Following yesterday’s arrival of the fastest woman in this year’s race, Ede Harrison in cap 179, we also welcomed the first pair - American double-team Charles ‘Chas’ Christiansen, 256a, and Nico Deportago-Cabrera, 256b. They whooped their way down the hill to Pub 38 then hopped off their bikes and stripped their tops off, celebrating with a hug in a bundle of skin, hair and tattoos.
“That was unreal,” they said. “It’s been a long time coming. We missed it last year and it’s been a long wait but we’ve been laughing the entire way round. When we rolled down the hill we were screaming, scaring people probably.”
It’s always interesting to watch the pairs because relationships often fray as the weariness builds and the differences between the two riders become more pronounced. These two have been riding races together for nearly a decade so they know exactly they each roll.
Chas said: “He’s faster on the shorter, punchier climbs. I’m better on the longer ones and then on the flat we’re just good.”
There were times when the partnership wasn’t quite so harmonious though: “There were definitely a couple of moments when it went quiet for a couple of hours,” Chas said.
Nico chipped in: “I’ll just let him be and then we’d stop and say I’m sorry for being a dick there. I’d go eat a Snickers bar and come back and say I’m sorry about that back there.”
“Our bodily cycles synced after like two days,” Chas said. “We know as soon as we leave a coach stop, 5 minutes later we take a piss. You don’t even need to say it. We’re pulling over. ‘You got napkins? Tight.’ It’s perfect.”
They arrived at 19:29 on Aug. 12 though could have been earlier were it not for being blocked at the Bosnian border.
“We had this amazing tailwind and we were flying along the gravel and then we reached the border. We should have just cruised past the office but stupidly we were like: ‘Hi, we’re American. Can we cross your border? The guard wasn’t letting us past. We were gonna push it and then he just stepped backward and put his gun holster on and we were like ‘OK. We’re not getting through so we had to do a 70km diversion to another border control.”
David Sherrington, cap 77, was next to arrive despite being on the verge of scratching the day before. “I had five punctures in a row,” he said. “I’d ripped my tire and repaired it but the fix was causing some friction that would wear the tube down until it punctured, again and again. In the end I found someone who could fix it - a car mechanic of all things and now here I am.”
At 06:46 on Aug. 13 Anisa Aubin was the second woman to reach Meteora. She arrived feeling forlorn that the adventure was ending.
“It feels so sad for it to be over,” she said. “I was using this hill up to Meteora to think about what it meant last time and what it meant this time. My mind’s not clear enough to sort it all out yet but it’s huge and suddenly it’s just gone. It’s really exciting to have improved so much in a year. Last year I got food poisoning at the end and I did it in 19 days so this year I cut five days off. Five days! Hahaha.”
She thanked Ede Harrison for a good race. It was a shame Anisa had a broken shifter early in the race as otherwise the two might have been even closer, though Ede did say Anisa had her worried when her race started to have its problems towards the end.
They didn’t dwell on the competition for long and conversation turned to how much cycling kit has been inadvertently gifted to Albania by riders who have left their belongings lying around. Anisa joked that her organisation had reached near obsessive levels to make sure she didn’t lose her stuff.
“I get into this system where everything has its place,” she said. “My phone usually goes in my jersey pocket but by the last few days my jersey had stretched and the phone was dangling so low it was banging on my seat and I had to tuck it into my bib shorts. On one the last few days someone said to me ‘why don’t you just move it to your frame bag’ and I was like: ‘No. It’s way too late in the game to change my system now.”
Shortly after Anisa the second place pair in the race, cap 259a Luca Somm and 259b Oliver Bieri, reached the finish a little drained. Greece had not been kind to them.
“Greece was just shit. We had shit routing. We were in small villages with no food. We were just stupid because there is a route right next to he highway - the old highway - and we took that and it started to get gravelly and Oliver’s tyre was really low pressure and I think we destroyed one body and half a bike,” Luca said.
They also added to this year’s bank of stories about dangerous dogs in the route: “We went down a road into a field and as we went deeper there were 10 dogs in the grass and they all started barking at us. We slowly started creeping backwards and luckily they just barked and let us go,” Oliver said.
A little later we saw cap 194 Stuart White. He said: “My legs felt pretty good but discomfort on the saddle was the main thing. Oh, and getting on my way each day. I’m a terrible faffer and it took me ages everyday until, basically, yesterday. I got it dialled by the end.”
We’ll be telling more stories from the arrivals in the Transcontinental Podcast. Among the finishers expected today are the third fastest woman in the race so far, cap 63, Karolina Maciejewska and two more pairs due in the early hours. They are 251a Anton Lindberg and 251b Amy Lippe and 255a Johanna Jahnke and 255b Marion Dziwnik.
Shortly after them we’ll welcome cap 4 Mikko Mäkipää who saw a bear cub walking in the road and posted pictures on Twitter last night.
Lastly, we send positive energy to Anna Petters, cap 97, who didn’t make Control Point 4 but is going to carry on to the finish regardless. On her Instagram account she said: “Good morning Bosnia. I like you better now when you don’t chase me with dogs and put slugs in my hair. Riding Bosnia at night was an experience... As you figured I didn’t make it to CP4 on time but I’m getting there! Sending strength to all of you!”