Transcontinental No9 Cap 178
About the Video. The video is a playback of the ride at 10X in the view of a dotwatcher. Audio clips which make up the sound bites start to playback at the matching time at the moment in which they were recorded during the transcontinental race No9. The video format and edits, which included scattered images and pauses, simulate the emptiness found in ultra-distance cycling during the 14Day 10Hour race.
"I gave up looking for a place. And I just sit on the side of the road. I got my TCR moment. This is why you come here, right? Just stuck on the side of the road."
"Um. Almost got attacked by a dog. Quite hectically."
"Today, I'm trying to do 300. I..."
"I looked at the map now, it's crazy that I'm like am at the back of the lead, mid-field. I can't believe it. After how kuk I feel, oaks must be suffering out there."
"I think I made a plan, I found a place in Montenegro. It's about 160 kays away. I'll tell them I'll be there 4 a.m. So that's kinda perfect: That's my minimum distance, ... and plenty of suffering."
"and at least also, like uhh, a goal to push towards, like, pushing towards uhh, a warm bed, and some hot coffee in the morning, uhh"
"I am currently sitting in the shade, under a garage gas station. I been trying, uhh, trying to get out of this headwind, trying get to my hotel booking, that I booked, so I can fall sleep and I can, and I can fall asleep, I'd fall asleep for like 5 hours on the bike, but the headwind is so strong so I just can't get there, so I have to sleep on this grass here quick. Yeah, so it's going pretty well. I'm so tired."
"Ooef. Yeah, it's so tough. Umm. It's so TOUGH. I have to walk every 5 pedal strokes. No, I am joking. That's dramatic, but. It's so tough, I mentally cannot get there. The closer I get, the further I am. "
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6 hours before the 10 p.m. start. We are standing around. A rider in front of me, French, is smoking. Some asked him, “Smoking?” to which he replied, “My grandmother always said that it would be a shame to die healthy.”
At the finish line, Andrew, the race director, asks, “How was the race?” “Race?” I reply. “These guys are fast, I enjoyed myself. I was so sleep deprived that I can hardly remember a part of the 3900 km I have just ridden.” He stares blankly and blinks before saying, “Yes, but it is important to know that you left it all out there”.
11:30 p.m. After six months of prep, the nerves finally settled down after one and a half hours into the ride, it was 11:30 p.m. I had about 400 km to go before I could consider resting. I knew it would take me 2 weeks. and I knew I did not have enough water and an already starter to re-route. I had got lost already, which involved me walking across Belgium farmlands next to the tarmac.
09:34 am. Got lost 3 times (lost about 1.5 hours) and ran out of water during the night.
3:44 p.m. I had cracked. 10% of the ride completed. The pain was unbearable already.
4:43 pm ‘What are the signs of dehydration?’
2:30 a.m. Completely out of breath. Slept for 3 hours on the 2nd night. The ride started at 1 a.m. My bike was locked in a shed and I took an extra 30 minutes to get it out of the shed.
7:27 p.m. About to get hit by a 2nd thunderstorm, which I proceeded to ride through.
I had been observing a dark cloud coming. It always gets to you sooner than you think. When you have to put a rain jacket on, it's already too late. The rain was so intense, luckily, it only lasted about 20 minutes. The dark clouds rolled out and up towards the Alps.
“How do people finish this thing? I am not strong enough. How? If checkpoint one was the finish, maybe I could do it, maybe.”
Got a dodgy place to sleep at 10 p.m., with no food or restaurants nearby, so dinner was half an energy bar. There was so much rain all my devices almost gave in. I have a massive blister on my toe and can’t walk on it.
After 3 hours of sleep, I started tracking the rainfall in the Alps, which I would reach by the afternoon. “Better to start dry.” So I added an alarm for 1 hour every hour. I wasted 3 hours like this. “I just had to”. I tried to dodge the rain as my feet would not take it, and I would not be able to finish. I had to cover them with Vaseline. I needed to stay dry because I would get to the Alps at 1 a.m., and it would be about 0°. If you get there with wet clothing, you will have an issue.
Mental note: Of the 300 riders, only about 150 finished.
‘Tough is not even a word.’
Next issue. Because I wanted 3 extra hours in bed with the pending Alps rain, I was now in a position of falling out of the GC (General Classification) leaderboard for an official result, and this was always the goal. Complete TCRNo9 within GC cut-off.
Most of the Alps riding (for the next 3 days) is sitting on steep mountains of between 11 and 16% gradients.
It got to zero on that night, and I was wet.
I started slack packing. This mentally took the anxiety-provoking time pressure off. Cut-off itself is the race for me. Racing is a panic. So now I am riding for GC and to make a cut-off.
Altitude ‘sickness’ sets in. 20 km feels like 100 km. It slow.
