TCR No 5 – The Start

Having completed the TCR just one year previous, you would have thought I would have been much more prepared second time around. I basically left a load of stuff to the last minute and ended up panicking right up until midnight on the day before travelling to Brussels. Work was really busy in the last few days and I ended up having to work Arizona time for some of that week.

As much as there was last minute packing, I’d actually done a good job of lining everything up ahead of time. My route was in a much better shape. My kit was, and has mostly been ready to go since coming back from a week bike packing around Sardinia in May. I’d somehow managed to add significantly more stuff to the bike this year though.

My full kit list can be found in a previous post here 

Getting There

I did exactly the same as last year – Eurostar across on Thursday, night in Brussels, spin over to Geraardsbergen in the morning for Registration and pasta. I was fortunate to be in a hotel with several other riders so had some company on the ride across, with Scott #131 and Eric #119.

Registration

This was a little slower this year, in part due to new process for checking kit etc. and in part due to the increased field – 280 starters, up around 60 from last year. It was a great chance to catch up with friends and some previous years vets, meet new people and generally relax. Relaxing was tough though. All you want to do is just get going.

Mike Hall

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Losing Mike in the Indy Pac in March hit everyone so hard, and the team did an incredible job putting the race together at such short notice. During the briefing there was as you would expect an extra emphasis on safety, but also some insight on the rules of the TCR from some videos Mike put together earlier this year. It was strange to have Mike still give the briefing. There are some lovely words here by Juliana Buhring on why it was so important for this race to go ahead: https://cyclingtips.com/2017/09/keeping-mike-halls-legacy-alive-transcontinental-needed-continue/

Stocking & Fueling up

A good friend from Belgium, along with his family met with me in the square and we shared a few cokes, coffees and nervous looks. Thimothy has been able to come to both starts, but then heads over to England the following day for Ride London. He kindly took a bag of things that I deemed not required (couldn’t fit into the bags…!), as he would be stopping by G!RO while he was over there. I’m terrible at throwing things away, and saved having to post it.

I stocked up at the local supermarket on water, haribo, some snacks and some coke. I just needed enough food to get me through the night, and stopped off in the strangest restaurant/diner for a chicken burger and chips.

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A great friend of G!RO, Thimothy and his boy.

The Start

Last year the start was buzzing with anticipation and excitement. It was the same this year, but with remembering Mike with a minutes silence and a raucous applause and cheer, there was a tinge of sadness. This somehow made my nerves bubble quite a bit, but that is to be expected with something like the TCR.

After some lovely words from Anna and Pat, we were counting down to the start with the Mayor setting us off for a neutral lap of the town before the assault of the Muur. I’d made a point of being much closer to the front this year. Although it makes little real difference over the course of an 4,000km race, I was keen to be at ahead of the crowd so as not to get held up.

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“Nothing worth anything was ever easy” – Mike Hall, as quoted by Patricia.

As we rolled around the town I was super nervous, hoping not to stack it before we even started. I spotted a few friends from last year, said hello and wished them a good race. It helped me settle a bit.

Then came the Muur. I really don’t remember last year’s run up the Muur. I’d visited Geraardsbergen in April when there for the Ronde, but this time it seemed much tougher. My HR was red lining early doors, as I pushed over the bridge up the hill and back into the market square. I decided to ease off a bit so as not to blow up, and found a nice rhythm.

Thimothy was just by the restaurant after the steep bit just before the top, I spotted him on the way up and gave a wave (see the video below!). The climb up through the crowds with the flaming torches is something special.

 

So soon afterwards, the crowds are behind you and you are on the way. Only 4,000 km to go.

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TCR No. 5 Kit List

I’ve been struggling to write anything about my TCR experience this year. Last year the words flowed fairly freely, and I was keen to get everything documented so I had a record of the adventure. This years write up is coming, but it’s just taking a little longer to process it into something that I’m happy with.

For now, I thought I would leave you with a kit list – everything I took with me to Belgium for the start of the TCR, the things I sent home from the start (thanks Thimothy, beers next time you’re in G!RO), and some of the things that didn’t make it with me to the finish.

