Published 13th May 2016
Note: Cap Numbers are to be allocated when printed
Published 13th May 2016
Note: Cap Numbers are to be allocated when printed
Number limits and allocations explained.
Confirmed riders for Transcontinental No.4 will be listed in the upcoming revision of the race manual later this month. There have obviously been some disappointed people this year and we have had some questions about the exact reasons for the limit on numbers and the nature of the allocation process. Applicants have also been exposed to quite a number of different questions in the application process and it is not obvious to them which criteria selection might be made on. In fact the utility of certain questions and responses can be multifaceted and not necessarily used for selection in many cases, or at all.
Transparency and trust that the process is a considered and fair on is important to us though so here is a somewhat longwinded explanation into the how’s, why’s and whatnots of the whole process.
The event is in the enviable position of being very popular and as a result we have many more applicants that we can accommodate, so we are also in the un-enviable position of having to disappoint some people and more so this time than ever before. The cap on numbers exists for several reasons.
Firstly we are limited by the number of trackers and service plans which can be provided by our tracking partners. The 2015 race exceeded their total capacity for Tracking and TCR have been worked with them to increase this capacity by providing support for a European based tracker fleet and increase the overall fleet size. During the time period of the 2015 all trackers in the US and European fleets were in the field somewhere.
This limitation is not the only reason to limit numbers; if it were then it could be overcome. The race is open to entries from riders with private trackers which do allow us to accept more entries in total. We do not wish however for the private purchase of a tracker to become almost mandatory for those who wish to buy themselves a guaranteed place in the race. The cost of device and a year’s service plan are in the order of £100 each and we would quickly arrive at a bias towards of those willing to pay more having a better chance of entry. Our aim at TCR is to be democratic and offer places based more on a mixture of merit and a lottery to allocate places – not on the ability to pay.
The second reason for a cap on entries is that the experience of riding unsupported across Europe in the TCR is at least in the main part intended to put the rider in a position very similar to that of riding alone across Europe outside of any event and totally reliant on their own self – that is to say not having significant contact with any support from the race administration or other riders – save for certain times – usually around the controls. Clearly this is a balancing act and we are not able to completely create an isolated experience for every rider, neither would we want to. As numbers grow however the experience of being one of 30 racers to one of 300 is going to change the nature of the race considerably – so to make sure that this is not to the overall detriment of the race and the experience, we intend to grow slowly.
A third major reason to cap numbers is so that as organisers we can cope with the amount of correspondence, admin and logistical issues that come up on the race. We are a (very) small team doing a lot and have until now organised the race in parallel with full time work and running other businesses. The 2015 race saw us invite volunteers to be a part of the race for the first time. The response was overwhelming and the experience very rewarding and it was only through volunteers that we could raise the intake by another 100 riders over 2014 levels. Now in 2016 we are undergoing more changes to have full time work going on in race HQ and to allow a few more riders in number 4, but we still want to grow slowly and be better before we are bigger.
It was decided for 2016 that the intake would be 300 riders initially. Every year there are many drop outs from the race as we get close to race day. Despite some of the things we try to do to mitigate, this always happens. Thankfully many riders contact us to let us know which is a great help, but unfortunately many just don’t show up which is a shame as the numbers cannot be predicted so easily. Instead we base the number of riders we expect to be on the start line with the drop-out and no-show rates of past years but we have to be prepared for all of them showing up. If rider numbers drop severely by April then we can have a top up but as of 14th April 2016 we are still at 290 riders so this, I am afraid, will not occur this year.
Now when we get 1000 registrations for these 300 places the question is what is the fairest method of allocation and alongside that, what is best for the future, safety, culture and spectacle of the race. There are a number of ways we can do this.
First come first served
Simple – the first to get an entry in get the places. This rewards those who are quick off the mark, have a good fast internet connection and are prepared to sit up until all hours clicking refresh. This method suits a lot of events quite well – particularly those who are based domestically in a single language and time zone group. If numbers are very high the whole process really needs monitoring throughout and there can also be stresses on servers and so-on as well as a flood of questions and enquiries, but for the organiser the benefits can be that an event sells out in a short space of time. This whole process increases hype and is better for marketing and sales as people become more impulsive and don’t want to miss out.
For TCR though this doesn’t really work out all that well. Firstly – we don’t want our applicants to be impulsive, at all. Due to the nature of the event we go to great lengths mainly to try and make people fully aware of what they are getting themselves into and thinking about it all carefully. Secondly a race to button click can also disadvantage certain user groups. Although a good proportion of our racers will come from the UK we want to encourage more international participation and certainly do not want to see non-UK based applicants at a disadvantage due to timezone, infrastructure (IT) or our own lamentable language skills. This is why we create a stepped process to slow things down. It can be tedious and drawn out but it does mean that non-English speakers have some time to decipher, talk in the facebook language groups and help each other – there is no need to act impulsively and it also means that our servers get a break. Applicants get one week to register and then there are several further days before the application deadline. The sooner they register, the more time they get for the application. With around 10 days open to the process there aren’t many excuses for a missed or late entry and if you sail that close to the wind could that mean you are the same type of entrant who would get to the start line without a planned route?
The fact that the form is long and boring also helps reduce the number of applications too; you could call it a kind of self-selection. This year the 1000 registrations became just fewer than 600 entries.
So now with first come first served out the window there are a few other options of how we get 600 entries into 300 places.
Filtering / Screening / Simulated Screening
The aim of filtering really is to cut the applicant field down in size by removing applicants from the process by applying some set criteria. This is something of a negative selection process as it discriminates against applicants according to their attributes and reduces diversity. The applied criteria are also crucial and the thresholds are something of a blunt tool to differentiate against what is quite a nuanced set of considerations in the case of TCR. Really we may only use this to remove any applications which might be wildly off the mark, obviously non-serious or abusive in anyway. Thankfully these are very rare.
Something we might do however is to simulate filtering on this level. Due to the number and variety of questions we ask we can use the data to observe how the selection would be made if it were filtered under a number of different criteria and what the resulting demographics would be. Also we can re-visit answers after the race and see if there is any correlation between answers and approach to the race. So far we have not found any satisfactory correlations, but our data and opinion capture has given us some thing to think about when designing the questionnaires and the process as well as point to better methods of communication.
So while it is useful and interesting for looking at our data, filtering doesn’t work for us as a selection method. We just don’t like the idea of ‘deselecting’ people based on quite crude and unsophisticated criteria. People don’t fit neatly into categories and we don’t believe there is such a thing as not good enough. There is however such a thing as low risk and high risk and likely and not likely but judging that is not for filters.
Everybody’s name in a hat, everybody gets the same chance – this is ostensibly the the most democratic method of selection. It does not negatively discriminate on background, country, language, opportunity or resources. That said it also does not positively discriminate on past winners, potential winners, gender and abilities either. So is it the best way for a bike race? Perhaps not. What happens if you accidentally lose your defending champion or all your female competitors to the luck of the draw? Sometimes you need to intervene and apply some judgement as well as employ a good bit of randomness and luck.
So, these processes alone, we don’t feel really work. So how do we do it and what are all those questions in the application actually for?
How the TCR application process works
We use something a mixture of positive selection and lottery to determine who goes into the race, but the selection is not necessarily made on specific questions in the application. In fact we don’t usually know how we might make any selections until we have seen the answers and most of our application questions serve purposes other than selection.
There are several things that the application procedure tries to do, as well as several things it tries to avoid, like having rigid qualifying requirements, being elitist or making the race impenetrable to newcomers.
