Unfortunately in life not everything will go to plan, you can put so much time and effort into something but it can just not be written in your story. I feel this was the case with the TCR No5 let me tell you how it all happened.
I will never forget the news I got a few hours before I left, I found out a member of my family was going to pass shortly, I really struggled to get on, it was the hardest goodbye to my family when I left. With a brave face I met some other riders and we travelled down together. Silent in the van I really wasn’t in the mood for talking, I don’t think anyone was really, I guess this helped because I didn’t feel the need to answer any questions.
We go down to the start the day before, that night I slept in a bivvy in a friends tent, I don’t think I slept much more than about 10 hours the whole 3 nights before I started the race, I really don’t think this did me any favours. I guess I was really nervous and just so dam busy!
I was cap number 19, ready and waiting at the start line for what I expected to be the toughest challenge of my life. Making new friends left right and centre meeting my idols it was amazing, there is something so special about sharing such a big experience with people. If you don’t know what the Transcontinental is it’s a 4000k self supported race across Europe though checkpoints, this year it was starting in Belgium, then going to Southern Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Romania and finishing in Greece. These are places that I had dream’t of cycling and I had the chance to race 300 other riders in getting to them.
After realising I forgot my bottles I went and bought some more just before the race started, I think they saw me coming because on 4 cheap bottles I spent like 24 Euros! Daylight robbery beer would have been cheaper. I stocked up on food and then went to the breifing, it was great to met so many like minded cyclists and my favourite was a guy called Scott, sometimes in life you just meet people who have a good heart and you can sense it, I saw this in Scott. we had a good laugh and made some last minute changes to our set ups before going to the start line, yeah we were prepared haha!
The tribute to the great Mike Hall at the start brought a tear to my eye, he was a big idol of mine. We did the lap of the town, you can find this somewhere on youtube the crowd was unbelievable but I found it a bit to much so was looking forward to getting out and on my own. After the lap we went out the town and into the night I remember passing a rider who had within the first mile been knocked off by another rider, that’s got to suck!
The first few miles I ended up meeting riders as I past them and they past me, I remember riding with a couple guys and the number 172, which was Frank, who just after I left him was hit and killed. I found this out the next day, it really hurt me, up until this point I had not thought of death, it made me think a lot about what was going on back home, the risks I was taking and the though of that could of been me as well. I feel as this really took my head out the game I just didn’t have my head in the ride.
I was very tired as I had been up all night, I had just clocked about 200 mile in 15 hours and found a hotel got some food and got my head down, I was in a place called Metz slowly making my way across France on my way to Germany. The next day I felt ok I guess a good night sleep can really help you so much mentally. I was making great progress and past into Germany where I made my way to Castle Litchenstein the first Checkpoint…
It wasn’t long before I started to suffer with a bad stomach, I think I had eaten something which really didn’t like me. I was running into bushes and just didn’t seem to have any way of getting calories in. It really hurt and took about 6 hours to settle. I remember trying to go up big climbs but was so tired and empty I just couldn’t get the Watts down! I guess the 18% climb for 8km didn’t help either.
At 12 O’clock at night this looks very different! haha. I was nowhere near the front but had made a good day of about 150 miles on my second day. I got to the checkpoint had my card signed and slept on the floor under a bench at the hotel where it was situated. Surprisingly I slept pretty well. I was dam tired though! The next morning was tough 2 riders I slept near called it a day, after a bite of breakfast with them I wasn’t feeling the need to stop. I felt I was still struggling thinking lots of home but I wasn’t ready to stop just yet.
I was ready for a good stint on the bike and by this I had planned the next 30 hours before I slept again. I struggled to get my flow on day 3 for some reason everywhere I went just had fizzy water, I was having to leave my bottles open to make it flat and drinkable.
I knew I had big ground to cover as hadn’t had much luck and was at the back of the field of riders. My route was unlike any others it was straight across the alps then a nice flat run though Italy, I picked this because I had been this way before and knew the route, feeling better now crossing the Alps didn’t feel as bad as I thought, I was about 14 hours into my 30 hour stint and I was quite enjoying it.
The wind wasn’t really doing me any favours I was really suffering, you would think getting into the Alps would stop the wind, it does’t it channels it even more! I crossed the Alps! Enjoyed some off road and roadworks which to me through the Splugen Pass!
The top of the pass was gorgeous and was making up great time, tailwind equipped I was enjoying a nice long pushed decent into Italy. I instantly noticed that the driving got very bad in Italy. Not so much in the day but when the night hit they really give such little room. I had my mind a lot on what was happening back home, getting updates on the phone didn’t really help with my motivation. I stopped for a pizza and then pressed on further into the night. Passing Lake Como I had planned a nice cycle route round part of the lake, unfortunately this was shut and I was forced into a tunnel, 5 minutes later I was cycling along and a lorry came behind me and the road got very small, he didn’t know what to do and before I knew it I had a lorry wheel tugging on my jacket and a barrier scraping my other arm.
For the first time in a very long time I thought it was the end for me, I couldn’t see anyway out of this situation. Lucky enough there was and I scraped by, if the lorry had been any longer it would have been the end of me. I carried on riding, very upset but still pushed forward. In the morning I was in a Mcdonalds I rang my Girlfriend and cried I couldn’t believe had close it had been, all I could think of my family at home and the bad news I had heard before I left, I just wanted to be with them. What was I doing taking these risks, why wasn’t I home. With many thought’s in my head of Family, Frank and a very close call I made the choice not to go on.
The road will be here for ever loved ones are not. This was all I could think of. Looking back months on I feel it was the right choice. I got to say my goodbye and I came home in one piece. I feel the TCR is a safe race, I was just unlucky every time you go out on your bike you run the risk of being hurt, riding in the TCR does not change the odds.
I feel this ride was probably the biggest learning experience I have ever had and I have taken so much away with me. I will probably race it again. As soon as I got home I was back out on the bike training for a World Record Attempt for the most countries cycled in 7 days. Find out more on the homepage!