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 Dot (Not live just yet.): http://trackleaders.com/transconrace17

Unofficial-official Dot: https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=14afe5937a8c349cfe   or http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0UOF1vgK1afOPoHMdxm32iderzV7WySop

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: #TCRno5CXXX – Cap # to be confirmed!

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: TBC

Meteora

TCR No 5 Training Update – Feb to May

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, and there’s a lot that has happened in that time. I thought I would share some of the things I’ve been up to as part of training for the TCR (aka just having fun riding my bike… mostly), and then give an overview of where I am in my training and preparation.

The Curve Belgie Spirit

The first thing to mention is I managed to build up my ‘adventure’ bike at the end of February. I’d trained an awful lot over winter on a fabulous Colnago aluminium CX bike, clocking up over 4,000 km since December, but it was time to put the Ti to the road.

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😍

Wales – Mac n Cheese Tour

My first big trip/ride of the year was to see my mum in St. Davids, West Wales. I’ve done this before and learned an awful lot about riding a bike, and riding through Wales (and where not to ride…) – last year’s adventure is blogged here [LINK]

This year I went much earlier in March on a Friday, took a much more direct route, got utterly soaked and frozen, but arrived in St Davids in considerably less time than last year, beating sunset by a couple of hours. The Mac n Cheese was incredible as ever!

I rode back to Bristol the Sunday to get the train back home in some appalling wet and (tail!) windy conditions. A really good ride though!

  • Strava: Dwr Cymru
  • Distance: 242km
  • Elevation: 2470
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The infamous ‘Mac n Cheese’. Well earned!

Mini France Tour – Abandoned

I had planned a 500km weekend, 100km to newhaven, 300km Dieppe to Caen via rural France, then 100km Portsmouth to home over 36 hours, using the ferries as my ‘hotels’. I bailed on the way down to Newhaven after getting soaked on the way down, getting a train home from Lewes. The next day was spent with some mates riding from pub to pub in one of the warmest and sunniest weekends of the year to date.

Crashes

The next day was my first crash. Lost the front of the bike on a descent and went straight down on my left side causing a small amount of road rash and a little dented pride. No harm done really, but cut my G!RO Sunday ride short to go nurse my wounds.

The following weekend, I’d signed up with some TCR vets (the Gravélo Test Team) to do a Gravel ride with the Sunday Echappee team – a 200km mostly gravel ride north of London. I lasted about 50km, even before we hit gravel. I went down on muddy, greasy corner that was a concrete farm road. I went down really hard on my right side, in the process snapping both of the shifters on the Curve. I felt ‘fine’ at the time, but a taxi to the train and a long journey home allowed everything to develop.

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Not supposed to look like that… 😪

Roadrash was bad on the leg, left hand/wrist felt unusable, ribs hurt when I sneezed and right shoulder was sore.

My immediate concern was for the wrist so got that checked out on the Monday ahead of the trip to Girona on the Thursday, followed by a weekend in Ghent for the Tour of Flanders. Not ideal.

G!RONA

This trip had been one I looked forward to for quite some time. With a group from G!RO, we signed up with the guys from Sommet.cc for 4 days of Spanish sunshine, food, drink, and amazing cycling. We were looked after by the team running the Service Course, Espresso Mafia and La Fabrica – run by the retired pro cyclist Christian Mier and his wife Amber.

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Oh yes! Espresso Mafia produces the goods

Day 1 was a short bike check in the afternoon after arriving. At this point my hand worked OK, but I’d managed to lose all confidence in descending. Strava

Day 2 was like we’d been transported to Flanders – cold rain meant a very damp run to the coast, but totally worth it for a fabulous stretch of road. Strava

Day 3 we hit up the Mare de Deu del Mont – a really challenging but incredibly rewarding climb with many characteristics of the Hautacam in the Pyrenees – steep in places, but no consistent gradient to allow any sort of rhythm. The views from the top were spectacular. Strava

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G!RONA

Day 4 was a short ride, then pack up and fly home. I’ve never, ever, ridden with such a bad hangover. A spin up to Els Angels and some really stunning winding roads made for some great riding – just not for me. No confidence and feeling rotten – should have stayed in bed! Strava

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A rare picture of me in a dark place.
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G!RONA

Mike Hall – Ride in Peace

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Mike, doing what he loved. Pic: Indy Pac 

I’d become an avid watched of the Indian Pacific Wheelrace, and was enthralled with the race that had developed between the leaders, Mike Hall and Kristoff Alegart. Tragically, Mike was killed in a collision with a car on the 31st March. The race was cancelled following the incident.

