Today, we ride for Frank

On Saturday July 29th, in the early hours of the fifth running of the Transcontinental Race, we lost one of our own, Frank Simons.

Frank’s death is a tragedy that has affected the cycling community deeply. It was important to all involved with the Transcontinental Race to celebrate his life and recognise his many and varied cycling achievements.

Frank was born in the Netherlands on October 19th 1945 and from a young age he developed a passion for sports and the great outdoors. As a student he rowed competitively, was an avid swimmer and loved to hike and camp with his family in the backcountry of Scandinavia and Scotland. 

In his late 50’s he discovered cycling and it quickly developed from a hobby to passion. In 2004 he joined local cycling associations “De Paaschberg” and “De Vuttersgroep”. Frank never missed a club ride, even if he had been out riding all weekend. He would ride from his home to an audax, do the audax and ride back home again covering several 100kms in the weekend and still make sure he was ready for the Monday morning club ride. Despite enjoying riding alone, within these clubs he found camaraderie and sense of belonging.

Amongst those who knew him well Frank had a reputation not only for his qualities as a rider, but for being an entertaining cyclist, one who loved extremes. As such, he participated in a number of highly respected events including: The Frisian Elf Cities; Paris-Brest-Paris (2007/ 2011); The Merselo - Verona 1200km Audax; The Miglia Italia and Santiago de Compostela, 2800 km in 12 days, a classic route for many Dutch touring cyclists.

Frank was absolutely in love with the freedom and challenge inherent with randonneuring, with long distance cycling. The Transcontinental Race was set to be his biggest race, one which he hoped to finish in 15 days, having put in the training to do so. His preparation would see him riding to Belgium and back over a weekend, with a break in the middle to participate in a local race; Frank was clearly both skilled and prepared for this race. Frank and his wife Catherine had an agreement, on the TCR he would take his credit card and not his tent, there would be no sleeping in bus shelters for Frank. Catherine knew her husband was skilled and well prepared for this event but naturally, she wanted him to take good care of himself.

Frank was characterized by his wife, family and friends as a loving, warm hearted and amiable man, perspicacious, intelligent, mysterious yet authentic, big hearted, responsible and one who knew the value of hard work, both off and on the bike. A family man, solitary at times, who loved a good read; he was fascinated by his family's history and he dared to be bold regardless of his age, with the appetite of a young man who wanted to conquer the world, hungry for adventure. Above all else he was a husband, father, grandfather and friend with time for everybody; whether it was for a weekly ride, a listening ear, or dancing practice in the kitchen with the love of his life.

The loss of Frank is the loss of one of our own, a loss that weighs on the whole cycling community. It is also a reminder to us to live our lives with grace and with passion, to strive for that which challenges us – whatever age we may be - and embrace that which forces us to grow, cherishing those moments with family, with friends, and with the solitude that long-distance riding brings. Our thoughts are with his wife Catherine, his children, grandchildren, family and friends. We wish them the strength to continue without him and eventually, find comfort in his memory.

With special thanks to Frank's son Job, his wife Catherine and to his friends for letting us learn more about Frank, and to Laura Scott for kindly putting together this post for us.

Race report #9 // TCRNo5

Tomorrow the TCRNo5 will host it’s official finishers party at the Divani Hotel in Kalambaka in the shadow of the towering rock formations of Meteora.

photography James Robertson

photography Lian Van Leeuwen

Yesterday, thirteen days after the race started in Geraardsbergen, Belgium, Melissa Pritchard (#233) became the first woman to arrive at the finish of the fifth edition of the Transcontinental Race, TCRNo5. Her final day in the saddle started at 05:30 in the outskirts of Prelip travelling at a good pace throughout the morning and crossing the border at Niki at about 10:00. Her route then took her over the bridge at Lake Kerkini and on towards the beautiful little town of Elati where she stopped for an ice cream. Melissa had a good lead over the next women in the solo field, with Karen Tostee (#228) and Ingeborg Dybdal Oie (#157) approaching Sofia after following a popular route to the east through Bulgaria, and Adventure Syndicate rider Paula Regener further back approaching Nis in Serbia.

