Part II: Dedicated Outside Assistance
The rules state “no outside support” is permitted but what constitutes outside support or ‘dedicated outside assistance’?. This, as we mentioned before, overlaps with Private Resupply to some degree but deals more with intangible services and information than it does with equipment and nourishment. Previous editions of the Transcontinental have shown that the understanding of this by riders has been something of a grey area and some equipment sharing, phone-a-friend navigation and hotel room booking has been known to occur. Whilst some riders may have had a degree of dependency on each other, others flew totally solo. With the introduction of the pairs category we can be firmer with what we regard as assistance, yet riders can still look out for the safety of one-another without having to drop out of the race altogether.
On the whole riders should approach the race as if they were taking a completely solo trip across Europe, as if there were no race, as if there were no other riders and as if there were no contact with the people at home. In short they should do things for themselves.
1. Another rider lending me their pump.
You may not of think it as assistance dedicated to one particular rider from outside of the race nevertheless sharing equipment is a no-no in self-supported races including the Transcontinental and Trans Pyrenees Races. Each rider must come equipped for their own race and not be reliant on others. They must prepare as if they were completing the task entirely on their own and no-one else were taking part in the ride, only then are they truly self supported. This applies to the sharing of information as it does the sharing of tools, clothing and food, including navigation. Pairs act as a unit so can share everything within the pair but not outside of it.
2. Getting directions from a stranger.
Again this should be approached as if you were riding across Europe entirely on your own, with no other riders going at the same time and no-one at home knowing that you were going either. In this situation there would still be local people around that you could ask for directions. Local people giving you directions is seen as a local resource that is legitimate to get information from. It's not a very quick, efficient or reliable means of navigation though and with language barriers thrown into the mix it's not going to be a substitute for a well planned route but it is acceptable to stop and ask for directions within the rules of self-sufficiency.
3. Getting my bike fixed at a bike shop.
Getting your bike fixed at a local bike shop is totally legit and not dedicated outside assistance since it's a commercial service available to all. Finding the bike shop however is something you must do for yourself and you must not call home for help. You can use the internet, ask locally, pick up on other’s publicly available feeds or those from the race which might give you a clues but you should be doing the information gathering yourself from publicly available resources and not have someone doing the work for you.
4. Calling ahead (during the race) to book a hotel.
When the race clock starts, calling ahead to book accommodation is legitimate. Booking out accommodation in advance of the race however may deny other racers a bed for the night which is subsequently not used by those who book it. This is a matter of racer etiquette rather than outright rule and is in the interests of equal opportunity for all riders. The correct etiquette is that riders should not make multiple bookings* and be confident of making good on all bookings. With the exception of singular bookings within 24hrs of the start bookings should be made whilst the race clock is running. Note: This does not apply to booking a hotel room for the race start.
*Multiple bookings means more than one per solo rider per night or more than two per pair per night.
5. My friend at home / partner booking me into a hotel.
Our position is clear on this one; you do things for yourself. Next!
6. Calling my friends / family for directions when I am lost.
Also clearly outside assistance. If you are on the telephone calling for help, you’re doing it wrong. To all family and friends who get the call saying “I’m lost” the correct reply is “get unlost” – they’ll thank you for it one day.
7. Calling friends and family to let them know you are OK.
Of course people at home will be concerned about you. The trackers have a canny ability to make people worry like mad, even when there’s nothing wrong. You could go away for 2 weeks and not give them any idea of where you are going and they might not bat an eyelid but as soon as there is a little dot to watch and it stops moving, even the calmest follower gets excited. You should definitely keep in touch with all who care about you at home.
8. Calling friends and family to get updates on other riders.
This is outside assistance. People at home feeding you information about the status of the race is like having your own race manager, giving you information that you didn’t find for yourself and other riders cannot be receiving.
9. Checking the tracker and social media
So long as you are doing the research yourself from sources in the public domain, it's all legit.
10. Using an approved ferry route.
Easy one this, not pedalling but not outside assistance either and totally fine. Bear in mind in some editions ferries may be of no use to you whatsoever. Ferries are there where permitted to allow for more route options. They will rarely make for a shorter ride.
11. Book accommodation online for the evening.
So long as the establishment is commercially available, you make the booking yourself and it's done on race clock (or for use within 24hrs) then there’s no trouble. The technology used to book makes no difference.
A final word on penalties and safety.
Safety and wellbeing and are a prerequisite to a successful race. A rider’s safety and wellbeing should always come above race position. When a rider find themselves in a position where their safety and wellbeing are compromised to the extent that they feel they must resort to rule breaking or dubious means of obtaining services or supplies, it is important they realise that they have already failed within the context of the race. The correct course of action then is to look after their safety first and accept their race position has been lost, ideally contacting the race organisers to let us know. Race organisers asks that racers make good judgements and report truthfully and accurately on the outcomes such that mistakes can be learned from, actions can be understood and their ride can be judged on its merits regardless of its place in the GC. Minor infractions carry minor penalties and, as race organisers cannot accurately judge intent, are approached as mistakes. Any updates on this position will be communicated in Race Manual updates.
Bon Route, Ride Safe.