Pre-Race: Final Training – June & July

I’ve been a bit lax with blogging in the lead up to the Transcontinental Race. I was busy with work, riding and the final preparations and it was one more thing that I figured I would put off until the end. There is now an awful lot to tell you about! First up, I had some great fun in June & July with some awesome rides, carrying on from my theme in May, #RideWithMates, and some TCR training rides I’d been putting off. It was a very good couple of months!

Wiggle Dragon Ride

I was fortunate to win a place in the Dragon Ride thanks to the guys over at Sigma Sport. I put my name down for the 300km Devil, and plotted a weekend of fun. It was touch and go at first, as I had no time off work available, and no lift to get to the ride. So naturally, I decided to cycle there and sort out a lift back when there.

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The ride up was spectacular, a 300km spin up to Porthcawl trying out the aero bars for the first time. I set a really good pace, relaxed and enjoyed the journey without any real pressure. A loose invitation to share dinner with a friend who was also staying in Porthcawl was an easy target, giving me a good 12 hours or so to get there. This lack of any pressure, fantastic weather and glorious scenery made it one of the nicest rides I’ve had in a long time.

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It turned out that about a dozen riders I know that was also doing the ride, including one good friend Paolo who was staying not far from Porthcawl. I managed to bump into him in South Wales at a cafe for a quick bite, coffee and ice cream. This stop was perfect TCR training, and I liked it!

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I chose to do the Grand Fondo over the devil, largely due to the time constraints of the lift I’d managed to blag back to London. It was an incredibly hot day in Wales, quite remarkable weather that became a bit of a challenge for many. I was coping quite well with the heat, but it had an affect on many, including my friend Matt who I’d met along the way and rode with for the majority of the route. As the heat and the elevation began to take its toll, I decided to push on and make it back for a lift home. Fortunately for Matt, he managed to get to the last feed stop, rested for a good hour or more and finished not long after me.

This was a bit of a highlight for me:

Now only if this was on all the climbs. Epic day on the @humanraceevents #DragonRide

A post shared by Matthew Falconer (@b1rdmn) on

#RideWithMates

The next weekend was a wonderful tour of the south of England hosted by James. Down to the Devil’s Punchbowl, across to Crawley and looping round to the East. It was a mixed day weatherwise, but a perfect day out with some great friends.

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Druids Ride

The following weekend, it was time to make the most of the long days. For some time we’d been plotting a ride to visit some stone circles. At this time of year, although Stonehenge is an obvious choice for this, we decided to go for somewhere that would be much quieter. The oldest and largest stone circle was the target, in Avebury, Wiltshire.

I put in a nice long 250km route with some decent climbing in, trying to capture as much of the druid vibe as possible.

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It was one of those days, such a great group of guys, all of similar level, on a mini adventure to see a little bit of history. We were fortunate with the weather all day, and treated to some of the best scenery to be had en-route.

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Dawn Raiding

Dawn raids were also a feature in June, and through July. Often a Friday morning, we were treated to some fantastic early sunshine followed by coffee and breakfast at G!RO Cycles. Meeting up outside the empty cafe in the deserted streets of Esher at 5.30am, usually 6 of us would roll out into the hills and enjoy the first few rays of the day. It’s a really good time to ride your bike, and we made the most of it, often heading up through the vineyard in Denbies wine estate.

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Hot Chillee Rides

Teaming up with Hot Chili, G!RO joined up for a couple of group rides out, one down to Brighton/Ditchling, and another long fast spin through to Midhurst and back. These were some pretty fast and fun riding, some big groups and some great people!

Final TCR Test ride: Chasing the Sun

With the TCR fast approaching, I still needed to do a decent simulation ride, fully loaded, and bivvy out under the stars. I wanted to do this well ahead of the event, but the only time available was the first weekend in July.

The day didn’t start too well, and I was not quite feeling up for the ride on the day, but after a bit of faffing I managed to get going about 9.30am. The later I left it, the less distance I would need to go before I needed to bivvy!

It was a lovely day, but the wind was against me the whole time. I was enjoying it all the same, and managed to get into the swing of things fairly quickly. A couple of 7/11 stops and I was getting lots of practice in selecting snacks and drinks. My route took me southwest down to Winchester, and across to the New Forest. It was here the weather turned. I managed to get caught in a huge thunderstorm just as I was about to ride out onto the open top of the New Forest, so made a hasty retreat back to a pub at the bottom of the hill.

Well that escalated quickly

A post shared by Matthew Falconer (@b1rdmn) on

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Once the storm cleared, I pushed on to Salisbury angling for the Mendip hills. The rain was heavy and brief, but once cleared was a sunny and warm day. The headwind remained however, but this made good practice using the aero bars.

IMG_6953I made it to Cheddar Gorge just before sunset and found a Chinese restaurant. While there, I weighed up my options. First order was finding a hotel, as it turned out I had not packed a sleeping bag. Bit of a faffing fail, but was to be expected considering my state of mind in the morning. Unfortunately, there were none available. I doubt that was true, however I guess the time may have had something to do with it. Next options were: keep going through the night, or find a train home. My final decision was made – the last train was in 50 mins from Weston-Super-Mare. I made a 25km dash with a slight sense of failure. Would I give up so easily in the TCR?

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Final Rides

The rest of my riding was mostly scaled back in July, with the idea of tapering to the start line. In reality, it meant I started putting weight on, so had to get back out on the bike in order to stop that getting out of hand. Other than that, it was just a case of having a few short chilled rides with the crew from G!RO fully loaded with bikepacking bags and all the kit. This was really useful to get the feel for the bike and setup.

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