photography James Robertson

With roughly 300km left to go Melissa knew she was going to try and make it in one final push. The final climb up towards the finish parcours is a punishing one but she wasn’t surprised knowing Mike’s fondness for making his riders suffer. She made the finish line in thirteen days one hour and twenty nine minutes, her victorious descent only slightly hampered by a slow puncture. 

photography James Robertson

As Melissa was finishing her race Karen and Ingeborg were almost neck and neck as they passed through Kilkis just south of the Macedonia and Greek border. Ingeborg followed her route south while Karen took the E75 west routing them both on opposing sides of the artificial dam Lake Kerkini. Ingeborg’s route in was that bit shorter and flatter route and gave her the edge for the two hour lead making the finish in 13 days 19 hours and 25 minutes.

photography James Robertson

Ingeborg finished only 23 minutes behind our first pair to finish Ian Tosh and Neil Lauder (#264) who had started their final attack at 04:00 at Prilep and crossing the border three hours later at Niki only an hour after Eivind Tandrevold and Anders Syvertsen (#255). They caught their opponents at Xirolimni the gap steadily increasing as they passed Taxiarchis. The crossed the Venetikos river and turned to approach to the final parcours just in front of rider Ingeborg finishing at the hotel after 13 days 19 hours and 8 minutes while Eivind Tandrevold and Anders Syvertsen finished almost exactly 3 hours later after 13 days 21 hours and 5 minutes. 

photography Lian Van Leeuwen

Sina Witte and her partner Victor Decouard (#276) are closing in on the finish line. They followed a route far to the east of the two main corridors via Plovdiv with the Rhodope mountains of southern Bulgaria between them and the Greek border.

 

Race report #8 // TCRNo5

At the time of writing thirteen of our 160 active riders have finished the Transcontinental Race No5, 116 are confirmed scratches - a high attrition rate for the race but not surprising given the circumstances. The early tragedy naturally shook everyone’s confidence and the heat has been extreme as a brutal heatwave, nicknamed Lucifer, has swept the region. Emergency services have been put on standby and people have been asked to “remain vigilant”, stay indoors and avoid long journeys, advice those still racing have not followed. We trust they take good care of themselves though and put their health first. 

photography Camille Mcmillan

Towards the back of the field most riders have left CP3 and are setting their sights on the Transfăgărășan. Only a handful of riders are left making their way through Austria and Hungary towards the Vysoké Tatry. Davide Coulon, Transcontinental Race veteran is, we believe, our current lantern rouge and making his way through Austria having left Monte Grappa, the Pedaled control CP2, on Monday 6th August.

Our control point 4 in Romania hosted by Chris Peacock and his team of wonderful volunteers closed today and so most riders who made it through before the close are in the running to make Meteora by the time of the party, although they may not have time for a wash and a brush-up! 

photography James Robertson

The past few days have seen our first ten finishers arrive at the Hotel Divani in Kalambaka, the town at the foot of the incredible monasteries of Meteora. Geoffroy Dussault rode into Meteora with a finishing time just one minute shy of ten days, and eighteen hours behind him came TCR rookie Rory McCarron, who arrived caked in drivetrain grease from a roadside repair. His emotional reunion with his girlfriend was beautifully captured by Lian Van Leeuwen our official Transcontinental Race lens-woman.

