What an exciting couple of days it has been. At the time of writing, James Hayden (#1) has won TCRNo6 in 8 days, 22 hours and 56 minutes. In the end he was whole countries ahead of his next rival, speeding ahead with strength and determination. But not everything went smoothly for James, here are two of his more frustrating moments from the last few days:
We are yet to see who will grab one of those elusive podium spots, or indeed a top ten position, and the riders are incredibly close together. Between Björn Lenhard (#2) and René Bonn (#158) there's 80kms, but for the next eight riders there's only 20-30km in it.
On Sunday night, Björn looked set to be the next rider in to CP4 after James, but he suddenly stopped, and back tracked slowly up the way he came. The speculation is that the road was possibly an 'R' for Risky - which a number of roads through Bosnia are, and seeing as he was only 10 miles from an alternative, he took the decision to turn around. But he also slept at Borci Donji, which gave Stephane Ouaja (#12) the chance he needed to catch up.
Fresh from his sleep, Björn travelled north west towards Doboj to find a road more suitable, the same road Stephane was also on now 10 miles ahead of him in second place. At times they were neck and neck heading into CP4, but in the end Stephane was first in.
Not far behind were Thomas Dupin (#157), René Bonn (#158), Matthew Falconer (#5), and Martin Temmen (#143) who had found a route through the Sarajevo mountains, and Mohamed El Alami (#214) who was closing in from the East. By yesterday evening they had all made it to CP4, and were joined by Alexandre Le Roux (#186) with all the riders mentioned taking rest at CP4.
Björn was first to leave in the early hours, with Stephane, René and Matthew hot on his heels. This is when things started getting very hairy for Stephane.
Our hearts went out to Stephane as he had to backtrack on the R434, perhaps again it was an 'R' road, but this 8 ish mile detour cost him dearly as he was overtaken and lost positions 3,4, 5 and 6. It was then revealed that all day he'd been getting punctures, his frustrations can be felt in his status below (FB translated):
During this time he was also overtaken by Jonathan Rankin (253b) (who, in case you're wondering, cannot be part of the solo race as he started as a pair), and also Josh Cunningham (#98) and Christoph Furbach (#146). Stephane is currently holed up in Pluzine feeling every emotion possible as he struggles to repair his recurrent puncture.
We like to give every single rider a mention in this dot-watcher's blog if we can, but some riders are very quiet on social media, preferring to keep their heads down and concentrate on the ride. That means I have to pull out my very best stalker skills to find out something about them, (but don't worry, I am an excellent stalker.) Others like to share a running commentary of all their ups and downs, directly from brain through to fingers with no filter in between (Stuart Birnie's daily unravelling on Twitter, for instance) and we love it. So here are some mini stories, and most of it is not made up...
Lieuwe Medema (#3)is currently in position 40. He took a photo of his dinner option, and it took us a while to realise he was talking about the 7day croissant and not the motor oil. Both are similar to a food source so it's an easy mistake.
Noel McNamara (#7) emailed earlier with this message. "Rear mech caught back wheel. Smashed. Took lift to Mikulov, 15km. Intention to secure repair, retrace steps and set off tomorrow. I hope."
and also this message:
"I will finish."
TCR photographer James Robertson caught a rare glimpse of the lesser spotted Danny Green (#9) stopping for breakfast on his way through Czechia.
Christopher Duffy (#11) is sat in 181th, camped in Austria at the moment with 400kms to go until he reaches CP3. Here's a smashing picture of him, we only wish we could give you more.
Simon Hayward (#14) has now scratched from the race and is now dot-watching in Ljubljana, but whilst he was racing it seemed he could magically wish for his deepest desires when a portaloo appeared out of nowhere at the felicitous moment.
*I WISH FOR A DOUGHNUT I WISH FOR A DOUGHNUT* Nope, not working for me.
Will Armitage (#108) has been taking photos of riders he meets along the road as part of his #facestodots collection on instagram. They are so good in fact, that we've included a selection below. Thanks Will!
Will Armitage is a civil servant who finds escape on his bicycle. He has always ridden a bike as a means of transport clocking countless commuter miles. That led to a desire to explore further afield and push his limits whether that's cycle touring in Syria or Japan or the Pyrenees; Cat 4 racing; completing a Super Randonneur series; or riding home from London to Birmingham for Christmas in the middle of a storm to see if he can. Recently he has gotten the bug for bikepacking and gravel riding enjoying the route new kit and off-road riding offers for adventure. Off the bike he is passionate about skiing and good policy-making and stresses about Brexit. He currently has a ridiculous moustache. He has never done anything like the Transcontinental but wants to see if he can.
From top left: Keith Hicks (#10), Peter Weller (#26), Daniel Szajna (#37), David Hawkins (#40), Thomas Jacquelinet (#41), Roberto Baldassi (#49), Sebastien Nolens (#54), Turgut Alper Kerpiççi (#76), Mark Hugaerts (#89), Stephane Molliet (#94), Erika Rowen (#100), Jason Smith (#106), Dermot O'Grady (#121), Wim Ceulemans (#166), Ive Weygers (#173), Aimerick Stanisiere (#181), David Fairweather (#187), Jakob Dieckmann (#191), Dario Demarco (#192), Stefan Landtau (#201), Lars Götzenberger (#203), Daniel Nicolas (#258a), Guillermo Nicolás Muñoz (258b), Loïc Nys Taymans (#17).
Niall Cooling (#19) had to scratch due to a knee injury. This is what he had to say: "
With a heavy heart I’ve scratched today due to a knee issue. Got to CP2 at lunchtime yesterday and knew the adventure was over. Spend the rest of the day and night battling the emotions and waited until this morning to make the final decision.
I’m starting now to be able to pull some positives from the adventure and overcome my feeling of failure. The rider comradery has just been astonishing. Watching people come and go at CP2 was so tough but also really special."
Sam Thomas (#20) shared his puncture 2 days ago: "Of punctures in the night, checkpoints and private lakes (very needed bath included). Ready for day 7 of #tcrno6."
Thomas Chateau (#22) was spotted in Vienna on his way to CP3.
In other news...
We're delighted to see Lionel Bobb (#44) back at it, doing his thang:
We've been seeing some rather luxurious sleep spots in the last few days...
Now that's more like it Peter Boynton, just a dirty floor covered in parsnips:
Which part of this screamed 'bed-time' to Lionel Bobb?
The snack quality has taken a decidedly downward trend:
Poor Caroline Item (#91) has got the curse of the Jonah Jones (#81):
Although Jonah hasn't shaken the curse of completely:
And Alan Parkinson's route looks far from ideal:
Jean-Yves Couet's (#87) not having great luck either:
And we're seeing more and more faces like these:
Remember riders, whatever you're dealing with right now, this is what's waiting for you:
Until next time, zbogom!