15 days ago, 186 solo riders and 30 pairs began riding the Transcontinental No.4. This formidable task has seen cyclists from all over the world gather and attempt to travel 4,000kms across some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, through high winds and wicked storms, dealing with tens of thousand metres of ascent, injuries, sunburn, mechanicals, and a daily mental challenge of pushing on through an all-consuming exhaustion. All for a stamp in a brevet card.
Before the race had even really got going we had our first drama with previous race winner Josh Ibbett scratching from injury. From Kristoff Allegaert (003) we've seen one of the greatest ultra-cyclist performances on earth, he almost made the ride the easy. Almost. James Hayden (075) made one of the most exciting come back ever known in an ultra-endurance race by sitting at CP1 for 30hrs recovering from a chest infection, and then riding furiously through the days and nights to end in 4th position overall. Alexandre Bourgeonnier (002), last year's second place saw his dreams crash and burn when his succumbed to his exhaustion. We've had one serious injury (Martian Cioana 101), a number of riders scratch with food poisoning / sickness, and various limb injuries. Many riders made such huge navigational errors that it nearly ended their races. But overwhelmingly, we've seen riders achieve more than they ever thought possible, experiencing the beauty of over 11 countries: mountains, coastlines, forests and cities, and enjoying spectacular views, plus a variety of animal spottings and some questionable sleep spots.
At the time of writing 71 have scratched, 85 have finished, 60 are still out on the road. It's surely been the best Transcontinental Race to date in terms of finishers, with 40% already in Canakkale. In previous races only around 30 riders have made it to the finishers party, so tonight's celebrations will be one to remember. Following on from our last finisher list, these are the racers who made it to the finish line since Wednesday:
7. Emily Chappell
62. Karl Speed
216. Luigi Burini
216. Luca Colonetti
59. Dario Valsesia
162. Rudy Rollenberg
19. Mike Sheldrake
21. Adrien Dugoujon
204. Charlotte Dequevauviller
204. Thomas Chavrier
163. Bela Kuzler
210. George Marshall
37. Cheng Liu
11. Jack Keevill
17. Anton Lindberg
67. Paul Buckley
159. Charles Batho
137. Dragan Mladenovic
151. Fabian Rabe
206. Muammer Yildiz
206. Burkay Gunay
211. Max Lindberg
211. Adam Krabbe
96. Robert Quirk
124. Ben May
44. Mikko Mäkipää
147. Pierre Nicolle
73. Mindaugas Sasnauskas
145. Mehmet Sertac Unal
215. Daniel Welch
215. Michael Cannon
230. Toon De Keyser
230. Jorne Bluekens
41. Eyvind Bergstrom
114. Darren Franks
221. Richard Egan
64. Joshua Rea
57. Michal Plech
146. Christopher Dennis
104. Andrew Brogan
122. Eric Jacquemin
141. Johanna Josten-van Duinkerken
A huge congratulations to all these riders who have made it to the finishers party, we hope you thoroughly enjoy yourselves - you deserve it!
Throughout this blog series we've been trying very hard to give all our riders a mention, meticulously noting every name and number that appears, but it seems that we still we haven't mentioned 29 riders! We can't leave it like that, so we've investigated each of these last 29 (all still out racing) to find out a bit more about each. Our stalking skills are so well-honed after writing these blogs we could have a career with MI-5. So here we go:
Oliver Quinton (22) - Olly's a 2015 TCR veteran, avid crisp eater and 'Chas and Dave' fan. He's currently about 165kms from the finish, passing through Eastern Greece. He's been experiencing all weather fronts known to earth, the wind pinning him down at times and once being blown completely off the road and over a safety barrier! He's regularly providing video blogs to tell us how he's been getting on:
Ralf Hemmann (38) considered scratching earlier today after being denied entry into Kosovo, as he only carries an old German ID card and not his German passport. Dot watchers are encouraging him to stay in the race, and ride around the territory which he looks like he's doing, currently heading for the Serbian border.
Michael Lapcevic (45) is around 120kms from the finishing line in Eastern Greece. He took what looks like a very well researched and efficient route through the control points, in fact so efficient that his total mileage to date is 3,182kms (compared to say, Andres Rodrigo (112) who's in a similar position and has done 3,491kms, or Andy Buchs (110) who's only 30kms ahead of Michael but has done 3,216kms so far.) That said we've been told this could just be a tracker issue!
