The Transcontinental is a single stage race in which the clock never stops
- Mark Wilcox – https://trackleaders.com/transconrace19i.php?name=Marc_Wilcox27th – TCR day one 40’c Gravel and everything in between 20kgs fully loaded bike – 160.02 mi 8,880 ft
28th – 117°F Holly Molly that was a tough day – 99.20 mi 11,305 ft
- 29th – Day 3, hot hot and humid – 100.78 mi 7,329 ft
- 30th – Serbia bound… – 74.35 mi 6,376 ft
- 31st – Brutal 30 mile 2000m gravel climb with a hike a bike to the top – 81.41 mi 11,509 ft
- 1st – 20mph block headwind in 100° heat put plans for a monster mileage on the back burner – 107.56 mi 2,547 ft
- 2nd – Another hot hot day finished with a massive thunderstorm…soaked! – 107.51 mi 5,561 ft
- 3rd – Day 7 part 1 head wind of hell ! – 43.38 mi 462 ft
- 3rd – Day 7 part 2 unbelievable head wind.. – 51.65 mi 559 ft
- 4th – Stupidly hard into another 20mph day long headwind that’s over 400 miles of chewing my stem going nowhere fast – 78.45 mi 436 ft
- 5th – Oops + 100 miles somehow managed to stop the wahoo – 11.11 mi 85 ft
- 5th – Onwards to Slovenia ❤ another 100+ ° day feeling much better – 100.72 mi 1,424 ft
- 6th – Another really hot day 109°c I’m not built for this heat! – 87.39 mi 4,775 ft
- 7th – I’m shattered, lots of Gravel today, only 100°F though 🙈 – 79.45 mi 2,900 ft
“The Transcontinental is a single stage race in which the clock never stops. Riders plan, research and navigate their own course and choose when and where to rest. They will take only what they can carry and consume only what they can find. Four mandatory control points guide their route and ensure a healthy amount of climbing to reach some of cycling’s most beautiful and historic monuments. Each year our riders cover around 4000km to reach the finish line.”
First status update…6am start 85°F it’s been 110°F all day, not taken a single picture as got to just push on to make control point 1, 130 miles in with 7000ft thus far on a bike weighing 19kgs and just to make it spicy around 30 miles has been gravel.
Today’s ride is up on Strava if anyone wants to take a look…Bad roads(some good too) 30 miles of Gravel and it was 110°F for most of the day. Baked! Found hotel at foot of climb to cp1 figured 6hrs in a bed is better than riding 2000ft tonight then sleeping in a ditch 😁🥵🚴🏽🙈
Day 3 & 4 update… Day 3 was 100 miles 7300 ft 107°c finishing in the centre of Sofia, quite a shock to be riding on a 6 lane carriageway after spending the previous days literally in the middle of nowhere often on gravel tracks, still got to a hotel without issue (having escaped the airport security dogs 🥵) and the ride out of the city this morning was relatively straight forward if a little intense! Today’s ride has got me just over the boarder into Serbia, 74miles 6300 ft with the temp only hitting 97°F but boy its humid! I’m at the start of cp2 parcours and I’m trying to box clever, there are a whole load of people around 20km in front of me and I intend to catch them by deploying some age and treachery skills…I’ve cut today a bit short as they are making their way up Besna Kobila this is a 2000ft peak with the last 800ft is on unrideable gravel, there are no hotels or places to eat up there and speaking to the locals in the village at the bottom it’s really windy up top at mo, add packs of wild dogs and I’m thinking early night a few hours quality sleep and then the chase will be on, they will either have to bivvy at some point or go all night, either way the are not going to be well rested and fed 🤩 once over cp2 I should be able to get a few big mileage days under my belt as a large part of Serbia is relatively flat (we will see!) Bulgaria is utterly stunning place to ride sure bits of it are rough and dilapidated but the people are nice and the mountains beautiful and whilst some of the roads are shocking many of them are really good.
Day 5, 84 miles 11500 ft 2000m of that was a gravel climb with some hiking required to reach the top…plan to catch those ahead back fired as I only got 2 hours sleep thanks to a dog that barked non stop for 7 hrs 🙈 into the flat lands now some hopefully can cover some serious ground the next few days
Day 6…had ambitions on a monster mileage as largely flat, wanted to get to Belgrade. 107 miles in 100°F with a 20mph block headwind the whole way put paid to my plans…I think it’s a top 5 hardest rides day despite it being flat !
