2014/09/07

Why? Because you can. - Transcontinental Race 2014

Why? I still don't know. Because you can? Seems to be a valid answer, at least to me. Left Hamburg on Monday morning, heading towards London, 875 km which took me 2 1/2 days and was quite some fun, besides the profile on the island.

Hamburg - somewhere in Netherlands: 354 km

somewhere in Netherlands - somewhere in Belgium: 320 km

somehwere in Belgium - London: 201 km

After hanging around at the nice AirBnB flat and meeting some riders over a briefing beer, I was more or less wasting time with sleeping, eating pasta and getting a pair of new cleats. I was then sent off by my better half and did what I usually do once I sit one a bike for a bit longer - eating miles.

day 1: 355 km

day 2: 375 km

day 3: 381 km

day 4: 183 km

day 5: 288 km

day 6: 271 km

day 7: 341 km

day 8: 319 km

day 9: 355 km

day 10: 283 km

day 11: 279 km
This makes 3430 km in the end, pretty much exactly what I had planned as route before - no wonder, I prolly did just 10km detouring or short cutting here or there. Seems the effort in route planning in front of the screen is worth every kilometer on the road. Was a pretty quick start, this stormy wind pushed us all on an early ferry. Feeling well I rode til I was a bit tired and it started to drizzle. Nice bus stop sleep for a few hours. Having crossed Paris on Sunday morning I was heavily surprised being 8th on CP1 - I expected a harder competition in the 2nd race with nearly 100 starters. Two nice days with not much trouble, a bit rain, but what else than riding should one do in such a weather? Shittiest day was in the Alps, not my terrain and maybe a bit crazy to do 3 big passes in one day, plus the punctured while climbing the Stelvio. Anyhow, I could recover quite nicely on the following two days heading south in Italy, followed by a nice and relaxing ferry ride. It was a little bit of a touristic ride, having picked tomatoes from the field, some Kiwis from the tree, checking out Rimini beach life and racing with some Italian locals in their after-work-training. Even the two (of my three) punctured couldn't spoil the fun I had along the Croatian cost. One of the most beautiful rides in this race. Having met Steffen earlier in Italy (he's a nice and calm guy - I like his relaxed view on the things) and Mark later on the ferry as well, we did some fun ride towards CP3. Unfortunately Mark had some trouble with 2 broken spokes on the drive side. Kotor was somehow weird, they had a blackout as I arrived there. A crowded city in darkness, everyone on the streets and you try to find a pizza shop which can serve you. Power came back and as well my hunger. Hanging around and having a chat with a couple from Portugal and another one from the US time just went by. Later Mike and Matthias stopped by for a short chat. The night climb on the Lovcen was pretty nice, not a hard climb, easily doable in the saddle. Funniest thing - I expected to have a quiet night goin up there but met Adrian on the gas station. The brave guy was trying to keep up with Steffen and had so much less sleep since he didn't take the ferry. We had 2 hours of nice chatting over which we nearly forgot to enjoy the view down the bay. Until that day it was just some bicycle trip for me, exhausting in the Alps but generally quite enjoyable. Sure, you are not amused by some cars passing a bit to close, or some steep gradients in between, but overall it was pretty much what I could do a bit longer. So it was a bit surprising that we had a competition reaching CP3, but I was fine with that. There was still one third of the total way left. Having a nice sleep in the picnic area, a proper breakfast and some nice gossip chats about the latest news from the race - life was good. But then the discussion turned to become serious about the race as a competition and I realised that Steffen made a very clever move the previous night, putting over 100km between us. Well - in that way Mike was so right when he said "You are allowed to race." I didn't feel like in a race, I just cycled as long as it felt right to do every day, I did it as fast as I accepted it to become not too much exhausting. I wanted to be on the safe side with my resources. So knowing that 4th place was prolly lost already (Steffen would enter Greece giving him a home-run), there were not much options left. Some guys were down in the bay, Adrian sitting next to me - better doin some miles. It was okayish the next days. Riding did not surprise me much by the road qualities (maybe one more  good thing having grown up in the eastern part of Germany), it was more a mental challenge. Kids trying to catch you and sell you some corn - maybe the only way they could assist their family in getting a bit income. Rubbish everywhere. I mean, plastic waste simply in each hole along the way, every dry river bed was filled with that shit. There is no sense for these topics in Albania or Macedonia. But first dog fights at night. Wohooo. I really hated it. It's a difference if you just ride and do 100 km at night. You take care of the road, watching your way, trying to be not hit by a car or running over some lazy cat. But always in standby for an instant sprint, exhausting. I got a few SMS telling me that Mark was still on the road following a similar route and Adrian took a more inwards way via Bulgaria. I expected that Mark couldn't find any replacement or spare in Kotor. Having told him about one last years rider (forgot the name) who also had some broken spoke and could find some spare in Thessaloniki I expected him to stop there. And the roads until then weren't much easier. So all I had to do was keeping some distance between us. Which was doable. At darkness it was still annoying to struggle with these dogs, especially once you were in the traffic. It was like a bad movie - being chased by dogs on one side, trying to keep my track and not being hit by a truck on the other side. No wonder that it was more than welcome to have a very nice sleep at the beach. The sound of the waves just made me sleep in a second. Next day was kinda fun since I met a Belgian guy who was watching the race tracker. Really kind company for a few miles. Later that day it happened again in Alexandropolis. About that I forgot to get some food and lost a bit time against Mark. I knew he would put all in to chase me. But no fun at night again - several dog fights on my way to and through the Turkish border. I was pissed about that. Really, I said to myself - if Mark got the balls and the legs to catch me and get the 5th place - well. I don't ride more that night. I knew that there were some climbs to do on the D110 and I disliked to do them at night. I got me a smokers room in a cheap hotel, had a shower and fell asleep. It was pretty early for my taste, but prolly it was the right thing to do. Mark would need so much more miles than me, he did not had much recovery while sorting the things out for his wheel. He should be a bit tired too. So it was logic that I would start once the sun rises (the wolves turn back to lazy dogs in the morning). Having just less than 300 km to do I decided to put all in over the first hours. The road was good, just a few road works, wide shoulder, good asphalt. That day was cookies, coke and ice cream. Avoiding the heavy traffic of Istanbul I had to do some climbs, but it was much more relaxed going the smaller roads. Still - you can compare this with Berlin rush hours but not with the main roads and highways in Istanbul. Well. And then it was over. You ride through this forest, a bit down, a small community with street life and shops, and then you are at the Bosporus. Just follow the street, enjoy the restaurant life and some ships in the water, a few curves and then it's done.