Not far behind Rory, in the furious heat of a summer afternoon, a battle that began hundreds of miles away was coming to its conclusion. Nelson Trees, perhaps attempting to relive some of his recent experience cycling the remote mountain tracks of Kyrgyzstan, found himself out of food and water and pushing his punctured bike up a rough gravel road north of Prilep, Macedonia. Meanwhile, Matthew Falconer was over 300km north of him near the small town of Nis but closing in fast. By the time Nelson left Prilep at 03:40 Matthew had closed the gap to just about ten kilometers. Racing into Greece through the early morning, Matthew passed Nelson at Bitola and set up a chase that would last until the finishing parcours. Holding a lead of about 16km, he descended towards the Polyfytos (Πολύφυτου) reservoir on a route that skirted the eastern edge of the Vourinos mountains on his approach to Vlachava. Nelson’s route turned through a deep pass that lead him to approach Vlachava from the west. While Matthew descended and then climbed back out of the reservoir basin, Nelson maintained his altitude and steadily closed the gap before passing Matthew just before Vlachava, holding a slim lead to arrive at the finish 7minutes before his adversary in 10 days 20 hours and 24 minutes.

photography Camille Mcmillan

Samuli Makinen, cap 84, is our first finisher to take a different path to the final parcour by entering Greece via the border at Star Dorjan. This border saw many a bedraggled cyclist during TCRNo4 but this year most are opting to enter Greece at Niki. We can only assume Samuil was tempted by the flat plains of Northern Greece when planning his route but probably didn't take into the account the heat he would have faced there. It may have seemed unbearable for the Finnish rider who is surely more accustomed to a mild 15 degrees but it hardly slowed him down as he climbed out of the plains past Mount Olympus arriving in Meteora after 11 days 13 hours 36 minutes.

Photography James Robertson

Of the women, Melissa Pritchard is about 290 km from the finish and looks to be taking a paved route through the mountains east of Prilep which will hopefully see her avoid the trials experienced by Nelson Trees and Mathias Dalgas. Her day has so far taken her over 320 km from the Serbian town of Nis to southern Macedonia following a route which sits within the westernmost of two broad corridors of travel. Melissa has a good lead over the next women in the solo field, with Karen Tostee and Ingeborg Dybdal Oie currently approaching Sofia after following a popular route to the east through Bulgaria, and Adventure Syndicate rider Paula Regener who crossed into Serbia at 19:10 (CEST) and is currently approaching Nis.

Pairs rider Sina Witte with her partner Victor Decouard has followed a route far to the east of the two main options, and is stopped in Plovdiv with the Rhodope mountains of southern Bulgaria between her and the Greek border. We will see if they can thread their way through the rugged landscape without losing too much time to the others who will have a flatter route in to Meteora.

photography Camille Mcmillan

Mikko, Transcontinental Race stalwart and veteran of each race hasn’t gone off to do anything too wild yet this year but as we type we see him taking a sharp left off into Central Bulgaria so it’s watch this space as yet with Mikko. He usually gets distracted by something interesting and wanders off, but usually makes it in time to tell his tales at the party.

 

Race report #7 // TCRNo5

At 02:15 CEST on the 5th August James Hayden set off from his rest stop at Craiova, Romania, with only one target in mind...the finish line in Meteora, only a short 800km away. He crossed the Danube river and headed for Serbia where he found the roads a welcome relief from Romania. The heat, however, was relentless and appeared to be taking it’s toll on his impressive speed. Before long he had crossed the border into Macedonia and, finally, on the 6th August after eight days twenty three hours and fourteen minutes James completed his race, even bagging the Strava KOM on the climb to the final parcours.  Chapeau James!

photo James Robertson

Most riders came up the Transfăgărășan in the rain and fog today, cold, disappointed to miss the view but happy to see cheery faces and feel that bit closer to the finish. Half the arrivals were accompanied by a snappy 3 legged dog who came chasing them out from a nearby sheep pen. Melissa Prittchard (#233) was laughing “when you can’t outrun a dog with three legs you know you're going slow!” Karen Tostee (#228) was close on her tail having closed the gap since CP3 and shortly afterwards both could be found taking selfies with Juju. Meanwhile Josh Cunningham (#98) has had issues with his knees taking around 20 hours to climb the pass. He’s decided to rest and will make a decision in the morning. Janne Villikka (#189) had a bad puncture coming through the tunnel at the top of the pass. His tire was badly slashed but fortunately he had a spare and changed his tire and tube as a cloudy fog rolled across the mountain top.

