Transcontinental No6 – Start to CP1

During the first two days, leading up to CP1 were very hot. The temperatures were reaching 30 Celsius and over in France, Germany and Austria, Switzerland, we haven’t even hit the hot countries yet!! I was constantly stopping to refill my bottles, get more food, cokes also mandatory ice creams all the time too. Once I filled the water bottles up with new cold water, it would take on average 15-20 minutes for them to be more than warm. I religiously applied factor 50 everyday, but still managed to get decent tan lines everywhere.

A big part of my route went underneath Luxembourg rather than across it, I spent a bit more time in France than others. The smaller French villages do not have any shops or petrol stations in between or anything similar where you could top up with water, food. At one point, I had ran out of water and could not find any shops in the towns I’ve passed. In fact, all the small villages seemed empty! I did find a church and in its court year there was a tap. The water seemed good to drink, so I filled up my water bottles, rinsed my cycling cap with the cold water and carried on. `

Approaching Check point 1 this was one of the more serious hills I climbed. The hill went on what it seems was forever, gradual climb with steep bits!

 

I’ve reached Check point 1 in 2 days 11 hours, which was 800 km or 500 miles away from the start line. I still felt good and fresh, no pains or niggles. Once I got my card stamped, as the CP1 was in hotel, I decided to use their bathroom to wash myself and my jersey and I’ve also jumped into my second pair of bibs and I’ve also washed my orange socks! Once that was done, I went outside to dry the jersey which was a bit wet and to leave my bibs to dry out together with my socks! The jersey was dry within 10 minutes and I went off to get some food from the restaurant. As it was still early in the morning, they were serving a buffet and I enjoyed a variety of meat slices, cheeses and breads with orange juice and a coffee!

As I faffed around outside, I overheard a conversation nearby and recognized that it is Rimas. A fellow Lithuanian who has done the TCR two times previously, but this time he was around on holiday! as he has done the Alpi 4000 (1200km) event in Italy not too far away and came out to see the riders at the CP 1. We chatted for a bit, I showed him my bike, kit, etc and had to shoot off. He did grab a few pictures of me, which were great!

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The Transcontinental Race No6 – (the start)

I have finished the Transcontinental race No6 in 16 days and 6 hours. The ride was the hardest one I have ever done and the longest one in distance by far.

I will write a series of blog posts about this, as there is so much to write about!

Short re-cap of my trip:

  • 16 days 6 hours
  • More than 4100 km and over 46000 meters of climbing according to strava.
  • 2 nights in hotel, 14 nights outdoors.
  • 1 Broken chain, 6 punctures and many failed puncture patches.
  • Lost my wallet (all bank cards) in Austria.
  • Navigational errors in Bosnia

Ride to the start and the Registration!

Originally I was going to get a lift to the start but due to unforeseen circumstances, this had got to be dropped and I have decided that cycling to the start seemed to be the best hassle free option. It didn’t seem to be big of a deal to do a “small” test ride before the real thing! The route was 146 km and I got off the ferry and Dunkirk on Sunday (race day) 3 AM local time. I decided to take it easy and spun my way through the night in the French suburbs. I stopped a couple of times, one stop was to lie down a on bench in my bivvy, as I was getting tired! and I’ve slept for about 30-45 minutes or so. Then made a couple of bakery shop stops for fuel!

Took me 9 hours to cover the 150 km, including all the sleep and bakery shop stops, I got to the town of Geraardsbergen at 11 AM and swiftly started the procedure of registration. Everything took about an hour and shortly afters, I had my new cap, number 134 and the tracker!

Cruised around the town to get myself a nice pizza and found a relatively good place where I could have my bike near me and have a pizza at. The town was buzzing with TCR riders and within the next 10 minutes another rider joined my table, which was Matthew Falconer! (finished 2nd), shortly after I finished my pizza, James Hayden and one of the american riders joined our table to get pizzas too! With so much experience around the table, it was always nice to hear what the top tier guys were chatting about!