Alain Puiseux (52) is the editor of French cycle magazine 200. He's only 80kms from the finishing line now so he could well make it to the finishers party, but after the 12pm 'last finisher' cut off we should think. We look forward to reading his TCR experience in his magazine once he's recovered!
Ory O'Neill (53) was one of the few riders to have taken the Serbian / Bulgarian route, and is currently taking the A1 down to Plovdiv. Last we heard directly from him was on the 11th August where he was "Sat in a Serbian bakery as it was the only place with lights on eating oven fresh bread listening to the bakers sing while they work."
Avni Berk Okyay (55) has this morning completed CP4, and still has over 600kms to the finish. He's Turkish, so we expect he'll still make his way down to the finish as it's also the way home!
This is Mark Booker (65)'s second TCR having come 70th in 2015's race. He's still got over 200kms to the finish but we suspect he could have placed a lot higher in the race if this hadn't happened to him just before CP2 (forcing him to have to go and buy a new tyre):
Vinicius Martins (74) is our Brazillian rider, currently in Eastern Greece, just under 200kms from the finish but currently resting. He's put up a number of great videos and pics on his instagram account here.
Florian Bongers (83) took the Northern route out of CP3 and followed the 108 through central Slovenia, Croatia and then Bosnia & Herzegovina to reach CP4 from the North. He seems to have successfully crossed Kosovo and is about to hit the border of Macedonia.
David Price (99) has been keeping us up to date via his Instagram account. He completed CP4 last night and is on his way across Kosovo as we write.
Andi Buchs (110) is only 90kms from the end now, and rather glad it's nearly over. Here's a few pics he's shared of his journey:
We mentioned Andrés Navarro Rodrigo's (112) route earlier as his mileage looked high, but we can't see anything unusual about his route which looks pretty much the same route that everyone has taken, including a straight route through the Alps and the coastal route through Croatia. Spanish Andrés currently lives in India according to Facebook, so should be used to racing in heat!
Macedonian racer Simeon Jurukov (113) has just finished CP4 and on his way to Kosovo, we wonder if he'll stop once he gets to Macedonia or continue to Canakkale? Here are some wintery pics he took of the Furkapass, in the middle of summer...
Mark Hunter (118) is one of our most elusive riders with no social media activity that we can find, some people do find this a distraction on the road so perhaps that's why we haven't heard anything from him. He's been a consistent rider, currently entering Macedonia.
However we have much more on Italian rider Beppe Scotti (120). This ex-rugby player & paratrooper and now endurance cyclist is also just about to cross the Macedonian border. We love this pic of him with new friends made during TCR:
Eric Jacquemin (122) is on his way down to Cakakkale as we write and is in contention for the Maglia Nera 'finshers' black jersey along with Johanna Josten-van Duinkerken (141) not too far behind. To win he must make the party by 12am but his Free Route EA says it'll be 0:22am - can he put in a final push to get himself the prize?
Canadian Patrick Day (128) is currently in eastern Macedonia with 380kms to go until the finish line. We head he had some route trouble crossing the Croatian border but otherwise looks like a straightforward route to Turkey.
Scott Andrews (158) is 180kms from the end in Eastern Greece. Scott, from Telluride, Colorado competed in 2014's TCR race and came 61st overall, and has raced the Great Tour Divide. Here are some shots of him at the TCR No.4 start line:
Craig Dolwin (164) has just crossed the Greek border from Macedonia. Still 360kms to go but from our thorough investigation skills we can see he's a very experienced rider who really knows his routes and equipment so shouldn't be well prepared for anything TCR still has to throw at him.
We had trouble finding information about Massimo Fusi (176) because Facebook translates his name into English as 'Maximum Spindles'. Which we quite like. He's in Eastern Greece at the moment with about 230kms left until Canakkale.
Pawel Sekulski (181) is nearly through Macedonia and on his way into Greece, with 350kms left to go. No photos yet of Pawel during the race but we managed to track down this one of him from Facebook:
London-based rider Steven Pawley (202) started the race in a pair with Simon Williams but is now riding solo and has just made his way into Kosovo. Steven is a seasoned endurance cyclist, In August 2013 he attempted to set the World Record for the Fastest Bicycle Journey from Nordkapp in the Arctic Circle to Cape Town in South Africa with Reza Pakravan. There's even a film about it, entitled “Kapp to Cape”. They pedalled the entire length of the planet in 102 days (107 miles a day), each carrying 30kg of equipment over 11,000 miles (18,000km), crossing 13 countries and three continents, completely unsupported. He's definitely got the mileage skills, but his speed has put him towards the back of the pack. He posted these photos yesterday from CP4:
Eric Cupo and Christopher Hung Han Yun (217) have just made it into Greece and have about 320kms to the finish. We found this photo on Instagram from Christopher of his bike 'Mr Moose' (we assume that's who he's referring to and not Eric, as that would be awkward).