photo James Robertson

The battle for third place started at 05:05 CEST on Sunday 6th August when Geoffroy Duassault (#93) rode past a resting Nelson Trees (#80) on the outskirts of Craiova in Romania. Sensing the danger Nelson set off whilst Geoffroy headed for a resupply. Taking parallel roads they headed towards the Serbia border and just outside Vidin at 12:24 CEST their paths crossed. For the next few hours it was a game of cat and mouse as one overtook the other always within a few kms of each other. At 01:47 CEST on the 7th Nelson passed his resting foe gaining a good lead as Geoffroy slept. Nearly 2 hours later #93 started to move and sensing his position had been lost put in a monumental effort to reel in the now tired #80. They battled on neck and neck until #93 finally drew clear and left an exhausted #80 sleeping on the side of the R1204. A battle which lasts over 24 hours is only something seen in ultra distance racing where planning, cunning and stamina are the ultimate deciders.

At the back of the pack our lantern rouge rider 102 Chris Davies scratched today at Innsbruck afternine days nineteen hours and twenty-two minutes. Chapeau Chris!

photo Lian van Leeuwen

Our second place rider started his final run in from the town of Valdicon Han in Serbia at 06:00 CEST on the 6th August. Following in the tire tracks of the winner Björn rode through Macedonia and crossed the border at Niki into Greece 12 hours later. Having battled the highest recorded temperatures in Europe for some years he continued his ride to Meteroa finally crossing the line at 11:37 CEST almost 14 hours after James Hayden. Jonas Goy rolled in almost 8 hours after Bjorn with a finish time of nine days twenty one hours and forty six minutes. Jonas has forged his own path throughout the race and clearly enjoys and excels at the climbs, will he be back next year to try and claim first place? 

Race report #6 // TCRNo5

Today our Kinesis UK control, CP3 in the High Tatras of Slovakia, closed at 16:00 and we expect our first rider James Hayden to finish in Meteora about 19:00 this evening, 6th August 2017.

photo credit Camille Mcmillan

The Transfăgărășan pass has had rain and the traffic has made life difficult for our media crew so our social media output has been a little quieter than usual. Our race vehicle managed by Jacopo of PEdAL ED left CP4 in the early hours of this morning to catch riders as they headed south through Serbia and Macedonia. The field are, so far, following the same route west as the obvious route through Bulgaria was considered too dangerous. This is making for some particularly interesting racing however: Camille Mcmillan, TCRNo5 lensman, caught Geoffroy Dussault passing Nelson Trees on a long straight. The two have been playing a game of cat and mouse for most of the day. This seems to be becoming something of a tradition for Nelson who was involved in a race within a race with Ultan Coyle last year as they both sprinted toward the finish line in Çanakkale.

photo credit Camille Mcmillan

Another race within a race is being fought for positions 8, 9 and 10.  Robert Carlier #131 is 3km ahead of Stephane Ouaja #012 who is only 2km ahead of Matthew Falconer #154. This race looks set to continue while the leader counts down the final few km to the finish line.

James’s lead is fairly substantial now with a 200km lead on Björn Lenhard. The heat is almost unbearable with reports of 42 degrees or more. James, like many other riders, is trying to cool down and maintain the calorie intake with frequent ice creams. James will be heading towards the final parcours within a few hours and the view awaiting him as he summits the final climb is absolutely breathtaking. His final descent will wind past the monasteries perched on their rocky outcrops, the tarmac is smooth and the sweeping curves a joy. A far cry from the first few editions of this race. 

photo credit Lian van Leeuwen

Heading for CP4 today is Levente Bagoly, he is from Romania and has been steadily making his way through the pack from the middle of the pack at CP1 to the top twenty by CP3.