Firstly the registration and application procedure itself is intended to ensure riders pick up a minimum level of understanding of the rules and factual information about the race, including the responsibilities of the racers and what will be provided (or not) by the organisers. All the information is available to the entrants, but people being people we need some safety catch that its been read and absorbed (and also it saves a lot of questions later). The understanding of this information is key to riders preparation, self sufficiency and, ultimately, safety. As I said before; except for any especially heinous, bizarre, sarcastic or unsafe responses, it is not our intention to deny entry for incorrect answers to these questions. Instead we will offer more guidance and controls to ensure that we are satisfied that riders are aware of what is expected of them and if they do something they are not supposed to, then it wasn’t because they weren’t told.
Secondly we must remind ourselves that a race is a comparative test of individuals to discover who really will be the most capable at the task. So when we propose the race we are really asking the question “who is the fastest to cross Europe on a bike without any outside help” and then providing the means for participants to come and help us answer that question. In order for the answer to be credible and hence the competition justifiably respected, the individuals who show the most compelling potential to be that person must be represented on the start line. Of course it is always just a race between who shows up, but if a potential winner is denied an entry by our hand then there will always be doubt as to the answer of that question. So then, we do some tinkering to make sure that those most likely to win, are at least on the start line.
There is some other meddling we do, to work against some social gradients and try to redress some of the imbalances we encounter in our demographics. If you are a woman for example, or from a country which is under-represented, then you are far more likely to get picked out for an entry. This is not who is the fastest British male across Europe and as such encouragement for more international and female representation requires some intervention.
Up until now Veterans (finishers and starters) have been allocated an assured entry into the next year’s race. The first hand experience a veteran racer has to share of the culture and spirit of the race makes them a great ambassador and we have found that many come back for another go as well as be involved in the community online and in other events. It is wonderful to see such a high rate of return and they have really helped us make TCR what it is over the first 3 editions through their great approach to the race and their blogs, race reports and other activities. We also see some riders who set out on their first TCR not knowing quite what to expect and ultimately don’t make the finish line but learn so much in the process. They return the next year almost transformed and this is a great thing that the race can do for people that we want to continue. As we go on however the race is going to be collecting more and more veterans and we need to ensure that there is a very good chance for new riders also to get an entry, so perhaps in the future there will not be the same guarantee and a limit on automatic veteran places.
Then there are the volunteers. We don’t just bully people who want an entry into tirelessly doing our bidding for us, but there are many people who want to be a part of the race whether they are in it or not and when some generous souls don’t get a place they come along volunteer instead. Because A: they have had first hand experience of the race and B: we like thank them for their selfless efforts, then they are generally assured and entry the following year if they want one because, well you would wouldn’t you?
Further to the premise of the race in its sporting mission, the race is much more to so many more people than answering that one question of who is the best, even if it is the primary reason for its existence. There can only be one winner and so the race will affect many more individuals in a positive way if there is more to it than winning. In many ways every racer in the field from the winner to the lantern rouge needs every other as a reference point, for their own sense of development, achievement and inspiration.
To us at TCR it is important that our race is accessible, that it is not about the resources you have, the people you know or the things you have done and that it is not elitist. This means we need to balance the excitement of having the very capable racers battling it out with opportunity for a huge adventure for those who come along to test themselves and learn things along the way and who knows they may grow into a future winner from that experience. The race then needs to be open to someone turning up and giving it a go. We have seen such riders in the first few editions that do not have typical cycling experience show up and do very well despite all the odds, purely because of their tenacious approach and a positive and resourceful attitude. These are some of the best examples of what makes this a unique and special thing to us. Therefore as well as having a great race up the front we want to make sure that there is a good and fair chance for all to enter the race whatever their experience and have a huge adventure.
This is why a large proportion of the racers are selected by the subsequent lottery, which is the main selection. While some are picked out for the reasons above to make sure they go in and bypass this lottery, we make sure NO ONE gets manually rejected as ‘not good enough’ or any such thing and there is genuinely a good chance for all. I would say an equal chance for all but thats not true, it will be an equal chance for those in the lottery . What we need to make sure is that there are a large enough proportion of the places allocated by this lottery – more than half would be a good start. When we first started sorting through entries for No.4 – we had allocated a certain field size for pairs, then taken in to consideration past volunteers, veterans, women riders and set about picking all the riders we would have liked to see in the race based on the merits of their application. Such was the standard of the application that we were quickly approaching a high proportion of our field size already. This mean we pretty much had to start again, abandon many of our ‘picks’ to chance and make sure a lot more people had a chance in the lottery.
This means that there are some very experienced riders who we would love to have in the race will, for no good reason, not be fortunate enough to get a place. Given that we have a limited number of places this is about the fairest means we have found. So, if you did get the knock back this year – and I spoke to a few – I can see how you must be disappointed.
Any reservation I have had so far about disclosing the entire process (other than the fact that the explanation is this long for me to write and you to read) is that inevitably there are some who when they learn how entries are allocated, will try to play the system and seek take advantage of the process to ensure themselves a place. There are many means and any one method will not be resistant to them all. Rest assured though that we are constantly trying to make the process fairer and better and if we find people trying to cheat the process then we will change the way we do things. Cheating the fairness of the entry process is as nefarious as cheating in the race itself so I am afraid there is not a place the start line for those who think this is OK.
So there you have it – these are the reasons. It took a while to put the whole rationale down in words. It may not necessarily be exactly the same next time but you can see the thinking. By all means feel free to share your thoughts and / or vent your spleen on the usual social media groups. I will of course read them and may take them into account for future editions. I might spare you any lengthy replies however.
Josh Ibbett first finisher after 4239km in 9 days // 23 hours // 54 minutes.
After a ride of 4239km Britain’s Josh Ibbett wins the 3rd Transcontinental race into the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul.
175 Racers set off from the Muur van Geraardsbergen in Belgium last Saturday.
[#02 Ibbett gets his Brevet card signed for the last time] Photo: James Robertson
Ibbett wins after finishing second in last years event and reached the Rumeli Hisari at 00:54 local time (EET) as second place France’s Alexandre Bourgeonnier was still approaching the Turkish border with Bulgaria with just under 400km between him and the finish. Ibbett returned with the experience of 2014 under his belt, a more robust plan and a bigger hunger for the win.
[James Hayden was first to CP1 in 39 hours 59 min] Photo: Camille McMillan
The race lead was contested fiercely early in the race and was taken on day 2 by Brit James Hayden who, just in side the first 40 hours, made it to the first race control on the summit of Mont Ventoux in Provence.
Hayden continued to lead through the second control of the Strada dell’Assietta from Sestriere to Susa in the Italian alps and pushed the pace as Josh Ibbett and Irishman Ultan Coyle chased him down. Coyle suffered two damage tyres on the rough gravel alpine road and fell back with an 8hr delay while Ibbett, an experienced endurance mountain biker, dispatched the section in record time.
[A severe reaction to the sun claimed the race of experienced ultra racer Bernd Paul early on at CP1] Photo: Camille McMillan
Hayden and Ibbett broke well clear of the chasing pack and Ibbett had reduced his deficit to a mere 30km by the time the pair reached the Slovenian border. Whilst Ibbett and Coyle were getting lengthier sleep breaks and riding faster on the road, Hayden was pushing on with just 20 minute naps to break up his riding days.
The wheels came off in Croatia however when Hayden began to experience a condition known as ‘Shermers Neck’ which affects ultra-distance racing cyclist and renders the neck muscles incapable of maintaining the head’s posture.
