TCR No. 4 – Final Preparations & Kit List

The last few weeks of July was all about getting all those final preparations complete. The bike, kit, route and final travel preparations. I spent an awful lot of time tweaking my bike, with some critical last minute adjustments that really made a difference on the race.

Service

With three weeks to go, I put my bike in for a service with Jonny over at Noble Wheels, who also built up my custom wheels. I also handed him a set of ACOR semi-hydraulic disc brakes to fit with the new drive train components. My disc brakes were a last minute switch from TRP Spyres which were woefully inadequate at braking to some rather impressive ACOR Semi Hydraulic disc brakes, cable operated hydraulic pistons. These were an absolute life saver, and must thank Chris Herbert, a fellow TCR entrant for the recommendation. The braking performance and strength are increased significantly. Finally, the week before the race I added some brand new tyres.

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Only used the brakes, already had Shimano Ice Tech rotors

Bag setup

I spent quite a bit of time refining the bag set up. Trimming back the straps to avoid the extra drag, and using a lighter to seal the strap ends to make sure they didn’t fray. On top of this there was a lot of packing and re-packing to find the optimum fit, primarily to avoid my right leg rubbing on the side of the frame bag. The Apidura bags are really quite simple to install, but this last bit of minor adjustment would make a difference over the course of the ride.

Dynamo, lights and charging.

With the dynamo hub, I needed to either be running both lights, or charging a cache battery or device – I wasn’t able to both at the same time. I had originally planned to put a switch in place to allow easy changeover, but never got around to this. I ended up piggy backing the connectors and switching them around manually when required. This didn’t quite work out, but was sufficient in the end. I hadn’t quite envisaged I’d become an electrician in my preparations, but I now own a soldering iron and have become qute adept at burning my fingers with it.

Route Planning

I broke down my route into 19 200km chunks to allow me to schedule and plan day by day in something reasonably ‘manageable’. I’ve definitely learnt a lot about the route, kit and bike that I’ll cover in a later post. But for now, I had a 3,800 km route with 60,000 meters of climbing. I sincerely hoped this was wrong, and thankfully it was but not by much less.

Pre-race Nerves

The stress levels in the month of July were a little off the scale, and for the weeks and days leading up to the race, I wanted nothing more than to just get on my bike and get going. I had some great rides in July with friends, allowing me to take some of the pressure off just by getting out and riding , forgetting about the up and coming journey. I also spent quite a bit of time in the pub after rides, enjoying the sunshine and warm evenings. Not sure this helped!

On top of all the last minute preparations, work was sticking its oar in, causing some unwelcome levels of stress to compete with that from the race. Lots of early starts, late night finishes, all while still trying to sort everything out meant that there was little time to take some down time and relax. Everything seemed to need to be done at the last minute.

Kit List!

Unless you want to geek out over kit, you probably won’t want to read on from here. This is a full list of the gear I took with me, with some reasoning behind it. Maybe interesting, maybe not!

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So much stuff! I sent a few bits back before the start, but somehow it all managed to fit in.

The BIKE!

My selection criteria for a bike was fairly straight forward – it needs to be light, look good and have disc brakes. It was an easy choice to come to ride a Bowman Pilgrims. There were 4 at the start line this year, including mine, so was a popular choice for sure. I’m on a 54″ frame, with some custom Noble Wheels built with Shimano Ice tech discs – 140mm rear, 160mm front, with some Continental 4000IIs 28’s. The rear hub a 350DT Swiss with some sick custom sticker work to match the G!RO kit, with the front hub a Schmidt SON 28 spoke centre lock dynamo hub to power the bikes lights and devices.

The group-set is a Shimano Ultegra 11 speed with 52/36 x 11/32 gearing. I’ve always liked turning a big gear, but also having a much straighter 52×28 makes for much more efficient riding.

Braking by ACOR Semi-hydraulic disc brakes.

My bars & stem are 3T Team ergo alloy, with Profile Design carbon aero bars, all wrapped up (badly) in Lizard skin bar tape.