10 day 9 hours 17 mins - 3,430 km


 I still don't know. Was I lucky, was it just all too smooth for me this time? What if I would have thought about "racing" a bit earlier? Would it have made the things in my head more complicated? Or would I have ended up under 10 days, or at a better position? I really don't know. I was following the race last year and found it a thrill. I didn't had a road bike that time, I stopped with an old steel frame road bike couple years ago, I was more into my MTB and a heavy robust steel travel bike. I didn't feel ready at all. Long time. Even after buying me the bike, getting all that important things together (which will be another post). When there was the announcement for the race I felt a bit shy. Not this year, I'm not ready. But maybe this was just a lie. When they opened the list again for one day in April I was procrastinating alone at night, entering my data. And expected to hear nothing anymore. Mid of June I asked Mike if there will be some news because there were some empty lines on the list. And hell, it became a serious thing now. Doing miles. Long stretches. With the stuff on the bike. Even with 2,500km done in July alone I didn't feel ready. But it is kinda okay, it keeps your expectations low. A thing which helps me in my job as an engineer quite often. A healthy pessimistic view and you prepare much better than you would actually need. Leading to a nice result. All I wanted to do is not missing the finishers party. So far it worked out. Everything else was a huge surprise to me. Well okay, I had my bad day. I'm not trained to climb that much like on day 4. It went better after the Alps. Maybe I should have planned a similar route like Adrian, approaching the Stelvio from north, avoiding some climbs on the way. It was a good example that the shortest way isn't always the fastest or easiest. I will keep that in mind. Because. You never know. It was too much fun to not do it again one day. Or something like this. Because you can.

Some pictures from my holidays:

The race: http://www.transcontinentalrace.com/
The race blog: http://reportage.transcontinentalrace.com/?page_id=99
The trackers: http://trackleaders.com/transconrace14f.php#maintabs-1
My tracker: #50
Some more pics by Matthias Wjst: http://www.wjst.de/images/index.php

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