I got to CP1. I sat down and had a burger—nothing to do and not enough courage to give up. So I start riding into the night again to the foot of the Stelvio pass.
Stelvio Pass. 3.5 hours.
What is the plan? There is no plan. That is the plan. When you are not sure what to do, you just ride. What a pleasure.
Got nutrition for 40 hours at a bike store, then road overnight, and no sleep again.
3:32 a.m. I am still waiting for the pain in my knees to be consistent so that I can take painkillers. Pain is too intense to manage, like a weight lodged under the kneecaps.
7:00 a.m. Did not sleep and lay down at 2:35 a.m. in a private shed. The rain started and landed on my feet, sticking outside the shed. After a short while, I got up and started riding again. ‘Falling asleep while riding” then found a 24-hour coffee station with a French rider making himself very at home under the lights and the buzz of the refrigerator. We had an amazing time together. He spoke French, and I replied in English as we pointed at the coffee cups under the camera watching us.
We exchange true joy and laughter at our situation.
9:49 p.m. 60 km of descent down and away from the Alps. Almost hit a fox, which jumped into the road. Close call. don’t take your eyes off the road for a second during these 22 - 24 hour days.
I woke up at 6:30 a.m in a Slovinaian hotel, checked in at 3:25 a.m and fell asleep in the shower while trying to wash and dry my cycling kit. My tongue and mouth are so swollen that I can hardly breathe or eat. Soft foods today. The pain to eat was intense, like eating glass.
It is a new pain for the day. I already woke up in agony.
09:26 am Knee pain replaced by face pain—time to get vitamins.
And this is halfway.
Along the remaining 2000 km of roads ahead, I could see urine streaks along the streets. There is no time to stop for the riders—two weeks of not having enough time to stop and urinate. So now, back at work, it has become hard to believe people when they tell me something is “urgent”. I amuse myself and think, “Okay, it’s urgent, but are you in such a rush that you’re busy peeing on your seat while sitting in this meeting?”
Across the border at 2:36 a.m., I lay against the broader post wall for 10 minutes. Cycled about 50 meters to an open bar and found a soft bench to sleep on.
9:55 p.m. Major faffing. 1 hour to the border and then 1 hour to the Control Point on the other side, then 140 km to go for this ride (8 hours). The plan is to arrive for sunrise and then start the next ride.
07:34 a.m. “I am seriously sleep-deprived. My eyes are closing and my head is nodding off, I'm still riding.”
12:46 p.m. “Got to the checkpoint, had food and slept for about an hour. I was already riding again. It’s pointless to sleep more than that.”
The plan is to ride until 10:00 p.m. and get into Greece tomorrow. Now, I am half a day behind schedule, and it is hot. Parcore 3 in Albania today is hiking a bike. “The gravel is so slow. I am only a quarter of the way and already out of water. So I am going to run into an issue shortly”. I booked a hotel for a mental checkpoint to have something to work towards.
6:24 p.m. “This parcore has broken about half the riders.” I have seen 3 riders crying on the ground in the dusty mountains of Albania. Broken bikes, with basic stuff that can be fixed. This is a 40km section. 5km to go, which is 2 hours. Had a Red Bull and ran out of food. Planned for 5 hours, but I am on 6 already. “I can feel my skin and bones shaking off my bones with all the rattling of the rocky road beneath my wheels.”
A full day of riding. Chased by dogs every 20 minutes or so.
07:15 a.m. Greece looks amazing, but maybe that’s because I have been in Albania.
Plan to get to the Control point in Meteora for cut-off.
13:07 p.m. The section between Parcore 4a and 4b. I am nervous, I am carrying 13 litres of liquid. It’s 2000 meters in elevation, walking.
11:06 p.m. “That section was rough.” 6 hours of pushing a bike.
11:53 a.m. “It’s too hot to ride. So I have a bit of a problem here.”
How are you feeling?
Got to the Control Point at around 04:00 a.m. and spoke to the volunteers there for about half an hour. They are planning to ride TCR next year. They had a lot of questions about the details. I gave them my honest opinion. We’ll see if they ride next year.
Cycled around town looking for a hotel to sleep in, found one, checked in and set an alarm for 6 a.m., but that would only leave me with a 40-minute sleep.
7:01 p.m. I booked a hotel with only 100 km to go until the end. I had done it.
Instead of rushing the last night and pushing through, I used this moment to take it in. My eyes filled with tears as the overwhelming feeling that it would be over had arrived. I had my victory dinner.
05:36 a.m. “I’m so tired that sleep was a bad idea.” I have to nap on every bench and I have not had coffee.
05:39 a.m. To go: 40 km, 500 meters and 2 coffee stops. so ETA is 2 Hours + 20 Mins + 20 Mins = 3 hours I’ll be there.
So, if it ‘It is important to know that you left it all out there’. What did I leave out there?
October 20, 2023