So far riders who have made it to the Apidura CP4 are as follows: 

1 James Hayden #75

2 Bjorn Lenhard #26

3 Jonas Goy #60

4 Nelson Trees #80

5 Geoffroy Dussault #93

6 Rory McCarron #187

7 Mathias Dalgas #23

8 Robert Carlier #131

9 Stephane Ouaja #12

10 Matthew Falconer #154

photo credit Kristian Pletten

Jacopo reported from CP4 yesterday. “We just met Nelson on the road, he's slept 7 hours in the last three days, but says he's OK and he plans to continue. His goal is to be in the top three finishers. He's on chapter 14 of the Harry Potter books podcast, he found it for free on iTunes and hoped he can finish it before the end.

photo credit Kristian Pletten

Kinesis UK CP3 has now closed and as the main field works it's way towards and past CP3 the a clear favourite on route choices appears. The road from Banká Bystrica over the Low Tatra National Park takes the riders directly into the valley leading to the start of the parcours. The climb over the Low Tatra is nearly 40 km long topping out at 1200 meters. To avoid the Low Tatra Park National Park some riders are heading west along the valley leading toward a town called Martin. It's longer but a lot flatter. Heading towards CP4 riders have found a suitable alternative to the E81 heading further East through Medias for a more direct assault on the parcours. The weekend is always busy in the Transfăgărășan in the summer, with more traffic than usual at the moment as the cable car is closed. Today the weather broke and riders are getting some relief from the relentless heat on the pass but will have to face it again as soon as they hit the lowlands again.

 

Race report #4 // TCRNo5

Last night while the rest of us were having dinner James Hayden and Bjorn Lenhard were playing a game of cat and mouse out of CP3 through the Prešov Region of eastern Slovakia. Bjorn finally stopped to refuel at a gas station just outside of Prešov where James caught him. Stopping only for a coke (other soft drinks are available) and a selfie James was the first to make a move with Bjorn close on his heels.

photo credit Camille Mcmillan

Bjorn headed south intending, we suppose, to spend a night under the stars in the Hungarian hills while Jamesheaded for the small town of Trebišov and got a good 4 hours rest. James had an hours head start on Bjorn in the morning and both had crossed the northern edge of Hungary for the final time by lunchtime where the Control car caught up with them on the road.

photo credit Camille Mcmillan

Meanwhile back at CP3 Mathias Dalgas (#23), Ian To (#16), Geoffroy Dussault (#93), Nelson Trees (#80), Rory McCarron (#187) and Robert Carlier (#131) had rolled in between 06:00 and 17:00. Matthias arrived at 06:04 having climbed the parcours at daybreak. He seemed happy and relaxed as he ate a big breakfast and chatted for over an hour with the CP3 volunteer and staff. Ian arrived an hour and a half later and had been struggling with a broken zip on his frame bag which he’s currently holding together with zip ties. Juliana quipped “His race to the top was a race to the toilet. He arrived pretty desperate.” Geoffroy arrived at 10:21 having slipped back in the race due to having to reroute to get his rear wheel fixed costing him precious hours.

photo credit James Robertson

Rory was in great shape and great spirits arriving at 14:31 just after Nelson who slipped in 2 minutes before him. Nelson had hit a hole around midnight the previous night, his tubeless went flat so he zip tied his tube and cycled another 90km further until the whole rim cracked and he couldn’t go on. He hitchhiked to a bike shop in Poprad, changed entire front wheel then rode back to the point he stopped, luckily only around 17km from the parcours up to CP3. Nelson was also the only rider so far to take advantage of the icy lake next to the hotel and jumped in for a refreshing dip after the hot climb. Juliana had tested the water herself earlier and I can attest to it’s iciness Mike and I only having managed a paddle last year.

photo credit James Robertson

Matthew Falconer (#154) arrived at 20:28 minutes after Stephane Ouaja (#12) in at 20:26 . Matthew reported he’d been suffering from knee pain yesterday and had ended up rerouting to avoid motorways, "but all part of the fun", he said "that's what TCR is all about, isn't it”. He and Stephane and apparently crossed paths at CP3 last year so they're sticking to tradition it would seem and sharing dinner.