Kit list

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Too much stuff?

The bike

Frame: Curve Cycling Belgie Spirit Ti Disc, size 54. Amazing bike!

Groupset: Shimano Ultegra 52-36×11-32, with Juin cable actuated hydraulic disc brakes. Could have done with a 34 up front, but managed with what I had. Brakes were flawless, but I started with old pads that needed replacing on the first mountain descent.

Wheels: Custom handbuilt Noble wheels, DT Swiss 240 rear hub, Son 28 12mm thru axle dynamo hub front, 160mm rotors front and back, Continental 4000 IIs 28mm tyres, with a touch of reflective tape. These wheels have now done two TCR’s. So happy with them.

Cockpit: Alu 3T Ergonova bars, Alu 3T stem, Lizard Skin camo bar tape, Profile Design carbon handle bars, Profile Design aero bridge mounts (x2), Wahoo aero bar mount (x2 for multiple positioning), Quad lock mount for iPhone 7. Super happy with everything, but could have done with a better bike fit so as not to be stretched out on the hoods and drops. Position has caused bad Ulnar Palsy again this year.

Electronics & Lighting:

  • Son28 Dynamo powering Supernova front and rear lights. During the day, Ewerk USB converter for charging devices. Light has very little stand charge, but a great beam. Must fully disconnect Ewerk from system when light is running as there’s not enough power from the hub for both. When E Werk is not charging anything, the light would drop every 10-15 seconds for a moment.
  • SPOT Gen3 Satellite tracker with spare Energizer lithium batteries. Flawless.
  • 2x iPhone cables, 2x Micro USB cables, 2x 5200mAh Anker power bar. Changing up the power bars for a 1x 20000mAh. Both were empty by Bratislava.
  • 1x Cateye Volt 800 front light (backup + bivvy light), 2x Moon Crescent rear lights. Used front light mainly for Bivvy lighting, rear on busy roads. All lasted the whole trip without re-charge.
  • 1x iPhone 7. Essential. Komoot, Wahoo app, Maps.me & Google maps were absolutely essential for re-routing. Google was also really handy in locating a bike shop in Romania. Booking.com for hotels in Austria day 2, Bratislava day 5 and Bulgaria day 9. And of course Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, Trackleaders, Email, SMS etc. etc.
  • 2x Wahoo ELEMNT, 1x Garmin 810 (sent home before start along with a mini USB cable). Used the spare ELEMNT once, but reverted back to the main one due to GPS dropouts. Only two issues with the ELEMNT – battery went flat in Romania while repairing a puncture – can’t seem to recover that ride. Froze on last 750 km run to the finish (I think down to me messing around with my HRM), but recovered the ride when restarted.
  • 1x spare Dynamo hub cable, 1x headphones. Did not need either.
  • Apple EU USB plug. Best USB plug I’ve ever had – small and light.

Bags:

  • Apidura Medium Frame and Saddle back with Large top tube bag. Bags were full all the way, but managed by keeping some on top of saddle bag.
  • Alpkit fuel cell. Perfect for loading up with snacks!
  • PedalEd musette. Used occasionally, was very handy to have something when bags were full.

Cycling Kit:

  • 1x Sportful bibs, base layer, jersey, gilet, light rain jacket, Stelvio rain jacket, arm warmers, track mitts, neoprene full finger gloves (never used), knee warmers (didn’t use, and lost either in Austria day 2, or a churchyard in Italy)
  • 2x Athletix PDX socks (1 pair disposed of in Bratislava. Washed in Austria, but never dried. Fruity!)
  • 1x Defeet oversocks (never used)
  • 1x Lake CX237 cycling shoes + 2x wedges
  • 1x PedalEd #154 casquette
  • 1x Kask Mojito helmet
  • 1x snood (never used)
  • 1x reflective vest

Off bike

  • PHD synthetic down gilet
  • Running Tee and shorts

Tools & Spares

Spares: 3x tubes, 2x spokes, 1x gear cable, 1x brake cable, 2x brake pads, cleat, cleat bolts, chain links.

