A lot of people are surprised to hear that I am a vegetarian and managed to do races like the Tour Divide (4,418 km) and the Transcontinental (3,400 km) without eating anything which moved of its own volition. I became a vegetarian 27 years ago for health reasons, but I’ve also over time become sensitized to the issues of animal welfare and the environment. I found the attached image at: http://www.upworthy.com/is-vegetarian-something-youd-never-try-these-numbers-might-change-your-mind?c=slt1 and thought I would share it. Animals really do have a major negative impact on the environment. New Zealand’s rivers and streams are particularly suffering from the impact of increased dairying. So next time you go for a hamburger how about consider a veggie burger instead?
This is an age old debate. For the record – I’m not a proponent of shaved legs. However, a recent set of wind tunnel tests showed that one could save up to 70 seconds in a 40 km time trial by shaving the legs. That is like 5 minutes on an Ironman distance race which is a lot of time for … nothing. Will I shave? No. But if you are serious about your cycle times its one thing to consider. Here is a video of the wind tunnel testers describing their surprising findings.
This race is only in its second year but will undoubtedly grow into one of the top self-supported bike races around. It has a very unique format—after starting in London you are given three check points which change each year (for 2014 it was the cafe near Paris where the Tour de France started in 1903; Stelvio Pass in northern Italy; and Mt. Locven in Montenegro) and you choose your own route between the points, ending up at the Rumeli Hisari in Istanbul (where the finisher’s photo below was taken). You have just over 14.5 days to finish the race, although you can complete it outside that window but the results will not be included. There were 101 riders entered, 88 started, and at the time of writing 18 scratches.I ended up finishing in just over 13.5 days after 3,400 km of riding and two ferry trips for a 34th place tie. The race was challenging, rewarding and all I could have hoped for. I’ll definitely come back and ride it again!
What a great adventure. 3,400 km of cycling, two ferry trips, all the way from London to Istanbul in 13.5 days for a 34th place tie. It was more than I had hoped for with great riding, challenging conditions, and fantastic camaraderie. As I sit in my hotel room in Istanbul thought it would be good to do a few reflections on what worked and what did not work for those who want to race the TCR themselves in the future. A race report will follow.
My bike and gear are out for the final check before being boxed to fly to to London tomorrow. Thought it would be a good time to go through what I’m taking with me—as always too much!
The the race four weeks away I’ve been vacillating over the final route. After lots of deliberations—and advice from my riding buddy Mike and Jok who is recovering from his training crash the die is (sort of) cast. If I don’t get lost, go off route I’ve got 3,471 km of riding to do, with some 35,115 m of climbing. Makes me tired just thinking about it … but what a holiday!
The elevation profile shows a few hills on the way!
I decided to take the ferry from Bari rather than Ancona not because, to paraphrase one of Jok’s reasons the female ‘eye candy’ is amongst the best in Europe, but because there is a lot less climbing than crossing to Split, and one hopes that Italian drivers are more cyclist friendly than Balkan drivers. I decided against my original Bulgarian route because of the strong advice in the race manual:
The number 8 road from Sofia through Plovdiv to Edirne. This road is at times narrow with no shoulder and very fast moving traffic including trucks which will attempt to overtake despite your presence. Of all the roads that Transcontinentalists in 2013 travelled on, this was reported as the out and out worst. Avoid it like the plague.
Now just to try and get a lot more training in over the next few weeks before I begin to taper. My bike and kit is all sorted out and working great. Just the body needs work!
Update July 29: My colleagues from the World Bank’s Albania office have given me a recommended route through Tirana. I’ve also decided to cut through Macedonia rather than Albania all the way to Greece – looks like better resupply points. So this gives me 3,468 km of riding and 34,923 m of climbing. Saved 3 km and 193 m of climbing!
Outside Magazine has an excellent interview with Jefe Branham who won the 2014 Tour Divide—just outside record time in spite of absolutely appalling conditions—the number two ride was some three days behind. Very insightful and thought provoking about what these sorts of endurance races mean. I’m glad they show the Tour De France is easier—short distance over a longer time. The TDR really is the toughest race!