By the time both riders had been through control 3 in Vukovar, Croatia, Hayden had forfeited the lead with an extended break to sleep and recover and the gap to Ibbett extending to over 7 hours. Coyle meanwhile dropped to 6th place overall through control 3, almost a full day behind race lead. Frenchman Alexandre Bourgeonnier assumed 3rd place, just 5 hours behind Hayden.
[Josh Ibbett climbing fast to CP4 with a commanding lead. His experience the differentiator in this year’s race] Photo: Camille McMillan
As they came through control 4 in Montenegro Ibbett was now well ahead. Coyle was back up to 4th place again but 24hrs behind race lead and Bourgeonnier was promoted to 2nd. James Hayden came late Saturday afternoon a few hours previously after taking time out again in Kotor with his injury. He climbed to CP4 after the severe heat of the day died away and rolled the dice one more time to stay in the race. He attempted to tape his head into a useable position – a strategy which has been seen with various home made splints and devices in other ultra-distance races.
[James Hayden fashioned himself a neck support from K-tape at control 4 but would later withdraw at Podgorica] Photo: Camille McMillan
It was not to be however and Hayden later withdrew from Podgorica having made a stunning impression on this race and pushed himself beyond
As they approach Turkey Coyle therefore moved into third place and retained it now by a slim margin into Bulgaria – His straight line distance to Istanbul was greater than that of No.124 Thomas Navratil but Navratil faced more circuitous roads and mountains in Kosovo. Coyle’s charge for 3rd place was ended last night with a run in with a taxi in Sofia. The Irishman escaped un-hurt but his bike did not and now he has a bent front wheel to repair before he can continue.
[Ultan Coyle at CP3, Vukovar] Photo: Marc Redford
[Rider 124 Thomas Navratil took a sleep at CP4 and is now pushing through Bulgaria in 3rd place] Photo: Camille McMillan
Former racing cyclist and professional photographer Camille McMillan has been following the action from the XC70 control vehicle to get a unique insight on the race and take over the official Instagram at https://instagram.com/thetranscontinental/
The Third Edition has seen the biggest field and the toughest parcour yet.
The following pack are rapidly thinning with over 40 retirements so far. Riders who make it will be arriving at the Rumeil Hisari over the course of the next week and beyond. To finish in time for the party they will need to ride more than 260km every day for 15 days and will climb more than 40,000 vertical meters of ascent.
More than 100 volunteers from across Europe have supported to the event staffing remote control points and distributing race updates. The event has grown from just 30 riders in 2 years and is attracting a growing number of loyal followers known as ‘dot watchers’ who follow the tracking beacons of the riders and share and discuss their progress through combinations of social media.
[Cap #02 – Josh Ibbett] Photo: James Robertson
[Josh Ibbett at Cafe Hisar] Photo: James Robertson
[Ibbett’s Mason Bike] Photo: James Robertson
All images copyright as credited. All rights reserved.
As the race finished its first 24hrs the leaders of the pack looked all poised going into Saturday night to defy expectations and register arrivals at Mont Ventoux by Sunday lunch time. The TCR team were stationed in Lyon overnight watching the tracker and predicting arrival times which looked like a race could be on to beat the first dots to the summit.
An early hours check on Sunday morning however showed that the pace had finally relented with some schedule sleeps and some not so scheduled from the front runners so that the Volvo control cars could take it easier to Bedoin. The logistical considerations of what equipment and people will go to each control mean frequent car par re-packs. Our multifaceted team of volunteers, photographers, videographer, visiting radio journalist and TCR chiefs mean that to keep our vehicle footprint light we are packed with almost the same ruthless efficiency of the racer themselves. Standby support from the TCR moto outrider John Goldie and some kindly donated folding bikes from the Brompton Bicycle company affords us a highly compact yet reasonably independent team to serve controls, pictures and rider interviews.
The V60 / Moto team headed to Bedoin with the Moto catching up with Bernd Paul on the way and a whistle-stop lunch for the Control Car 1 trio before rider 75 James Hayden was present at the base of the climb.
James hit the climb in the heat of the day a little after one thirty and climbed at a steady and consistent pace but the effort showed and the heat was oppressive. He took around 2 hours and 20-some minutes on the climb finally topping out at 15:59 CET just one minute under the 40 hours since he left the Kapelmuur; now a distant memory. James had managed the task on just 2 x 20 minute sleep breaks.
Bernd Paul was already well into the climb when James’ Brevet card was being marked and reached the summit one hour and 11 minutes later. He was however most apologetic to be scratching from the race due to a severe reaction from, he assumed, the prolonged exposure to the sun. Reporting a painful burning sensation and displaying visibly red, swollen and blotchy skin under his sun sleeves and a makeshift mask of a ripped base layer. Having never ridden Ventoux his aim was simply to reach the control, experience the climb and hand over his tracker. He then made a route for the train in Avignon which would take him back to Germany. It was a great shame to lose a talented and experienced rider this early in the race after a strong ride across France.
At 19:31 Josh Ibbett completed Ventoux’s intermediate podium and was closely followed by Ultan Coyle some 14 minutes later. Josh was still at the summit after filling his bottles and two exchanged pleasantries shortly before Josh started the descent. Both were in fine spirits and had made the climb in the cooler evening. Both riders also reported significantly longer sessions of sleep. Ibbett estimated a total of 3hrs during in his 43hr 31min trip to CP1 whereas Coyle admitted to sleeping through his alarm and getting more like 6. Now the light was starting to fade and the Beast of Provence was casting a long shadow over the neighbouring landscape. James Hayden had been resting in Sault
The riders continued to summit into the night – the warm temperatures lower down tempting riders to cool off in the building breeze when they left the tree line. Alexandre Bourgeonnier was the fifth and final rider to reach the control before 48 hours into the race. He posted a time of 1 day, 22 hours and 54 minutes. The Frenchman had been experiencing difficulty with his navigation equipment and also setting an alarm but good legs and a knowledge of the area had still got him through in good time. He was surprised by three friends who had made the trip to the summit to greet him.
As the first nightshift went into operation temperatures began to drop and the wind increased, but still well short of what Ventoux is known to be capable of. Conditions were still good for climbing, but riders weren’t hanging around to much at the top and needed all their windproof materials for the fast descent. At least they had a good moon and empty roads and were headed back into the warmth below.
As the control car left the mountain at midnight to hand over to our heroic volunteers in the camper for the small hours, we passed several riders on the climb. No.128 Alex Metcalfe was minutes from the top. Ishmael Burdeau (No.10) was our second veteran of last years race and was just below the tree line, followed by Nelson Trees (No.80) and Jakub Vicek (No.125) had just pulled over to eat a few km out on the road from Bedoin.
Thomas Navratil (No.124) was also showing nr Bedoin before we turned in and started the climb at around 00:30. He climbed fast to reach control 1 at 02:45 and elected to sleep there. When the control car returned to watch the dawn light break he was still there and slept a good while, starting the descent again at 7am.
Jakub Vicek completed his climb one minute later to complete the top 10 but continued on to Sault as Thomas bedded down.
And so started a busy day on the mountain. 2014 Veteran Samuel Becuwe (no.11) arrived at 05:57 in good spirits and, another Frenchman, was met by friends who had made the journey to welcome him. Gareth Baines, another 2014 racer was next at 06:51 making good speed on the climb and pulling ahead of his last year’s companion Lee Pearce (29) who was still on the climb and would peak just over an hour later. The friendly competition to be the first to take a beer on the Bosphorus is a contrast to their leisurely bar hopping through Greece last August. The two were split by Luke “Danger” Allen who checked in at 07:47.