Tools: 2 tyre levers, 2x Co2 cartridges + inflator, 1x pump, scissors, multi tool & multi wrench, 8x cable ties, spoke key, wet & dry lube

Sleeping Gear

Alpkit Hunka Bivvy Bag and Numo inflatable sleeping mat, RAB Silk Liner. A simple and effective setup. Light, but maybe a touch bulky.

Hygiene

Toothbrush (half, disposed of in Bratislava. Pointless without toothpaste and was past the point of no return by then), wet wipes, P20 sunscreen, Incognito insect repellent (deet free), sudocrem,  savlon, 1/8 roll of toilet paper, Kleenex tissues, sunscreen lip balm, melolin gauze. Antihistamines, Nurofen. Voltarol gel.

Misc

Notebook with checkpoints, parcourse and route options. Insurance, medical documents. Attaquer pouch for cash and cards, Lezyne pouch for docs & passport, passport.

2x King cage aluminium bottle cages, with a Wolf tooth B-RAD Mounting Bases – 2 Slot to lower the water bottle on the seat tube (maybe 1cm, but makes all the difference). 2x water bottles ~1400ml total.

Food

SiS lemon Hydro tabs and Berocca vitamin tablets – Berocca for the morning, hydro for the afternoon. Super mix of both for the bad diet days! By Romania, as both were in the same tube, they became indistinguishable from each other both visually and in taste.

Nuts – always have some in the bag, the cashew and almond mix I didn’t tap into until Macedonia and it was heaven.

Naked bars – a great way to get good nutrients in and sate the hunger

Soreen. Standard.

Summary

Bike weighed in just over 16kg with water. Just about everything I took with me, was used, but I have an idea of what I can leave behind next time. Doing so in some cases is more of a calculated risk. At the end of the day, I was happy with what I took, and would take most of it again.

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Twix melts in heatwaves.

Dot Watching The Transcontinental Race #TCRNo5

Action For Kids – Donate now!

First things first: I’m riding the TCR in aid of Action for Kids charitable trust again this year, so please take a moment to follow this link to donate!

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/matthewfalconer 

Action For Kids has been helping transform the lives of young people with physical and learning disabilities, across the country, since 1991, through the provision of mobility equipment, learning, training and support. This is a fantastic charity, and your donation can make a big difference!

Dot Watching – what is that?!

Dot watching is how you follow me on the Transcontinental Race. There is no TV coverage, no radio, but there is a better way… Each rider in the race has their own satellite tracker assigned to them, which can be followed on a tracking site in the form of a dot on a map, but you can also interact with me and other riders on social media. No assistance can be provided though, but words of encouragement are welcome! Some more info below, but you can really get immersed in the race this way…

How to follow me – Rules of Engagement

First thing to mention is that this is a solo self supported race, where any form of outside assistance is not permitted. Any communication with me on the road must not be assistance. “Keep going, you’re doing great” is just fine, but any information about other riders positions, my position or similar is not allowed unless the same information is provided to all the other racers.

Dot Watching

Official Dots: http://www.transcontinental.cc/

Unofficial-official Dot:

One of the most interesting things with the dot watching is using the many different resources on the internet to follow progress. Watch the tracking site seeing where a rider stops, then zooming in on Google Street Maps to have a look what is there, look on weather sites to see the conditions they are facing, then check social media to see what they’re saying. A truly unique way to get an insight into the race!

Also, check out this post from last years TCR: http://www.transcontinental.cc/blog/2016/7/29/prepare-yourself-for-the-task-ahead-dot-watching

And a post from Brooks blog:

http://www.brooksengland.com/en_uk/blog/confessions-of-a-dot-watcher.html

Social media

My hash tag: #TCRNo5cap154 – Cap #154

It’s not just me!

There are 300 entrants to the TCR No. 5, so there are plenty of others to follow. In fact, there are so many other stories out there to get hooked on, it would be a shame to just follow my dot! Get involved, get tweeting and chatting with the dot watching community.

Official channels:

twitter hashtag: #TCRNo5

TCR Social Media:

Other riders to watch:

Full rider list: http://www.transcontinental.cc/riders

Meteora