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Watch: Powering the pedals for animal welfare

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened,” says Anatole France.

For ultra triathlete Fabio Spiteri, this quote resonates fully.

Apart from his successful endurance challenges, Spiteri is a well known animal lover who never shies away from speaking his mind – particularly where animal welfare is concerned. 

Spiteri shares his home with four dogs, two cats and two pet rabbits.

To him they are family and he is often seen out and about with them.  They are lucky.  Sadly, not all animals are as fortunate, as he explains.

“I have visited many animal shelters, some dogs are old and we all know that, unfortunately they will not be adopted as people prefer younger animals,” he said.

“Of course, shelters work selflessly to provide a comfortable refuge but this comes at a high cost. Veterinary bills, medicines, food, electricity and water add up to thousands of euros per month.”

Being a triathlete, Fabio could easily choose from the three disciplines he practices – swimming, cycling and running.  However, cycling is his favourite segment, so pedal power made it an easy choice.

Sicily’s coast line, approximately 1,000km is a route that Spiteri is only too familiar with. Prior to the start of this challenge he had covered the distance four times over a span of four years, each year whittling down the time taken.

The challenge for 2020 was to cover it in approximately 52 hours.

If setting such a deadline was not difficult enough the weather gods and COVID-19 decided to challenge Spiteri further, making his target even harder. 

Upon their arrival in Sicily, the team were faced with a newly imposed curfew which meant that they could not cycle between 11pm and 5am.

Heavy storms on the eastern coast of Sicily battered the route. The downpour was such that the ride had to be stalled for an hour when bike brakes started malfunctioning.

Spiteri explained that the headwinds encountered were some of the strongest.

“This was not an hour ride which would pass quickly but a five hour segment, for which you need to keep your wits about you,” Spiteri said.

Inspite of this, there was never a moment where Spiteri had his reservations about completing the task ahead of him. The reason for this was two fold – the animals that would benefit from his endeavour and the hours of preparation he had put in.

In fact, Fabio would not change anything from the pre-event training. 

A coach by profession with many years of competitive experience, Spiteri prepared a carefully structured programme that saw a balance of threshold, recovery and tapered training. He complemented this regime with added weight training to further strengthen his muscles. 

“Throughout the challenge I felt strong,” Spiteri said.

“Should we decide to undertaking this challenge again next year, there would be no changes to the preparation programme. Hopefully weather will be more favourable and there will be no curfews.”

The support crew provided an extra mental boost.

Ultra cyclist Sandro Pallavicino cycled all the way whilst Ciccio Darmanin and Mark Schram acted as pacers.

Fabio Spiteri during his ride around the Sicily coastline. Photos: Steve Zammit Lupi

An average speed of 28.4km was registered for the majority of the loop, but eager enthusiasm to finish saw them register an average pace of 32km per hour in the last 200km stretch.

Two days, eight hours, and 950km later, Fabio Spiteri crossed the finish line. The third fastest cyclist to do so in history.

With just a few hours to go before the campaign ends, Fabio estimates that in total approximately €20,000 would have been collected. 

Fully aware that the Covid-19 pandemic has not helped, he urges the public to contribute – even if just the minimal €2.33 SMS donation – every little bit will make a difference to the sixteen animal charities chosen to benefit. 

Donations can be done via the below channels.

Revolut: +356 99816248; Paypal: https://paypal.me/pools/c/8sTBPbudP9; SMS donations (write Fabio in the message) € 2.33 | 50617312; € 4.66 | 50618075; € 6.99 | 50618923; € 11.65 | 50619260; Bank Transfer – BOV IBAN: MT40VALL22013000000050010082877

The main sponsor for the cycling 1000km Round Sicily was Hill’s Pet Nutrition Malta, and is supported by The Pasta Shop Malta, TrackMT, Philip Cachia (Masseur), GasanMamo Insurance, H2Only Purified Drinking Water, Attrans International Transport, Go&Fun Green Energy Drink Malta, Depot, Garmin Malta, Eurosport Malta, Wheel Wizard Malta  and Lawrence Sofa Cleaning.

Funds collected will be distributed to the following organisations, Animal Care Malta Cat Sanctuary, Animal Guardians Malta, Association for Abandoned Animals Sanctuary , CSAF Sanctuary, SPCA Gozo,  MSPCA,  Noah’s Ark Dog Sanctuary, Stray Animals Support Group (SASG), The Island Sanctuary, Tomasina Cat Sanctuary, Animal Protectors Malta, Rescue is my Favorite Breed, Malta Rabbit Club 1963, RMJ Horse Rescue, Birdlife and Petcross.

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