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Rückblick Transcontinental Race: Auswertungen und Leistungsdaten

Etappen Übersicht von Control Point zu Control Point, aufgegliedert nach Distanz und Höhenmetern, Gesamtzeit und Zeit in Bewegung, sowie Leistungsdaten. Ein Rennbericht und die Grafiken und Höhenprofile ergänzen meinen persönlichen Bericht über das Transcontinental Race 2022:

#TCRNo8 – Start to Checkpoint 1

My strategy was clear: Start quite slow in base-endurance zone 2. Avoid wasting Carb-storage by too high intensity. Accept some rookie mistakes and failures, because they will surely happen in my first unsupported race. Stay patient, stay cool, and watch the fast guys speed out and destroy themselves. Ride to Checkpoint 1 like a warm-up and sleep 3 hours in the first nights!

The start into the race was not really great. I chose too many bike paths and all the curves and small roads slowed me down. After some hours I forgot about my planned route and followed big main roads like the fast guys and simply used google maps.

In Germany I had a great route-plan with very fast and non-traffic bike paths through urban region of NRW Ruhrpott, it was just perfect.

After getting closer to the front of the pack problems began after 24 hours riding nonstop: I did not make my way to the room I had booked. Got too tired, lost my way, rode the wrong direction, couldn’t navigate to the address because my phone got wet in the rain and was dead. Was too confused, rode on stone-gravel-field-paths for farmers, rode back and forth in circles and lost 2 hours and 40km before reaching the room. What a poor rookie mistake!

Next morning, I found a removed bridge, the road was closed due to a construction site and I had to detour for 6 km and lost 30min (including stopping and figuring out the detour). Reached CP1 almost 4 hours behind the leaders. Not great, but could have been worse.

Distance: 932km
Climbing: 6678m
Total Time: 41h:19min
Moving Time: 33h:44min
Normalized Power NP: 195W

Link Strava-File: www.strava.com/activities/7590093453

#TCRNo8 – Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2

In the moment when I reached Checkpoint 1 in Krupka, Czech Republic I had a mechanical problem: My rear shifter was only working in one direction any more. I could shift into lighter gears, but not into faster gears any more. Finding the problem was not so easy, since the Garmin showed that all batteries of the SRAM etap were full, but obviously it must have been an empty battery (the small 2032) in the right shift/brake lever. I had spare battery with me, so I opened the screw to change it. But oh no! I opened the wrong one and lost the brake fluid, it was dropping down the handlebar and my rear brake was dead. I immediately took my spare phone (my main phone died in the rain and refused to be charged because of wet in the USB port – it is a fu***g waterproof Samsung, but still it was dead) and watched a youtube tutorial for changing battery in the shift-lever. After stopping for 50 minutes in CP1 I could continue and stopped at the next Bikeshop in Decin. The mechanic was super fast and refilled my brake fluid.

After sleeping in a bus station in CZE I had another tech issue in the morning. While going to the toilet I put my bike into the grass and found it with a flat tire when I wanted to continue. In the whole race, I never had a flat tire while riding (gravel, construction sites, parcours,…) but while the bike was standing in the grass. I just did not believe it. But I took my spare tube (I had 2 with me) and changed the tube. Lacking power in my biceps I did not get enough pressure to the new tube, so the tire was not perfectly placed on the rim. It was hopping up and down when I continued. So I needed another stop for more pressure and found it after crossing the border to Germany again. A guy from a car mechanic garage helped me and made me very happy!

I got a bit frustrated again because I realized that my route included slow bike paths again with too many curves. So I changed to a more hilly main road in Bavaria before reaching the flatlands, where I really was riding super fast from Straubing to Munich. Passing through this big city on the Isar-bikepath was nice, many friendly people said hello to me and time was flying.

