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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
- 🧛 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