Mike Hall has had a profound affect on my life, and his loss also affected me deeply. Since I took part in the TCR last year, the possibilities of what can be achieved on a bike; the places you can go and the distances that can be travelled by bike have made the world a much smaller place for me. This wouldn’t be possible for me if it had not been for Mike Hall, the man behind the Transcontinental Race.

I had only met him a handful of times at the TCR, and chatted a few times through email. Even so, he has led me to aspire and to achieve many things that wouldn’t otherwise have even been considered rational, let alone achievable. I’m not alone in this, and his work and inspiration has led to ultra distance riding and racing becoming mainstream and accessible to many.

Ride in Peace, Mike.

Flanders

An annual trip out to Flanders with a few regulars from G!RO is always a good way to clear the head. We head out on the Saturday, drink, watch the racing on Sunday (with a hangover), then ride on the Monday before heading home.

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Tom!

After the news of Mike, I made a point of plotting the ride to take in Geraardsbergen and the Kapelmuur. It was strange being back there, but felt the right thing to do. It was also a lovely ride, having organised a group ride with some guys from Bike Radar, Peloton de Paris and few others.

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Flanders

Belgie Party! Wales #2 – Easter Holidays

After a short spell of cold, I fixed up the Belgie with some new Shifters and began plotting. For Easter I’d planned to do something a bit extra, and to try and encompass the #BeMoreMike attitude to riding. Originally I had no set plans, but as things turned out it became clear that I had to go to Wales the long way, then once there head to my mums again. This time taking the hilly route.

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Black Mountain, Wales.

The ‘long way’ to Wales was heading South West to the New Forest, across to the Mendips and Cheddar Gorge before crossing into Wales.

After an overnight stop in a Hotel, I headed to the Brecons, taking in some of the Dragon Ride climbs – the Rhigos and the Black Mountain (from the South), before heading into Ceredigion and finding the lumpiest route to St. Davids.

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The Belgie loves Wales.

It was a tough tough day, riding uphill into headwinds all day, but I was rewarded with some more of my mums amazing Macaroni cheese.

 

Audax – Oats and Coast: Abandon..

I think Wales took a little too much out of me. On the way back (again to Bristol and the train) I noticed my right Achilles tendon was sore. I thought little of it, and continued as planned the following weekend to do the Oats and Coast Audax with a group from G!RO.

I only managed to make it 130km around before I had to bin it and get the train back. I’m still to complete an Audax, with the only other one I entered I abandoned after 50km due to heavy snow.

The 'I've had enough' look. 📷: @jfrowland

A post shared by Matthew Falconer (@b1rdmn) on

Injuries

With a London 2 Paris ride and a week in Sardinia I decided to get someone to look at my Achillies. While I was at it, I also wanted to get my shoulder seen to as it was still painful after the crash in March.

Fortunately I’m covered with Bupa through work and was soon speaking to a Physio about my problems. It turns out the Achilles is less of an issue, but the shoulder is a torn rotator cuff. I’ve been having physio on this for over a month, with more sessions to come, but with the plans in May and the TCR on the horizon, I felt it’s best to get fixed up smart.

Challenge Sophie London to Paris in 24 hours Sportive

I did this last year, and likely will again next. This is a fully supported ride from Greenwich to Paris in 24 hours. A great route supported by a slick team meant a really enjoyable 24 hours spent riding and meeting new people, breezing into Paris in around 23 hours. I had planned a solo ride home afterwards, but with the achilles still not 100% I felt resting ahead of Sardinia would be for the best.

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PARIS

Sardinia!

