It's been 24 hours since the race began and already the majority of riders have visited four countries. The peloton have chosen what would seem the most logical route, through Luxembourg and along the French/German border towards Liechtenstein and CP1. However a grupetto of riders have chosen to branch off East out of Belgium - at first we wondered if they had decided to go to CP3 before CP1 but we've been informed that this year the checkpoints must be visited in order, and in fact the group are simply seeking a flatter, less windy route along the Rhine. Will the increased speeds this route will allow make up for the extra distance? Probably not.
The first few hours saw (Australian born, Thailand living) Craig Bachelor (#197) lead the pack, so naturally we found out all we could about him. Craig only started cycling 4 years ago but has already made a name for himself in Asia, riding in the NICH-100Plus Cycling team in Tour de Phuket and famous for riding solo and non-stop 5-day routes in 25 hours. He plans to ride around 450km a day - this is the same target as James Hayden in 2017 - and with plenty of bike packing experience we think he's got what's needed to achieve his plan. As his regular riding haunts are Thailand and Laos, we expect the heat the riders are currently suffering with won't phase him either, although Craig admits that "This route is one of the toughest anywhere". Currently sat in third position behind Bjorn Lenard (#2) and James Hayden (#1).
Only 21km behind Craig is Cristoph Fuhbach (#146), Thomas Dupin (#157), Matthew Falconer (#5), Stephane Ouaja (#12) and René Bonn (#158). No one has had a sleep at this stage so it's all to play for.
Although it looks like Arjan Zwanenburg (#160) is being chased by bees all over Belgium, he is in fact is having a hell of a time - 50 miles into the race and he gets his first mechanical and apparently had to walk 10 miles with his bike. In his haste to finally get going he didn't notice that his GPS had rerouted back to Geraardsbergen, and rode north for what looks like a good 30 miles before realising his mistake. Soul destroying.
Correcting himself, he started South East again but his GPS seems to have lost the plot once more as he veers South West and takes a loop around Saint-Vaast, south of La Louviere.
Perhaps here he bought a compass and map because he's finally pointing the right direction. It takes amazing strength of character to keep going after something like that, so good on you Arjan, put it behind you and keep moving towards the sunrise, that should see you right.
Another who had a rather difficult start is Jurgen Knupe (#46). After a security alert in Munich, no passenger was allowed to access their luggage for 48 hours, which included Jurgen's, somewhat essential, bike. He knew he wouldn't make the 10pm start in Geraardsbergen, but made his way to the start anyway and began as soon as he could, which in the end was only about 2 hours later than everyone else. Jurgen is already in the middle of the pack and we expect to see a great performance from him - he's a strong rider who last year won the first edition of Tuscany Road, so at the very least, he should make the finishers party.
Anisa Aubin (#21) deserves a special mention, and possibly an extra 7day croissant. She has just finished the North Cape (Finland) to Tarifia (Spain) bike race which was 7,300kms, in which we've heard she came ninth in overall. She then decided last minute to make her way to Geraardsbergen and ride TCRNo6. After all, what's an extra 4000kms. Plus, she is making good time, currently middle of the pack. What. A. Machine.
One of the big stories of the first day is surely "The Transbromptonental", better known as Roger Seaton (#34). A Brompton is one of those fold up bikes that you often see commuters use. We haven't been this excited about a bike alternative since Ultan Coyle turned up on a time trial back in TCRn03. We have absolutely no idea if this is going to outpace the wild dogs in Bosnia, but at least he'll look stylish whilst it happens.
Matt Swain (#156) decided the first thing he would do after hitting the Muur was... hit the pillow back at his hotel in Geraardsbergen. In an unusual strategy he went back to bed for 3 hours and got going again at 1:30am. A very bold move, we'll see if it pays off when everyone takes their first proper sleep this evening.
In other news...
Some of this year's sleep spots look 5 star!
Some opted for 3 star...
Other's was a bit more rustic...
Magnums and Burgers are the order of the day:
And finally... this intense heat has done funny things to a few riders...
Au revoir, until tomorrow!