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London to Istanbul with the Transcontinental Cycle Race

Come August, when the rest of the cycling world is basking in the after-glow of another classic Tour de France, participating riders in the inaugural Quick Energy Transcontinental Cycle Race will roll off the starting blocks on an adventure that will take them 2000 miles from London to exotic Istanbul, via the mighty Stelvio Pass in Italy. With race direction by Mike "Round The World Cycle Race" Hall (let's not forget he completed that epic ride in a near Willy Fog-esque 107 days, averaging 200 miles per day!), and sponsored by Quick Energy & The Adventurists, the stage is set for a truly epic event.

Transcontinental rules are quite simple; ride from London to Istanbul carrying everything you need or finding it on the way, doing so without vehicle support or backup; a measure introduced by the organisers to help keep costs down and maintain the spirit of adventure. Riders choose which route to take between London & Istanbul (as long as they ascend the Stelvio along the way) and carry a satellite tracker to track progress along the route.

Having ridden the Tour Divide, a similarly challenging ride to say the least, it's clear that if the riders want to be competitive, they will need to travel fast and light - no panniers loaded with the kitchen sink. A couple of small bags attached to the saddle and handlebars should be sufficient to carry a preferred sleep system, additional layers and a few basic necessities. Carry much more than this and it will impact any chance of keeping with the leaders. I recall a comment from Mike last year about not seeing the bottom of your coffee cup. Just drink up and leave or you are wasting time!

As Mike says on the race website: "Riders will need to ride fast and live fast, it's not just the pedaling that counts, everything you do will be a race, from putting your socks on in the morning, to brushing your teeth". Mike clearly treats even sacred toilet-time as a race - first one to the handbasin wins.

Currently there are 35 entries from 16 nations, and the field is, apart from one female rider, all male. The entry list includes experienced campaigners Mike Hall and Richard Dunnett, who were first and second in the Round the World Race last year and Juliana Buhring, who took the women’s record when she finished in Naples just before Christmas in a separate individual attempt, having taken just 152 days to travel around the globe. Two other riders who did not finish that race but have entered the race to Istanbul are Martin Walker and Jason Woodhouse. Martin finished his race in Australia having done 9,000 miles and Jason stopped in Grants, New Mexico after 3,500 miles.

Stelvio Pass, Italy

The Stelvio Pass, Italy - riders will have to ascend this on their way to Istanbul

The entry fee for the Transcontinental is just £95, not much more than some sportives nowadays, and this includes the necessary satellite tracking and parties at the start and finish lines. This compares very favourably with the entry fee of almost $3,000 for the Race Across America.

To my mind one of the benefits of the race is that the £95 entry fee is cheap and the event itself can be completed within a 2-week holiday window; though entrants will need to organise a flight home from Istanbul afterwards. It is a bit like doing the Tour de France - but in just one stage.

The race website can be found over at the Transcontinental Race home page, and once things get going, the race itself can be followed on Twitter at @transconrace and on Facebook.

Entries close on 30th April so you still have about a week to get your entry in and plan your route.

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About the Rider: Blackhound
Now retired, Blackhound can get on with the real business - riding! This un-assuming Derbyshire native completed the Tour Divide race in 2011, and in 2013 aims to ride the Highland Trail Race, traverse Spain in a Spanish border tour and, if all that was not enough, roll along for 1,800 miles of the Tour Divide Route.
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