This year’s Belgian start at midnight has the consequence that translation from CET to a days / hours / minutes time recording simply means adding the local time to in hrs & minutes to the day of the race – this can be a blessing for sleep starved volunteers.
Another 69 racers hit control 1 before the control car retired again for the night-shift to take over, taking the total to 83 after 2 days and 23hrs. These included the only rider to have ridden every edition of the race, the characterful Mikko Makipaa who retains the number 04 cap. We have yet to see Mikko split from the mainstream routes and go sight-seeing but its only a matter of time. The Fin is known for breaking away to bag a few extra cols and take alternative routes. He won the first year’s spirit of the race prize for his adventurous nature and appetite for riding hard to pack in as much extra views and effort as possible.
Speaking of which Stephan Ouaja of Spain did’t think the Transcontinental’s route this year presented enough of a challenge and is the first rider to attempt on a fixed wheel. The climbs will be a test enough and he brings with him another sprocket to choose (42×15 and 42×19 he has available) but it will be the fast downhills that will test his leg speed and try his patience perhaps more. He continues to make good time however, so it is an impressive ride. We imagine he will be spinning in his dreams by the time he finishes.
On our evening descent of the mountain we passed another veteran of 2015 Matthijs Ligt and our first Woman rider Emily Chappell. Cycle messenger and Brooks Blog contributor Emily assumes the mantle from her fellow female racer and good friend Juliana Buhring (the two cycled London to Edinburgh together as training earlier in the year) after Juliana scratched from Carpentras around midday. The only female finisher of TCR No.1 and winner of Trans Am Bike Race 2014 was inconsolable. She was well positioned for top 20 running after putting down around 500km on the first day but her knees called time before she could tackle the beast of Provence. Its hard for a racer who is ready, willing and able in all other regard to really take the fight to the road, only to have one piece of the system fail. Another great rider lost from this year’s race and we wish her a swift recovery.
Control 1 finally closed at 21:16 on the with No.13 racer Leo Tong wrapping up proceedings with a fast climb and our marvellous volunteers staying up at the summit last night to greet him.
Times to Control 1
|47||27||Henri van Winkoop||2||18||5|
|48||159||Patricio Ortiz de Rozas||2||18||23|
|83||98||Jean Michel Anquez||2||22||52|
175 Riders gathered on de Muur van Geraardsbergen for the third Transcontinental race from Flanders to Istanbul as torches were lit by the iconic cobblestones in front of the Kapel and held by a small crowd of friends, locals and well-wishers. At the stroke of midnight they departed for a neutralised and escorted loop of the city of Geraardsbergen which took them around to the bottom of the famous classics climb. Once they approached the old stones of the top part of the muur, the neutralised session was over and the race was on The next time the crowd saw the riders the fires were still burning and so was the competitive spirit.
Last year’s second place rider Josh Ibbett was at the front with the will evident to make this his year, his Mason bike looking conspicuously short of ballast – showing that he is prepared to take less comfort and more risk after the experience he accumulated on his last year’s ride. It is a long long way to Istanbul of course though and anything can happen.
With the absence of two times champion Kristoff Allegaert, things are much more wide open and less predictable and there are a greater number of hopefuls with the athletic ability to put in a strong ride, so long as their route planning, decision making and on road discipline will let them upset the plans of Ibbett. Once such rider is Bernd Paul, the race across Germany winner and record holder, who is already pushing at the front of the race and has ridden constantly through night 1 and clocked up 612km in the first 24hrs.
Another is Ultan Coyle, the 24hr time trial champion who is riding a modified time trial bike with custom fabricated aero luggage. An impressive rider on an impressive machine, Ultan initially had some navigational device issues but has made his way to the front of the bike race with an impressive 563km in 22hrs before stopping to sleep. Josh meanwhile has just a few more in the bag with 590km and appears to have stopped for rest after 24hrs. Another impressive high miler on day one is James Hayden with an estimated 589km. Like Bernd Paul however he is still riding at 1am on day 2.
Completing the 500km+ club on day 1 are the following riders (all distances are estimates)
Samuel Becuwe 525km
Jakub Vlcek 522km
Ishmael Burdeau 521km
Stefan Maertens 512km
Alex Metcalfe 511km
Lee Pearce 504km
Alexandre Bourgeonnier 501km
Riders made their way across central France all day and an orange cloud is stretched out over hundreds of kilometres.
What does “Unsupported” or “Self-Supported” actually mean? – Easy right; doing it on your own without any help? Well the more one explores the concept, the less black and white it appears. Just like everything in life; its a little bit more complicated than that…
This year when entries opened we took the opportunity to find out the current state of understanding amongst TCR applicants.
The entry process had one major mandate: to promote thought and discussion on the nuances of unsupported travel. To discover what is already the common thinking and on what issues additional guidance might be needed.
The questions were posed to riders under two main premises. In Part I we looked at the first of these What is “Private Resupply”?. Now we look at the second: What is “Dedicated Outside Assistance”?
The rules state “no outside support” is permitted but what constitutes outside support? or ‘dedicated outside assistance’ as we called it in our quiz. This, as we mentioned before, overlaps with Private Resupply to some degree but deals more with intangible services and information than it does with equipment and nourishment. Previous editions of the Transcontinental have shown that the understanding of this by riders has been something of a grey area and some equipment sharing, phone-a-friend navigation and hotel room booking has been known to occur, particularly in the midpack. Whilst some riders may have had a degree of dependency on each other, some others flew totally solo. With the introduction of the pairs category we can be firmer with what we regard as assistance, yet riders can still look out for the safety of one-another without having to drop out of the race altogether. 2015 Rules with regard to pairs and assistance between riders state that if one rider helps another rider then they can become joined as a pair and will get the same time when they finish.
On the whole riders should approach the race as if they were taking a completely solo trip across Europe, as if there were no race, as if there were no other riders and as if there were no contact with the people at home. In short they should do things for themselves.
So then, what did our applicants deem to be dedicated outside assistance, and does TCR HQ agree?
1. Another Rider Lending Me Their Pump.
Applicants answered: Yes: 48% // No: 52%
Perhaps the most even split of all the questions answered, the field is undecided on this one. However many bikepacking races are more sure when it comes to the sharing of equipment and it is generally forbidden. You may not of think it as assistance dedicated to one particular rider from outside of the race. Nevertheless sharing equipment is a no-no in self-supported races and it is in the Transcontinental too. Each rider must come equipped for their own race and not be reliant on others. They must prepare as if they were completing the task entirely on their own and no-one else were taking part in the ride, only then are they truly self supported. This applies to the sharing of information as it does the sharing of tools, clothing and food and this includes navigation.
TCR Verdict: Yes this is outside assistance.
2. Getting Directions from a Stranger.
Applicants answered: Yes: 21% // No: 79%
Of course riders should never get lost and will have their own carefully planned route to follow so they shouldn’t need to find directions right? Well, if you were riding across Europe entirely on your own, with no other riders going at the same time and no-one at home knowing that you were going either, then there would still be local people around that you could ask for directions. Local people giving you directions then is seen as a local resource that is legitimate to get information from. Its not a very quick, efficient or reliable means of navigation though and with language barriers thrown into the mix its not going to be a substitute for a well planned route but it is acceptable to stop and ask for directions within the rules of self-sufficiency.
TCR Verdict: No this is not outside assistance.
3. Getting My Bike Fixed at a Bike Shop.
Applicants answered: Yes: 15% // No: 85%
As the majority of our applicants agree, getting your bike fixed at a local bike shop is totally legit and not dedicated outside assistance since its a commercial service available to all. Finding the bike shop however is something you must do for yourself and not call home for help. You can use the internet, ask locally, pick up on other’s publicly available feeds or those from the race which might give you a clues but you should be doing the information gathering yourself from publicly available resources and not have someone doing the work for you.