Lights are Schmidt front and rear dynamo powered lights. I also had a set of front and rear Moon USB lights as backup, and for a head mounted light. Also had a Lezyne rear USB light as a backup-backup, and a large powerful Cateye USB front light.

Around the bike, I strategically positioned reflective tape. There are some great spots for this behind the rear dropouts, as well as on the chainstays and forks for side reflectiveness.

I added both a Garmin Edge 810 on a K-Edge mount, and a Wahoo ELEMNT mounted on the aero bars. The Wahoo was a recent purchase after some flakey moments with the Garmin meant I lost all confidence in it. After the new brakes, this was my second best last minute purchase ahead of the race.

The Bags, and the stuff stuffed inside!

I kitted the bike out with Apidura’s bike packing kit which I purchased in January before I realised there were newer versions due out. In the end, I was more than happy with the bags, going for the medium frame and saddle pack, and the large top tube bag that I used to keep my phone, batteries, cables and other electricals.

I also purchased an Alpkit fuel pod, also before I was aware Apidura were going to produce their own, but other than a slight mismatch in colour, it was ideal for filling with sweets, nuts and other snacks along the way.

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Fully loaded, en-route into London town to catch the Eurostar to Brussels. 

Clothes:

1 set of kit: 1x G!RO Sportful team bib shorts, 1x G!RO short sleeve jersey and a lightweight sportful base layer, 1 pair of socks, 1x G!RO windstopper gilet, 1x Fiandre NoRain long sleeve jersey, 1x Fiandre No Rain arm warmers, 1x Sportful Hotpack lightweight rain cape, 1x Athletic PDX socks (black w/red), Lake CX237 carbon road shoes (white), DeFeet oversocks, 1x cycling glove mitts, 1x full finger gloves, 1x full length sportful base layer, and a snood. No spare kit, just alternatives for almost any weather. A casquette would be provided at the start, so chose not to bring a hat.

For the times off the bike, I had 1x Nike running shorts & 1x Nike running top. Nice and light for those moments when I needed to clean or take a break from the bibs. No footwear.

Sleeping:

1x Alpkit bivvy bag, 1x silk liner, 1x alpkit air mattress and 1x emergency foil blanket. Also packed some Incognito mosquito repellant for bivvying at night.

Spares & Tools

3x spare inner tubes, patch kit, spare 3x spokes, pump, 2x tyre levers, multi spanner (esp for dynamo light bolt), small multi tool, small ratchet with multiple heads, scissors, lighter, cable ties, Rear mech hanger (forgotten to pack!), cleats and bolts, other spare bolts, velcro straps and spoke key (also forgotten), 2x spare disc brake pads.
I chose (forgot) not to include any spare cables. I was fairly fortunate to have not had any problems considering all that I had managed to forget!

Other Stuff…

I packed half a toothbrush, mini toothpaste, Sudocrem, Savlon, anti-bacterial wetwipes, P20 sunscreen, lip sunscreen, antihistamines, ibuprofen,  quarter roll of toilet paper, and 2x melolin gauze pads to help keep me clean, fresh..ish and on the road.

 

I had a selection of USB cables to recharge the Garmin, Wahoo, iPhone, USB lights and 2x cache batteries, as well as a dual port USB EU socket plug.

I brought with me 1x tube of SIS Hydration tablets, but chose not to bring any gels or energy food. I had a handful of various sweet/snack bars, and would casually collect them in the days leading up to the start, filling the bag with more until it started getting full.

 

I ditched my wallet, taking only a waterproof phone case with some cash and credit cards, along with my passport and other essential documents and visas for the trip.

 

 

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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:

#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.

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Well that escalated quickly

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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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Training for the Transcontinental Race

How do you train for a 2,500 mile solo unsupported bicycle race?