photo credit James Robertson

Further back in the race riders are continuing to follow two distinct routes out of Italy. The more direct line through Austria and the flatter route through Slovenia. The Slovenian routesaves riders 300 meters of climbing and once they're in Hungary the terrain quickly makes up for the extra distance. Ian To (#16) is the only rider so far to take the valley up to Zilina (Slovakia) towards CP3, unfortunately the only obvious route across to the next valley is the 18/E50 which is banned.  This mistake meant he had two options to get to Loptovsky Mikulas and the quick run into the parcour of CP3 -  double back at a cost of 170 km / 1708 meters climbing or face a hike of 85 km with 1064 m ascent.  He chose the latter and it took him 5 hours. We wonder if anyone else will fall into that trap? 

Right at the back we believe our lantern rouge is #TCRno5Cap102, Chris Davies, however riders with tracking issues mean we can’t be certain.

The scratch list from the past few days:

#TCRNo5cap268a Kevin Cunniffe scratched before CP1

#TCRNo5cap180 Robert Mercer scratched at CP1 after 634km and 2d12h24m

#TCRNo5cap027 Huseyin Gokdai scratched at CP1 after 600km and 2d11h30m

#TCRNo5cap045 Tim Hull-Bailey scratched at Strasbourg after 591km and 2d13h09m

#TCRNo5cap064 Eric Fraser scratched at Karlsruhe after 336km and 2d10h39m

#TCRNo5cap020 Enrico De Angeli scratched at Ingoldingen after 769km and 2d13h51m

#TCRNo5cap003 Nicky Shaw scratched at Reutlingen after 620km and 3d00h33m

#TCRNo5cap153 Christopher Jobmann scratched at Kempten after 856km and 2d20h53m

#TCRNo5cap268b Matthew Cockerham scratched at Ohlstadt after 788km and 1d21h03m

#TCRNo5cap079 Jason Lawrence scratched at Tübingen after 822km and 2d17h05m

#TCRNo5cap254a Alex Bystrov scratched nr Kempten after 795km and 2d12h00m

#TCRNo5cap223 Paul Galea scratched at CP2 after 1169km and 3d18h23m

#TCRNo5cap221 Innes Ogilve scratched at CP2 after 1231km and 4d12h28m

#TCRNo5cap085 Terry Jones scratched at CP2 after 1190km and 4d12h52m

#TCRNo5cap260a Emilian Sadowski scratched at CP2 after 1232km and 4d12h00m

#TCRNo5cap19 Robert Ferri scratched at Brescia after 1148km and 4d10h27m

#TCRNo5cap266b Tina Friess scratched at CP2 after 1207km and 4d13h09m

#TCRNo5cap002 Toby Willis scratched at Treviso after 1329km and 4d13h13m

#TCRNo5cap217 Ben Delaney scratched at CP2 after 1266km and 4d15h41m

#TCRNo5cap149 Kurt Edmonds scratched at Bolzano after 1248km and 4d16h57m

#TCRNo5cap024 Thomas Ettema scratched at Cimagrappa after 1094km and 4d20h35m

#TCRNo5cap190 Eachann Gillies scratched at Bassano del Grappa after 1262km and 4d17h01m

#TCRNo5cap117 Jean Baptise le Van scratched at Bressanone Brixen after 1013km and 4d00h27m