No nights in a ditch thus far hotels are easy to source though not always exactly where you want them. Today was one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done as a killer headwind in the 100° heat, working my arse off to do 14mph on the flat, went to some dark places today! Food and drink fairly easy though you have to accept what’s on offer at times. Got given some unbelievably good peaches by a farmer earlier 🤩
Thanks everyone for the positive comments, it definitely helps 👍
Another 107.5 mile ride today, had plans for more but a super stressful crossing of Belgrade followed by the most violent thunderstorm I’ve ever seen, multiple lightning strikes along the road had me poopin my pants! I was 4km from my hotel and bone dry, I arrived pretty much hyperthermic and utterly soaked, never seen gain like it, was coming down so hard that the cars stopped !
Similar day in the end plus a massive thunderstorm to boot. All good though, thanks for your messages of support, they really help especially when grinding 8hrs into the wind on 100°c plus temps 🤩
It’s really humid at mo, ment to be showers tomorrow so might actually help me a bit, bike is spot on, speaking to the mental locals and some of the other guys briefly as we pass each other
Star date haven’t a clue… Another horrible grind of a day, today was ment to be fast and long but again a killer headwind put paid to that so that’s 300 miles in 3 days into a block headwind, literally working my ass off to do 13mph 🙈 still happy to be in Croatia and IF the wind plays ball tomorrow then Slovenia is possible 97 miles
Really appreciate all the support, the last few days have been exhausting and sole destroying 400 miles into a 20mph head wind! There is nowhere to hide on these roads and its been hot as hell too, I’m going to rest up early today, try and get a big recovery sleep in then go again tomorrow.
Headwind you mean Simmo? Forecast for midday tomorrow looks like a light tailwind however across most of that area 🤞👍
Today was totally flat 400ft in 80 miles…dispite this it was unbelievably hard due to the head wind….400+miles into a headwind and I’m cooked, so stopped early aiming for 10hrs sleep then back on it tomorrow. Thanks for all the support it really does help
So my plan for a good night’s sleep paid dividends with a solid 9hrs passed out, I waited for breakfast and could see the suprise on the staff faces as i devoured 3 peoples worth of food, as a consequence I felt much better today and the wind also finally played ball with a mostly side wind through the day, I cleared Croatia and made it to Maribor in Slovenia which is close to the Austrian border 🤩 111 miles today though I definitely could have done more the selection of hotels past this point range from bus shelter’s to ditch’s so I’m thinking another solid nights sleep plus a hearty breakfast and cp3 will soon be in sight.
This legend was waiting for me just over the boarder in Slovenia, he has been dot watching and wanted to say hello and give me some encouragement, rode with him for about 10 miles 🤩 the big tree in the background is the only Sequoia tree in Slovenia. We stopped for him to take a picture in a village that translates as “village of Marc’s”
Slightly short day today at 87 miles, I didn’t sleep well last night and I really felt the heat today also the next town that would have taken me over the 100 for the day’s cheapest room is €160 per night 🙈 anyway closing in or cp3 parcours and generally feeling pretty good though the heat has a habit of zapping all my energy.
So fatique is a funny thing that creeps up on you then slaps you in the face, my legs feel ok and my butt is all good, I’m remarkably free of aches and pains and my head is still 100% in the game but today was a real struggle as I’m just so so tired, to make matters worse my route into Italy is closed due to a land slide so I’ve got some extra miles to cover tomorrow 🙈 Austria whilst beautiful has a lot of no bike roads and compulsory cycle paths, some are great but some are gravel and they meander all over the place giving you the feeling that you just are not covering much ground however I have managed to book myself into an award winning brewery for the night 🤩 79 miles 3000ft lots of gravel
Right guys that’s it I’m done and have officially scratched from the race, thanks for the support it’s really helped but in truth I was tired before I even started the ride due to 2 x house moves in the days leading up to the start. I’m fatiqued way beyond the point of being safe on the road, 12 days of 100+°F temps and 500 miles of headwind has finished me off. Happy with what I achieved 1200 miles and 65000 ft solo in 100+°F riding a 20kgs rig in 12 days is not bad going. Considered a day off but in truth a week off might only touch the side’s of my exhaustion. lots of highlights and not many lows, I’m just broken and fatiqued to a point where it’s not safe to continue. Hope I haven’t let anyone down but I truly feel I’ve given it my all. 👍
Everyone likes a holiday and for the enthusiastic cyclist a holiday that involves bikes is especially exciting. So when the post holiday hangover kicked in after a relaxing cruise holiday in early August i did not take much convincing to book a week cycling in Majorca for mid September.