Christian Dittmann and Harald Triebnig (219), our German & Austrian pair are just about to cross the Macedonia / Greek border with 330kms left to go.
And last but not least is Stewart McConnell and Martin Mcconnell (231). We have already shown Stewart's wrinkled hand picture after spending a few soggy days in the Alps, but we wanted to see how this brother's team were getting on, especially as those who remember Martin McConnell from TCR 2015 will remember that this is how he left the race last year:
This year they're doing a whole lot better, and are currently on the Greek coastline with 220kms left to do. They seem to be having a fantastic time, what an achievement it will feel for Martin to finally complete a TCR!
The TCR team and riders are all partying in Canakkale tonight, and if you caught the live streaming this evening you'll have seen the presentation where Kristof Allegaert (winner overall), Emily Chappell (first woman in) and some other riders got their token prizes. Mike also gave out a 'Maglia Nera' limited edition jersey to the last rider in before 12am, possibly the most valuable prize given out this evening! Incredible what these riders will do for a free bottle opener or musette.
So in the spirit of both the awards presentation, and the Olympics, we've decided to create our own prestigious 'dot-watcher' awards, covering all angles of what the Transcontinental Race is all about. Here they are:
The 'Everesting' Award
Bronze goes to Zuzanna Madaj (214) who got completely lost in the Alps and had her own 'Blair Witch' style nightmare where she rode around in circles lost, seeing the same mountains again and again until finally she gave up and started a new life as a mountain nomad.
Silver goes to Stephane Ouaja (012), who chose a rather unusual time to do a 5 hour hike in the Alps:
Gold must go to Andy Sallnow (144), who thanks to his additional Stelvio Pass trip climbed a whopping 93,868m in total - that's around 10,000m more than Kristof who did 83,895m.
Most Horrific Minor Injury
Bronze goes to Oriol Hernandez Gorrindo (138) who took a tumble down the Passo Di Giau.
It's Silver for Stephane Ouaja for this shocking sunburn:
But Gold must go to Darren Richards (111) who experienced an allergic reaction to a wasp sting:
Most fed up face
Bronze for Jacopo Porreca (171) for this early race shot:
Silver goes to Craig Boddice (073) for this shot taken when he reached the top of the Furkapass:
Gold is for Joshua Rea (64). Poor bloke:
Most undesirable sleep spot
There have been so many, but these made us shudder the most:
Bronze for Jan-Williem Bobbink (010), because although this toilet entrance sort of has walls, it looks so incredibly uncomfortable. And just think of the smell...
Silver goes to Max Lindberg (211) for this. Granted it'll be soft, but that mosquito net leaves a lot to be desired:
Cold, hard, exposed, and built in sprinkler alarm, Gold goes to Lars Jørgen Landsem (009):
Tastiest looking cockpit
Delicious and organised, Bronze is for Matthew Falconer (154) for this Jaffa Cake stack:
Silver for Mathias Dalgas (150), a man after our own hearts with this appetising cheeseburger saved for later:
Gold goes to Emily Chappell (007), who shared with us a number of yummy looking cockpit shots but this one was the ultimate breakfast:
Most enthusiastic moment
Bronze goes to Giorsio Raboen (229) we believe this was not long taken after his partner Lamri Adjis had scratched, so extra points for enthusiasm in the face of adversity:
Silver for Philip Schwedthelm (016) for this food face:
Gold has to go to Joshua Rea (64). This is what cycling is all about:
Most Undesirable Dinner Award
Bronze goes to Chris White (024) for this interesting combination:
Silver goes to Alice Williams (109) because Haribo & Ham is not an ideal combo:
Gold for Simon Rounding (087) because - dog food? No. Just...No.
That's all we have time and space for avid dot-watchers. We hope you've enjoyed these blogs as much as we've enjoyed writing them. What will we all do with ourselves once The Transcontinental Race finishes and there are no more dots to watch? Slump into a depressive state and stare into the abyss probably. But what we should all do is get outside on our bikes and make our own adventures and stories. Get lost, sleep outside and climb some hills, but perhaps leave the dog food at home, yeah?
We're already looking forward to 2017, see you then. x