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.