The TCR Recap
Posted on August 18 2015
A week after the race is over and I’m still having dreams about waking up and following the purple line. Two days after Ventoux, I was having a nap on the side of the road in Italy and all I could remember was a dream about having to wake up and climb Mt. Ventoux again. It was brought to my attention later on by a friend that this dream could probably be categorized as a nightmare.
Getting out of race mode and slipping back into the comforts of real life has been great. The first night back in Shanghai I slept for 12 hours after sleeping 12 hours on the flight. My body feels hungry all the time and since the beginning of this endeavor I’ve managed to lose 5kg. A case of handlebar palsy (as Google calls it) has made the ring and pinky finger on my right hand non-functional and my wrists extremely sore, but other than that, pretty much okay. I’ve already been to the acupuncturist and am doing exercises to speed the recovery.
To anyone considering doing The Transcontinental Race in the future, I can definitely say that experience is an invaluable resource. Seeing as how I had no actual experience, I relied on the accounts of previous riders. I read a lot of previous entrants’ blogs and it shed a lot of light on what was to come. I made many mistakes throughout the course of the race, but the worst offence was the choice of route. During route planning, a friend and I had looked at the previous year’s route from CP4 to the end. We took into account the road warnings about Highway 8, but conditions change and I felt the road become unrideable much earlier on than expected. Thankfully I was on top of Kosovo and could reroute without much penalty in kilometers, but I did waste a whole day debating whether or not to continue. Looking back I would have spent a lot more time on planning the route. Google Streetview was often used, but Strava’s heatmaps could have helped a lot as well.
As for tips during the ride, moving across the entirety of Europe, you’re going to encounter every type of climate and for that I was unprepared. I had everything covered except for the cold. I hadn’t planned on some of the nights to be so cold and I figured it would only be at altitude, so I would try to avoid big climbs at night. This plan was foiled from the beginning. With a wet start in Geraardsbergen, the ride ended in 5 degree Celsius temperatures just outside of Dijon, France. Later on I had descended the 40km gravel section throughÂ Italy, in the dark.
Overall, listen to your body, eat real food at least once a day and don’t try to ride if you’re nodding off your bike. You’ll hallucinate some weird things and put yourself in unnecessary risk. My go to food during the race was chocolate filled croissants, haribo and chocolate milk.
Everything in the kit, I used frequently and would not have replaced. A last minute addition of a sleeping pad really helped as I don’t think bivying without this would have been nice at all without. I would probably have liked to have a larger feedbag or possibly double up on the same size bag. I can’t recommend more, the products from Revelate Designs, but there are other options if ordering from America is too far. The bike handled amazing and the only mechanicals were a double flat outside Plovdiv from a thorn bush and a minor derailleur adjustment issue when I crashed outside of Reims. The only other problem I experienced is not a fault of the bike, but rather 1-1/8th steerers. Though very compliant, the one or two times I descended and reached speeds upwards of 70kph, I did begin to feel unstable. As the market is moving more towards tapered steerers anyway, it’ll be an easy fix. Though the amount of times I got up to this speed made this a non-issue.
The TCR is the most grueling challenge I’ve had on a bike, but the environment that surrounds it is absolutely amazing. The participants, organizers and volunteers are all extremely kind and helpful. Great stories were exchanged in the brief encounters during refuelling and the TCR Riders were easier and easier to spot. The haggard and dusty ones that never went more than five meters away from their bikes.
I couldn’t have been more relieved whenÂ arriving at the final little climb (every climb is easier after Ventoux). Most of the ride had been dog free, but of course at the last 20km two dogs chased me on an uphill. I’ll always be looking around now before beginning a climb in search of that opportunistic dog that knows cyclists are easier to catch on the up.
Again thanks to the organizers, volunteers, riders and dot watchers. Everyone was extremely supportive and the experience was made even more special because of it. Also special thanks to my parents for giving me the genetic advantage of naturally hairless legs, the comments I got during the race were innumerous. Looking forward to next year!