Transcontinental Race No6: The Unmeasurable

The Transcontinental Race, and ultra-races in general, can be measured in any number of ways. But, as we look ahead to TCRNo6, it’s the stuff that’s harder to measure – the unmeasurable experience – that we’re interested in.

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How can you express the experience of racing a bike across a continent?

It’s a question that’s been on our minds as we get ready for the Transcontinental Race, especially as three of us are heading out next week to tackle the 4000km route.

There are the usual stats that spring to mind: distance, climbing, time, calorie consumption. But, as the TCR enters its sixth year, we set about trying to find other ways to express the experience of racing self-supported across a continent. As a result, we’re going to be looking at the stuff that’s hard to measure, because we think that’s where the real story is.

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For every kilometre of racing, there are any number of changes that a rider might experience: a change of incline, and a change of gear; a change in road surface, or a change in direction; passing exchanges with local residents, or chance meetings with fellow riders. And over a hundred kilometres, a rider will experience a complete shift in environment; a change in country, landscape, or culture; day will turn to night, then back to day, and their mood, strength, and morale will fluctuate any number of times.

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Multiply these experiences again and again, until you have the combined experience of 4,000km across an entire continent. The result is unquestionably far greater than the sum of its parts. So, while the TCR – or indeed any ultra-distance bike race – can be described in measurements, and the figures will no doubt testify to its length, difficulty, and variation, they will never provide a true insight into the experience of riding one. Kilometres will tick over, countries will come and go, and brevet cards will be stamped. Ultimately, it’s the unmeasurable factors that really give these races their character. This is what we love about the TCR.

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Instead on focusing on quantifiable factors of the race, we’re going to be talking about the unmeasurable stuff, because we reckon that’s where the true heart of ultra-racing lies. There are some things that you just can’t measure, and that’s both an exciting and satisfying prospect as we look forward to #TCRNo6.

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