I dediced to make another room reservation on Fernpass, which I reached about midnight. Another long sleep with 3 hours helped me restore energy and mental fitness, before I had a lonely road over Fernpass. During the day this would be hell of a traffic, but in the night it was great. Riding over well-known streets in Austria was no big challenge, and I soon made it to the climbing sections where I met other racers. I had an exciting battle with Christian Jakoubek from Poland all over Reschenpass and Umbrail and down to Bormio, before we reached CP2 in Santa Caterina. The battle helped both of us to ride fast, but I was wondering, how strong this man was. I was pushing really hard and high wattage numbers, but just could not shake him off. A great guy, we had some nice and fun conversation and I realized: all the front runners in TCR are really superb athletes with determination and spirit. Never expected this level of physical and mental fitness in the peloton. Love it!

Distance: 820km
Climbing: 9977m
Total Time: 45h:44min
Moving Time: 36h:23min
Normalized Power NP: 181W

Link Strava-File: www.strava.com/activities/7595474657

#TCRNo8 – Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3

Checkpoint 2 was a quick operation: Get the stamp, have a short chat with the TCR media crew for their podcast and order a drink and a snack. Christian just received his non-alcoholic beer from the cameriere and so I also took one. We had a fast cheers to celebrate the great ride we shared so far! Before the waiter could put my sandwich into the toaster, I grabbed it from his hands, put the cold toast in my jersey and paid. After a toilet stop and some treatment for my butt I was on the bike again.

I would absolutely want to keep my good rhythm, stay strong and stay fast. I have already made it from 9th place in CP1 to 7th place in CP2, but I was about 9 hours behind the leaders Ulrich Bartholmoes, Adam Bialek and Robin Gemperle. Having a look at the leaderboard I discovered absolutely no reason to waste time!

This paid off: I was in full fighting mode until the top of Passo Gavia, where I could catch some riders and get into virtual 5th place in the rankings. That gave me extra motivation and I remembered my strategy:
Warm-up until CP1, establish my routine and understand how the race works until CP2, increase intensity and speed until CP3 without destroying myself, and then try to race all-out and reduce sleep after CP3 to finish.

My to-do list only contained one small nasty thing: Since my 2032 spare battery was already used in the shifter, I wanted to buy a new one. And I also needed new earplugs to listen to music and make phone calls, since mine have also died in the rain. The small detour to an electronic shop in Ponte di Legno turned out to be a relevant climb, but it was definitely worth it. Having a connection to music again and restock batteries was a good feeling of comfort. After a big resupply on Passo Tonale, where I met Will Vousden for the 3rd time in 1 hour, I definitely understood what efficiency means: Will was a bit slower than me, but much more consistent. He had a minimum of off-bike-time and therefore overtook me again and again. But this time he was unlucky: He had to look for a pharmacy after a crash down from Gavia. We wished each other best of luck und off I was to the long valley towards Trento and to Northern Italy.

A mixture of smoothly paved and fast bike paths and main roads led me to the region of Feltre, where I decided to not book a room, but sleep outside, whenever tiredness gets too strong. I enrolled my sleeping bad in an unfinished building site of a shopping centre north of Treviso and had another 3 hour nap.

The next day was just a big blast: Facing some troubles in the morning was the only small setback, before I could ride strong and steady. It happened, that I became too tired before sunrise and decided to take a short powernap. Sitting down and leaning back to a garden fence seemed to make sense, because lying down would lead to a deep sleep maybe. Problem was my empty phone battery, so I could not put an alarm and slept (I am not sure but I think) about 50 mins instead of 20 mins. Angrily about wasted time I found that I had another flat tire, while the bike was standing still in the grass. What is going on? No punctures while riding, but while standing still? Some bad miracle? Or some sabotage (just joking)?

