At the start of TCRNo6, 254 riders set off at 22:00 to climb the cobbles of the Muir out of Geraardsbergen. Tonight, the finish Control Point closes exactly 17 days later. That equates to 408 hours and for those feeling every moment their muscles move on the pedals it’s 1,468,800 seconds from the start on 29th July 2018.
The racers have cut their own paths through Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and finally Greece.
At the time of writing, a few hours before we call time of the official race, 106 riders have finished, 91 have scratched and 64 remain active in the field.
Last night, in the shadow of the Meteora rock formations, in the town of Kalambaka, the finisher party started at the final CP location, Pub 38. Riders looked almost civilian once again as they shed their lycra livery in favour of whatever they could purchase from the shops in the town. The hard tan lines rising up from Greek sandals were too proud to go unnoticed, however. On television screens in the pub revolved photographs from James Robertson and Camille McMillan, triggering a ricochet of anecdotes from the road.
At 20:30 after the buffet spread that had been kindly donated to the riders by an anonymous donor was swiftly demolished, Juliana Buhring called the riders attention and she thanked each and every one of them that were present, on the road or already on their onward journeys, for their impressive feats of endurance on this sixth edition of the race.
The prizes were announced and James Hayden cap 1, Ede Harrison, cap 179, and the first pair, Charles Christiansen and Nico Deportago-Cabrera cap 256a and 256b accepted their winnings and the applause and admiration of their peers. Before any penalties are added the winners' finish times are as follows:
James Hayden // 08d 22h 59m
Ede Harrison // 13d 16h 32m
Charles Christiansen // 13d 20h 25m
Nico Deportago-Cabrera // 13d 20h 25m
As the celebrations went on the anticipation grew as we waited to see which rider would receive the honour of the famous black jersey awarded to the rider arriving closest to midnight on the night of the party. Brothers Daniel and Guillermo Nicolás Muñoz, caps 258a and 258b, were the surprise arrivals and luckily we had a selection of jerseys supplied by our sponsor PEdAL ED and we were able to provide them with merino wool jerseys.
Dan Gregory, cap 58, was celebrating his birthday on Aug. 14 and managed to celebrate in style at the finisher’s party by making it just as festivities were about to get underway.
Jonah Jones, cap 81, is one rider who isn’t going to make the cut-off for General Classification. On Facebook, he said: “A successful early ascent of CP4 was meant to mark the beginning of a solid surge South with designs on making the finish line closing on Wednesday night. Plans went awry in a major way though. Unlike the other riders I summited CP4 with, I did not return to the hotel for breakfast but took a shortcut to crack straight on. I very quickly took a wrong ( or bad data) turn onto a series of logging tracks that dropped me deep into the woods. What entailed was a 13 hour ordeal of grinding up and down 2,500 meters of gravel. I flogged myself up ridiculous inclines and gingerly descended ribbons of loose shale for mile after mile. Fearful of coming off and aggravating my recent fracture. There was beauty for sure but the only beauty I was interested in was my JoJo waiting for me in Meteora and it was slipping away. As hard as the grind uphill was on the energy levels, the downhills were bone jarring.
“I came close to cracking today, very close indeed. But it has occurred to me that Mike is throwing in one more test to see if I got what it takes.”