I first went to Sardinia in 2011, not long after I started riding a bike in the quest to get a bit of after summer sun, and explore somewhere new. When I was there I borrowed a hotel mountain bike and discovered some epic climbs for the first time.

I had to go back and conquer that climb, and as many of the others that I could in week long bikepacking adventure around the Island.

Dropping my bike bag off at a hotel I would stay for the last two nights, I headed around the coast clockwise. Stopping in pre-booked hotels, I was able to hold a firm goal each day to motivate me and help keep going.

Sardinia is a stunning place to ride a bike. Lots of climbs, switchbacks vistas, coast roads and descents. I covered about 1,100km in the week, with about 4 & 1/2 days of cycling. I took a planned rest day after 3 & 1/2 days, as well as final day by the pool at the end. The weather was all sunshine, but did get a little hot at times.

I can heartily recommend some of the roads south of Alghero; I rode up the coast at sunset and it was a particular highlight. The two days I spent riding in the East mountains were very special. Lots of incredibly quiet mountain roads, with the occasional small town or village here or there. Many adorned their walls with murals depicting some of the history of Sardinia – exploring Orgosolo is a must as this town has some of the best murals on show.

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Full route followed can be found on Spot Walla: https://spotwalla.com/tripViewer.php?id=13c7858e7753faad80

 

TCR No 5 is ON

After a really difficult time processing the passing of Mike, his family and friends and sponsors of the race came together to work out a way to make sure the TCR goes ahead. This was confirmed pending clarification of some of the finer details before the end of the May bank holiday. Almost everyone I’d spoken too was keen to at least be there in Geraardsbergen in July, but having an official and controlled race is such a great way to honor Mike and what he created with the TCR. It was also crunch time for many, being a huge commitment in planning, time, money and mental preparation in order to be ready in time for the start.

 

G!RO to Paris in 24 hours… and back again!

Finally, the last training rides in May was a G!RO to Paris adventure cooked up at a New Years Eve party. Jordan who runs G!RO, Jon and myself made for a neat group of strong riders, even if some of us hadn’t been on a bike in a week or so (tapering!).

Jon and Jordan arranged to meet their wives in Paris to make this a much more of a civilised trip, unlike the trips to G!RONA and Flanders.

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G!RO 2 Paris Squad

We set off from G!RO around 5.30 pm and we were joined by another G!RO regular, Dan for the ride down to Newhaven on the Friday in absolutely perfect conditions – a beautiful summer evening in the lanes. A quick pitstop in Lewes to load up on some food for the ferry and breakfast before hopping on to the boat for the night.

The overnight Newhaven – Dieppe ferry is a dark dark place. It’s maybe a 4 or 5 hour ferry ride, during which you probably are able to sleep for about 30 minutes in total.

We docked in France just before dawn at around 5am and slowly made our way down to Buchy for breakfast at around 50km. None of us had a lot of energy, but some coffee and a pitstop at a boulangerie help recharge the batteries. The next 100km was just perfect – weather, roads, mates, a stop by the river for a some lunch and then some ice cream.

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PARIS II

It got really hot after that, and the last 20km as always was a bit of a slog into Paris. We all arrived with no issues in just under 22 hours.

The return leg was a solo run, leaving at 4am to catch the 12.30pm ferry back, followed by a 100km spin back home. Managed to make excellent time to Dieppe, covering 173km in just over 6 hours. The total time back was just under 17 hours, a personal record for me.

TCR No 5 Training Progress

So I’ve done almost all the riding I wanted to do with regards to training for this years race up until this point. I’ve managed to get a great week in Sardinia as part of some multi day experience, albeit more of a touring holiday I managed to learn a fair bit about myself and plenty of distance on the new bike.

The injuries and crashes have set me back mentally somewhat, and have been a challenge to overcome. I’ve lost my way a bit with looking after myself and diet, which was on track until the crashes. I was on track for my target weight of 78kg, but since March it’s only been going up. Now the confirmation of the event is there, I will be focusing on using that to motivate me to eat better and look after myself. I’ve also given up drinking again – this is always the fastest way for me to drop kg’s!