Since I had only 1 of 2 tubes left and I did not want to have the tire-not-on-rim-problem again, I decided to ride to the next bike shop and get a new spare tube and have a mechanic put on the new tube and pump it up. Bad idea: The mechanic was so slow, did not care about the race (I told him that I was in a race, but he just smiled) and did other things instead of helping me. He was chatting to a pretty woman, looking at my tire and talking to colleagues. I got angry and would have preferred to leave, but the wheel was in his bike stand and I could do nothing but be patient. After 30min he got the new tube ready, and then I had to wait another 10min for the cashier to do the 5 customers before me. Man, was I angry!

But these emotions really woke my inner beastmode, and so the Strasser-Express pushed very hard the whole day through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia until Bosnia. My legs were perfect, my mind was focused, the weather was great. No navigational issues, no problems with food or stomach, no tech problems any more. I felt I have finally arrived in the race now. I knew that now my time will come. I sent out a video message to my social media to begin some psychological games on the other riders: I told, that I am feeling fresh and strong, that my strategy with a slower start pays off now, and that I am ready to fight now. I do not know if they saw the video, but having said this in public, gave me an extra boost of determination.

After another 3 hour sleep in Tihac, the first town in Bosnia, I had a very tough day: Rain, much traffic and rolling hills with much climbing made it really hard, but I was still racing hard without issues. The GPS-tracking site proved, that I got closer to the leaders. While Robin had to take a long stop to rest, I was in third with only Adam and Ulrich before me. Their lead got smaller and smaller, and when I arrived in CP3 Pluzine in the evening, I realized that they had only 3 hours of advantage left. But not only racing was in my mind: I have also seen one of the most beautiful places ever. The way south of Sarajewo into Montenegro through that impressive valley while sunset was a highlight in the beauty of TCR!

Distance: 1091km
Climbing: 10500m
Total Time: 55h:59min
Moving Time: 43h:22min
Normalized Power NP: 173W

Link Strava-File: www.strava.com/activities/7601595941

#TCRNo8 – Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4

A short chat with the race officials and a Magnum ice-cream later, I was on the bike again. Climbing the Durmitor must be one of the greatest things to do on the bike – if you are able to watch it. In the dark I just saw these rough tunnels in the steep stone cliffs of the Durmitor massive. Luckily ascending Durmitor was not very tough from a physical point of view, but descending was super exhausting from a mental point of view: No lines on the small road, no posts with reflectives on the shoulder of the road – the downhill was just very difficult to take, orientation was not easy, and I had to fight some inner demons of tiredness and was afraid of getting lost.

Riding downhill while being very tired is one of the worst things you can experience in ultracycling: “Do it slow, stay safe and avoid crashing” I told myself. Luckily I had the very bright “Supernova M99 Dy Pro” lamp, which made it possible to ride on safely.

For the 4th time in the race I had done a booking in the next city. Quite at the end of the parcours in Zabljak, a small room with a shower was waiting for me. But it was quite tricky, because booking.com did not offer the address, just a description of how to get there. It was a bit complicated, but I managed to find it finally.

After getting up I had to find a bancomat to get some cash, since they do not accept cards there. Riding back, putting some banknotes on the table and grabbing some chocolate sweeties from the reception desk woke me up, before I could finally continue from Montenegro towards Serbia.
The whole day in Serbia was fast. I rode strong without any issues, but so did the leaders too. Adam and Ulrich were there in the front, and I could not really come closer. I (again) realized, how damned strong they are, and that they will not let me come closer. I had to catch them by an extra effort, not by waiting for them to slow down.
In the evening, when we reached the shores of river Danube to follow a beautiful road along the valley, we could already see Romania on the other side of the river. My tactics now was, to reduce sleep to make another step towards the front of the race: While I enrolled my sleeping bad in the grass next to the water, I put the alarm for 2 hours of sleep. But because of a little (lucky) failure, the alarm woke me up after 1 hour. Reason was, that my phone was connected to Romanian phone signal, and there is another time zone with 1 hour difference. I did not realize that, jumped up, hopped onto my bike and was on full gas immediately.