After leaving the table, I went down to find a nice grassy area to lie/sleep on as the riders briefing was still about 3 or so hours away. After the briefing, we’ve received our brevet cards, and the lezyne waterproof pouches, which I have used through out the trip and it was a nice addition to the kit I’ve already had! After this, I’ve gotten so more food at the food vans that were present and went to stock up on more liquids at the near by shops. One of the shops were giving out free bananas to TCR riders! (I did grab a few as well!).

START

The start  ceremony was nice, although the flaming torches were missing, we guessed it was due to the fire hazard around the whole of Europe as it was so hot!

Soon after we climbed the Muur the second time, under race conditions, people have taken their own routes, and I was surprised how quickly everyone dispersed, I expected to see more people on the road, only catching up an occasional rider or getting passed by one.

50 km from the start, I had a puncture in my rear tyre. A piece of glass has got stuck in the tyre. After some swearing, I got that fixed in about 15 minutes or so (by changing the inner tube) and was on my way. I had three tubes in total and have thought it may have been too many, but little did I know!

110 km done, 4 am and I was out of water, the night was a lot warmer that I anticipated and  I decided to make a stop to sleep for a bit and then to try and find a shop in the morning to restock on water and to grab a snack! which worked out well! As I cycled the previous night, I had to make stops for sleep / catnaps, as I was a bit deprived even before the event has started.

I have done about 400 km since the start (24 hours or so) and was feeling good with the progress, this meant I have built up quite a bit of a buffer in case I had issues later on in the race.  The next milestone in my head was reaching Strasbourg which was about 500 km or so from the start and then it was about 300 km or so till the first Checkpoint!

More than 24 hours later after the start, I started to feel sleepy again and decided to bivvy at about 2 AM (July 31st) somewhere in the French farmlands and I found a relatively good bivvy spot too!
It was in a farm field, but there was a building, that was probably used as an eating/sleeping place for the field workers. The inside didn’t look so inviting, so I decided to bivvy next to the building.

 

 

 

Hope wheel – rim cracked

Sometime April/May last year, I’ve bought a hope 20five rs4 wheel through a local bike shop in Croydon, where I used to live at the time. I did some miles on it, have done LEL and other audaxes, loved the wheel, etc! I put the same wheel on the new Cube bike I’ve bought for TCRNo6 and did some miles, without any issues.

Fast forward to a few days ago, I bought my bike in for a service in a local bike shop, and got a call from the mechanic asking me If I knew about the 6 cracks in the rear wheel rim!

Gotten in touch with hope the next day and they kindly offered me to send the wheel back, so they could inspect/replace the rim. Alternatively, they could send me a replacement rim to the bike shop and they could do it if they agreed to it, but i’d pay the fees for rebuilding the wheel. All of this has happened 6 days before the transcontinental race…All bike shops are booked out, no one even wanted to see the wheel! and hope are not able to turn it around so fast.

Having said all of that, SPA cycles agreed to build me  wheel, but on centerlock hub, which would require an adaptor to 6bolt disc!

I have chosen to buy a newly built wheel, which would fit exactly as the old wheel has fitted. It is a hope wheel, so I am giving them another hope! Hopefully, they’ll fix the old wheel without a fuss when I’ll get back.

 

To be continued!

Dunkirk – Amsterdam bikepacking (sort of)

My friends were already camping in Amsterdam whilst I was cycling to work on Friday morning and by the time I got to work I had an idea of possibly cycling to Amsterdam overnight (Friday – Saturday) from Dunkirk. Had a quick look at train tickets and ferry tickets, I didn’t hesitate in booking them.

I frantically cycled back home after work to get ready as much as possible for the trip as I only had two hours to make sure I had everything packed! and I didn’t much stuff that was pre-packed!

The ferry was leaving midnight and my train was to take 2.5h hours to Dover! Just before 8PM I left Redhill and was on my way to Dover ferry.

When I looked at the weather forecast and the wind directions, it seemed to be all in my favour…oh how wrong I was! When we got to Dunkirk, it was raining, not strongly, but it was enough to get wet shoes and I didn’t pack my overshoes! (I probably would have if I knew it was gonna rain at the start).