TCR Verdict: Not at all outside assistance.
4. Calling Ahead (during the race) to Book a Hotel.
Applicants answered: Yes: 18% // No: 82%
When the race clock starts, calling ahead to book accommodation is legitimate. Booking out accommodation in advance of the race however may deny other racers a bed for the night which is subsequently not used by those who book it. This is a matter of racer etiquette rather than outright rule and is in the interests of equal opportunity for all riders. The correct etiquette is that riders should not make multiple bookings* and be confident of making good on all bookings. With the exception of singular bookings within 24hrs of the start bookings should be made whilst the race clock is running.
*Multiple bookings means more than one per solo rider per night or more than two per pair per night.
5. My Friend at Home / Partner booking me into a Hotel.
Applicants answered: Yes: 93% // No: 7%
TCR position is clear on this one; you do things for yourself. Our applicants clearly agree. Next!
TCR Verdict: Yes, this is outside assistance.
6. Calling my Friends / Family for Directions When I am lost.
Applicants answered: Yes: 89% // No: 11%
Also clearly outside assistance. 9 out of 10 applicants agree: If you are on the telephone calling for help, you’re doing it wrong. To all family and friends who get the call saying “I’m lost” the correct reply is “get unlost” – they’ll thank you for it one day.
TCR Verdict: This is outside assistance.
7. Calling Friends and Family to let them know you are OK.
Applicants answered: Yes: 14% // No: 86%
Of course people at home will be concerned about you. The trackers have a canny ability to make people worry like mad, even when there’s nothing wrong. You could go away for 2 weeks and not give them any idea of where you are going and they might not bat an eyelid but as soon as there is a little dot to watch and it stops moving, even the calmest follower gets excited. You should definitely keep in touch with all who care about you at home. This can be by phone but also equally good is via social media. It is often cheaper and quicker to log on to local wifi and give an update and it makes sure that the flow of information is one way.
8. Calling Friends and Family to get Updates on Other Riders.
Applicants answered: Yes: 84% // No: 16%
Yes, this is outside assistance. People at home feeding you information about the status of the race is like having your own race manager, giving you information that you didn’t find for yourself and hence other riders may not be receiving.
TCR Verdict: Yes this is outside assistance.
9. Checking the Tracker and Social Media on a Smart Phone
Applicants answered: Yes: 18% // No: 82%
So long as you are doing the research yourself from sources in the public domain, its all legit.
TCR Verdict: Not a case of outside assistance.
10. Using an Approved Ferry Route.
Applicants answered: Yes: 9% // No: 91%
Easy one this, not pedalling but not outside assistance either and totally fine. Bear in mind in some editions ferries may be of no use to you whatsoever. Ferries are there where permitted to allow for more route options. They will rarely make for a shorter ride.
TCR Verdict: Not outside assistance.
11. Book Accommodation online for the Evening.
Applicants answered: Yes: 20% // No: 80%
Technically no different to no.4 this one. So long as the establishment is commercially available, you make the booking yourself and its done on race clock (or for use within 24hrs) then there’s no trouble. The technology used to book makes no difference.
TCR Verdict: Not outside assistance.
In Part III we’ll look at the answers applicants gave to the final part of the quiz on some specific parts of the TCR 2015 controls. For now we’ll leave you with a word on penalties and safety for the 2015 race.
Minor infractions carry minor penalties, and are seen to be mistakes, not carrying shame. Remember that one’s safety and wellbeing should come first and are a prerequisite to a successful race. When a rider find themselves in a position where their safety and well being are compromised, such that they feel they must resort to rule breaking or dubious means of obtaining services or supplies, it is important they realise that they have already failed in their task. The correct course of action then is to look after their safety first. Their subsequent actions may be most commendable, given the situation, but out of respect for those who made further efforts not to find themselves in such a situation in the first instance, they are asked to assume there will not be a race finish awarded to them. Rather TCR asks that racers make good judgements and report truthfully and accurately on the outcomes such that mistakes can be learned from, actions can be understood and their ride can be judged on its merits regardless of its place on GC.
Bon Route, Ride Safe.
What does “Unsupported” actually mean? – Easy, doing it on your own without any help right? Well the more one explores the concept, the less black and white it appears.
Just like everything in life, its a little bit more complicated than that…
Take for example meeting a stranger on your travels. They offer you a drink or they talk about the local area, the roads, the traffic or the weather. Such a meeting could have negative, zero, or positive effects on one’s race. Refusal to engage or accept their generosity could offend. Time spent chatting is time not putting the miles on the board. Its a valuable travelling experience but to the racer it could be seen as time wasted. On the other hand the timing of a glass of water, a meal or nugget of information could also be pivotal. First hand knowledge of the nature of the local geology, road closures, weather patterns or services could also prove to be acutely invaluable if the circumstances dictate.
To a large extent it is down to the individual rider’s aptitude to make the best decisions and balance the cost vs benefit of time off the bike for learning about the forward conditions or sustaining themselves with beneficial rest and nutrition. This resourcefulness is the mark of the experienced and able adventure cyclist and where individual distinctions are made denote an individual’s style.
Where though does the line lie between acceptance of and reliance on the kindness of others? When does self sufficiency give way to the solicitation of assistance and when do we agree that two styles diverge enough that one offers a competitive advantage and whether another has a positive or negative effect on the racing context as a whole?
Where, if anywhere, should the rule book give hard answers? For it is the character of the race and the sport as to whether common practice, culture and etiquette might assert enough influence on the actions of riders and followers, or whether race regulation must intervene.
This year when entries opened we took the opportunity to find out the current state of understanding amongst TCR applicants. This was something of an entry quiz, those showing an acute understanding of the issues highlighted themselves as positive ambassadors for autonomous racing and were spared from the ballot. There were certainly good and bad answers. There weren’t however any wrong answers.
The entry process had one major mandate, to promote thought and discussion on the nuances of unsupported travel. To discover what is already the common thinking and on what issues additional guidance might be needed.
The questions were posed to riders under two main premises, though these clearly overlap: What is “Private Resupply?” and What is “Dedicated Outside Assistance?” In Part I we look at the first of these.
The rules state that “equipment and supplies must be carried or found at commercial services”. These are methods of re-supply that are open to all competitors. If a racer has access to services and supplies that any other rider arriving at the same time in the same circumstances would most likely not have, then this is Private Resupply. It is the supply of equipment that is specifically for one rider at the exclusion of others and it is prohibited. Therefore we asked what constitutes Private Resupply?
1. A support vehicle with food and drink.
Applicants answered: Yes: 93% // No: 7%
This is the obvious differentiator between supported and unsupported to get us started. We might consider this our “Control Question” and the 7% as our error in those who might have given blanket answers to all questions or misinterpreted the affirmative/negative premise of the question. There’s a clue in the question; “support vehicle” is not unsupported in anyone’s book. There’s no question about this one, its against the rules.
TCR Verdict: Yes, this is most definitely private resupply.
2. Stopping off at my house to get spare parts.
Applicants answered: Yes: 87% // No: 13%
This is another one that should be rather obvious, there is nothing more Private Resupply than stopping at your own house and a large majority of riders agree. Some may consider that without an on-road support vehicle then the ride is un-supported and anything else is fair game and it would surely be tempting for those who live along the route to pop in for a cup of tea. With the best will in the world though no-one is going to open their house to serve all the riders equally. TCR makes an explicit judgement here, any rider going home during the race may as well stay there. Its totally against the rules, as is staying there or sleeping in the garden. TCR will have to live with the fact that some riders will know many of the roads and routes along the way, while others won’t. This is the benefit of experience and gaining experience is not against the rules.