I think I’ve done as much endurance training as necessary, so now its time to focus on building up my fitness with higher intensity training, as well as focus on working my core and healing my injuries with some physio.

I’m not worried about my shoulder, but keeping a close eye on my achilles – this was a common cause of scratching in last years race.

In the meantime, I do have one last adventure to plan for – a long weekend in the alps playing in the mountains!

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La Toussuire, France. Switchbacks 🙂 

 

 

Heading for Some Mac n Cheese

Its time to take my new TCR machine on a test ride to my mums for some macaroni cheese. She makes the best. Trick is, she lives 430km away in St. Davids, in South West Wales. You can read all about my trip for Mac n Cheese last year here: TCR Training Ride

This year, I’ll be riding my new bike from Curve Cycling that I bought from G!RO Cycles, a Ti Belgie Spirit built with most of the parts from the old bike. I’ve had a couple of rides so far and I’m seriously impressed. I’ve been riding with a huge grin on my face most of the time.

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I’ll be raising money for Action For Kids charitable trust again in the lead up to, and during the TCR. I reckon this little adventure is a great way to start raising some funds – so don’t be shy, click the link below to donate, it’s a great cause:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/matthewfalconer

You can follow my progress through a bit of dot watching as I’ll also be testing my own Spot tracker. After the loaner on the TCR failed and I still don’t know if I’ll get my deposit back, I figured I might as well get my own as the deposit/cost is not much different and will have plenty of other adventures to get the most out of it. I’ll be setting off a little after midnight on Friday morning – you can follow me here.

Also, keep an eye out on http://instagram/b1rdmn for some posts of the journey.

I’ll also be cycling back some of the way on Sunday. Due to work and time constraints (also, have you seen this weekends weather?!), it’ll only be to Bristol but tracking will still be active.

Why am I doing this? A great excuse to get a proper test ride in on the Belgie, a bit of endurance training, see my mum and eat a bucket load of pasta and cheese sauce. I also just really enjoy riding my bike, specifically riding it in Wales.

Happy Saint Davids day!

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Looking Forward

So, here we are. Another calendar year has ticked over, and there are plans to be made. This year everything leads towards the Transcontinental Race No. 5. Yep, that’s right, after last years race I caught the bug for this sort of thing. Many are surprised I’m going back for more, but I couldn’t be happier that I’ve been accepted back in.

I will be using my place in the TCR to raise money and awareness for the amazing charity, Action For Kids. The race is a huge commitment, and there will be over 6 months of training, planning and preparation to get me to the start line. Action For Kids is a charity aimed at giving opportunities and a chance for independence to young people with physical and learning disabilities.  Any donations will be a huge help to the charity and can really make a difference. It will also help keep me motivated in the race!

Please donate here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/matthewfalconer

What next?

January

Weight Loss: Focus for January is to try and work off some of the timber I’ve added over December. I’m really a bit disappointed about how out of control this has gotten. I keep blaming the appetite that I acquired as a result of last years TCR, but I think I just got a bit lazy with looking out for what I eat and how much training I do.

Fitness:  Along side the weight loss, and to help it along I’ve started to do some indoor training to improve the quality of work I do increase my aerobic fitness on top of a strong power base. Lots of turbo and rollers sessions while watching Netflix or listening to some tunes.

Ride Far: With the exception of a few mini adventures in Wales over Christmas, I’ve not done much distance riding. Aiming for a couple of century rides before the month is out!

February

New Bike: Sad to say that I managed to break my Bowman Pilgrims. Terminally. This bike has been an incredible companion on some fairly incredible rides, breaking down many barriers as to what is possible on two wheels. It was such a joy to ride, and sad to say that journey is over. The bike is just a tool to do a job, so the search for a new one begins… N+1 and everything…! February will be when I aim to get this onto the road.

Ride Further: I need to get plotting to find some new lanes to explore. This will be about ramping up some mileage and some endurance ahead of the next few months. Things are looking quite interesting! I’m tempted to put a trip to West Wales down, but will have to see how the new bike is coming along and be sure the weather is going to play nice.

