The Transcontinental Race 2017 Preview

“A long and beautifully hard bicycle race for masters of self-reliance.” – Transcontinental Race, Mike Hall.

For all Transcontinental racers and followers, this year’s race will be a bitter sweet experience. The sudden and tragic death of Mike Hall in March 2017, while racing in Australia was a terrible shock. Mike was one of, if not the world’s best ultra endurance racers and Transcontinental was conceived and organised by him. For 2017 the race is being organised by a group of his close friends and family, we collectively thank you for stepping up in this hard time. Together, we will line up in Geraardsbergen to compete in his vision of a pure bicycle race, testing and pushing the resolve of its competitors to their limits. I love and live to race my bicycle. The only way I can think to honour his vision is to race my best and enjoy every moment, to make it a celebration of his extraordinary life.

 

#75 James Hayden on Mont Ventoux

Arriving 1st, Checkpoint 1 TCR 2015, Mont Ventoux, France


 

2015: MY FIRST TRANSCONTINENTAL RACE

I arrived in Geraadsbergen not quite knowing what to expect, I’d never raced an ultra endurance event before, coming from a road racing and time trialling background it was a lot longer than my previous endeavors. I knew I was in good shape, and I knew I was mentally tough, but the question I longed to ask of my body; just how tough are you? Ultra endurance bicycle racing combined the things I enjoy, racing, travelling, challenge, in a package that would allow me to test myself to, and beyond my limit.

My 2015 race strategy was based on Kristof Allegaert’s previous 2 wins:

  1. Get in front.
  2. Get ahead by a sleep.
  3. Stay ahead.
  4. Win comfortably.

Part 1 and 2 worked well. Part 3 fell apart in the Balkans as the excruciating and unsettling Shermer’s neck struck, I had found and surpassed my limit; inexperience and over-exuberance took its toll.

 

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1st place Checkpoint 1 TCR 2015, Mont Ventoux, France.

 

2016: MY SECOND TRANSCONTINENTAL RACE

12 months later, following countless hours of exercises, I had a ‘new’ neck. I also had financial support from LJ Partnership and Bellecapital. I had equipment support, riding a new steel Fairlight Strael. I was better prepared and in great shape. I now knew lots of TCR racers. I was thrilled to be able to compete for the first time with Kristof and with the man who’d raced me across Italy in 2015, Josh Ibbett.

This year I knew what to expect and I had some experience. The start was just as magical, after topping out the Murr, I was soon into the Belgium lanes and alone; it was at this moment of total silence I broke out in excited laughter, for I knew I was doing the thing I loved and was born to do. I was at peace and happiness.

My race strategy was the same but I never even got to Part 1 and I learnt a crucial variation, you can only race your own race. That first night leaving Belgium I unexpectedly felt so tired I had to sleep a couple of hours. 700 kms later I arrived at Checkpoint 1 in Clermont Ferrand in 3rd place. Kristof had already gone and Josh had scratched. I was feeling terrible, coughing and wheezing with a chest infection. 36 hours later, having seen a doctor and rested properly, I started the race again in 139th place and took it easy to start with, stopping that night for a full 9 hours sleep. On Day 10 I was on the ferry across the Dardanelles to a 4th place finish in Cannakale in Turkey, and in doing so I won the Kinesis Bikes award of ‘Most Combative Rider’. Kristof had long since won the race, finishing on Day 9.

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Finish Photo, Transcontinental 2016. Credit; James Robertson

 

MY THIRD TRANSCONTINENTAL RACE: 2017

More than 200 bicycle racers will start Transcontinental 5 at 22:00, Friday July 28 in Geraardsbergen, Belgium. It will be my third race.

It’s mid-July. As a student, I have the summer completely free, to do nothing but riding my bike. I’ve just returned from nearly a month in, Sestriere in the Italian Alps now, which was CP2 in TCRNo3 2015. I still have my sponsors from 2016 and now thanks to a new supporter, Veritas Investment, I was able to go on a long training camp at altitude. I was riding and climbing hard, thanks to RST Coaching, you can check out my training data on Strava.

My old Fairlight Strael had done near 30,000KM, so I’ve picked up my fresh bike for the race this year, and it’s just perfect. Full details will go up on the Fairlight website soon.

 

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My Fairlight Strael

The race will pass through 4 checkpoints; though each racer chooses their own route. The checkpoints will be: Schloss Lichtenstein, Germany; Monte Grappa, Italy; High Tatras mountains, Slovakia; Transfagaran Highway, Romania. It’s possibly the flattest race yet and will be about the same distance as normal, 4000km. TCRNo5 will end in Meteora Greece, a UNESCO world heritage site that’s surrounded by monasteries built on cliff tops, a dramatic and a perfect finish.

A personal highlight will be the 90 km Transfagaran Highway in the Carpathian Mountains, built in the 70s as a military road (also known as Ceaușescu’s Folly). It connects Wallachia and Transylvania and is a remote mountain road with endless curves and steep drops.

I predict that the race winner will get to Meteora in 8 days and x hours.

As ever, anyone who has the strength to finish is a true winner of TCRNo5.

Ride safe, and race your hearts out.

Follow the race here; https://www.frrt.org/tcrno5/

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Training in Italy, 2017