It was a hard decision to enter or not to enter the race. I like long distance races and a little bit of adventure is always fun, but because this was the first edition… i doubted. Is this a serious event, the site and sponsors were looking promising… But the most important questions were, what is the average time to get to Istanbul, and what is the level of the other riders? The whole thing made me really curious, so i decided to enter the race and give it a try.
“A bit of training, good mapping, lightweight traveling and a sparkle of luck should do the trick”
The start from London wasn’t that far from my home, so i took my bike 2 day’s before and hit the road to London. I could train my left riding and discover the road that i had to ride in the first part of the race. The evening before the race i met the other riders in the local bike shop. They all seemed exited about the race, and couldn’t wait to start the trip to Istanbul.
“Starting with a BANG”
London – saturday 3th of august, 6 o’clock in the morning, last big breakfast on a regular hour, and than off to the start. Everybody was really glad, the big moment was finally there. No rain today, that’s ok for me! We just had to wait untill the Big Ben made his first bang to really start the race.
My first goal was to catch the ferry of 13h, i could be just in time when everything went well. But due to a broken shifter on my way to catch the boat, i had to pedal a little bit faster but was right on time and shipped at 13h UK time. I was very lucky it happened in this part of the race. We were all racing to the “muur van Geraardsbergen” in Belgium, i just stopped by my local bike shop in kortrijk on my way to the “muur”, fixed my shifter and was ready to go in no time. After a quick break on the first checkpoint, i went into the night… and found a pretty room to sleep. (London – Nijvel 334km – 11.03 hours riding)
“No problems at all”
Day two (Nijvel-Straatsburg 420km – 16 hours) ‘de Belgische Ardennen’ was also a well known road for me. The day went by, everything went well and fast… But not fast enough for someone. I had made a reservation in a hotel in Strassbourgh. They had extended check in time till 23h. Great for a trip like this, but at 21h some lady of the hotel called me,” if i was still interested in the room” and “what took me so long to get there”. I made it in time, there was even a restaurant near by they told me.. 100m further, it took me a 10 min. walk to get there!!! But well fed, i used my bed for three hours.
“Wanted to go fast”
Day 3 (Straatsburg – Pratto del Stelvio 445 km, 17h)
I didn’t chose the shortest route but the easiest and fastest one. The Fuellapass was nice, the Offenpass also and i was wondering if i would do the Stelvio also today… but didn’t wanted to get to tired in this stage of the race.
Day 4 ( Pratto del Stelvio – Klagenfurt 431 km – 16h27 min.)
I decided to take a good nap (3 hours) started to climb the Stelvio when it was still dark at 3.15h , than i could see the sun rising, and descending him really fast with clear vieuw. I climbed it in a very good time, happy start of the day you could say! On top on the Stelvio, Mike Hall was waiting for me in his sleeping bag on the road, i almost didn’t see him.
Today i’m leaving Italy and i didn’t found one real gelatteria on my way trough Italy… not so funny for an icecream-freak like me !I i took a picture of the smallest bike i saw this trip and found myself an apple for breakfast.
“Some really nice vieuws but also some really long flat hot boring roads ”
day 5 (Klagenfurt – Osijek 430 km – 15.20h)
Croatie seems like a really nice place, but i’m a little worried, how can i pay here? It’s really hot today and have to buy a lot of water, it seems i didn’t had to worry, i payed in euro’s and they gave me change in their currency…. easy deal! With a temperature of 40 degrees it all went a little bit slower than i had planned. 12 L of water, no sweat because of the wind, i haven’t seen that before, really strange.
“Hot man on wheels”
Day 6 (Osijek – Jagodina 343 km – 13.50h riding)
This was a pretty hard day. With a temperature of 49,6 degrees, riding a bike is a little bit less fun. Passing trough ex-war zone feels strange, you can still see the holes in the walls, but life goes on. I found some handwritten announcements of funerals, and the only place where i could go to the bathroom and put my bike safe was in the fire station with the firemen of the town. They had all the time of the world to watch my bike. At the end of the day i finally found some real ice creme in one of the most color-full shops i saw on this trip, delicious ! Tomorrow i have to do an extra 100 km, it was unbelievable hot today.
“Traffic is crazy”
Day 7/8 (Jagodina – Istanbul, 865 km 33h)
While the road is getting smaller, the traffic was growing… i was luckly i did most part of this at night, traffic is like crazy here. In the middle of the night i passed a really big car accident, the road was closed, people were sleeping at the side of the road, but i got trough. No traffic anymore because of the closed road, that was great for me. I wasn’t planning to sleep, i just wanted to finish this race, but around 01h i just needed to lay down, and found the perfect spot around the corner of a gas station. Fixed myself a cardboard bed, it felt wonderfull. an hour and a half later i was eating pizza an started the last part of my race to Istanbul.
The E80, a local highway was legal to ride by bike, but the headwind was incredible, my last part of the race was the hardest. A few times i had to jump off my bike and wait beside the road, i don’t think they have driving lessons here, they just use every inch of the road… and even more.
“And it got worse”
But that was nothing compared to the traffic in Istanbul, It took me 4 hours to cover 36km, the longest km of my life. I really wanted to end this race, but couldn’t get trough the traffic. It was really crazy, and i felt so lucky to enter Istanbul on the saturday evening after the Ramadan… like the major party weekend of the year. After an extra few km, i couldn’t find the finish line, i was finally there. It was a great trip, like the most perfect race i have ever done, no flat tires, good mapping, no big problems, pretty good weather conditions (a bit too hot sometimes) only the last 36 km were too much to handle.
I was really glad to find some people at the finish line!
Thanks, Transcontinental Race for this crazy idea, i had a great time! ( and thanks for some pretty nice pictures)
And thanks to all the followers, it was a real surprise to see al the online comments. Never knew that so many people were interested in the stuff we do and i hope we inspired some of you to enter the race next year.
race time 122h 30min, rest: 59h 15 min, average speed 26,7km/h, distance 3266km
(Pictures of Transcontinental Race )