The Transcontinental Race
The Transcontinental or TCR, now in its fifth instalment so affectionately referred to as TCRno5, is a bicycle race.
Around 200 competitors race their bicycles from one side of Europe to another. ..
We don’t race fro Belgium to Greece in a straight line. Where would the fun be in that?
We have to visit 4 mandatory checkpoints. They are to be found atop some of the highest points in Europe and in obscure locations.
This year they are:
START // GERAARDSBERGEN | BELGIUM
CP1 // SCHLOSS LICHTENSTEIN | GERMANY
CP2 // MONTE GRAPPA | ITALY
CP3 // HIGH TATRAS MOUNTAINS | SLOVAKIA
CP4 // TRANSFAGARASAN HIGHWAY | ROMANIA
FiNISH // METEORA | GREECE
And you can watch us as we go!
There is no set route. It is part of the challenge but it also means you can be in control. I can pick a route with less climbing, assess the roads from street view to see how much traffic is on them. It also means a lot of effort researching routes in unfamiliar countries. I have no idea about border crossings in Eastern Europe and no idea if my route is actually any good. Will I end up lost on a gravel track somewhere? On a banned road and need to turn back? Accidentally route myself through a field? Certainly, probably at least once a day.
The race is completely self supported. That means no outside assistance that isn’t commercially available to all competitors. I need to be on top of feeding and watering myself. Find my own camp spots or hotels. Fix my own mechanicals and most importantly, manage my own mind to motivate myself through. Constantly risk assessing to make sure that I am safe.
People ask me what my plan is. Do I know where I’m going to sleep. Well, I haven’t got too much of a plan. I have a route and the equipment to sleep pretty much wherever I feel safe. I’ll carry my own food and water and be self sufficient. I plan to be flexible and to take each day as it comes. If I book a hotel room 6 days away, get a puncture, hit an obstacle and have to re route. Well I miss out on my hotel, my money and beat myself up about being a lousy cyclist. So being flexible I think is the way to go.
Live in the now and here and not worry about what might or might not come.
It is also just a bike ride.
If long rides and Audax have taught me anything it is not to view a ride as the entire distance. Just ride in the moment. Ride to the next checkpoint/cafe/sleep. Long training rides have also told me that the bad patches are only temporary. And if you’re having a lousy time, chances are most others are too.
Undertaking this while I’m still recovering from an anxiety crisis may not be the best idea. Cycling for me is a pursuit firmly grounded in positive values and therefore a good platform for self exploration. Learning to cope with the unknown will help me overcome my anxiety. I can’t leave my fears at home. I need to learn how to acknowledge them but not let them take over.
When I first committed to doing the TCR I wanted do push myself. I wanted a challenge that I didn’t know if I could complete. Now that uncertainty is what makes it terrifying. But if we only experienced life in situations where we are comfortable, or certain of the outcome our world would be small. Learning to cope with uncertainty, with ‘I don’t know’. To learn how to stop my mind from running away with negative thoughts about failure, possible calamities or mechanicals and instead to start experiencing the here and now. To ground myself in the present moment through my senses and experiences.
Lee Cragie resurfaced this quote from the late race director Mike Hall:
“Enjoy it, don’t lose sight of just how lucky you are to be out there and above all, manage your expectations. If we treat things as a pass or fail test we can torture ourselves over the outcome but if we can consider it more as an experiment with an uncertain outcome from the start then we always at least get an answer.”
Un, dau, tri. Bant a ni!
I am incredibly grateful to all the support I have received. From my amazing friends who have been patient with my absence from social gatherings (or turning up to them late/in cycling kit!), from Audax Club Bristol for company on training rides and believing in me. Thank you Rickie Cotter for being the most incredible mentor, friend and happy influence. Cheers to my housemate for being cool with having half the house taken over by cycling paraphernalia.
I’ve also been very fortunate to have the support of Threo, Matchy, Apidura and Rapha.
Threo were the first to come to my aid after the fiasco with Pearl Izimi. Jehu also offered kit to reaffirm my faith in the cycling industry. Then the cycling karma fairies kicked in mega times and Rapha sent me the most amazing TCR kit package. Thank you all! Obviously nice kit is nice but I’ve also just been really chuffed that these brands that have a million other important things to do took the time to support me. The people at Apidura were very helpful in helping me work out what bags and setup would work best with my frame (short person = small frame = limited space).
There’s also an amazing twist to my story. Way way back in Spring twitter friend Jo Burt asked me if I would take part in a panel talking about the TCR at Bespoked . Here I met a bunch of nutters, felt wildly out of my depth, inadequate, scared, overwhelmed by talking in front of an audience of bicycle nutters when I didn’t really know what I was doing- I hadn’t even ridden very far yet! One of the other panellists was about the same age, also based in Bristol. Liam seemed a quiet soul but clearly capable of some crazy stuff on two wheels. After the panel we exchanged a few logistical emails and I encouraged him to come out with Audax Club Bristol sometime to meet some other TCR entrants. Then one Saturday a few of us planned an impromptu 300km ride. I remembered our earlier conversation and messaged Liam at 9pm (it was that impromptu!), he said he was supposed to he having a rest day but why not?! Long story cut short: 300km, a few club runs, recovery rides, a river swim and bivvy date later and the penny finally dropped!