Transcontinental (TCR) is a bicycle race across Continental Europe unlike any other.
One stage – The clock never stops. Racers chose where, when and if at all to rest.
No Support – Racers can only use what they take with them, or what they can find en-route at commercially available services.
No Route – Only mandatory controls ensure that racers visit some of the most famous pieces of road in Europe and connect with the suffering of their forebears. The rest is up to them.
Live Tracking – Unlike the races of the 1900s, which featured much skull-duggery and deviousness which eventually saw the stages made shorter and more controlled and bike racing become more professional, through the miracle of modern satellite technology and the interweb we can check up on our riders progress wherever they may be. So too can you wherever you may be.
The rules are few and simple, but there are additional considerations. Further guidance is given in the Race Manual and on our blog.
1. Riders must ride from the start point to the finish point and visit all mandatory controls en-route.
2. 3rd party support is prohibited. All food, drink and equipment must be carried by the rider or acquired en-route.
3. Drafting is prohibited.
4. All forward land travel must be human powered.
5. Ferries are permitted for expedient coast to coast travel, by approval of the Race Director.
6. Riders are responsible for maintaining geographical verification and evidence thereof.
7. 2+ days of inactivity without contact will be deemed a scratch.
8. No Helmet, No Insurance, No Ride.
9. It is the rider’s responsibility to know and observe local laws.
10. Riders must act in the spirit of self sufficiency and equal opportunity for all racers.
Entry for #TCRNo4 (2016) is now closed.
Entry will open for No.5 in November 2016.
The process for entries is based on three stages:
- Registration >> Potential riders will register their interest by signing up with an email address. They will then receive the Race Manual Preliminary Issue for the year. This will contain enough information so that they can understand the race, what is required and whether they are ready to enter. They will be given sufficient time to read and understand the race rules and logistics (and translate if need be) and they will be given a link to stage 2. Sign up is not on a first come first served basis and we do not take entry fees or deposits at the start or registration because we want international riders to have a fair chance and time enough to understand and we don't want riders to push the button on an entry in a rush to get a place, only then to drop out later.
- Application >> Registered riders are invited to complete an application and are given time to complete this. The information in the application does many things for TCR. It confirms riders' understanding of the information in the race manual. It allows us to see the experience, aspirations and potential of individuals in the race. It also informs our future communications to riders so that we can ensure all the correct information is received and understood. There are many unique and nuanced aspects to the race and taking care to provide the right level of understanding is key to creating a culture of respect and integrity between participants. Riders also sign up to the Rider Agreement which contains important disclaimers to their involvement in the race and their responsibilities as a participant. It also contains important media agreements which are key managing commercial pressures and rewarding supporters and contributors.
- Confirmation >> Once applications have been received and places have been allocated then successful applicants are sent a link to complete their entry. It is only at this third stage that we collect personal information and entry fees. Due to the extended nature of the process applicants have had the chance to consider their application carefully and should now be in a good position to commit to their entry.
The How and the why of ENTRy allocation
In recent years there have been more than twice the number of registrants than places available in the race. It is important to the race not to have too large a field as this changes the nature of the race and the experience of the racers. It cannot be said to be a solo adventure if the riders are not able to feel alone on the road for part of the time at least. There are also equipment and organisational pressures which means that we must set a limit for the numbers. Each year however we have been slowly growing the numbers.
Since there is a limit and a popular demand for places in the race therefore, and due to the unique nature of the race, it has become necessary to introduce an application procedure. There are several things that this procedure tries to do, as well as several things it tries to avoid, like having rigid qualifying requirements, being elitist or inaccessible to newcomers.
Firstly it is intended to ensure 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). Understanding of this information is key to riders preparation, self sufficiency and, ultimately, safety. Except possibly for any especially heinous, bizarre, sarcastic or unsafe responses, it is not our intention to deny entry for incorrect answers. 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 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.
Veterans (finishers and starters) have so far 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. 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 good chance for new riders also to get an entry, so 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 don't get a place they might come along as a 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.
Further to that however sport is so much more to so many more people than answering that one question, even if it is the primary premise. 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 the very capable racers duking it out with opportunity for a huge adventure for those who come along to test themselves and learn things along the way. 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 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.
This is why a large proportion of the racers are selected by a ballot. While some are picked out for the reasons above to make sure they go in, we make sure NO ONE gets manually rejected (unless it really appears to be an abusive or non-serious application, but we haven't yet had any of those fortunately) as 'not good enough' or any such thing. There will unfortunately be some very experienced riders who for no good reason will 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.
Good luck and thank you to all those who enter.