Today the bulk of riders made their way to the Karkonosze, part of the Sudetes mountain range bordering Poland and the Czech Republic. Starting in Podgórzyn, Poland, the riders have to take the road over Karkonoszka Pass, to Spindleruv Mlyn in Czech Republic. Boasted to be the steepest climb in Poland, it is popular with cyclists and closed to motor traffic.
Hidden deep in the forest, this fearsome climb was originally intended as a service road to aid the construction of a set of switchbacks - which was then abandoned, leaving only this line of ragged tarmac whose gradient reaches 28% in places, before it tips over the top of the Karkonoszka Pass and winds its way down into the Czech Republic.
The 11.5 km assent is straight, long and unforgiving, with rough, broken road surfaces and steep gradients. The climb switchbacks gradually through the National Natural Park, and riders will grit their teeth at the relentless 10-14% gradients going deeper into the forest, with the final 2-3 km assault at 14-20%. The reward is a stunning meadow at the top with mountain views.
It must be such a wonderful feeling to finally be able to head South after visiting CP3, knowing the finish is there if you just keep going in the same direction, and this is the case (at time of writing) for 59 riders. James Hayden (#1) has checked in to CP4, with Bjorn Lenhard (#2) 175km behind. 144 riders are on their way to CP3, 13 are yet to check in to CP2.
Two riders who have yet to reach CP1. Not much movement in the last few days from Ralf Hemmann (#38) but Neil Matthews (#171) is making progress, and last made a comment this afternoon to encourage Alian Killan (#53) to keep going:
Two bits of big news over the last few days, the first is that James Craven (#253a) has had to split from partner Jonathan Rankin (#253b) due to illness, later confirmed as pneumonia. What a dissapointment for the pair who were doing extremely well winning the pairs race. That puts Charles Christiansen (#256a) and Nico Deportago-Cabrera (#256b) in poll position for the pairs title, but Rachel Batt (#245a) and Jim Stewart (#245b) are only 40km behind.
The other news is that the "Transbromptonental" Roger Seaton (#34) has had to scratch due to an ongoing mechanical.
"Scratched #TCRNo6 at 1203.5km on the @chpt3#TransBromptonental.....and what an amazing adventure I had.
I’m obviously disappointed I couldn’t continue as legs, body and mind are feeling great but an issue with the Alfine hub which started on the Silvretta made the last 250km really tough and continuing unviable at the speed I was reduce to. We attempted something that hadn’t been done, have tested kit to extremes, learnt a load about a lot and had fun doing it.."
Ede Harrison (#179) continues to impress us by remaining in position 33 currently. Some dot watchers rode out to Karkonosze Pass today to meets the riders, what a great boost!
Her nearest female rival is Anisa Aubin who is 200km behind in 66th.
Let's check in with some riders at the back of the pack that we've not mentioned yet.
John Cooke (#227) is currently resting between CP1 and CP2 resting in Schabs. His nickname is "Six-Inch-Nail" but we don't know why, perhaps something he found in his tyre once? Let's hope not on this ride.
German Gary Cunningham (#29) is enjoying the wide open spaces of the mountain roads:
The legend that is Lionel Bobb (#44) is usually much more active on social media during his races (he has ridden TCRNo4 and TCRNo3) so we wondered was going on. We don't know the full story (and really want to hear it) but we can see that he's had some sort of accident, but he's still riding. It looks like his arm may have gone through that door:
He's now wearing marigolds to keep his stitches dry, and has been avoiding tunnels all day. He's currently in Innsbruck enjoying a well-earned fruit sundae:
"A slow frustrating day. Working out how to get around the tunnels. Found the answer, which will help tomorrow. Held up in Brunico for the night. The staff are serving me well, at Hotel Corsa Bruneck. Never done so many U turns, in my life. Feeding the machine with a treat."
Husband and wife pair Nicole Kraus (#247a) and Max Kraus (#247b) had some major mechanicals in the first few days - something was wrong with Nicole's derailleur and two bike shops later no-one was any the wiser how to fix it. In the end they'd bodged it together with a juice bottle cap and cable tie:
Another husband and wife team are Patch Doyle (#257b) and Jules Stennes (#257a) from Colorado, USA. Neither have bikepacked before, the Transcontinental Race will be their first experience of it, but they competed as a pair in the 521-mile ultra-road bike race, (HooDoo 500), and set a course record for a married couple.
In other news...
The riders are getting close to nature today. Sebastien Nolens (#54) wants to be friends with the leaves:
These new friends are a little too close for comfort:
They've also been sharing their motivational songs, which is a fascinating insight into their current state of mind:
After 7 nights comes the inevitable 7days...
The curse of the stink continues:
But if Richard Gate doesn’t concentrate his rear end could well get a freshen up soon:
And finally, a wonderful tribute from Sebastien Nolens to his wife for her birthday:
Do widzenia, until next time dot-watchers!