March

Keep going: March will be about assessing my fitness, weight and endurance levels. This will be a chance to work on some of the areas that are falling behind. Training for the Transcontinental Race is a really tough proposition to understand what you need to do. I’m hoping to replicate what I did last year, but try and fill in some gaps and include improvements. Hoping to have achieved some weight loss goals by this point.

TCR No. 5 Planning: I’ve already got some routing done, hopefully will have the kit sorted – any gaps will need to be filled, or planned.

G!RO…NA: Off to Girona for a long weekend of Spanish roads and Cols with Sommet Cycling Tours. There are perhaps 10 of the Cafe regulars heading out for some much needed fair weather riding and a taste of Spain.

April.

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Flanders: Probably more of a drinking weekend – heading over on the Saturday, watching the race on the Sunday, riding Monday. I’ve made the mistake of underestimating the damage Belgium beer can do on your hangover, so I will have this in mind next time.

Wales: If there is no February or March trip, it must happen in April. I’ve got to go visit my mum! I may as well just head down anyway as this is a great part of the world to explore

Heart of England Audax: Some unfinished business here. Last year I attempted this Audax with James, only to be caught on the first big hill by a snow storm. We made our way to a cafe in Broadway to warm up – never been so cold! – before heading back to the car in a taxi.

Paris – Part 1: As per last year, I’ll be riding with Challenge Sophie on her London to Paris 24 hour sportive on the last weekend of April.

May

Paris-London: On the Monday, as I did last year I will ride back from Paris. Hoping for warmer weather this year – suffered with -5deg C, but it was at least dry!

Sardinia: I’m making the most of some air miles, and flying out to Sardinia. I will be taking my bike and bikepacking gear for a week of bike packing around the island. I went to Sardinia a few years ago just as I got into riding, and found some fairly epic roads. Will quite likely spend most nights in hotels, but there will be some bivvy practice ahead of the TCR. It’s a really good opportunity to get everything bedded in and discover any kit issues or deficiencies, or even excesses.

Paris… Again!: Another round trip over the bank holiday weekend. This time with a whole day in Paris on the Sunday before heading back early on Monday.

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June

TBC: Early June is currently a little open. Possibly the Dragon Ride again, along with the Fairies flattest 300 audax. Will have to see how things are.

Alps Trip: A small group of friends hiring a van and heading to the Alps. Got some epic rides planned in over a long weekend, covering some epic climbs and roads of the Alps.

Final Prep: This is almost the last chance to test any kit, fix any issues or add/remove any items from the inventory. Hopefully most of this will have been sorted out in May…

July

Panicking: As per last year, July is about tapering. And final preparations. Getting ready for the journey across Europe. Last year I put on a bit of weight this month, so will try and taper with an ease in diet at the same time. Or maybe just make the most of the extra weight by stopping less often on the TCR!

The TCR Starts: 28th July, on the Muur in Geraardsbergen. 10pm.

Eeek!

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August

TCR: Still going hopefully! Lots of ideas about how long this is going to take me, but ultimate goal is to finish, and do so in time for the finishers party. I learnt a lot last year so hope to use as much as that to make life easier for myself. But there is so much that’s different, there is inevitably going to be so much more to learn once again! One thing that I keep reminding myself of is how lucky I was throughout the race last year. Bad routing through France aside, I managed to get ahead of, or just miss an awful lot of bad weather. Cold & rain in the Swiss Alps and Dolomites, the winds in the Balkans, the worst of the rain in Macedonia.

Rest: Beyond the TCR I’m planning to chill completely for the rest of August. I may put something together on August BH with the G!RO crew, but seeing how much damage my body took last year I’m not sure there’ll be much I can realistically plan for.

September, and beyond…

Seeing how I recover, I hope to enter Revolve 24 again. A 24 hour team relay (or solo…?!) race around Brands Hatch. Even if I don’t ride, I’ll most likely go along with the team to help everyone out.

All said and done, there’s much to look forward to, and you’ll be able to follow this journey here.

Photo Credit for header photo, at the summit of the Passo Giau, TCR No. 4, CP3. Photographer: Giovanni Maria Pizzato for PEdALED