Transcontinental Race No6: You Are Here
This year, Apidura had three members of staff lining up at the start of The Transcontinental Race. Now that they’re all safely back in the office, we take a look back at some of their holiday snaps, and discover the beautiful, challenging, weird and wonderful stories behind them.
This was always going to be a race to remember for Apidura. Before the start, our Out Of Office feature introduced Jamie, Greg, and Josh, before they set off on their cross-continental journey, and examined what their hopes, fears, and expectations were for the race ahead. Now that they’re safely back in the office, we’re taking the time to look back at their experiences.
At 4,000km long, with over 20 border crossings, and endless hours in the saddle, it is easy to be overawed by the scale of the TCR. In many ways, that’s part of it’s allure. But once you delve beneath the surface of unbelievable stats and feats of endurance, and start looking at the race not as a whole, but as an intricate web of experiences, woven by 250 individuals as they pedal their way from one moment to the next, the view is somewhat different.
From the beautiful to the bizarre, and the magnificent to the mundane, each rider in the race will have amassed a collection experiences that will live long in the memory. The fact that a spectacular view of a mountain panorama can be as gut-wrenchingly powerful as a moment of despair in some anonymous bus shelter at the side of a dual carriageway is a testament to the breadth of the ultra-racing experience.
To try and reflect that, we’ve collected a series of holiday snaps from Jamie, Greg, and Josh: Ten pictures from various corners of Europe, and the ten very different stories to accompany them.
Day 2, 17:50
Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse, Austria, with Josh
“The CP1 parcours, following the Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse, is widely regarded as one of the most scenic routes in the whole of the Alps, and a road I had been looking forward to riding for some time. After the excitement and adrenaline of day 1, day 2 was about finding a rhythm, and settling in for the rest of the race. To finish the day off by obtaining the first brevet card stamp, and taking on the spectacularly beautiful alpine parcours at dusk, felt quite fitting. CP1 represented all of the toughness and beauty of the Transcontinental, and yet there was so much more of it still to come: An exciting, and yet somewhat intimidating, prospect to take into the hours of darkness.”
Day 3, 11:20
Sella Nevea, Italy, with Jamie
“Riding through the Alps had been nothing short of epic. As I started the climb up to the Slovenian border, and the CP2 parcours, I kept noticing these dried up rivers. I found it fascinating that these parched, rocky channels would be cascading rivers at other times of the year, and that people had tried to tame them with walls and levees. A large highway had also been running along the valley floor for much of the previous day, with hundreds of cars being funnelled through tunnels and over passes. Both were a vivid representation of man versus nature, and made the surrounding environment seem so huge, and powerful, as I slowly made my way between the valleys, one pedal at a time.”
Day 4, 20:24
Gross-globnitz, Austria, with Jamie
“Mid-way through Austria, my leg muscles began to really tighten up, forcing me to stop and stretch regularly at the side of the road. This was one such occasion, and with the setting sun and hay bales, it made for a beautiful sight. I was on a main road, a long way from the town I’d planned to stop for the night, but the traffic and cramping legs made the prospect of more riding highly unappealing. I could have curled up right there, and said goodbye to the day along with the setting sun, but stayed true to the task at hand and made it to my destination later that night. Riding the TCR is about systematically facing these micro battles, and putting them behind you gradually, one ride at a time. It’s amazing the distance travelled once you start adding them up.”
Day 5, 10:40
Telc, Czech Republic, with Jamie
“When a quick stop turns into an extended layover, you know something isn’t quite right. I’d stopped at this petrol station after realising my cleat was broken, but the inspection was soon extended by a chain of procrastination, starting with food and drink, then a thorough check of the bike, and a scroll through Instagram, before I ran out of things to do, and got moving again. I had barely stopped to sleep the night before last, and it appeared that my body was now telling me that I should perhaps avoid doing so again. You need to learn fast as a first-time ultra-racer – especially when your classroom ends up being the forecourt of a sweltering Czech petrol station.”
Day 7, 13:50.
Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary, with Josh
“I was forced to go off-piste a few times in Hungary, to avoid roads which were marked with ‘No Cycling’ signs. Making your way around such obstacles costs both time and energy, and the frustration here was only intensified by the suffocating midday heat. You just have to remember that they are momentary frustrations in a two week long race though, and each will eventually pass. Dealing with challenges like this is in many ways what ultra-racing is all about, and the difficult times are often the ones you are most glad to have experienced – albeit in retrospect.“
Day 9, 18:45
Near Vinkovci, Croatia, with Greg
“Like a lot of other riders, I had found Hungary tough. It came at a point in the race where the end is not quite in sight, yet the physical and mental fatigue is really setting in, and so it can be difficult to stay positive. I remember being somewhere near the Croatian border, and having a bit of an internal debate about whether I wanted to continue racing: An existential moment, alone in a bus shelter, somewhere in the vast plains of Central Europe – it couldn’t have been more TCR. Come morning though, I found myself on this perfectly straight, blissfully surfaced, traffic free road. It reminded me of travelling through the southern states of the US, and was enough to get my head back in the game.”
Day 10, 07:05
Bjelašnica, Bosnia, with Greg
“When pictures of the CP4 parcours started to appear on social media, as the leading riders tackled it, the severity of the climb became clear. (After seeing it, I even diverted to the outskirts of Vienna to buy a new set of cleats in anticipation). I arrived at the CP in the middle of the night, exhausted and hallucinating, so had very little idea of my surroundings until the morning, when I started climbing the parcours. The scenery was nothing short of spectacular, and a just reward for the arduous 10km climb. In this picture, I chose to document the point at which walking became a more efficient way to move forward, as opposed to battling the bike from the saddle. Some riders probably rode more of the climb, but I was happy to walk, enjoy the views, and make it up and down again puncture-free.”
Day 9, 14:24
Near Bjelašnica, Bosnia, with Josh
“Riding through Bosnia was at times a thought provoking experience. Here, in the Republika Srpska region surrounding CP4, there was lots of fighting during the Bosnian war of the 1990’s, and as such, many gravestones could be seen littering the roadsides (the white stone to the right of the road in photo). The minarets of mosques that had been present in the valleys north of Sarajevo were nowhere to be found in these southern provinces, either. Both were subtle reminders that this was a race across borders that don’t strictly relate to nationhood. This was a race across a continent, and all of its cultural, historical, and social complexities, and we were privileged to be able to partake in it.”
Day 10, 17:58
Bosnia-Montenegro border, with Greg
“The 15km approach to the Montenegrin border crossing hadn’t filled me confidence, due to a distinct lack of oncoming vehicles, and also the variety of road surfaces encountered: Had I picked the crossing that a lot of riders in TCRNo4 were turned away from? I wondered. I persevered, and eventually a customs hut materialised. I breathed a sigh of relief as they waved me through, then across the military-esque border bridge spanning the confluence of the Tara, Piva, and Drina rivers. Worries allayed, I rolled across it into Montenegro, and entered the spectacular Piva Canyon just a few kilometres later, in a rush of euphoria. It was one of the standout moments from the race.”
Day 10, 20:50
Podgorie, Albania, with Josh
“The concept of time takes an interesting form during an ultra-race. It simply doesn’t stop, meaning that you’re racing when you’re riding, eating, shopping, and sleeping. Your schedule is governed by your ability to make progress, not by the numbers on your watch – or in this case, the setting sun. This was shot high in the mountains of Albania, at the end of a day that already felt long, but that was still far from being over. I took a few minutes to enjoy the twilight and eat something, then rode through the night to finish the race at sunrise the following day. By that point, the memory of my Albanian sunset, and all that preceded it, could have been from another world.”