Our race vehicle, driven by Juliana Buhring and one half of our race media team, is in Slovakia heading for CP3 as I write this report. The third control, brought to your this year by our friends at Kinesis UK, nestles between the precipitous crags of the High Tatras mountains and a lake of pure mountain water of startling coolness and clarity.
Only 4 days after our riders left Flanders the leaders are closing in on Vysoké Tatry roughly 1750 km along the route from the start. The front of the race continues to be dominated by Björn Lenhard averaging 19.5 km/hr and on the move for an average of 19 hours a day. Behind him Jonas Goy, James Hayden, Ian To and Geoffroy Dussault are pretty well spread out on both sides of the Austro/Hungarian border. Jonas, Geoffroy, Christoph Fuhrbach and Robert Carlier are following a similar route beyond the Po Valley skirting the Eastern edge of the Austrian Alps. Jonas has averaged about 25.5 km/hr and 435 km a day over the four days while Geoffroy averaged 25 km/hr and 395 km a day putting in the majority of his climbing on the first day. James Hayden, Ian To, Matthias Dalgas, Rory McCarron and Nelson Trees have headed on a more easterly trajectory through the beautiful rolling hills of Slovenia and at the time of writing only James Hayden has braved the confusion of the Hungarian road/cycle lane system.
This year TCRNo3 and No4 vet James Hayden has adopted a less stringent approach to sleeping allowing himself longer periods of time out of the saddle, he is moving at a consistently fast average speed of over 25 km/hr and can be expected at the Slovakian control sometime in the afternoon of 2nd August.
So far, the vast majority of riders have followed a similar route from Bolzano through Trento to Bassano del Grappa where our title sponsor PEdAL ED’s control point CP2 sits at the bottom of the parcours up to Cima Grappa. So far 34 riders have scratched from the race and roughly 34% of the remaining field have passed through CP2, the majority choosing to continue on along the ridge of Paderno del Grappa and down the North Eastern face to avoid as much of the Po Valley as possible.
Last night our photographer Camille Mcmillan was roaming the hotel grounds finding new arrivals as they washed sweaty kit and climbed into their light bivies to snatch a few hours.
The last rider to climb before dark was #TCRNo5cap012 Stephane Ouaja, riders #142 Stuart Birnie, #28 Ian Walker and #35 Sonke Meyer rode up in the dark while a good number waited until dawn to start the 1775m climb including the first woman to the control #TCRNo5cap233 Melissa Pritchard who arrived at 22:31 and started the climb about 5am. A steady stream arrived all day keeping the volunteers busy and as we go to press it looks like a good crowd have gathered to pitch their bivies at the Hotel Abbazia once again while 4 times Transcontinental Race vet Mikko Makippa braves the dark to gain the summit in the dark.
Photography credit Camille Macmillan