I’ve never done one before, so in all honesty I don’t really know. What I do know is that I love riding my bike, and I believe that as long as I’m doing that I’m at least on the right track. Now, what I do know has led to me a basic plan. A lot of people have asked me what training I’m doing, and I thought I would share this loose plan in order to ‘get fit’ for this race. There are a few parts to this…

1. Consistency

I’ve always believed that this is fundamental to training for anything, and as long as you get this right, training regularly and maintaining consistency, you will go a long way. Fortunately for me, I’ve got a core  outline of training available to me.

  • Daily Commute: Riding 45km every day as a minimum through the week has been the core for my bike fitness for years. Ok, I’ve only been riding my bike 5 years, but this has been the basis for me losing 5 stone in weight!
  • G!RO CHAINGANG: Once a week, a short high intensity ride with mates followed by a short high intensity session at the pub! I’m still not quite sure if I undo everything I put into the ride while drinking beer and grazing on crisps & nuts right after.
  • Weekend café rides: My favourite part of the week. A social ride from G!RO Cycles in Esher every Sunday all year round. Although it’s not always what could be described as a training ride, getting out there and enjoying riding my bike is what its all about. Obviously there’s always the sections where you sprint for the sign, or a section with a bit of full gas just for fun helps a lot, and adds to the enjoyment.
  • Big rides on Saturday: These don’t always happen, but taking the odd Saturday out to head to the coast, find new lanes or just an old favourite are a treat. I’m lucky that I’ve got various cycling buddies that are foolish enough to come with me on these rides through the winter, and means that I can get a really good bit of distance in the legs along with some great mates. I’ve helped work with G!RO Cycles to do a monthly G!RO 100 (miles), a big ride 130-190 km depending on the route that has helped me find even more mates to ride big distances with

2. Mixing it up

Ok, so as not to contradict consistency, what I mean has a few layers:

  • First, keep the training varied in order to keep it interesting. I have the basic outline in order to do this, but it is just that – I often add extra KMs in the evening through the week, more so now there is much more light in the evening. 45km can easily be extended to 80-100km. On top of this I like to add in some higher intensity rides into the commute. This basically means sprinting from and to every set of traffic lights. I won’t ever jump a red light, as it’s another chance to put in a sprint effort!
  • Secondly, a little bit of cross training is good. I’ve no real idea if running is actually any good for cycling fitness, but I occasionally add a run in through the week to break up the train journey to or from work. If I’m honest, I don’t really like running, and my body tells me that it doesn’t after each short run, but I do get a buzz out of it.
  • One thing that I’m looking to do next in this area is around strengthening my core and improving my stretching through physio & Pilates, as well as keeping the basic stretching in order. With the amount of training coming up, injury prevention is going to be critical.

Diet & Weight Loss

So I think this is one part of my training that will give me the most benefits all round, especially when travelling through the various mountainous regions of Europe, but is also the one area that I struggle with the most.

At the start of the year,  weighing in at 87kg I set a target weight of 75kg. For the start of the Transcontinental race, or at least the start of the mountains – i.e. going in a little heavy so I had something to fuel getting there. Still, a big goal.

It has been a real struggle for me to get there. In January, I quit drinking, stopped all sweets & snacks, and within 3 weeks was down to 84kg, which was the best part of Christmas burnt off. Then I went to the US with work, started drinking and really fell of the wagon with my diet. Food is full of sugar there! I managed to recover somewhat in February, getting down to 82kg at one point, but I keep bouncing back to the 84/85kg mark.

