Race report 1. #TCRNo5 

Control No 1 closed at 10:00, on the morning of 31st July after 37 hours 26 minutes of operation when TCRNo4 vet Geoffroy Dussault’s arrival on Saturday evening (20:34) signalled it’s opening. Our Control car was there to meet him, unfortunately with the tragic news of the road traffic accident that claimed the life of Frank Simons in the early hours of Saturday morning. Geoffroy, along with a number of other riders, had not been aware of the news despite the organisation’s attempts to alert everyone. The news naturally deeply affected the whole race and its future hung in the balance as rider’s took time to reflect on their individual course of action. TCRNo5 came to the conclusion that should the riders overwhelmingly decide they wanted to continue to race to Meteora we would continue to provide the race infrastructure.

CP1 1st night.jpg

photo credit James Robertson

By 21:30 on Friday 28th July the TCRNo5 race were all assembled at the Manneken Pis in Geraardsbergen. Torches were lit, we raised a cheer for Mike into the dusk sky and the riders were off. The crowd carried their torches to line the Kapelmuur before, in a matter of moments, the riders were racing over the cobbles to the summit before disappearing off into the night, their red tail lights blinking in the dark.

photo credit Camille McMillan

An hour into the race and the field had split into two clear groups, the majority following Geoffroy and Jonas Goy’s lead south while a section headed North East through or around Brussels lead for a time by veterans Stephane Ouaja and Michael Wacker. No 25 Matthijs Ligt, who raced the IPWR earlier this year, broke away on a southern trajectory early on as he and a few others including newcomer Paul Galea routed through the Ardennes. Both race vehicles followed the main pack on their southerly route hunting for riders in the dawn light; both vehicles making it just in time to witness the fight for CP1 between Geoffrey Dussault, Jonas Goy and Björn Lenhard. 

photo credit James Robertson

The terrible news of the loss of Frank Simons had an enduring effect on the race and the racers. Each individual had to absorb, process and react to the news in their own time and in their own way. Some well known names decided to finish their race early, and their decision must be respected. However, many racer’s reactions are reflected in the words of Björn Lenhard who spoke to our media crew at CP1. “My position is to continue… the thing is, if I am going to stop racing now… I can give up my bike because these accidents can happen here, they can happen at home, on my way to work, they can happen anywhere.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his mindset, Björn was the first to leave CP1, setting off for the parcours just after 22:00 CEST just as TCRNo4 vet James Hayden and #187 Rory McCarron rolled into town. They, like many riders, opted to stay the night at the control hotel, partly for comfort and partly because the heavens had opened. During the night many more riders arrived pitching up bivies in the shelter of the hotel terrace.

photo credit James Robertson

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