TCR Verdict: Yes, this is private resupply.
3. Stopping off at my friend’s house to get spare parts
Applicants answered: Yes: 90% // No: 10%
Curiously more riders answered yes to this being private resupply than their own home. Perhaps they see their friends as more supportive, or just less tempting. The same rules apply though, you already know them and if its a private address its a relationship which is not available to all the other riders, so its explicitly against the rules to take any resupply, services or accommodation there. Even friends meeting you at public locations is private re-supply if they bring with them any supplies or equipment or perform any service for you of any kind. It doesn’t have to be a private location to receive Private Resupply.
TCR Verdict: Yes, this is private resupply.
4. Stopping off at a Bike Shop to get Spare Parts.
Applicants answered. Yes: 11% // No: 89%
Totally OK this one and not Private Resupply, its what bike shops are for and that’s well understood by our riders too. If its a legitimate commercial business and you are not receiving any special treatment then its all good.
TCR Verdict: No, this is perfectly OK and not private resupply.
5. Stopping off at my Friend’s Bike Shop after hours to get Spare Parts.
Applicants answered: Yes: 91% // No: 9%
Another one well understood by our applicant racers. The issue is not that it’s your friend’s shop. If they are open to everyone then they are open to you too. What’s not OK is if they are open to you when they are not open to everyone else. Sometimes bike shops along the route of well known unsupported bike races (such as the Tour Divide for example) will go to extra lengths to service racers by giving them food and water and helping with accommodation or by extending opening hours. This is OK to an extent but they must provide the same service to all racers, not just the leaders or friends of the shop. In the case of Transcontinental, we would always suggest that any bike shops who are aware of the passing of the race or knowingly serving TCR riders to make contact with the race, especially if they intend to extend their services outside of their normal operation. We would hope that bike shops would like to join us in promoting a fair race by being in good communication with TCR admin and so that TCR can help riders in need discover them.
TCR Verdict: Yes, this is private resupply.
6. Getting a bottle of water from a stranger.
Applicants answered: Yes: 30% // No: 70%
This is a more ambiguous proposition and one which divides our applicants more in their answers with 30% believing it to be a case of Private Resupply. On the whole it would be OK to accept such an offer. Other races, often off-road wilderness based events, might call this “Trail Magic” as it is essentially an unsolicited offer which is based mainly in fortune and usually deemed OK to receive. If the rider and offering party have no prior knowledge of each other or their meeting then its legit. If a rider is in dire need of water it would, as a last resort and having exhausted all reasonable commercial and natural sources, seek water from private individuals. However riders shouldn’t make a habit of begging for aid in this way and should not access private property uninvited. Transcontinental is not a wilderness race; water is plentiful along the route and it is the rider’s responsibility to maintain a good supply from legitimate sources.
TCR Verdict: No, this is not private resupply.
7. Stopping for a Meal with a Local Family.
Applicants answered: Yes: 42% // No: 58%
Again our applicants are split on this one with a slim majority for the case that it is not Private Resupply. Here once more the important thing is that riders do not invite themselves or solicit such a gift, or that they do not have any prior knowledge of the meeting or the people. If it is a happenchance meeting and a kind offer we wouldn’t like to see racers pass up such an opportunity, but likely it won’t be the most expedient way to eat, so not a good habit for the front runners. It may also draw claims of foul play if it does look too good to be true so be careful with this one and if a race result is what you want, maybe keep this one for touring.
TCR Verdict: No, this is not private resupply.
8. Staying with local people I just met.
Applicants answered: Yes: 38% // No: 62%
TCR would advise that racers don’t view local people as a standard accommodation resource. However this would not be expressly against the rules and as such could be accepted if offered provided it is completely unsolicited and not pre-arranged. You may be asked to prove it was legit if a race result hangs in the balance or there is a complaint made. Often such arrangements don’t gift themselves to the racer’s schedule and you may end up staying longer than you anticipated or finishing the days riding earlier. If truth be told its best avoided, unless you are just out for adventure and to have fun.
TCR Verdict: No, this is not private resupply.
9. Sending myself a package to a hotel
Applicants answered: Yes: 79% // No: 21%
In many unsupported races sending yourself an equipment drop is seen to be OK, but the condition is usually that you should only send it to an official post office. Sending a package to a hotel means you must have already pre-arranged accommodation, or at least an arrangement to pick it up, even if you weren’t going to stay there. Forward booking of such services is generally frowned upon as, if a racer were to have an inexhaustible budget, then they could send many packages to many hotels and have the pick and choose of what they pick up. This would change the landscape of the challenge significantly and be the preserve of the very well financed. As Transcontinental puts the accessibility of the race as one of its priorities it is important to us that there is not a means by which the TCR can become a war of resources. Also the Transcontinental is not the longest or remotest race out there, you should be able to find what you need most places. If you have a bespoke thingy-ma-bob that needs special parts, maybe think about if you really need it or can you make do with what everyone else has access to. If you can’t live without it, is TCR really for you? Most bike related things are readily available until you leave Italy and sending packages to any places further East can be a bit hit and miss in terms of delivery and often incur large duties. TCR makes the judgement that shipping of supplies is not within the rules. Temporary storage or jettison of major equipment and supplies is also prohibited. Any exceptions to this are at the express permission of the race director.
TCR Verdict: Yes, this is private resupply.
Next time in part II we’ll look at the answers to the second question: What is Dedicated Outside Assistance?
It is my pleasure to announce that the 2015 edition will take place from Friday 24th July to 9th August and will travel between Belgium and Istanbul.
The race will start for the 3rd time at midnight (00:00) on 25th July in Flanders. The exact location will be detailed in the spring (but yes there will be cobbles) after a registration on the Friday Evening and it will finish again in Istanbul. This will make for a long first day, an atmospheric start and a few more precious hours to make the all important party.
A New Racing Classification
There will be a new classification of riders for the 2015 race as well as increased guidance on the rules relating to self sufficiency and a completion in the Solo class.
Over the last year’s race the emphasis has been on solo and self sufficient travel but a number of riders have stated their intention to ride with a partner or friend. Safety and an accessible event is very important to Transcontinental so there has been some discretion shown for riders to be able ride together, particularly for those who would feel vulnerable on their own or who are not targeting a top place finish. That said there have also been known instances of equipment sharing and other co-operation between riders in times of need, for example in bad weather, and prolonged periods of assistance in navigation. It is therefore difficult to compare the rides of those who have completed the race alone and those who have had the solace and possible practical advantages of company.
Instead of simply tightening the rules of self sufficiency to prohibit riders from riding together or disqualify riders who assist each other, the Solo finish will become a mark of distinction with more stringent regulation and a second class of co-operating riders (pairs) will be established.
It will be possible to enter the race solo or as a pair from the start. However riders may also be re-classified during or after the race. A solo finish will only be awarded if the rider has been found to meet all of the requirements of self sufficiency.
Entry Dates and Process
Entry into the 2015 race will commence for 150 solo riders and 50 pairs at 8pm (GMT) on Friday 7th November. This time there will be no waiting list and no replacement of riders who withdraw before the race. If there are a significant number of withdrawals, there may be a second round of entries in the spring, but don’t count on it. As we need to commit funds to the planning earlier the rules regarding refunds will also need to be tighter so think carefully before you enter and commit yourself.
