TCRNo8 Route Preview

We spoke to our ambassadors and friends about the checkpoints for TCRNo8 to find out more about what riders can expect from the route in 2020. Here, Fiona Kolbinger, Bjorn Lenhard, Kristof Allegaert, Matt Falconer and Chris Thomas share their thoughts on the checkpoints and insight on what riders will face in 2020.

05/12/2019

 

Most notably, the Transcontinental Race returns to a West-East orientation for 2020, although it retains Brest and Burgas as start and finish locations. Kristof is a fan of this return to travelling East, telling us that “the longer you’re on the road, the more adventure everyone can expect”, while Bjorn is a bit more pragmatic; “it was a good idea to go to Brest in 2019 because of Paris-Brest-Paris, but in general I like to finish at a warm and sunny beach!” Chris is also happy about the return to the usual direction for the race as it “adds to the anticipation and excitement to go further and deeper into the race and know that resupply and good bike shops aren’t around and the onus is really on the riders to plan thoroughly and have the ability to cope with difficult situations totally on their own.”

Fiona expects heading East to make the race feel “completely different to TCRNo7”, making it “an entirely new adventure for me.” At least she already knows the best places for pizza and ice cream near the finish! Fiona also noted that “about half of the race will take place in Western Europe, from where it is relatively easy to catch a train to any part of Western Europe or to a nearby airport. This means that scratching is logistically easier for a longer time than in previous West-to-East TCRs, and this constellation might challenge riders’ mental strength.”

Matt agrees that “the route is fascinating and looks really difficult. The return to Durmitor especially caught my eye as I’ve been longing to head back there. In TCRNo4 it was shrouded in cloud and rain, so I hardly saw anything. The return to Romania is interesting, I really didn’t like riding there but it looks like there’ll be only rural roads available. The return of a West to East route will be welcome, there’s something about ending in Eastern Europe that was a huge part of the reasons why I started this race.”

For all riders, apart from Matt, the inclusion of the Transalpina is a highlight. Fiona in particular notes that “Romania is an utterly beautiful country and I happen to speak some Romanian, so I’m really excited about this part of the route in general. The choice of the less obvious (gravel) road as parcours and the possibility to approach it from either end will make this an interesting part of the race.” Meanwhile, Bjorn is excited about the wildness of Romania: “at my last visit in 2017, Romania was still a very wild country, I hope it’s still the same. Lots of landscape and animals, especially bears.”, although Matt notes that some of the wildlife can be less welcome “watch out for Romanian dogs. I have never had so many chases by packs of dogs. Be extra wary late afternoon, early evening and at dawn.”

Chris’ interest in Romania is centred around the fact that “the Lost Dot team love to throw a curveball, pushing the traditional route aside for a more gruelling gravel route. Plus, with this coming toward the tail end of the race, it will be interesting to see if bike and tyre choices have a big impact on people. If they’re anything like me, racers will be scrutinising maps, Strava files and any sources they can find to get a gauge of how bad/good it is.”

Our riders were conflicted on what would be the biggest challenge created by TCRNo8’s checkpoints. Bjorn told us that he’s “happy that they didn’t make such crazy, long CPs as at TCRNo7” but that “maybe the biggest challenge is not to die in France because there is no food and water to buy until Belgium!”. Kristof agrees that starting in France could be more challenging than many riders expect. “Depending on when the race starts, resupply can be tricky on the first part of the race”. Matt was the only rider to highlight Romania as a particular challenge, “mainly for navigation and the less maintained roads, which could make for slow progress.”

We also asked our riders where we might expect to see some interesting routing choices. While Fiona has not yet looked at the route in detail, she’s excited by the CP4 parcours, which “can be approached from either end, therefore providing two interesting routing alternatives relatively close to the finish. Also, this means that some riders will meet on the parcours while riding in opposite directions – exciting!” Matt similarly expects that routing choices around “Montenegro to Romania will be interesting. Inside Romania, avoiding the main roads will be hard work.” Chris, meanwhile, thinks “we will see a lot of different routes taken by racers this year – the stretch from CP1 to CP2 offers a lot of variety; flat roads along the Rhine, or heading over mountains. one shorter, one longer but flatter. The dot watching will be interesting.”

For the first time, the route also takes in the cobbles of Northern France, which Kristof expects to make things interesting early on. “Doing this section in darkness will be a challenge, so for the front-runners this will be a thriller if you don’t love gravel roads added with some cobbles in-between.” Fiona is likely to be one of those front-runners and isn’t the biggest fan of rough cobblestones, but expects it to “add some spice to the early phase of the race by challenging riders’ sit bones as well as screws or sub-optimally-attached bike bags.” Matt even joked that it’s “worth opening a bike shop on the parcours to make the most of the opportunity!”

For Chris, the inclusion of cobbles brings back memories of the Muur in Geraardsbergen. “The idea of endless, really rough cobbles like the sort found on the Muur is daunting. It’s tough on the hands, tough on the bike, tough on the wheels – everything! Bits fall off the bike and you end up going super slow to avoid this. Big climbs, or really rough gravel don’t really bother me, as if it’s anything really rough, let’s face it, most of us are walking anyway. But you know you can ride cobbles, so it’s a bit of a nightmare. Let’s see…” However, he’s quick to reassure applicants that “while cobbles aren’t easy, we’re all cut from the same cloth, and the glue that binds us all is a love of bikes – so what better for a checkpoint than the legendary Roubaix cobbles! In terms of status, Roubaix and its history is right up there, and I think in terms of a metaphor, the thoughts I have of watching riders in the years gon by, filthy, covered in mud and rain or dust, fixing their bikes and pushing on in total discomfort through gritted teeth, reminds me exactly of the TCR experience. Except we get to do it over a couple of weeks, not a single day.”

For those looking to enter the race for the first time, Kristof advises to focus on “making a route that feels comfortable for you. If you really want a good adventure, take the very small roads and you will have the adventure of your life!” However, Fiona is keen to remind riders that “the race will probably be at least as popular as in previous years, and the number of riders dropping out between being offered a place in January and the start in July has unfortunately been relatively high in the last editions. If you feel ready for the challenge and would like to experience a proper adventure, there is no reason not to apply. Just make sure that you’ll be able to commit a substantial amount of your free time to training, planning and preparation before handing in the application.”

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