When I looked onto the GPS tracker I was very happy: I just overtook Ulrich, who came out from his break just behind me, and Adam was only a few minutes before me.
After crossing the Iron-Gate-Bridge to Romania and nearly getting slapped by an angry woman in a small café, I finally catched Adam. The café story was, that I had shaking hands when applying 5 packs of sugar in the espresso, and some crumbs of sugar fell outside of my cup. The lady was beginning to shout at me in Bulgarian language and showing with her arms, that I sould just leave before she cracks my helmet. Man, this was scary! But gave me some Adrenaline to catch Adam.

Again, I was astonished by Adam and Ulrich: I expected them, to have mental problems when the Strasser-Express rolled over them from behind. But the opposite happened: they held my wheel and were just a few minutes behind. I could not shake them off and got mental problems myself, because I was pushing as hard as possible and was not able to gain an advantage.

When I stopped in Novaci, a small town just at the bottom of the Transalpina climb to fill up my bottles and get some food, Ulrich came by. His bottles already full and his pockets filled with food, we decided to share a moment together to say hello and have a can of coke together. It was the first time we met in the race and wanted to celebrate this with sportmanship, before we began climbing that tough ascent. Luckily, I knew it from training in June, and could really deliver a high wattage. Ulrich, who had to ride with heavy knee pain and saddle sores, was a bit slower and Adam also could not keep up with me.

But at this time I was not thinking about the rankings any more: My goal was to reach CP4 as soon as possible, so that I could enter the devilish offroad section in daylight before sunset. And then of course there is already some stress when I looked one day ahead: It was very important to catch one of the last ferries tomorrow, and this would only be possible, if the parcours was done without problems followed by a short sleep.

Distance: 795km
Climbing: 9540m
Total Time: 42h:30min
Moving Time: 33h:34min
Normalized Power NP: 175W

Link Strava-File: www.strava.com/activities/7607609899

#TCRNo8 – Checkpoint 4 to Finish

In CP4 at the northern bottom of Transalpina, I was race leader for the first time, but I was in a hurry to get back up Transalpina again and reach the entry into the parcours. I managed to find 5 snickers and 5 croissants at the tourist stands down there, which was not easy, because they mainly sell regional staff. But a 2kg loaf of cheese or a complete leg of a prosciutto do not really help you ride your bike, no?

While I got into the saddle and rode on towards the climb, Ulrich just arrived, he reached the CP around 20 minutes after me. He was concerned about the rain up there and obviously suffered from knee pain and the wet and cold conditions. We had a short conversation and wished each other best of luck. I really hoped, that he can manage the situation and do the parcours in the last hours of daylight, because I think during darkness it must be a nightmare. Also Adam was arriving on the CP soon afterwards, I waved him hello while I did the first meters of the climb.

Entering the parcours was a strange feeling, it was wet, the rain had stopped, but I knew from training in June, that the gravel and stones are really tough and technically challenging. My strategy was to avoid crashing or damaging the bike in first place, I was riding carefully and slowly. The first half of the 45km section was okay, some riding, some uphill pushing, sometimes walking a few meters before hopping onto the saddle again.

The second half was mainly downhill, and I was soon overtaken by Adam. He was much faster than me, and obviously technically better. While I was slowly and carefully rolling down, he was actually racing, but a few minutes later I met him again, because his bike had an issue. I think it was a flat tire, and now, as darkness fell over us, it must be very difficult to fix the tire or the tube. I was just asking, if he needs help, but according to race spirit and rules he denied and fixed the problem himself.

