The women’s podium is complete. Karolina Maciejewska, cap 63, reached Meteora at 19:05 yesterday. She rode in to the finish with one foot unclipped and outstretched, posing ballet-like on her pedals. Throughout the race she has been bursting with energy and she didn’t disappoint. She picked up her bike and bounced it up and down in triumph as she took third.
The ride through Meteora has surprised riders in its sparsity. Greece is a larger economy and tourist destination than it’s Balkan neighbours Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia but the journey from the border in Bilisht is little populated. Open, arid country bears down on the riders until they near the final climb towards Meteora.
When female pair 255a Johanna Jahnke and 255b Marion Dziwnik arrived it seemed the beating sun had taken every ounce of energy they had left. When they arrived, Cap 28 Hermann Dopfer knew what to do though. They had seen each other along the road and, having arrived shortly before them, he presented them with beers. The three said cheers and the crowd of riders and partners there to greet them joined in.
At the start of the race they said: “Our ambition is not to pass these 16 countries in less than 15 days, but to enjoy our time on the bike and with each other at the same time.” They did it in 15 days, zero hours and 27 minutes.
Douglas Thomson, cap 147, had a tearful final journey. When he arrived a little earlier in the day he said: “There were moments coming through Montenegro and Albania when I would be welling up because I was imagining the finish line and I was in awe of what I’d seen. Then when I got to Meteora the first thing I thought was whether I was going to get a penalty for riding down a one-way street. I worried they would add an hour to our time but I managed to avoid it.”
Cap 4 Mikko Mäkipää celebrated his Transcontinental achievements reaching 666 - the number of the beast. His brevet card shows six stamps at six control points in his sixth race. Known for choosing the most scenic roads when planning his Transcontinental, this year Mikko had planned to make life easier for himself. However, on finishing he said: “Looks like my route still evades other riders, and/or common sense, even when I try to take it easy.”
“I planned my route mainly on cycle paths and quiet tracks and from Austria to Hungary I barely rode on roads with cars until I neared the controls. There were times when I would be riding down a track and I’d see the footprints in the mud of another rider. I think they walked less than me because there weren’t as many tracks as I must have left,” he said.
Aimerick Stanisiere wins the award for the most unusual route between Control Point 4 and the finish. From Sarajevo he went East to the border of Serbia and then South to Kosovo and Skopje before then cutting back West through Macedonia on his way to joining up with the well-trodden route.
Further back in the race, James Illman, cap 131, had a testing journey over to Control Point 4. On Twitter, he said: “That climb was my Room 101. Turned out the 2 most terrifying dogs were police dogs, and the night watchman led me past them when I went back. Must admit I cried at the hotel. Stamp and patches are nowhere to be seen either 😔. This race is so hard.”
It’s the party at Pub 38 and we’re looking forward to seeing who will arrive closest to midnight and pull on the revered black jersey. It’s around 12 hours from the Greek border to the finish and there’s plenty of riders within reach of making the party and, right now, it looks like a battle between cap 187 David Fairweather and cap 47 Douglas Migden for the prize.