Transcontinental Diaries: An Intro to Our Bloggers And Why They Entered
January 12th, 2017
January 12th, 2017
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The Transcontinental is a self-supported race from Geraardsbergen in Belgium, to Meteora in Greece. It is in its fifth year and #TCRN05 is set to kick off on at 10pm on Friday 28th July. There is no set distance, no set route, and definitely no arrows to follow. Riders are expected to plan their own route and navigate themselves. There are no feed stations and no accommodation, just riders and their bikes, grabbing food where they can, carrying sleeping bags to sleep rough at the side of roads along the way. The main rule, other than to power yourself on the bike, is to stop by at check-points in Germany, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. Other than that, riders have the freedom to take long flat roads or detour "short-cuts" via the mountains, on whatever terrain they like. It's a tough deal, a game of strategy as well as fitness, and it requires a mind as strong as the legs. The 2016 winner, Kristof Allegaert, crossed the finish line on 7th August after 8 days, 15 hours, and 2 minutes, with 3,762km in his legs and very minimal sleep. Not everyone will be taking it that seriously, but there are still time restraints for completion. So, how does an 'ordinary' rider prepare for such an epic event? Today we meet four riders who have just been accepted into the race, and we will be hearing from them once a month to find out how they are getting ready and what they plan to do about food, sleep, bike-packing, and the all-important route planning and navigation. First of all, let's find out who they are and why they entered.
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Hi, I am Chris, from Munich, Germany. I took up cycling about 10 years ago and kind of stuck with it. I've never raced or anything, but I've rode longer and longer distances over the years. Ever since seeing a picture of the people lining up in London for the first TCR in 2013 I thought "what a great idea“. I am generally happy when I ride my bike, so riding it for longer sounded like a good plan to me, but it took two years of following the race online, plus a couple of long distance touring trips (transitioning from fully loaded bike tourer to minimalist bike packer) and entering the Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015 before I convinced myself I should give the Transcontinental a try. So I applied last year, and when I didn't get a spot I worked as a volunteer at one of the controls. Now I have my spot and will be lining up in Geraardsbergen on July 28th to start my very first race! Which – in all honesty – I won't be racing to win, but to find out how far I can push myself before “long” becomes “too long”, will be exciting. I am stoked to be sharing some of the preparation here on Bikesoup once a month, but if anyone is interested in more frequent updates, feel free to follow me on Facebook or Instagram.
I spent my childhood riding the streets and woods of suburban Surrey on various bikes. I've stripped down and rebuilt a couple too, spraying frames with rattly cans from the local car parts shop, lugs picked out with Airfix enamel paint. I was drawn to the world of road bikes in the mid-80s, mainly due to Robert Millar's exploits when Channel 4 started to screen the Tour de France. After that, I rode miles and miles around Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire on a Peugeot road bike, and toured down to Cornwall and back one summer. As I hit my twenties, in the early 90s, I went to art school in Kent and sold my road bike in favour of a Marin Palisades mountain bike. I rode that around for a few years but gradually drifted away from pushbikes towards Vespas and Lambrettas. Roll on a decade or so and I'm living in Brighton and turn 40 and think to myself that I should probably look after myself better. I decided to buy a road bike again; MAMIL archetype. The first ride, twenty miles over the South Downs almost killed me and I had to lie on the floor afterwards, but I was instantly hooked again. Memories of flying around Surrey lanes came flooding back. Over time I met and became friends with cyclists local to me in Sussex and within a couple of years I was riding further and further, poring over maps, looking for new places to ride. Then I discovered the world of audax and the distances got longer and longer…and longer. The road bike was complemented by mountain and cyclocross bikes. I rode anywhere and everywhere, any time I could. When I found out about the Transcontinental, around the time of the first race, I was intrigued and have since followed the race online via tracking sites and social media. It was the mix of racing, adventure, and story telling that drew me in. It appealed to the same bit of my brain that latched onto audaxing. It was something I thought I'd like to try and do, but I felt it was a bit beyond my comfort zone at the time. Then, in a short space of time too many friends passed away far too young and my attitude changed. Life is way too short not to do stuff that may just be a little bit scary. “What if?” became “Why not?”. Remnants of the fear of not being capable remained, but chatting with my mate, Jo, after a couple of beers made it apparent he was in a similar position. After one more beer we agreed to enter as a pair and see what happened. Read more from Gavin's blog at themanfromicon.net.
I’ve moved around a lot (not just on a bike), but I’m currently based in Glasgow. I’m 27 years old, and definitely spend more time riding and thinking of bike-related ventures than most other things. To me, cycling is freedom, adventure, fitness and wellbeing. It has become an integral part of my everyday life and I love it. The last time I raced a bike was 2014, racing the national women’s series with amateur team Biketreks. Racing at this level, if you’re not at the top of your game, or not getting paid. It is stressful, dangerous and expensive. Considering myself more of a lithe climber than tree-trunk-legged sprinter, my explosive power was no match where the courses were never long enough or hilly enough for me to do anything except hold onto the wheel in front. So that was my ‘pro cycling’ career over with. The following year (2015) I took a diversion and dived into the world of Audax, completing a super randonneur series (200,300,400 and 600km) and the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris. It was a brilliant experience. The comradeship of audax is unbeatable, the journey itself is king, and the totally mindful state achieved after spending days on the bike was addictive. In 2016, I wanted to know what Transcon was all about. I wasn’t ready to just dive in and enter the race, so the next option in my mind was to volunteer at the fourth and final checkpoint in Zablijak, Montenegro. Of course I cycled there, albeit at a more leisurely pace than those racing. In hindsight these two cycling episodes are quite opposites, but have inevitably resulted in me entering the TCR.No.5. Really, it’s a quest to satisfy my competitiveness alongside the desire to travel and explore an ever changing landscape at speed, a multitude of discoveries and personal revelations along the way. I’m also riding for my mum. A year ago she was diagnosed with MSA, which is a degenerative neurological disease. As a result, my own self acknowledgement and appreciation of physical capability has grown. I will think about her during the race, and how fortunate we all are to have the physical ability to undertake something as immense as the Transcontinental, whether we finish first or last. Follow Nicky's blog on the Trip of Revolutions.
I love riding bikes, all kinds of bikes; road, cross and occasionally mountain. Using bikes to explore Sussex where I live and beyond is just about the greatest thing in the world.A lifetime ago in the 90's I was a bike courier in London. Back then, cycling just became work and getting from A to B. I was quite happy to lean my bike against a wall on a Friday night and not touch it again until Monday morning. Moving out of London and getting a 'proper' job allowed me to fall in love with cycling again and since then I have tried Road Racing, Audax, Touring and all manner of ridiculous rides which has now led me into the world of Endurance racing.This year I have entered the Transcontinental race and the scale of it is terrifying. It's an all-consuming challenge but it's fascinating and beautiful and the simplicity of it is genius. It makes me think of those crazy cyclists at the turn of the last century who would race vast distances without sleep. They would absolutely LOVE this race.Why wouldn't you want to race it? Follow my blog on cordal.cc.