The last bits of the downhill were the worst: half-meter-deep ditches, corrugations, mud, slick and water ponds made it impossible to ride. I had on foot clicked-in on the pedal, and the other on the ground to keep my balance. A little crash while carrying the bike could not be avoided, but nothing happened.
The relief was enormous after I could enter an ordinary road again, but also the need for sleep was enormous. Luckily I found a public camping place a few kilometers later and had a short sleep on the ground of the common room next to the toilets. Next morning, I quickly threw in the last croissants (which I used as a pillow before) and chocolate bars to get going. I had a good route, could avoid another gravel section and was constantly pedaling southwards. In Ramnicu Vulcea I had a nice route prepared, and avoided the forbidden E-road and another big bridge (closed for bicycles) by walking on a grass path next to the river for a few minutes. After that tricky section I was in full power to race to the ferry harbor in Turnu. TCR has only provided 3 options to cross the Danube river on 3 ferries (Bechet, Turnu or Zimnicea), the road bridge was not allowed because of heavy traffic.

In my TCR preparation I had carefully written down and compared all 3 timetables and figured out the Turnu ferry as most suitable for me. I tried to reach the 16 o’clock ferry, and had the 20 o’clock ferry as a backup. My fear was, that me, Adam and Ulrich take the same ferry and had to race a sprint finish in Bulgaria on the last 350km. If I could be the only one to catch the 16h ferry, I would at least have 4 hours of advantage. That gave me enormous motivation to ride hard!
I was very surprised when I checked the GPS tracker: Adam and Ulrich had big troubles. After suffering on the parcours last night they did not really make good progress this day and were far behind. It could even happen, that they do not reach any ferry any more today and have to wait until tomorrow. If that happened, the race for the win would be over. On the one hand I was happy about the situation, but on the other hand I was also concerned for them. As it turned out, Ulrich tried to reach the night ferry in Bechet at 23h, but as he arrived in time, he found the ferry completely out of service. What a shock for him, I felt so sorry that his effort was not rewarded!

While I rode into the last night of TCR, I saw on the tracker, that even Pawel and Christian reached the harbor together with Ulrich, who arrived from his unlucky detour. Adam had already been there and resting, and all 4 of them would take the first ferry in the morning.

At that time I was already pushing towards the finish, after I had slept in a wet and cold place in the middle of a Bulgarian corn field.
My emotions came up, I had tears in my eyes and was dancing and singing on the bike, happy about that crazy race and never-expected win. I finally reached Burgas at midday and got my last stamp into the brevet card. I fell asleep in my room even before I touched the cosy and dry mattress, the thing I had been looking forward to the most. When the others reached the finish about midnight, I could say them hello, bring some cool beer and hug everybody and congratulate them for a great race!

Looking back I have to say: I knew that I am going to make mistakes (routing, slow shopping stops, mech issues), I was absolutely fine with that and did never get really frustrated when I lost time. I expected nothing, my priority was a safe ride, I hoped for a top 10 result and sometimes dreamed of winning, but I never had pressure. I knew that I am a rookie and enjoyed the situation, not to have big expectations. I never forgot about my strategy to ride safe and sleep 3 hours and trust in my abilities on the bike. I knew, that if I stay focused and fit and avoid saddle sores, I can ride faster than anybody else, and could make up some time in the second half of the race, even when I will be back some hours in the first days. I was very patient, I did not panic when I damaged my brake or was lost in the night, or as I found myself 9 hours behind Ulrich in CP2. I patiently sticked to my sleep-much-strategy. It turned out, that I am a fast learner, did not make the same mistake 2 times, found my routine and delivered a flawless race after the halfway point. And I can assure you: it is much more enjoyable when you sleep a bit more in the beginning and cut sleep hours in the end of the race, than when you ride on a minimum of sleep in the first days and find yourself suffering later on.

Over all, what was the greatest experience? Getting to know so many determined and inspiring people, on the road, in the finish, or at the party afterwards. Some of the racers do it for the adventure, some do it for the race, and some do it to experience their limits. Everyone is a winner, every participant, no matter how fast he or she was, conquered a huge achievement for him- or herself.
Thanks for running that great event and thanks for that unique experience. I absolutely loved it!

Distance: 704km
Climbing: 5550m
Total Time: 44h:12min
Moving Time: 31h:48min
Normalized Power NP: 148W

Link Strava-File: www.strava.com/activities/7614123912