I left the ferry terminal at 3 AM and the next 80KM or so I stopped more frequently than I would have liked so, firstly stopped in a bus stop to put on my sealskinz socks (supposedly waterproof) and waterproof gloves. The socks turned out to be quite shitty at least for me! They just got drenched in water after a few hours and were holding water rather than breathing. Two other stops were for bakeries in the morning and then once the rain stopped to a light drizzle at around 6-7AM I found a goat cage in a little village which had benches, that looked perfect for a nap! The bench was wet, but I was tired enough not to care about this and just laid on the bench to sleep. When I got up, a goat was standing two meters away from me and he was staring at me!

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I reached the Breskens – Vlissingen ferry at 10 AM. The ferry seats weren’t too bad and I managed to grab another quick 20 minute nap whilst crossing over. From Vlissingen, I cycled for a bit and stopped in Middelburg, found a cafe that did some lunch and have a very nice and strong flat white. After devouring the food, I ordered another flat white with orange juice, downed those, got some water in my bottles and set off again, I spent about 45 minutes in total at the cafe, which wasn’t too bad, but could have spent less there, the next 100 KM went by rather quickly. Every 50km or so I stopped at a petrol station, to get some water, ice cream and a bit of food.

I must have reached Rotterdam at around 3-4PM, it is always lovely to go via the Benelux tunnel! At one of the petrol stations, the cashier noted my well tanned red arms! He was gobsmacked that I was cycling to Amsterdam from there, and was even more so surprised when I told him I’ll reach Amsterdam this evening! (I only had 60-70k to go).

Stocked up on bars and water, I was ready to tackle the last bit, this was pretty much the home run, I was still feeling good despite the fact that I have only slept for an hour within the past 30-something hours!

I reached Amsterdam (Zeeburg camping site) shortly past 8 PM, which made it an 18hour trip from Dunkirk.

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Sleeping bag review [ Highlander Trekker Superlite

I have bought this sleeping bag specifically for the transcontinental race due to the weight and pack size. I have a few other sleeping bags which I have used for bike packing trips, but they are all much bigger in size and did not tick the box of being small!

 

  •    Some stats of the sleeping bag:
  • Season Rating 1-2 season
  • Open Size 220 x 80/50cm
  • Packed Size 18 x 12cm
  • Weight (grams) 480
  • Comfort Temperature (°C) 14
  • Extreme Temperature (°C) -2

I had an opportunity to use the bag once already for a night when I cycled over to Wales for the Brevet Cymru Audax. I used the bag as well as bivvy bag on a bench in a park not too far from the start! During the night, the temperature probably did drop to around 4-6 degrees. I did not get too cold, but I would have felt if the temperature dropped any further, probably on the lower limits of my sleeping setup. Unfortunately, at that time I did not have my skeleton sleeping pad, the night would have been even more comfier!

 

You probably are able to get to the advertised compression size, but I believe it would strain the straps a lot if you compressed as much as possible everytime, so I tend not to overdo it, as it would probably break over time and when storing, I undo the straps at all.

 

 

Brevet Cymru Extended post ride write up

This is my post ride write up for brevet cymru audax and my ride to the start and back!

Day 1:

Set off comfortably on Friday at 9 AM towards Chepstown in Wales. After 50k I met up with a colleague of mine, with whom I pre-arranged to meet up for a small ride of the section I was doing, after 18k or so, we departed and I was on my own again for the rest of the day. At around 1PM or so I stopped at pub for a burger and beer! (I was taking it easy as I had plenty of time!) Whilst I waited for the food, I adjusted my tri-bars and I kept doing so through out the day to get the most comfortable position. I will still need to buy bigger risers for the profile design aero bars I am using.

Crossed the bridge into Wales at 9-PM, continued on to outskirts of Chepstow, where the ride was starting on Saturday morning. I managed to grab a Dominoes pizza and a bottle of coke and cookies, had a meal and had a browse for parks around on google maps to find a bivvy bag spot. It was my intention to bivvy rather than to book hotel 🙂 Fell asleep shortly after midnight and got up at 4:30AM or so, packed up and headed towards the community hall down the road!

