 1000 Swiss Francs to the cycling club that signs up the highest number of cyclists for that purpose.
Background to Wysam
Created by Samuel Wyss in 1999, the Wysam is sponsored by his son, Danilo Wyss, Swiss cycling champion in 2015. The Wysam 333 is a benchmark among devotees of long-distance rides. For exceptional athletes only, the 333 km challenge reached an international renown under the leadership of its founder.
But like the other great rides, the event did not take place during a short period, that lasted 2 years from 2009 to 2010. After that and under the presidency of Lionel Favre, a small team of dedicated volunteers ensured the continuity of the event by broadening its appeal to a wider range of riders by introducing shorter distances whilst retaining the kudos of the 333 kilometre distance. During this evolution, the team has also developed the 222-km, 111-km and VOénergies challenges.
Its 17-year history makes the Wysam 333 the father of ultra sportive cycling. It still attracts experienced “in-the-know” riders that want to test their endurance both physically and mentally without the crowds and commercialism that have changed the face of many now hugely popular but perhaps overpopulated events. This gem of an event has retained a club feel, good ambiance and with just 45 entrants this year for the long distance 333, it has retained a sense of adventure for those like me that perhaps want that road to be conquered solo.
Orbe a small medieval town built on Roman foundations that can still be seen today, plays host to the event. With a Chateau dominating the town above the Orbe river, it has charm along with shops for supplies, cafes, and camping nearby. Just 88 kms north of Geneva and 75 kms south from Bern, the surrounding rolling hills and valleys mark the gateway to the Alps. This is perfect cycling terrain through stunning countryside.
Starting in the market square of the old town at 4.30am the atmosphere is special, intrepid, strong, experienced riders are here, but the atmosphere is genial. The local cafe has opened its doors to serve espresso and croissant, the organiser is wishing all ‘Bon courage’ and with a short briefing in french which passed me by, we have started. A ribbon of cycle lights crosses the plain of the Orbe to commence the classic climb via the St. Croix to the top of the Jura plateau above Lac de Neuchatel. The Wysam 333 takes no passengers but with the sun now rising to reveal the rewards that wait for us as we race through this stunning lower alpine landscape, you already know this is something special.
The course is organized via a series of 3 loops to enable the use of shared facilities between the 3 routes, the 111km, 222 kms and of course the premier and legendary 333 kms.
The first loop is completed by recrossing the starting line back in Orbe and then following 222 and 111 routes allowing easy bailing points if you have decided that it’s all too much. But, please don't bail as this epic ride will stay in your memory forever.
The course is designed by Danilo Wyss (BMC Team) and it's an exceptional challenge through some stunning countryside on some great roads taking you from just north of Lausanne to Fribourg passing through villages and around chateau topped towns, forests, and fields often accompanied by the sound of cowbells.
The refueling stops are manned by club volunteers who encourage and motivate you. Although it's my second Wysam 333 they are generally surprised and delighted that I have traveled to take part in their event! I feel somewhat of a novelty.
It’s not all plain sailing!
On any long event, I am always ready for 3 problems, any less is a bonus.
On the way to Fribourg, there is a road closure and diversion, but what is an extra 8km when you are having fun, however I know we will pay later. The sky is deep blue but strong winds hamper the progress north and disguise the effects of the heat, so pace, legs, hydration, and energy become the mantra.
Oh, problem two, the cable cover is slipping off the front derailleur which is stopping the change-up so I am riding the big chainring for most of the time, I know again I will pay later, even if after the finish.
We won't go into the third problem in any detail but a cow shed comes in handy!
In the last 50 kms, I am slower, the big chainring has bitten into my reserves but it's all good, I remember the route and the challenges left to complete. I know this event is out of the ordinary, but I know it's within me, and what the satisfaction that will be once past the finish podium and to say "I did it" as the images of the day fill your head and the pain subsides.
Climbing through the old town of Orbe to return the marketplace where it all started I find that last push, I pass under the finish line with everyone applauding. A drink is quickly handed to me, congratulations are offered and accepted willingly. Next a beer and repas of chicken curry rice and salad followed by good conversation with the other finishers, organizers and a surprise meeting with my friend Thiery of Ride Switzerland who had ridden one of the other routes. In all a great day.
Don't expect ultra-slick at the Wysam 333, you need to be capable and self-sufficient. It’s a real club event organized by a crew of helpful volunteers. However, if you want to step away from the crowd and live an event that will stay in your heart and ride an event the gives you both suffering and pleasure then, go ride the Wysam 333.
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