The yo-yo is a struggle, and definitely means I have to reassess my target weight for 29th July, but as we get nearer and pressure builds I believe I’m going to get closer to this. I also think that as we get closer to the summer months, riding more will be easier. As long as I don’t eat more, losing weight will happen naturally. Don’t get me wrong, I will be adjusting my diet more and more. I’m no dietitian, but have a good idea of where I go wrong every day, and have a good idea of what I need to do to fix this. I will look at posting a weekly food diary at some point, just to give you all an idea of where I go wrong

4. General Health & Wellbeing

I think this is something that when I started out on this training path I hadn’t considered. The closer the TCR gets, I think this is going to be key for me to get to the start line. Here are a few things that I’ve started to try, and are in some ways really quite natural to me:

  • Work life balance: I started this year at work at 100 miles an hour. This probably feeds into many of the other points here, but it’s important to get this right. Training time, eating right, managing stress and whether I am happy or feeling down depends on this. I nearly forgot how to switch off from work when I leave the office, and in some ways not getting this right was affecting the work I was doing as well.
  • Attitude: I’ve always had a very laid back and outwardly relaxed attitude. I don’t like to panic or get stressed, and I’m rarely productive when I do. I’ve been able to spot when this starts to happen, and being able to control it. When I can’t, I find that riding a bike really helps me clear my head.
  • Illness: I’ve been reasonably fortunate not to get too many issues. I’ve been quite cautious when colds or minor bugs have come along and rested when they have. I’m currently writing this with tonsillitis and haven’t ridden my bike in over a week which is really frustrating.
  • Rest…! : I’m really bad at this, and is possibly why I’m sick right now (absolutely nothing to do with all the excess at the Tour of Flanders..). Rest is one thing that I’m going to be baking more into my training schedule.
  • Enjoying Riding: I said it many times; this is the most important part for me. If I’m not enjoying riding my bike, then we’re in trouble!

5. Endurance Rides – Learning

You’re probably wondering why this is so far down on the list? I don’t really know how much distance training is needed, or how valuable it really is to my fitness, but I do know it is required.

I’ve been doing ‘100’ mile rides, or there abouts, pretty much every weekend since November, but regular training rides in excess of 200/250km I’m not convinced will really add much benefit physically and potentially do harm. They also take up a considerable amount of time!

All said, I’m relatively confident that #1. Consistency will carry me most of the way to Çanakkale from a fitness perspective. I guess there may be a few more things I may be able to do to help make me more competitive…

I’ve already done a couple huge rides (see last blog post here: TCR Training Ride), but they were more to test me and my kit, and ultimately learn stuff. That’s the key with the big, multi day rides – making it a learning experience.

6. Events – Goals

As part of my training, I’ve always found it important to set markers down, and have shorter term goals that get you to the main goal. I’ve to a busy schedule already planned out to this end, and have been executing it for some time now. You can see my training log on Strava

  • Easter: 432km to my mums – Done
  • Heart of England Audax – 300km – 16th April
  • London – Paris – London – May Bank Holiday weekend
  • London Revolution – 14th & 15th May
  • TBC Wiggle Dragon Ride 300km – 5th June
  • TBC Maratona dles Dolomites – 3rd July
  • To Geraardsbergen – 28th July

I’m also planning a multi day ride through France, possibly on May’s other bank holiday weekend, as well as looking to add in another Audax weekend most likely in June.

What did I miss?

I expect there are many things that I could be doing, but I believe I’ve got all the things I should be doing covered (feel free to point out anything!). I love my numbers and stats, and Strava has some useful info to help track fitness, and also show how its crashed in 1 week off the bike…

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I do have a power meter, but only use it occasionally, due to issues with the battery, so training to power is not something I’m planning.

Reading through the past and present riders blogs has reassured me of what I’m doing, but I’m well aware that what works for one, might not work for another. Also, it might appear that I’m calm and relaxed about my training on the outside, but it is a constant concern on the inside, and I’m always on the lookout for tips and advice.

 

 

TCR Training Ride

So, are we ready?

Well, in many respects, I think I’m on the right track, however after a small tester of a trip I’ve realised that there is still much work to be done! It’s quite handy then that there is still 4 months left to prepare…

So far, I’ve spent many hours and days planning my route for the TCR, researching equipment and pulling together my bikepacking kit, bike, and methods for getting from A to B.

So what was this training ride about? The plan: cycle from my home in Thames Ditton to my mums in my home city, St. David’s in Pembrokeshire in Wales. 436km. In one go. Easy.

