Ride Reports, Cycling

TCR, part 5: Gravel and Greece

Part 5 of 5 in the series TCR #9

The last third of the race. By this point the field of riders had elongated to cover half of Europe, and the order of things was becoming a bit clearer. I’d come back from my routing gaffe a few days ago and, mentally speaking, was fully back in the game.

The next couple of days would have some of the race’s toughest terrain, which I was pretty anxious about, but I’d also be crossing my last border (into Greece) and taking my last actual sleep stop before the final all-nighter to the finish.

And most importantly, I’d soon be getting my EU data roaming access back 🥳🇪🇺

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Miscellaneous

TCR9, part 4: the long road to CP3

Part 4 of 5 in the series TCR #9

Sigh. Day 5.

I won’t forget the feeling of waking up and looking at Instagram/WhatsApp that morning. People had commented on my “different” route and were asking what my plan was. That didn’t sound good.

A message to me on Instagram saying how exciting my route was!

I opened up the live map to see that everyone else (and I mean everyone else) had gone east immediately after CP2, setting a blistering pace over the flatlands toward Zagreb. Meanwhile, I’d been faffing around in the hills and was going south toward the Adriatic coast at what felt like a snail’s pace.

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Ride Reports, Cycling

TCR9, part 3: leaving the Alps

Part 3 of 5 in the series TCR #9

The first two control points of the race came in (relatively) quick succession, being only around 600 km from one another. With most of the Alpine climbing coming before CP1, it’d only take a day and a bit to reach CP2 from there.

So I’d soon have the difficult mountainous start that I’d been worrying about so much behind me. This was a big motivator. There’d be more mountains to come, of course, but they shouldn’t be thaaat bad 🤞 Until I reached Greece, of course, but that was a problem for future me to deal with.

For now, things were gonna be nice and easy. Right?

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Ride Reports, Cycling

TCR9, part 2: rain in the mountains

Part 2 of 5 in the series TCR #9

CP1 in Livigno, and its Alpine surroundings, were the first serious challenge in the race and it was gonna be tough. I was nervous about it. For around 400 km there would be repeated climbs of 500 m and more, with precious little flat ground on which to recover.

Long climbs like these have in the past been a bit of an Achilles heel for me, my lower back being weak and tending to get painful after too much climbing. And that’s to say nothing of the forecast of rain and near-freezing temperatures up on the passes in the coming days.

In the meantime, I had to cross France and Switzerland to get there. Unlike last year, there was no big routing dilemma on the first day. Most of the field chose the same route through France (with a few oddballs going further north), so I had more company than I’d bargained for for at least the first 9 hours or so.

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Cycling, Ride Reports

TCR9, part 1: départ

Part 1 of 5 in the series TCR #9

This year I returned to the Transcontinental Race for my second attempt, in spite of promises to myself and my long-suffering partner that I wouldn’t. I’d vowed last year not to repeat the TCR in 2023 – such was the burden on my personal life. But when I scratched, all that changed.

Despite being in many ways a tougher race than last year’s (thanks mostly to the weather and terrain), this one had a much happier ending. Spoiler alert: I didn’t scratch 🥳

I was cap 119 and here’s part one of my story.

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Miscellaneous

What I’m doing in July

I’m doing two ultra events this year.

The Bright Midnight

09:00, 9th July 2023, Tolga, Norway

1000 km of tarmac and gravel, snaking through the mountains and national parks of Eastern and Western Norway.

Since Around Norway in 2021 I’ve been longing to go back there with my bike and explore some of the farther-flung, less tarmacky parts of the country. So when I got wind of The Bright Midnight I signed up immediately, never mind that it was less than two weeks before the TCR.

Honestly, doing an ultra event quite so close to the TCR is really not ideal. I’ll have a little more than one week to recover. But whatever, I really want to do this – caution to the wind.

In any case, I certainly won’t be racing it. On the contrary, I’ll take my time as much as possible, aiming to get back not too long before the official cut-off – at most 250 km/day. I’m pretty excited about being able to just ride my bike without worrying about who might be about to overtake me, not having to flee the scene after a petrol station resupply like a bank heist getaway, and without the misery of waking up sleep-deprived at 2am every morning. Practically a holiday 🥳

The Transcontinental Race

22:00, 23rd July 2023, Geraardsbergen, Belgium

Then of course there’s the TCR. I told myself (and Miranda) last year that I wouldn’t be doing the next one – the stress and anxiety of the training, planning, and logistics being just too much.

But then I scratched, and that changed things. I want to finish it, so here I am again on the start list for the 9th edition.

This one is a fair bit shorter than last year’s – by about about 1,000 km – but the mountains make up for that. My route weighs in (according to Komoot) at 48,000 m of climbing over 3,500 km.

My route this year passes through 12 countries:

  1. 🇧🇪 Belgium
  2. 🇫🇷 France
  3. 🇨🇭Switzerland
  4. 🇮🇹 Italy
  5. 🇦🇹 Austria
  6. 🇸🇮 Slovenia
  7. 🇭🇷 Croatia
  8. 🇧🇦 Bosnia & Herzegovina
  9. 🇲🇪 Montenegro
  10. 🇦🇱 Albania
  11. 🇲🇰 North Macedonia
  12. 🇬🇷 Greece

…With control points in Italy, Slovenia, Albania, and Greece. This time I’ll be paying much more attention to border crossings – i.e., doing them legally 😇

I’ve made some kit changes this time round, including replacing the front and rear Restrap bags with a Tailfin. The idea is that it’ll save me time in two ways: a) it’s bigger than I need, so less faffing about getting everything perfectly tessellated, and b) it’s easier to get into in the first place. No straps to adjust; just roll it closed and go. Cost an arm and a leg, though, so let’s hope it pays off.

Full kit list will follow after the event because I don’t have the mental capacity for it right now.

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Ride Reports, Cycling

Transcontinental, part 5: epilogue & debrief

Part 6 of 6 in the series TCR #8

What does the aftermath of the TCR look like? How did I scratch, what did I do afterwards, and how did I feel about it?

Featuring:

  • 🧛 Adventures in Transylvania
  • 🤕 Bodily afflictions
  • 🏖 Transitioning from an ultra race to a beach resort
  • 💸 Finding out how much I actually paid for the TCR
  • 🔮 My plans for the future

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Cycling, Ride Reports

Transcontinental, part 4: the scratch

Part 5 of 6 in the series TCR #8

The final stretch: CP3, CP4, Burgas. This was the part where I was expecting things to get a bit wild. Questionable road surfaces, rabid dogs, bears, vampires and who knew what else.

But at the same time, the end was in sight. My other half, Miranda, was volunteering at CP4, so there was not long before I’d be seeing her. And then of course she’d be at the finish, too. The light was very much appearing at the end of the tunnel.

But first, I had to get there.

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Ride Reports, Cycling

Transcontinental, part 3: Into the Unknown

Part 4 of 6 in the series TCR #8

I’d reached the Alps. A couple of hundred kilometres to go and I’d be at CP2, which marked a major turning point in the race. Up until this point, the route had been in the familiar territory of Western Europe.

But now the race was turning east. This was where the real adventure would start, as if there hadn’t been enough of that already. The temperature would climb, the landscapes would dry out, the culture, language, and even alphabets would change. The familiarity of home had provided an emotional safety net, which I’d now have to do without.

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Ride Reports, Cycling

Transcontinental, part 2: to the Alps

Part 3 of 6 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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