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Nīshābūr There’s some good news this year! Scratch that, it is downright earth-shattering fabulous news. I have a sponsor for my races. Those who have followed my rides and races will know that this has been a dearest wish since the day I clipped into a bike for the first time and decided to cycle the world. So far, I have pedaled across countries and continents on donations and bank loans, acrueing quite a number of debts along the way. What then was my suprise and yes, total confoundment, to hear that somebody wanted to sponsor my races this year. It was not a sports or cyclist company either. Quest, as my sponsor is aptly named, produces and delivers mobile medical units around the world. I almost looked that gift horse in the mouth and asked ‘Why?’
I have gotten twice lucky, since Chapeau are kitting me out this summer, meaning I get chic chick kit. I’m already a big fan of their shorts. Since I’ll be spending 18 hour days in the saddle, a good pair of shorts is indispensible, and so far Chapeau’s have ticked all the boxes in quality, durability and comfort.
So now that I have the wherewithal to race, I will be heading up to Belgium shortly to join around 200 other cyclists in the Transcontinental Race 2015, more than 4,000 kilometers across Europe to Istanbul. Since it’s inaugural run in 2013, in which I was the only woman amongst 31 riders, the race has since grown in popularity. This may be due to the fact that it is a race where all bets are off and anything crazy can happen. The race was designed in keeping with the what the original founders of the Tour de France wanted to create for a bicycle race. As Mike Hall, founder of the TCR writes, it is “a race where a rider can simply pick up a bike, shake hands on the start line and race thousands of miles for the pure satisfaction of sport and no other motive but for the learnings of one’s self. At the sharp end it will be a beautifully hard bicycle race, simple in design but complex in execution. Factors of self sufficiency. logistics, navigation and judgement will burden the racers’ minds as well their physiques. The strongest will excel and redefine what we imagine is possible, yet even experienced wheelmen may only be so bold as to target a satisfactory completion. It will be no coincidence that the most prepared will be the most successful. For those who rely on luck alone; Transcontinental Number 3 will raise the stakes. Many will fail.”
The rules of the race are simple.
One stage – The clock never stops. Racers choose where, when and if at all to rest.
No Support – Racers can only use what they take with them, or what they can find en-route at commercially available services.
No Route – Only mandatory controls ensure that racers visit some of the most famous pieces of road in Europe and connect with the suffering of their forebears. The rest is up to them.
Live Tracking – Unlike the races of the 1900s, which featured much skull-duggery and deviousness which eventually saw the stages made shorter and more controlled and bike racing become more professional, through the miracle of modern satellite technology and the interweb we can check up on our riders progress wherever they may be. So too can you wherever you may be.
Having raced unsupported across Europe and the US, I am no stranger to the kind of grueling mental and physical stress such a race entails and I can honestly say in the days and weeks leading up to such a race that I never feel ready. Not ever. Last year I did some injury to my knees and tendons, and I still feel some pain after a long ride. I hope this won’t be a problem. Then again, this could be the least of my problems. I also am something of an expert at getting lost. No matter how much I plan a route, I still get lost. So there’s that.
In last year’s race, I had a crash on the second day and raced with a cracked rib, then the bike seat broke halfway through and was irrepairable. Lastly the chain snapped in the middle of the mountains of Kentucky without the tool I needed to fix it. Fortunately I was rescued by some really cool rednecks. Point being, anything and everything can go wrong and you can only be so prepared for eventualities, the rest is up to luck, a lot of ingenuity and a really tough head.
The appeal of an adventure for me is in the unknown factor, the draw of the open road, the excitement of new sights and experiences and yes, even the suffering.
Jack Thurston, writer and broadcaster, encapsulated why the Transcontinental Race is so captivating to follow.
“I fell for the Transcontinental because its a daring and thoroughly modern take on how bike racing used to be back in the ‘heroic’ era. By putting the lost virtues of adventure and self-reliance back at the heart of a bike race, the Transcontinental is a breath of fresh air in the increasingly bland, commercialised world of modern cycle sport”
To follow the race this year you can either keep up with the official Facebook page which will be updated with regular reports on the riders: facebook.com/transconrace
Or check out my official page where Antonio will once again give his dramatic and rather entertaining daily updates on the race as he has the past two years: https://www.facebook.com/worldcycle
Or follow the official twitter feed: @transconrace
For the live tracking of all racers, where you can follow where they are on the continent at any given minute, you can join the dot watchers at: http://trackleaders.com/transconrace15