The point of this? She makes the BEST Mac n Cheese. Also, to test myself physically, to test the gear, route planning, and ultimately learn stuff about myself, and riding long distances alone.

I built my bike. This has been several months in the making, and quite expensive. Building up some custom wheels, finding an ideal frame and adding all the components and kit to go with it. The result is this beauty from Bowman Cycles, a 54″ Pilgrims loaded with Apidura bags (there’s a lot more to it than that, but I will cover that in the near future… watch this space!), booted with some custom wheels from Noble Wheels:

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Training has been constant, but relatively unstructured. My main focus has been on riding my bike and enjoying it – that has always been key for me. Commuting, with some occasional intensity through the week, adding some bigger rides rides with mates on the weekend. Winter riding has been tough with some hard weather at times, but not many points have I thought I’m really not enjoying it. This is good!

So how did I get this point?

This particular training ride has come about through a couple of reasons. The TCR is such a deviation from what I would normally consider doing, I really wanted to get some test in place to know what I can do physically, mentally and logistically. I’ve also always wanted to cycle all the way to my mums in West Wales.

Ok, lets do this!

All through the day I had been preparing the last few bits of the bike, and managed to get everything ready a few hours before the planned start. I tried snoozing for an hour or so, but just managed to lie there thinking about the day’s ride ahead.

I lined up my sister to be a ‘dot watcher’ using the find my friends app on the iPhone. Having the knowledge that someone was watching over me on the ride, and sharing my progress on facebook where so many friends and family were cheering me on was such a boost through the day. She was also on hand to keep my mum informed of my progress, so I wouldn’t have to worry about stopping and sending updates.

Setting out into the night was weird. It’s just not normal. You’re nervous, but calm; it’s dark, knowing I’m going to be pedaling for about 18 hours and you’ve not been to bed – it’s not easy to grasp what lies ahead.

In true TCR style, I decided to start my ride at midnight. Why I chose a cold and windy day in March I’m not quite sure, but it’s all good experience, right?!

I started off with a good speed heading into the night, and made really good time. Getting to Reading was fairly quick. I may have been over cooking it a bit, but this was where I came to my first climb. Its also where I realised that I was getting a bit cold. The chill was a result of sweating from the effort, and it being around 3 or 4 degrees C. I had plenty of layers on, but as I was calming down and the night was settling in, it was getting colder. I had a bit of a break 100km in Wantage, and managed to get this selfie next to a statue of Alfred the Great while taking on a bit of food. Coming through Oxfordshire it got really dark. One of the next things I learned around this time was that the whole of the UK does their muck spreading at this time of year. This was a constant smell, and bain throughout the ride.

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I had some light drizzle came through a few times through the night, but on the whole the cross tail wind was kind to me. Just as I was starting to feel tired, around 100 miles in, dawn started breaking over the Cotswolds. It’s quite nice what a bit of daylight can do to your spirits and alertness. Shortly after ‘waking up’, I rolled into Gloucester at around 7am and back into civilization.

Gloucester was annoying, as had many of the towns I’d passed through in the night, have a number of traffic lights that just don’t recognise cyclists. With no cars around I had to run a few red lights otherwise I’d probably still be waiting for them to change.

My first proper stop of the day was on 200 km in Ross-on-Wye and a Greggs bakery – the only place open. I was quite cold and some food, coke, crisps, coffee and a break off the bike felt good. Till now, I’d only managed to drink one bottle. This was not good, and would be a pattern that I would pay for later in the day, but was a chance to get some refills.

After Ross-on-Wye, I headed across the Welsh border towards Abergavenny, lots of grippy roads and drizzle. The countryside was beautiful, but hard and slow going. Got a bit worried at one point as I couldn’t recall if I had plotted a route over The Tumble mountain near Abergavenny. Fortunately this was not the case, and once some of the lumpier welsh borderlands had been navigated, I started getting a good pace going. I really enjoyed this part of the ride. The roads were great, and the views spectacular.

