Cycling, Ride Reports

Transcontinental, part 2: to the Alps

Part 3 of 3 in the series TCR #8

Stage 1 (of 1) of the TCR began at 22:00 on Sunday the 24th of July.

The timing might seem inconvenient, but in a couple of ways it actually made things simpler. For most ultra-events you face a tough decision on day one: to ride through the first night or not? You’ll make extra progress on day one, but at the cost of building up sleep debt. On the other hand, you might as well capitalise on your freshness to get ahead early. The effects this will have later in the race are not obvious. It’s not an easy call.

Of course, if the organiser decides to start the race in the evening, they are effectively taking this difficult decision away from you. In our case it also meant being able to escape the densely populated Benelux area at night while everyone was sleeping and the roads were empty. It certainly made for a peaceful start to the race.

Speaking of tough decisions, there wasn’t long to wait before the first routing dilemma – in fact, the difficulty started pretty much immediately on leaving Geraardsbergen.

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Cycling, Ride Reports

Transcontinental, part 1: départ

Part 2 of 3 in the series TCR #8

In July and August 2022, I competed in the eighth edition of the Transcontinental Race (TCR) – a 4,000 km non-stop self-supported bike race across Europe. The race took me through 13 countries, to the limits of my physical endurance, and to some interesting places in my own head too.

But my TCR did not end how I wanted it to. I covered 3,500 km fighting for a place in the top 5 before a terminal frame failure forced me to scratch on top of a mountain in Romania. More on that in a later post, but let’s start with the story of how I got there in the first place.

My route for TCR no. 8, starting in in Belgium, bouncing through 4 control points, and ending up on the coast of the Black Sea in Bulgaria.

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Cycling

The Transcontinental

Part 1 of 3 in the series TCR #8

At 22:00 this evening in Geraardsbergen, the 8th edition of the Transcontinental Race begins. I am cap no. 214:

You can follow the race here: https://dotwatcher.cc/race/tcr-no8

I was hoping to write a but about how I’ve been preparing and how I’m feeling about the whole thing, but predictably I haven’t had the time.

In a couple of weeks’ time I’ll tell my story retrospectively with some better blog posts, but in the meantime here’s a bit about the kit.

I’ll also post updates on Instagram at @willvousden.

What I’m taking

Similar to what I took with me last year to Norway, but with a lot of refinement and adjustment for the different climate.

To summarise the main differences…

On the bike

  • Removed:
    • Mudguards – time to get serious
  • Replaced:
    • Old saddle bag → Restrap Race saddle bag
    • Old frame bag and top tube bags → Restrap Race equivalents
    • Old pump → Silca Tattico, which I am confident will not ruin my day by breaking the valve core
    • Cockpit mounted raspberry box → proper 3D-printed jobby
  • Added:
    • TyreWiz pressure sensors
  • Changed:
    • Handlebars lowered 10 mm, aero bars jacked up 10 mm to compensate

In the luggage

  • Removed:
    • Spare lycra
    • Cold-weather stuff like leg warmers, winter gloves, or overshoes
  • Replaced:
  • Added:
    • Down jacket – using the space freed up by not having the heavier bag
    • Silk liner – for when even the ultra-ultralight sleeping bag is too warm
All my kit

And that’s all I have time to write today!

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Cycling, Ride Reports

A weekend in the Alps

An impromptu ride down to the Italian Alps to experience some of the climbs I’ve been meaning to do ever since moving to Munich: Stelvio, Gavia, and Timmelsjoch. Also to remember how to do multi-day rides in the run-up to the TCR. I realised how hard alpine climbing (on a bike) can be.

In numbers:

  • Kilometres cycled: 714
  • Metres of altitude gained: 11,000
  • Nights: 2
  • Nights with sleep: 1
  • Countries visited: 3
  • Passes ridden: 7 (some bigger than others)
  • Passes planned to be ridden: 8
  • Near-death experiences in tunnels: 1
  • Marmots spotted: 1
  • Train crashes spotted: 1

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Cycling

Around Norway: the kit

Part 4 of 4 in the series Around Norway

I was going to combine this with a “lessons learned” post, but I know some people are eager to know what I took with me, so without further ado here’s the list.

With three full bottles of water, the bike and luggage weighed in at a shade over 20 kg. I didn’t weigh the bike beforehand, and I have to admit I was a little shocked when I eventually did weigh it at home, after the event. I think by slimming down my kit and choosing some lighter options I could maybe shed a couple of kilos, but I’m not sure I could realistically get it down much further than that without making too many compromises.

So here’s a list of what I took and how I set the bike up. I’ve written things roughly in order of how much I used them. Things that I didn’t use are starred* and things I would not bring again are struck through.

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Around Norway, part 2: ferries, mountains, and bus shelters

Part 2 of 4 in the series Around Norway

Lysebotn and the rest of day 3 were my first real taste of the Norwegian mountains and the day was a taxing one. By mid-afternoon I’d come down off the high ground and into a headwind on the Rv9 toward Haukeli. My energy was leaving me and I was feeling like I wasn’t going to last much longer. Thirsty, exhausted, and craving fresh food, I pulled up to a grocery shop in Valle for a break.

This was the first slump I’d had and I felt pretty rubbish about it. You’re supposed to just keep pedalling, right? And I was stopping just because I couldn’t face it? That’s not a good look. Well, I’m sure it’ll get better, but right now I need that bottle of pear juice in the fridge.

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Around Norway, part 1

Part 1 of 4 in the series Around Norway

tl;dr: I rode a bike-packing event covering pretty much the whole of sub-arctic Norway. The 3,400 km route took in Norway’s most iconic scenery and demanded payment in kind. I bike-packed my way to the end in 9 days, 8 hours, 43 minutes.

Some highlights:

  • 📈 Lots of climbing
  • ⛴ Inconvenient ferry timetables
  • 😰 A 1,000 m switchback descent, including a 1 km tunnel with a 10% hairpin inside it… that had to be climbed again afterwards
  • ⛽️ Extortionate petrol station food
  • 🚏 Camping in bus shelters
  • 🪦 Camping in graveyards
  • 🥵 Unbearable heat
  • 🥶 Unbearable cold
  • 🎭 Plentiful mood swings
  • 🏔 The most beautiful mountain scenery I’ve ever seen

This was a long ride and this is going to be a long write-up – long enough to merit several instalments. Riding so far is a complex experience and I’m not really sure how to capture the whole thing in a blog post, so we’ll see how this goes.

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