258 riders, 80 scratches, 4 checkpoints, two weeks of intense dot-watching and one hedgehog later, the race is nearly at an end. The finishers party is on Tuesday evening which gives riders another 48 hours to try to reach Meteora, and with 60 riders already in, and 80 who have completed CP4, this is looking to be the biggest finishers party ever.
Their goal is Meteora in Greece. Meteora translates literally as ‘suspended in the sky’ or for the faithful, ‘in the heavens above’. It is a spectacular and precarious site of six monastery complexes which survive from more than 20 built atop naturally formed stone pillars by Eastern Orthodox monks some time during the 14th century.
The formation of the monolithic pillars, located next to the Pindos mountains in western Greek region of Thessaly at Meteora is a geologically rarity. Today the six remaining complexes are a UNESCO protected World Heritage site. For racers, who will begin the finishing Parcours at Vlachava in the North, they will be obscured by the ridge line until the final moments of their journey. The reveal should not fail to uplift even the weariest of souls as it marks the end of their Transcontinental voyage. To experience the calm yet magnificent theatre of Meteora it is easy to appreciate how it invokes the spiritual and will provide racers with an ideal setting in which to relax and recover once their task is complete.
A quick note of all the riders who have now finished, after the last rider we mentioned in Blog 9 (Ben Davies (#195):
Thomas Egger (#68)
Chris Thomas (#18)
Marin de Saint-Exupéry (#42)
Ed Wolstenholme (#167)
Ben Snodin (#114)
Paul Hoffmann (#210)
Raymond Dulieu (#103)
Bryce Bénat (#104)
Jani Simula (#176)
James Kirk (#162)
Karl Fournier (#67)
Michael Wacker (#72)
Stuart Birnie (#142)
Joan Carrillo (#145)
Dennis Froese (#150)
Greg Hilson (#62)
Bruno Ferraro (#159)
Adam Krabbe (#211)
2Sam Thomas (#20)
Richard Gate (#161)
Yoann Saludes (#61)
Patrick Miette (#32)
Lorenzo Gamberini (#130)
Gerhard Kossytorz (#144)
Andrea De Gruttola (#6)
Lee Grieve (#229)
Nick Spencer-Vellacott (#92)
Danny Green (#9)
Edgar Haldimann (#59)
Ede Harrison (#179) - a huge congratulations to the first woman in!
James Craven (253a)
Adam Green (#105)
Tom Probert (#135)
Constantin Schütt (#84)
Christopher Murkin (#129)
David Sherrington (#77)
Charles Christiansen (#256a)
Rob McRitchie (#39)
Daniel Nash (#30)
Loïc Nys Taymans (#17)
For those of us not lucky enough to be in Meteora we may feel a little melancholy that the race is nearly over, after all, what will we do with ourselves when the dots finally reach their destinations and no longer require our attention? We plan on putting a tracker on the cat so we can watch his dot all day instead, but that's just us.
In this penultimate blog we’ll attempt a paragraph or two about each rider who has not yet had a mention.
Håkan Höglin (#56) is about 480kms away from Meteora, but in a shocking incident, his packet of Mentos has broken in half. As long as he stays well away from any loose cola he should be okay.
Daniel Gregory (#58) has been riding into headwinds with Will Armitage (#108) and complained of strong headwinds between Slovenia and Poland, in Austria and in the Czech Republic. But they haven't held him back, he's now only 530km away from Meteora.
Andreas Hauser (#85) was an Austrian skier in his youth, but a horrible crash on a downhill training turned him to Ironmans, and then long distance cycling where he raced 'Race Around Austria', a non stop cycle race along the border of Austria. At the time of publishing he's the latest rider to cross the finish line in Meteora.
Robert Thomson (#86) found a love of cars in his youth brought him towards bikes. He found himself searching for something that combined adventure and a challenge that would 'cleanse the soul' so he partook in the Valleycat races and found out all about TCRno3. three years later and here he is, currently enjoying Bosnia on his way to CP3 Karkonosze Pass.
Craig Edwards (#96) is a complete enigma - the only rider still in the race that I can't find a single bean of information on. So instead i'll make it up - Craig's hobbies include licking frogs, extreme ironing (in which he competes internationally) and he owns seven ferrets, all called Eric.
Maurice Smith (#102) is resting in Sarajevo ready to take on CP3 tomorrow. Here he at Lake Constance, and another that he took looking at his next path onwards and upwards...
Spanish Industrial Engineer Antonio Baños (#111) is in Albania 270km away from Meteora.
Nico Coetzee (#123) completed CP4 4 hours ago and is resting at the base before completing the Parcours tomorrow. His last post said "last 30 felt like the first 3000km. Almost there." He also rode past what we assume is one of the world's biggest magnets, either that or some alien megastructure forming? One cyclist doesnt look to have been so lucky.
Fabian Rabe (#151) is only 275km from Meteora, in Albania, sitting in 80th position at the moment. Here's what he said after completing CP2:
"The wonders a couple hours of sleep can do :) Mood has significantly improved, headache is mostly gone, weather has cooled off after some thunderstorms.
Climbed the Hochalpenstraße in pelting rain & darkness, but once over the top things started to dry. Definetely happy with my new jacket, which kept me toasty on the descent.
Riding down the inn valley was a relaxed cruise, let's hope the bike paths after the Brenner pass are of the same quality."
Thomas Weber (#153) from Heidelberg, Germany met Torsten Frank (#209) at a gas station both searching for a caffeine kick on Thursday. Thomas has taken an unusual path South via the coastal road. It adds mileage to be sure, but the scenery has got to be incredible.