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I had another stop in Brecon. I was quite hungry by this point, and had planned to eat lots, so I did just that. I hadn’t travelled particularly far from Ross-on-Wye, however Wales was lumpy and I’d earned the feed.It was a good place to stop and re-fuel.

I set off again on the A40, conscious that I had added a few detours over some mountains to my Garmin route. I figured that it probably wasn’t such a good idea to follow them, so skipped the first one. The second one however, I failed to have the foresight to avoid. Probably as I was really enjoying riding my bike, I felt quite good about it. So I took a left turn up a mountain in Trecastle. Straight away, I was almost regretting it as the road ramped up quite steeply and stayed that way.

I carried on regardless, and found some amazing views. However, soon after I ran out of tarmac. A cattle grid separated an off road track lay ahead. In hindsight, I really should have turned back at this point. I figured however, that this would just be a short track and all part of the adventure – I’d made loads of time and was just enjoying the moment.

THis lasted about 10 minutes, before it got really bad. I had to get off and carry the bike over some of the larger boulder sections, and those puddles that looked a little too deep…

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In all honesty, the Bowman Pilgrims handled the task superbly, but some of my poor workshop skills were showing through as parts of the bike started to rattle. It was mostly holding together, so I pressed on.

Coming off the mountain was tough, and involved walking the bike down what was effectively a cliff face. Through a gate and back onto tarmac, before long all the worry of being lost on top of a mountain was behind me. A new one lay ahead – I had lost nearly 1.5 hours messing around on the hill. So I pushed on.

I started spending too much time worrying about how much further was left to go, and if there was a hill going up or down ahead. This got to me a bit, and is something I’ll have to change in the future. No distance countdown! Neat features, but they mess with my head.

On top of this I was so much further behind than I thought I was. Wales is big, and lumpy too! I managed to plot  a route through all of the big bits, with the final climb of the ride being the largest, Preseli Mountain in Pembrokeshire.

The best part of mountains and hills is the view. And the descent! Together, they make for a fun picture!

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So good a view, I had to capture a selfie to show I was there!

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The last part of the journey was a dark one. Internally and externally. I was still able to keep pedaling, but was feeling the tiredness of it all.

All through the ride I had been receiving messages of support which really helped me push on through right to the end. My sister was posting updates to facebook while dot watching, which meant she knew exactly when I was going to arrive at my mums, who was waiting at the door for me when I arrived as a result. This was a really nice touch, I just wish I could have been coherent enough.

So the ride – 432 km, 5644 m elevation, 17 hr 36 min riding (19 hr 25 min total). Check it out here: TCR Test Ride

The best part of it all though was my mum’s Macaroni Cheese, beer, ice cream after a bath while sat in front of a roaring fire. I’m not sure where I’m going to find all of these things every day on the Transcontinental Race however…

What did I learn?

I learned a lot. I made a list, but not all of it will make sense to anyone but me.

  • Check route before – make sure its an actual road!
  • Drink more often – need to stay hydrated
  • Turn back its ok. Its not a road!
  • Check bike properly before trip!
  • Take less food – too much weighed me down!
  • The UK smells in March – muc spreaders…
  • Zero tabs turn to dust in plastic tubes.
  • M&Ms rattle. A lot. This can get very irratating.
  • Food bag rubs knee when out of saddle. Use only when needed, or remove when climbing.
  • Food bag also handy for phone/GoPro. Need it lots!
  • Make right side clear for right knee – it bends in and rubs the frame bag
  • Wear less, sweat less, stay warm
  • Torch lasts 5.5 hours – Cateye volt 700. A great light!
  • Wales is stunning. Glad I took a camera!
  • Cotswolds are very nice, but need to go back when its not dark!
  • Wales is mega grippy. For Grimpeurs.
  • Don’t use a mile countdown!
  • Consider hills in a time schedule. It takes longer to go up hill apparently.
  • Front Gear issues? Check cranks! These came undone with 56km to go. Good catch!
  • Back shoulder pain caused by position and hydration – yeah, drink more!
  • Feeling sick? Eat and drink something. This was not nice in the last 60km.
  • Can’t eat? Small bites, single m&m s. You have to eat!
  • Take gloves off to eat! Hoping the TCR does not require full finger gloves.
  • 432 km is great for weight loss. 5kg! Maybe dehydration is part of that though…
  • Saddle sores are inevitable. Management is required.
  • Keep going!
  • Plan flatter routes!
  • Must try a 32 cassette. Hills get harder.
  • New shoes for distance. My Fiziik R3B’s are not comfortable.
  • Check headset before the ride. Probably should have fitted it properly.. Oops!
  • Check Dynamo light fitting – make sure it’s tight.
  • Check Cranks. Did I say that?

