Ben Davies - A Transcontinental Story
Earlier in 2017 we received an email from rider Ben Davies asking us to look out for a stolen bike. Just 6 weeks before his first attempt at the mind boggling Trans Continental Race (TCR) Ben had his race bike stolen from the back of his car.
This is Ben's TCR story...
Back in February 2016 I was returning home after a 15,000 mile solo Pan-America tour and was keen to start lining up my next adventure. At the top of my list was the self-supported Transcontinental Race, which in July/August 2017 would be entering its fifth edition.
Whilst being ever increasingly oversubscribed, I received notification at the end of the year that I had been allocated a place on the start line of what has become known as the definitive race of its type. The Transcontinental Race involves routing between five checkpoints across Europe, covering in the region of 4000km, this year between Geraardsbergen, Belgium and Meteora, Greece in a single “stage”.
I have completed a number of long distance tours throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas; however this would be my first self-supported race so there was definitely an element of the unknown but to a larger degree, I was incredibly excited.
It has been a tough year for endurance cycling and the run up to the Transcontinental was filled with sadness following the death of the race founder and organiser, Mike Hall, during the 2017 Indian Pacific Wheel Race. It was very much down to the hard work of Mike’s family and the TCR team that the race went ahead.
My race preparation was a great excuse to spend many hours out on the road however was dealt a blow when my car was broken into and my race bike and all my kit was stolen just 6 weeks before the start. Luckily I had an alternative frame and a bunch of old parts sat around which I built up quickly. Later BikeScience massively helped out by getting me comfortable and fitted on what at first glance would not necessarily be deemed an ideal bike for an ultra-endurance race.
The day before the off my partner Christina and I drove down to Belgium and after a few minor dramas I lined up with ~300 others at 10pm at the foot of the famous Muur de Geraardsbergen. Climbing the Muur in the dark with people lining the climb with flaming lanterns was an awesome way to start the race, as was the experience of riding along in the silence of the night occasionally seeing flashing red lights peel off as each rider mapped their own way through the Belgian countryside.
Climbing the Muur
Nearing the German border around 19 hours after departing Geraardsbergen and having covered 414km I picked up an email from the Race organisers that tragically informed of a fellow racer who had been killed in a road accident overnight. News filtered out to all of the racers and having been told that Frank’s family felt he would have wanted the race to continue it was down to each of us to determine what we wanted to do. I took the evening to reflect and talk to Christina and my mind was made up to race on.
Over the next 12 days I covered a further 3,694 kilometres passing through 14 countries. My routing through the Alps left a bit desired and I ended up going a wildly different route to much of the pack, climbing an inordinate amount of metres. Definitely a lesson learned. From that point there was an aspect of playing catch up which I had a lot of fun doing. Each day consisted of covering miles, enjoying being on the bike, stocking up on caffeine and getting calories from ice-creams and whatever else the petrol stations had in stock. Passing through countries rapidly was great, providing quickly changing terrain, cultures and driving styles. At points it was mentally exhausting, for example riding along a narrow road edge trying to avoid Romanian motorists, but for the most part there was a great sense of pushing on. I also had a lot of fun biviing each night, with bivi spots ranging from scenic spots to more regularly bus stops and shop fronts.
Bus stop biviing
Following a testing final parkour, after 13 days 20 hours and 47 minutes I rolled through the finish line to a much needed cold beer. It was a great learning curve and has definitely whetted my appetite for next year.
Enjoying a beer at the finish line