Entry as a solo racer will be by something approximating application. Formal qualification as such is not required, but riders will be asked to mention any relevant experience and demonstrate a complete understanding of the rules of self sufficiency and the rider agreement. The rules and rider agreement will be displayed during the entry process and will be available in the rider handbook. Ensure you take the time to read them carefully.
Entry price will be the same as in 2014 at £165 per person.
There will be 4 intermediate controls in the 2015 Transcontinental. There will be mountains and there will be gravel and it will be longer and more difficult than before. In order to thank our friends at Brooks England for all their generous and continued support and love for the Transcontinental over the past few years we handed over the job of spilling the beans to Jack Thurston on the Brooks Blog so check them out there and stay tuned for more details her on the site and on our facebook page to learn more.
By all means connect with us and other TCR fans by whichever social media method suits you best but formal questions are always best directed to us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to ensure the quickest response.
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Control 3 opened on the morning of day 6 as Kristof Allegaert woke in Bosnia close to the Montenegrin border, the Brooks Volvo Control car had been driving overnight in another attempt to catch up with him after being stationed at Stelvio pass for two days. After an extended upload / download stop in Vicenza the race of man and machine was on again. The Control Car team drove through the night in shifts with only two short cooking stops by the side of the road to keep refueled and entered Montenegro at first light before taking the ferry 600m across the narrow entrance to Kotor and Risan bay. The control, comprised of two points, necessitates riders climb to around 1400m via 25 switchback turns up the steep mountain side with increasingly more spectacular views overlooking the bay and out over the Adriatic Sea. After traversing the gallery road and the first control point at the Restoran Nevjesta Jadrana, they are then required to turn inland towards Lovcen and enter the National Park before climbing again. Over their right shoulder a higher aspect of the bays and islands would pan out before they reach the road to Moutn Lovcen itself. Here they can descent towards Cetinje, passing the second control point of the Hotel Ivanov Konak, the base of the control team, along the way down this quaint and quiet valley.
Riders tackling the climb at sunrise and sunset would be particularly rewarded with the sights that the world heritage site offers. For Kristof Allegaert the steep terrain in the region to the north slowed the Belgian’s progress slightly as he made his entrance into the entirely mountainous country from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The race to Lovcen was less the nail biter and more a comfortable victory for the Control Car in the end and it was midday before Allegaert was approaching Kotor. As he climbed, so too did the temperatures in excess of 36oC in the shade. By the time Kristof reached the control point, the control team also had some bad news for him; the same ferry taken by the control car, which he also had taken, was explicitly forbidden in the race rules for riders. The veteran and returning winner, who so far had a faultless record, had made a critical error.
The correction required for this error was to return to the point of embarkation and ‘repair’ the line of unbroken cycling by riding around Kotor and Risan bay. The indented nature of the bay put the cost of this excursion at around 80km and 5 hours riding time for Allegaert, not to mention the extra strain on his legs in the extra 1000m in elevation. Allegaert was 20 km into the climb when he learned of his mistake and the circumference of the bay is some 38 km. Nevertheless Kristof, who feared disqualification when he initially realised his mistake, was quick to volunteer the correction and even quicker to get back in the saddle.
It was approaching 9pm and dark as Kristof finally completed control 3 by reaching the Hotel Ivanov Konak. He skipped on the option to keep climbing Mount Lovcen and visit the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović-Njegoš at its summit, as would most riders. The day had taken its toll on Allegaert. As the Control Team retired after stamping his Brevet Card, the normally unflappable and rider lingered at the hotel procrastinating. The additional riding had obviously thrown a spanner in the works and shifted him off a carefully planned schedule.
As day 7 dawned we awaited the arrival of the two young Englishmen Josh Ibbett and Richard Dunnett to see what damage had been done to the lead and whether either of the two could capitalise on the situation to reduce the deficit. Since control 2 Josh Ibbett had been suffering still with a painful achilles tendon and told us he had been riding down the valley on “one and a half legs” for the next few days until he had managed to get it taped correctly and made adjustments to his bike, improving the situation drastically. Richard Dunnett had appeared to get some of his motivation back after struggling to get his head into race gear through the Alps. Dunnett had closed the gap as the pair tracked along the dalmatian coast. Ibbett had taken the longer coastal route around the Zadar peninsula, admitting that he was enjoying the ride too much. The upside was he found navigation easier by the coast and that he could switch off navigation equipment, so saving batteries, and follow road signage. Just north of Dubrovnik however disaster struck and a snapped cable inside Ibbetts frame disabled his rear mech leaving him with just 2 gearing options to chose from. Finding that there were no bike servicing options in Dubrovnik, Ibbett continued. He eventually found a new cable in Herceg Novi another 50 km down the coast and into Montenegro and after some modification to fit he was on his way to control 3. With a complete set of gears he 26 yr old rider from Brighton, UK entered the National Park at 3:25 with a strong climb up the 25 turns and on to Hotel Ivanov Konak where he enjoyed a decent meal while his rinsed kit dried in the sun.
Not far behind now was Richard Dunnett who had made a start on the climb whilst Josh was finishing his late lunch. Dunnett had closed the gap to within 30km but the climb up to Lovcen still separated the two and last year’s second place finisher rolled up to CP3 90 minutes after Josh had left and took a shorter break. From here both riders were on a similar route into Albania but then would diverge with Ibbett heading Northwest through Macedonia into Bulgaria whilst Dunnett would also cross into Macedonia, but much further south, on his way into Northern Greece. Ibbett’s route was arguably the more mountainous but Dunnett would only access flatter ground once he reached the Greek coastline and at a cost of additional miles. With Kristof still more than 18 hours ahead even after his Kotor bay bonus loop, it was looking very much like the race for second place would be the more compelling.
Some 4 hours later in the evening the Control Car found Steffan Streich on the climb and validated his passage through Control 3. He had another hour or so to climb and was running around 6hrs behind Dunnett. Other dots had halted in Kotor so the Control Car descended to take a look and found Matthias Muller in a cafe ordering a large dinner to see him over the mountain and into the early hours. He tipped us off that he would camp at Control 3 and check in for breakfast in the morning and also that rider #11 Mark Collinson had broken a number of spokes in his wheel which would put him in Kotor overnight. This allowed the control staff to go back up the mountain to get some much needed sleep.
In the morning Matthias and number 67 Adrian O’Sullivan were indeed camped opposite, with Muller the first out of bed and to the control. O’Sullivan was still in his chosen method of accommodation for the trip, a hammock tied between two trees. Muller was initially recorded as in 5th place at CP3 but this sparked controversy on Adrian’s arrival and we were told the story of their ride to the control.
The two had met while climbing out of Kotor the previous night and tackled most of the climb together, talking for a couple of hours and swapping stories while they made their way up the relatively gentle grade of the 25 turns. As they neared the top however, the sociable tempo became more aggressive and a competitive streak emerged. O’Sullivan had wound up the pace and distanced Muller, arriving at the control a minute ahead.
Adrian remarked that it was this that drew him to the TCR, the fact that it is defined as a race and not a challenge. This good natured competition would last between the two until the end and it reveals an interesting trait among some transcontinental-ers. For the most part they are relaxed and sociable with healthy respect for other riders but the care-free travelling cyclist exterior belies a latent competitive element they can dig into to motivate themselves in times of need, such that these little victories can summon great efforts. Ironically O’Sullivan lingered a good while after the two had eaten breakfast and Muller had left the CP, confirming his onward route. The two would both take different paths on to the finish, but always with that eye on 5th position.
