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|