#TCRNo5cap144 Jim Cameron scratched at Aviano after 1305km and 5d12h14m

#TCRNo5cap253b Paolo Della Sala scratched at Semonzo after 1338km and 4d18h28m

#TCRNo5cap015 Jim Anquez scratched at Quero after 1355km and 5d13h22m

#TCRNo5cap158 René Bonn scratched at Semonzo after 1204km and 5d10h41m

#TCRNo5cap008 Andreas Wittkemper scratched at Trento after 1268km and 5d10h42m

Race report #3 // #TCRNo5

At the time of going to press 13 of our 250 active riders are in Slovakia and heading for Vysoké Tatry or the High Tatras mountains. The Kinesis UK sponsored CP3 is hosted by the Horsky Hotel Sliezsky Dom perched on the shores of the Velické pleso. At 16:31 CEST Björn Lenhard (#26) arrived at the control smiling as usual and, according to Juliana Buhring, in great spirits. There was great excitement at the control while they waited for Björn knowing that James Hayden (#75) was so close on his heels. Kinesis representative Bruce Dalton was there to present Facebook coverage as both guys arrived, had their brevet cards stamped and were back on the road within an hour. The two passed each other in opposite directions on the parcour and James tweeted his respect for his rival. Juliana said “He's clearly got his strategy down for this year”. 

A shower hit just as James left the hotel cooling things down in time for Jonas Goy (#60) to start the climb. He made it in a record time of 42 minutes, fast and fresh and, by the time he arrived, ready for the buffet dinner served at the hotel restaurant. Jonas shared the story of how he almost scratched at CP1 the night after we lost one of our racers Frank Simons in a terrible traffic accident. Jonas had arrived in 2nd place but had decided to wait a full 13 hours for his girlfriend Melissa Pritchard to arrive. After a discussion they both decided they would keep racing. Jonas’a alpine training stood him in good stead as he powered past many of his competitors to arrive at CP2 in second place once again.

Control 2 Monte Grappa closed at 17:00 today. 199 riders made it in time to collect their stamp and meet the PEdAL ED crew who had ensured a hot shower and a towel were available for each and every rider 24/7. Paolo Botti and Stefano Mantegazza (273a and b) were the first pair to arrive at the control in 16th and 17th place respectively - clearly managing their pace successfully as a pair. Melissa Pritchard (#233) was the first woman to arrive close on their heels at 22:31 CEST. 

Reviewing the route choices after CP2 it's clear some riders chose to stay in the mountains and avoid the flatter, faster Po Valley with a flat run into Austria or Solvenia. That route has it’s downfall however, the traffic can be stressful and dangerous and Nelson Trees (#80) posted regretfully on social media having routed that way for his third Transcontinental Race.

As this post goes up our three leaders continue on into the night while those directly in their wake seem to be finding bivi spots or treating themselves to a shower and a bed. This section of the field seem to have opted largely for James Hayden’s route through Hungary noting perhaps that it had served him well. We’ll check in tomorrow for an update on their progress.

photography by James Robertson

Race report #2. #TCRNo5

Our race vehicle, driven by Juliana Buhring and one half of our race media team, is in Slovakia heading for CP3 as I write this report. The third control, brought to your this year by our friends at Kinesis UK, nestles between the precipitous crags of the High Tatras mountains and a lake of pure mountain water of startling coolness and clarity. 

Only 4 days after our riders left Flanders the leaders are closing in on Vysoké Tatry roughly 1750 km along the route from the start. The front of the race continues to be dominated by Björn Lenhard averaging 19.5 km/hr and on the move for an average of 19 hours a day. Behind him Jonas Goy, James Hayden, Ian To and Geoffroy Dussault are pretty well spread out on both sides of the Austro/Hungarian border. Jonas, Geoffroy, Christoph Fuhrbach and Robert Carlier are following a similar route beyond the Po Valley skirting the Eastern edge of the Austrian Alps. Jonas has averaged about 25.5 km/hr and 435 km a day over the four days while Geoffroy averaged 25 km/hr and 395 km a day putting in the majority of his climbing on the first day. James Hayden, Ian To, Matthias Dalgas, Rory McCarron and Nelson Trees have headed on a more easterly trajectory through the beautiful rolling hills of Slovenia and at the time of writing only James Hayden has braved the confusion of the Hungarian road/cycle lane system.

This year TCRNo3 and No4 vet James Hayden has adopted a less stringent approach to sleeping allowing himself longer periods of time out of the saddle, he is moving at a consistently fast average speed of over 25 km/hr and can be expected at the Slovakian control sometime in the afternoon of 2nd August. 