As day 8 progressed only a repaired Mark Collinson would climb out of Kotor and passed the control at Nevjesta Jadrana but missed the right turn into the National Park and so had to circumnavigate it. It wouldn’t be until Gunter Desmedt arrived at 1am on the morning of the 17th, that the next flurry of visitors made it to Control 3 overnight. He was closely followed by Stephen Bailey at 1:41am and Rob Goldie climbed with Andrew Allday to share the honours of 10th place at CP3. The video shows the contrast of conditions on the Stelvio Pass as Mark Collinson reached CP2 and Mount Lovcen as Josh Ibbett arrived at CP3.
Control No.2 the familiar Stelvio Pass closed at 18:11 on Thursday evening after 3 days of operation. Of course the first rider to open it was no surprise to us by now, the domination of Kristof Allegaert over the second edition race was becoming obvious as riders approached the pass. What looked in greater doubt was whether or not he might actually reach the control before the control team. The tracker attached to the Control Car (or the “Brooks / Volvo V60 Control Car” to give its proper title) was still registering its location at the Supernova Designs office in Freiburg when Allegaert was making his start on Fluela Pass. The vehicle was some 6hrs from the pass, whilst the rider appeared to be a similar time away from the summit.
The team must thank Supernova for their services as a pit stop for the crew at the most unsociable hours as the team transferred from the Paris control over night. The Media Car duo of Sam and Matthias arrived at 2am to be rested and fed and the Control Car did not make it until morning for showers after sleeping in a motorway rest area. We must also thank them for taking delivery of Rider #12 Daniel Jessee bike and equipment which was recovered by the Control Car from a hospital near Combs La Ville. We regret to report that Daniel had a collision with a vehicle during heavy rain a few hours after he left Control 1 which left him with fractured ribs. We wish Daniel the best recovery possible.
A stealthy Media Car had been despatched two hours earlier and caught up with the first three riders en route to Control 2 in plenty of time, so in fact there was never any danger Kristof would arrive before the control was open, but it was fun to see if he would beat the red car.
As it happened when he reached the town of Prato Kristof’s tracker was turned off for around an hour and by the time the car arrived, he had only just appeared back on the map and was getting started on the climb. A missing seat pack solved the mystery his time in Prato. Kristof’s belongings were wet from the rains that had been falling all day and were drying at his accommodation for the evening whilst he made a return trip to Albergo Folgore.
Kristof reached the top at 20:45 and returned immediately to Prato allo Stelvio. Josh Ibbett and Richard Dunnett meanwhile had been riding together and stopped near Davos as storms closed in ahead of them. The rains had been persistant all day but Josh described a ‘wall of water’ ahead of them and the two retired early for fear of being caught in the storm.
When morning came Josh was much quicker off the mark and up early to climb over Fluelapass and Oftenpass and start up to Stelvio. He put the climb away in a very quick time and reached the summit at 10:28 but by now was 12 hours behind Allegaert. As Ibbett descended he passed Dunnett on the lower slopes. The time taken to ride the pass and descend can mean that riders with significant gaps between them may still see each other on the pass. Dunnett crested the climb 3.5hrs after Ibbett but confessed to not having his head in the race and having struggled to keep going. The four hours that seperated him from Josh by the time he descended from Control 2 could be attributed to procrastination and apathy. Josh was simply quicker out of bed and onto the pedals.
As Richard descended so he encountered Adrian O’Sullivan in 4th place half way up the pass and so the control was truly open for business with a steady stream of visitors. Adrian was possibly our most fortunate rider to get the best of the weather and avoid the storms on his approach. He took a Northerly route through Austria finding plenty of wet roads in front of him but not the offending precipitation. Of course we’re a big believer in ‘you make your own luck’ and taking a punt on a different route, spending a late night in the saddle stopping only for broken sleep is what put Adrian in such a position to be ‘lucky’.
Next in, number 14 Ishmael Burdeau was less fortunate and was the first of many riders to appear at Control 2 at 19:45 looking very wet indeed, he was also the first rider to decide that the Albergo Folgore was too comfortable to leave and booked in for dinner and a bed. Likewise Mark Collinson (#11) who arrived 40 minutes later also decided on an early am departure but the next two arrivals had other plans.
Steffan Streich (#89) and Matthias Muller (#50) arrived in quick succession just after 9pm. Streich had checked the weather forecast and decided morning or evening, he was going to get wet whatever, so he stayed a while to dry out by the fire before heading off back down the mountain. Muller’s hand was rather more forced however; he was the second rider to drop belongings at the top of the pass and set off up the pass with only a light jacket. Matthias raided the stores of the ever accommodating Albergo and dressed himself almost completely in a cling-film and newspaper laminate, complete with aerodynamic helmet wrap.
Sergei Konov woke the control up at 6:24 am on Wednesday, with a similar early morning start on the pass that he had in the 2013 race. The TCR veteran returned to the pass a full day ahead of his last year’s schedule however well inside the top ten. Gunther Desmedt finished off the top 10 and was resident over night in Prato allo Stelvio along with Konov but found his bike on the wrong side of a locked door in his hotel when he was due to depart. Desmedt hit control 2 just before 10 am as the Control Car was taking to the road for another 18 hr drive to control 3. The timing versus our unstoppable race leader was, of course, as always; tight.
Coming down the mountain we saw no less than ten riders starting a busy day on the Stelvio as the main pack started to come through. Among the first few was our ladies leader Pippa Handley with a great ride come through 13th to control 2. Our photographer Matthias Wjst stayed on the pass to capture those who came through and Control Operator Sam was joined by Fran Hollander, veteran of June’s Trans Am race to sign riders in and document their accommodation particulars.
Riders came through until 2am on the Wednesday night with Albergo owners staying up to welcome them with a warm fire and food and many of them taking refuge over night. The conditions worsened on the pass towards the afternoon and evening and temperatures dropped below zero Celsius. The TCR car made a trip down the pass to make sure that stationary dots were not still on the road and had stopped for reasons other than good judgement. The Alps were making this year’s race a cruel one, not just on the pass itself but the riders of course must get to the bottom of the climb in the first place and had by now spent more than 24hrs at the mercy of the weather.
Thursday and snow was forecast, the deteriorating weather was stretching and breaking the field all day with riders slowed and stopped by the onslaught. Among the heroes of the day however was George Michakis who was the only rider this year not to understand the repeated message that it must be an East side ascent of the pass to qualify for a stamp in one’s Brevet card. The Greek number 93 rider could scarcely believe it. In weather that none of the control crew would have liked to have experienced for more than 5 minutes, they had the uncomfortable task of delivering the news that he had climbed the wrong side of the mountain. After some soul searching he returned to them and said “I’m going back” and in only four hours he was back in front of them again.
Its one thing to go and correct a mistake that will win you a race when you can afford the time to do so in good weather. To do this in the middle of the last day of the control’s operation for personal endeavour however, just to get a stamp in one’s Brevet card and climbing one of the highest passes in the Alps against such inhospitable conditions. Well, what can we say about that? Courageous riding indeed. Bravo George.
CONTROL 2 Sign in, all time CET…
|28||91||Henri van Winkoop||19:45||13/8/2014|
|33||7||Nick ‘cornfield’ Dodd||21:23||13/8/2014|
|35||4||Mikko ‘off piste’ Mäkipaa||22:40||13/8/2014|
|45||3||Tom ‘Spooner’ Stone||8:00||14/8/2014|
|53||80||Willem van Zyl||12:29||14/8/2014|
|55||81||Vincenzo ‘yes’ Szannicando||14:51||14/8/2014|
|57||93||George ‘Hero’ Michakis||15:08||14/8/2014|
© All content Transcontinental Race Ltd / Matthias Wjst