Whats Next?

I’ve a number of things coming up in April to continue the training. The Heart of England Audax is one I’m looking forward to, as well as a London-Paris-London adventure. Watch this space for updates!

Transcontinental 2016 Entry

So over the last 5 years since taking up cycling, I’ve come a very long way (in many ways). People who knew the 18.5 stone couch potato recognise how far this really is, and the 13 stone shadow of my former self is testament to how much cycling has taken over and enhanced my life.

In 2015 I was able to achieve some pretty cool things on the bike, and in the process raise a fair amount of cash for the charity Action for Kids. Some more on this here.

Throughout the year, I was constantly looking towards the future and what more I could do. I was following some quite inspirational people attempting feats that I was struggling to believe was feasible, yet all I could think was that I want to have a go! The one stand out event for me was the Transcontinental Race, a solo unsupported ultra-endurance bike race from Geraardsbergen to Çanakkale in Turkey.

Crazy, right?

The race control points were announced just before registration. There is no set route on the Transcontinental race, but a series of controls that each rider must pass through on the way to the finish. Route announcement here

The start of the race has found a home on the Kapelmuur, an iconic Flandrian cobbled climb in the Belgium town of Geraardsbergen.

The first control is on top of an extinct volcano called Puy de Dome, near Clermont Ferrand in the Auvergne region, in Southern Central France.

Control 2 really sets the scene for this years Transcontinental race. A section that starts at the Grosse Scheidegg pass in the Swiss Alps, along to the Grimsel Pass, where it meets the final section, the Furka Pass – made famous by James Bond in the classic car chase in Goldfinger.

Control 3 continues a rather Grimpeur theme, moving into Italy and the Dolomites, with the third stage traversing even more challenging mountains, with the control section ending on the Passo Giau.

Control 4 moves the racers down to the highest road in Montenegro into the Dimitor National Park.

The race finish this year has moved from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul to the relatively calmer Gallipoli region of Turkey, with the finish line at a clock tower in Çanakkale on the Asian side of the Dardanelles, requiring a ferry crossing at the finish.

The application that I submitted in November was quite lengthy; designed to ensure that whoever is applying not only understands what it is they are applying for, but to weed out those who might not be serious about it. All the way through this application process, I genuinely believed that in most likelihood would not get in. Once the application was submitted the wait began.

The wait was hard. The main reason for this was it became difficult to plan for the next year, as training for the TCR would need to shape what I would do, and how I would spend my money. The commitment needed for this event is huge.

So then came Christmas Eve. I was sat watching telly at my sisters casually scrolling through instagram and twitter during some ad break, when I spotted a tweet about being accepted into the TCR. Uh Oh! I immediately checked my email to find that I’ve been accepted.

Oh my god.

Acceptance was the best Christmas present I’ve had in a long time, but the realisation of what was ahead frightened me a bit. This meant several things:

  1. I know I have a good core fitness, but I need to train. A lot.
  2. I need to get a bike that will be suitable (n+1/any excuse!)
  3. This is going to take a lot of planning!
  4. I need to buy some maps

First thing first, though. I had whiskey to drink, turkey to eat and the Rapha Festive 500 to complete!

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