 

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Day 2:

At the hall, picked up my brevet card, had cross buns with jam and several coffees, before setting off. I stayed at the front with fast guys and girls for the first 30 km, averaging 30km/h, as this wasn’t really my pace, I dropped bag before another small group caught up with me and I stayed with them for the next 40k where at 70k mark I got a puncture going downhill. Surprisingly, not that many riders passed whilst I got the puncture sorted out, the next control point was only 10k away. I can’t remember where I stopped for food, but I am sure it was a petrol station, usual sandwich/wrap/coke/ice cream combo.

The next control point was a west end cafe (150k), there a few riders and A LOT of motorcycle bikers, so I only got my card stamped and carried on. I set off toward Tregaron (200k), a free control at the hotel, grabbed orange juice ice and water, went to supermarket for a sandwich and a yogurt drink. Ate the sandwich, finished my pint of juice and water and set off again for the next half of the ride. In retrospect, I didn’t have to into the hotel, I could have just gotten a receipt, but I followed another rider as we thought there would be a stamp! but the girl did sign the cards 🙂

300k – back at west end cafe, where I grabbed beans on toast, stupidly I forgot ask for grated cheese on top! Having eaten that, coffee, can of coke in my jersey pocket, put on my leg warmers, changed my socks and off I went for the last 100k. We were supposed to reach a control point – community hall at 341 – no sign of the hall at all, myself and another guy decided to push on for the last leg, for some we rode together, he was stronger at the climbs, so we departed and then caught up with each other. At about 20k from the finish, the guy had a puncture and I caught up with him, stopped and held my phone as a light for him to fix his puncture, as he didn’t have a head torch (neither did !).

Reached the control point at 1:20 AM, a few faces around, most stuffed their cards through the letter box and set off home, as they were locals or had caravans nearby! Myself and another person, sat by the door waited for the organiser to come back and to open the village hall up! Another kind rider came up to check on us and kindly invited us back to his van for warmth! He kindly offered gin and tonic, which we kindly accepted! at about 3AM, organizer arrived back and opened the hall, went in for a kip and got up 6AM.

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Day 3:

Set off at 6:30 AM for the leg home, cycled on for 20k or maybe more and found a petrol station for food and then carried on repeating the ritual of petrol stations until I reached Hungerford  which was roughly 1PM and maybe about 100k in. Had some proper food at a cafe there, I had been there before several times on other Audax rides. Shortly after, I stopped for sleep, around two hours or so and carried on, stopping at a small shop, where I met two other riders, who were amazed where I cycled from! Then another petrol stop station and I was at home roughly at 8PM or so.

There were a few mistakes:

  1. Not taking the head torch I was given by my cousin for long rides! (I forgot).
  2. Not taking baby wipes.
  3. Not taking gel hand sanitizer which I specifically bought for longer rides.
  4. Forgot to buy tri-bar food bags, which would have been handy.
  5. Second pair of bib shorts were loose and did not fit well (doh).

 

Nonetheless, good test ride before transcontinental in less than three months now!

Brevet Cymru Audax

This year I am taking part in “Brevet Cymru” Audax ride. This will be a nice test ride for transcontinental race.  Should be quite tough and a rewarding 400k ride:

I will be riding to the start from my home in Surrey. This will be a 220 km ride, a warm up for the audax! I might even ride back, who knows!!

Post-ride report will follow up, wish me all the best!

new bike

Rather than keeping my new sequoia, I ordered in a brand new carbon bike!

I’ve gotten myself a Cube Attain GTC SLT Disc Road Bike 2018 – hydraulic disc brakes, carbon frame, weights 8.4 kg.

Should do the job for transcontinental just fine I think! Can’t wait to get my hands on it and start doing some mileage!

 

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Specialized my unofficial sponsor

A few weeks I found some rust accumulating on my the chain stay tube whilst cleaning bike, it turned out to be a crack:

I bought the bike just year ago from Evans and I still had a years of warranty on the the frame. Stripped the frame and popped to the shop to book it in.

Specialized agreed to replace the frame, except they sent back a complete new bike! rather than only just the frame. Pleasantly surprised!

 

Thanks!