Another few days of nail-biting dot-watching. Björn Lenhard (#2), who had sat in second for large chunks of the race, was looking set for a the number 2 spot on the podium. He looked closer to the finish as the crow flies, but the route Björn had taken was apparently rocky and windy, and around 20km longer, giving Matthew Falconer (#5) the opportunity to overtake. For a few hours there was hardly any distance at all between the two riders, but Matthew pushed hard and onwards, and despite a fall only 2kms from the end on the parcours, on which he had to repair both tyres (he apparently changed in record time, convinced Björn was about to overtake him in those crucial moments), he took second place. Björn arrived at the finish around an hour and a half later taking third, and celebrated with a chocolate milk.
Alexandre Le Roux (#186) was only half an hour behind, snagging fourth place. The finish line volunteers had an opportunity to sleep for a few hours, with René Bonn (#158) rolling in around 5am this morning, and then Josh Cunnningham (#98) arrived, just in time for breakfast. Martin Temmen (#143) took 7th, Mohamed El Alami (#214) 8th and Thomas Dupin (#157) 9th. Jonathan Rankin (253b) was next in, though as mentioned Jonathan can't take a position in the solo race as he started as pair (but of course thoroughly deserves a spot), so that means Christoph Fuhrbach (#146) is 10th.
The race report covers the final hours of these top ten positions in detail, it can be read here.
It's been hard to watch Stephane Ouaja's (#12) race unravel in front of our dot-watching eyes over the last few days. He was last in Pluzine desperately trying to patch up his punctures but with no luck. In the end he used car tyre patches which got him to a Nikšić bike shop, but they didn't have the inner tubes he needed. This was all happening whilst positions 2-10 were slipping through his fingers like sand. Finally, FINALLY, this morning he got the parts he needs and was back on the road.
Stephane was then in a mini race for position 11th, along with Paul Ferguson (#212), Alexandre Bourgeonnier (#148), and Ben Davies (#195). The four riders had been overtaking each other all afternoon and it looked like it might need a photo finish. Whilst we were writing this the race continued all the way to Meteora, with Paul taking 11th, Stephane 12th, Alexandre 13th and Ben 14th.
Paul's instagram story today talks of "duking it out" with another rider who is strong at climbing (we think he means Stephane) for the last few days, and also of his gears going flat right on top of a mountain climb, at the same time he needed an emergency toilet dash. When he returned to the bike the gears had thankfully recharged and he was able to resume racing.
Meanwhile in Bosnia and Herzegovina, riders were coming in to CP4 thick and fast.
The gravel parcour climb to Bjelašnica has got all the riders swearing, throwing tantrum, falling off, punctures every few metres; Juliana Buring's name is mud apparently. It is possibly the most magnificent of Bosnia's network of gravel roads, taking the riders, via a series of steep and dusty hairpins, to an exposed summit with views of Sarajevo and the Dinaric Alps.
Ede Harrison is now in 44th position, with 660kms to Meteora. She lost some positions due to a routing error out of CP4:
Anisa Aubin (#21) is in position 61st about to approach CP4. She seems incredibly chilled out and everyone who meets her on the way remarks on her happy demeanour. We met Anisa on the This is Not a Tour Audax and she was a bundle of positive energy. Here she is at CP3:
Karolina Maciejewska (#63) is not far behind Anisa in 69th, Isobel Jobling (#224) and Meg Pugh (#224) are 131st and 132nd respectively - approx 480km from CP4, Anna Petters (#97) is 144th, Sheila Woollam (#127) is 157th, Alina Kilian (#53) and Caroline Item (#91) are 164th and 165th respectively, and Beate Weiland (#196) is 175th, with 180kms to go until CP3.
58 year old Hermann Dopfer (#28) is now in Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 65kms from CP4. We know in the past he has attempted Race Around Austria, coming 5th in 2010 and Race Across Germany.
3 days ago Bristol-based Daniel Nash was the first in the morning to reach CP3. Apparently he "reckoned it wasn't so bad"! That's the stuff Daniel!
Rafael Martinez Gonzalez (#33) has just finished CP3 and now resting in Odrodzene Hotel in Karkonoska. We know that last Wednesday he got stuck in the thunderstorms across the Alps with James Illman (#131) and Aydin Bez (#101).
Marcel Amore (#35) has also just completed CP3, he has opted to ride North further in to Poland and sleep in the town of Jelina Gora for the night. What we know about Marcel is that he also took part in Northcape4000 at the end of July, so may have made his way over to Geraardsbergen from the finish in Spain.
His profile says he's sponsored by Alka Seltzer; Jack Daniels and Romeo y Julieta Cigars. Here's a picture of his bike set up:
Malte Hager (#36) is an "endurance explorer". In his own words:
"My primary motivation is not really the sport itself; cycling is ‘just’ the mode of transport with the highest factor of efficiency x autarky x self-efficacy. I’m strongly motivated by the “exploration of the world and myself, on the largest and smallest scale”, as corny as it may sound. “What’s behind the next turn?”, “By how much would I need to multiply today’s distance to get the circumference of our planet?” “For how long have those crickets been mating”, “Pizza”… such thoughts buzz through my mind on the typical touring ride."
Rob McRitchie (#39) is at CP4 resting at the base of the Parcours. He's a London bike commuter and ex-triathlete. He fell into adventure racing, then moved on to triathlon and started road biking with a vengeance as he moved up to Ironman distance triathlon, and was doing pretty well until he broke his knee. He has completed TCRno3 and says:
"I am back for more this year, (despite being psychologically scared by encounters with Turkish dogs at midnight in a forest, and physically scared with nerve issues in the hands). I aim to make it for the finishers party. I am 50, and trying to grow old disgracefully."
Here he is in his pirate jersey which he is wearing on this race too.
Marin de Saint-Exupéry (#42) is riding a beautiful bike for TCRNo6. We'd like to see what it looks like with all the luggage too.
Douglas Migden (#47) is in Hungary, possibly about to bed down for the night in Szekszárd. Here he is having breakfast with Matthieu Lifschitz (#109) and Alan Parkinson (#60) 2 days ago:
Michael Kronberger (#48) might have seen the train station but he didn't take it:
"CP3 9d23h30min After being at the train station yesterday already this one’s definitely the most emotional one so far. Don’t know what’s happening next but dot watching isn’t over yet. Thanks heaps for pushing it that far."
South African Calvin O'Keeffe (#51) is a manager at John's Bikes in Bath. In 2011 he cycled from London to South Africa, across the deserts of Egypt and Sudan. We found a tweet where Mark Beamont thanking him for a speedy repair whilst Mark was doing his Round Britain in 80 days record breaking adventure.
In other news...
These riders are taking 'you are what you eat' literally:
A new TCR fashion is catching on:
Meanwhile bikepacking has never been so luxurious, or romantic:
The things people stumble on out there riding are always surprising. Cesare Pedrini (#136) found this curious place, looks a bit "From Dusk to Dawn":
Jonah Jones is writing poetry, and it is fantastic:
Hellish hot headwinds
A three legged ant gimping slowly across a vast hotplate towards an angry standing fan.
Past shrivelled husks of corn and sunflowers.
Hanging their heads, long given up.
Shrivelled grape vines meant for zesty dancing.
Austrian whites dried to a ripasso by sun and wind.
Whilst others are making art out of their dots:
Lamtumirë, until next time dot-watchers!