John Lee (#155) is from Bristol, UK and got into long-distance cycling late, and slowly. First venturing out of Bristol to visit friends on a sit-up-and-beg, he later found himself on a Brevet Populaire ('The Tasty Cheddar'). This led, by way of 'The Bryan Chapman Memorial' (BCM), to 'Paris-Brest-Paris' (PBP), and then on to the '1001 Miglia Italia' and the '999 Miglia di Roma e del Sud'. TCR No.6 marks a return to three-letter initialisms, and a big step up. If the TCR had Audax points, they would go to Audax Club Bristol. When it's over, he'll return to lecturing in English at the University.
Joseph Dorsett (#165) is approx 300km from Meteora, in position 88. Here he is two days before the start with everything prepped and packed:
Russian Dimitry Kumundzhiev (#175) has just entered Bosnia and Herzegovina, 204km from CP4. He warns future riding companions, when he says he knows a short cut, perhaps think twice in following him:
James Robertson captured Jani Simula (#176) speeding off for an ice-cream:
Stuart White (#194) is only 94kms from Meteora and if he keep his pace will be 64th or 65th, as Hegedus Adrian (#80) is racing him head-to-head. Behold, Stuart's red mist:
Frederic Laforge (#204) is on his way in to CP4, in place 141. He's from Limoges, France and is being supported by a huge fan base of french dot-watchers along with other French riders who are still racing:
Aimerick Stanisiere (#181) - in position 123rd 530kms away from finishing,
Charles Billau (#149) - 127th and 600km away from the finish,
Eric Cupo (#217) - 94th and 300km away from finishing,
Jean-Yves Coffre (#188) 132nd and 700km away from Meteora,
Jean-Yves Couet (#87) - 96th and 350km away from the finish,
Matthieu Lifschitz (#109), - 128th and 600km away from the finish,
Mehdi Otmann (#169) - 95th and 350km from the finish,
Michel Vandermeerschen (#184) - 485km from CP3 Bielašnica and,
Thomas Chateau (#22) - 125th and 550km from Meteora.
A quick tale about Jean-Yves Couet and Jean-Yves Coffre, the volunteers at CP2 thought they were seeing double for a moment when both riders arrived at CP2 at exactly the same time, both handing over their brevet cards and saying their first names together, like conjoined twins. We hope this was met with synchronised stamping from the volunteers.
René Hinnum (#207) was another rider who bumped into Will Armitage on the road:
Paul Hoffmann (#210) completed TCRno6 on Saturday morning, in position 22nd. James Robertson managed to catch this picture of him climbing the hairpins of Meteora:
Raphael Michelangelo Grau (#213) is about 550km away from Meteora. Here he is just before Checkpoint 2 in Slovenia. "Currently in Hungary 🚲.. Body Starts to give up.. Heatwave 40°C.. Bad roads"
British rider John Sherlock (#216) finished the race on Friday night in a very respectable 16th. Here he is at Hotel Han, Bjelašnica.
This is Eric Cupo's (#217) second Transcontinental, having finished TCRNo4 as a pair with Christopher Hung Han Yun, they came in 12th position in the pairs race, 143 overall with a time of 17d // 06h // 32m. Currently in 94th so doing much better this year.
Heath Ryan (#230) is only 160km away from the finish now, in position 69. Here he is splashing out on a decent dinner before hitting the lower slopes of Bjelaśnica CP4.
The pairs category had an exciting start with James Craven (#253a) and Jonathan Rankin (#253b) taking a strong lead, alas it was not to be with James Craven falling ill and the pair having to split up. This opened the floor for Charles Christiansen (#256a) and Nico Deportago-Cabrera (#256b) who have been entertaining us daily on Instagram befriending stray cats, demonstrating their washing techniques and showcasing their squashed snacks. Their position was not always secure though as Luca Somm (#259a) and Oliver Bieri (#259b) were never far behind. When this pair weren't posing naked on tanks they were working hard to crunch those miles. Only 40kms to the end now!
Next is Anton Lindberg (#251a) and Amy Lippe (#251b) who are only 200km from the finish now and look to be riding through the night. 50kms up the road is Rachel Batt (#245a) and Jim Stewart (#245b) who are just a few kms away from friends and fixie fans Marion Dziwnik (#255b) and Johanna Jahnke (#255a). These two formerly competed against each other in opposing teams, and TRCNo6 is their first experience racing as a pair. Johanna has added an additional challenge to her race as she is a vegan.
Andrea-Luca Zarotti (#250a) and Benjamin Kraehenmann (#250b) are 330km from Meteora, here they are making a Michal Switalski (#223) sandwich just before the start:
Guendalina Dal Pozzo (252a) and Aimone Dal Pozzo (#252b) are also only 330km from Meteora - the pairs race is really going to be close! Here's Guendalina showing her anti-theft device when taking a nap - just stick your arm through your wheel, that's bound to wake you up!
Next along will be Samuel Weidtmann (#254a) and Karim Wiesmann (#254b), here they are yesterday enjoying a break.
Spanish brothers Guillermo Nicolás Muñoz (#258b) and Daniel Nicolas (#258a) previously entered TCRNo4 coming 15th, TCRNo5 coming 8th and now TCRNo6 where if they continue as they are they'll achieve 9th. I just love seeing these brothers work together to achieve something magnificent, I expect their family is really proud of them. The last thing my brother and I achieved together was this snowman in 2013. Mum was proud, she said "why can't you two do anything normally".
German couple Thomas Scherer (#246a) and Petra Scherer (#246b) are 91kms from CP4. We found this picture of them from 2017. Even though it looks like they are miles apart we think there's an issue with Thomas's tracker.
In other news...
No other news today as we'll be back Tuesday evening with the Dot-watcher awards, our finale blog.