Both leaders having to walk two separate parcours has to be a Transcontinental Race first! It was the Bielašnica mountain at Control Point 4 in Bosnia that forced rider James Hayden, cap 1, off the bike yesterday while Bjorn Lenhard struggled up the third parcours after a slashed tire.
The race leader arrived at CP4 in Bosnia late in the afternoon with a freshness that belied his last six days in the saddle, most recently in the simmering heat of the Croatian flats. The volunteers regaled him with horror stories of the loose gravel parcours but James was unfazed, confident that he could handle the rubble that awaited him.
Starting strong he scaled the first section beautifully but the swearing started soon after he entered the switchbacks, the last section appeared to be fueled by pure rage before finally, high on adrenaline, James reached the summit elated by the challenge that had tested his skill, stammana and determination to the limit. Turning to return back down the parcours he carved two turns before the gravel got him. He was punctured and like cap 2 Bjorn Lenhard two days before he was left to walk the parcours, muttering darkly.
Expletives rained down the mountain, mostly in the direction of race coordinator Juliana Buhring who had scoped the route with TCRNo4 women’s winner Emily Chappell the previous summer. However, having returned to the hotel he tweeted: “Really good to complete CP4. Only one puncture. Was horrific and exactly what this race is about, testing you to the limit. Nice one @transconrace”
While Bielašnica was testing our leader, Bjorn was crossing the border into Bosnia. At Banja Luka he chose a road via Celinac, what began as poor asphalt soon turned into a stony track finally dwindling into singletrack. Evidently deciding the route was impassable on his set-up it looks like he decided to double back and rest. Routing issues must be having a negative impact on Bjorn’s usually sunny disposition this year, there is a lot of sympathy for him as we root for his dot edging closer to CP4.
As Bjorn rested the ‘top 10’ dots were closing in on him like predatory insects on their prey. At 04:30 Bjorn headed North to loop onto James Hayden’s route in while Stephane Ouaja, cap 12, slid into second place just ahead of him. Stephane appears neck and neck with Thomas Dupin, cap 157, on a more Westerly route towards Control Point 4 and we are currently expecting all three riders to arrive within fairly short succession.
Lead woman Ede Harrison, cap 179, continues her dominance. Today we expect her to wave her passport to cross over into Slovakia and make her way towards Bratislava. She’s currently 34th in the overall ranking. Behind her the tussle continues between second and third women Anisa Aubin in cap 21 and Karolina Maciejewska in cap 63 who, at time of writing, appear to be travelling within a few kilometres of one another.
Cap 53 Alina Kilian posted on Instagram that “sometimes you have to stop” although she wasn’t scratching. As she was on the Mangart Saddle parcours she came across a truck crashed onto its side in front of her and stopped to help the driver, who was, thankfully, unhurt. The photo on social media is quite dramatic!
At Control Point 3, few riders have been as buoyant as the pair 256a and 256b, Charles Christiansen and Nico Deportago-Cabrera. They were the first pair through and after collecting their stamps they had a quick game of dice before continuing to tackle the parcours last night.
Cap 253a James Craven is back on the road after collecting his stamp at Control Point 3, an infection forced him to rest for the past 60 hours while his partner Jonathan Rankin, cap 253b, continues alone and looks within reach of Control Point 4 very soon. Both are riding out of classification now due to race rules.