So far, the vast majority of riders have followed a similar route from Bolzano through Trento to Bassano del Grappa where our title sponsor PEdAL ED’s control point CP2 sits at the bottom of the parcours up to Cima Grappa. So far 34 riders have scratched from the race and roughly 34% of the remaining field have passed through CP2, the majority choosing to continue on along the ridge of Paderno del Grappa and down the North Eastern face to avoid as much of the Po Valley as possible.

Last night our photographer Camille Mcmillan was roaming the hotel grounds finding new arrivals as they washed sweaty kit and climbed into their light bivies to snatch a few hours.

The last rider to climb before dark was #TCRNo5cap012 Stephane Ouaja, riders #142 Stuart Birnie,  #28 Ian Walker and #35 Sonke Meyer rode up in the dark while a good number waited until dawn to start the 1775m climb including the first woman to the control #TCRNo5cap233 Melissa Pritchard who arrived at 22:31 and started the climb about 5am. A steady stream arrived all day keeping the volunteers busy and as we go to press it looks like a good crowd have gathered to pitch their bivies at the Hotel Abbazia once again while 4 times Transcontinental Race vet Mikko Makippa braves the dark to gain the summit in the dark.

Photography credit Camille Macmillan

Race report 1. #TCRNo5 

Control No 1 closed at 10:00, on the morning of 31st July after 37 hours 26 minutes of operation when TCRNo4 vet Geoffroy Dussault’s arrival on Saturday evening (20:34) signalled it’s opening. Our Control car was there to meet him, unfortunately with the tragic news of the road traffic accident that claimed the life of Frank Simons in the early hours of Saturday morning. Geoffroy, along with a number of other riders, had not been aware of the news despite the organisation’s attempts to alert everyone. The news naturally deeply affected the whole race and its future hung in the balance as rider’s took time to reflect on their individual course of action. TCRNo5 came to the conclusion that should the riders overwhelmingly decide they wanted to continue to race to Meteora we would continue to provide the race infrastructure.

CP1 1st night.jpg

photo credit James Robertson

By 21:30 on Friday 28th July the TCRNo5 race were all assembled at the Manneken Pis in Geraardsbergen. Torches were lit, we raised a cheer for Mike into the dusk sky and the riders were off. The crowd carried their torches to line the Kapelmuur before, in a matter of moments, the riders were racing over the cobbles to the summit before disappearing off into the night, their red tail lights blinking in the dark.

photo credit Camille McMillan

An hour into the race and the field had split into two clear groups, the majority following Geoffroy and Jonas Goy’s lead south while a section headed North East through or around Brussels lead for a time by veterans Stephane Ouaja and Michael Wacker. No 25 Matthijs Ligt, who raced the IPWR earlier this year, broke away on a southern trajectory early on as he and a few others including newcomer Paul Galea routed through the Ardennes. Both race vehicles followed the main pack on their southerly route hunting for riders in the dawn light; both vehicles making it just in time to witness the fight for CP1 between Geoffrey Dussault, Jonas Goy and Björn Lenhard. 

photo credit James Robertson

The terrible news of the loss of Frank Simons had an enduring effect on the race and the racers. Each individual had to absorb, process and react to the news in their own time and in their own way. Some well known names decided to finish their race early, and their decision must be respected. However, many racer’s reactions are reflected in the words of Björn Lenhard who spoke to our media crew at CP1. “My position is to continue… the thing is, if I am going to stop racing now… I can give up my bike because these accidents can happen here, they can happen at home, on my way to work, they can happen anywhere.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his mindset, Björn was the first to leave CP1, setting off for the parcours just after 22:00 CEST just as TCRNo4 vet James Hayden and #187 Rory McCarron rolled into town. They, like many riders, opted to stay the night at the control hotel, partly for comfort and partly because the heavens had opened. During the night many more riders arrived pitching up bivies in the shelter of the hotel terrace.

photo credit James Robertson

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