Life though is a little like cycling. Just when you are getting used to the flat, smooth road and the tailwind making things feel easy something happens to make things difficult. At the start of September just three weeks before heading off to the sun a major curveball was delivered to us. Rox’s well documented cycling accident resulted in us having to cancel our trip to ‘cycling mecca’ due to her injuries and the risks involved with travelling.
Alas, several weeks of recovery later (also a doctors discharge) and we were looking for a destination to getaway and potentially cycle a few miles. It should be noted that Majorca in mid-November is cool and the weather can’t be guaranteed. So although we know the island very well we thought that an all new location for the #rebuildRox project was required.
As we didn’t want to travel long haul it limited our options, so for warm weather the only viable cycling destination was the Canary Islands. Twelve months previously, while on honeymoon, we cycled in Tenerife so that was one island ticked off. At the stage of our last minute planning a couple of OP’s were in Fuerteventura which looked promising but reports of strong winds did not seem conducive to getting Rox’s confidence back on the bike. Lanzarote suffered the same fate so that left us booking a week away on the south coast of Gran Canaria.
Our week away was from Saturday to Saturday and we decided that hiring bikes for 5 days (Mon-Fri) was the best option. It gave us the chance to have a relaxed day on the Sunday, although we used that to walk around the town and get our bearings. Our step counters showed 15 miles on foot that day, welcome to relaxation Martyn & Rox style!
Having pre-ordered the bikes online from Free Motion Cycling the week before, we also found the shop during our walkabout on the Sunday, we hopped in a taxi on Monday morning kitted up ready for some cycling miles. I had already seen that Free Motion offered bike tours with guides as a service and had convinced Rox that taking part in Monday’s was a good idea. So we completed the paperwork which was a simple task and paid up for a ‘hobby’ tour (difficulty level 2 of 4).
We headed down to meet our mechanic who handed us our 2018 Specialized Tarmac bikes with Ultegra 8000 groupset. I’m not usually a fan of white bikes but if there is ever a place to have a bike this colour then GC is it. With no rain since April there was no chance of the crisp paint getting dirty. After a quick spin round the car park to set the saddle height we signed in with our tour guide for the day, Ronny from Norway.
The cycling season in GC kicks off at the start of December but Free Motion offer tours from the start of October onwards. Today the entry level ‘Cappuccino’ group also rode out with the ‘hobby’ group making a grand total of eight riders with an additional guide named Betti (Hungary).
Off we headed for a casual group ride out to a valley leading to a village called Soria. Once we navigated the road system of Maspalomas we found ourselves on the coastal road heading west. The tarmac was smooth but the gradients variable leading to a feeling of being on a rollercoaster, dropping down curving declines before being thrown into kick ups that presented views of the oncoming road over every brow. This was some introduction to cycling on Gran Canaria.
At the town of Santa Agueda we turned inland and headed up the Soria Valley, nicknamed ‘The Cycling Valley’ by the locals as this is the quietest gateway to the mountains further north. A 10km (we are in Europe now!) ride up the false flat valley road brought us to the bottom of our first climb of the week. The 5km climb averaging 8% took us to the village of Soria and a cafe stop serving papaya & mango juice that was very refreshing after working hard in the 25 degree sunshine.
Pit-stop completed we headed back down the valley at a rapid rate towards Santa Agueda. Having been previously held back on the false flat the slight decline rewarded us with speeds close to 40kph. Back on the coastal road and we had a little taste of the wind that can sometimes make heading east a battle. As we were a mixed group everyone stayed together with the stronger riders sheltering the others. Everyone returned to the Free Motion shop happy with their work that morning Rox and i headed off to the nearby Playa de Melonaras for a post ride pizza adding some distance to make our total 43.7 miles (i’m fed up of conversions) for the day.
During our all inclusive buffet dinner we discussed the events of the day and planned the rest of the week. Bigger tests were scheduled over the next few days so a little carb loading was in order.
On Tuesday morning we both noticed that the air was clearer and we could see the mountains to the north much easier. The dust storm or ‘Calima’, blown over from the Sahara in Africa, had ended. This resulted in the visibility being better and the temperatures being a little lower. We have to note though that the wind had not eased and we struggled north west on the GC500 for 10 miles until we reached the town of El Doctoral. At this point we turned inland and started climbing the open plains past some farmland. A quick left turn at Era del Cardon on to the GC65 and we finished the climb by slipping through a notch in a rocky head point.
For the last 500 meters of that climb our guide for the day, Wouter (Netherlands), was getting increasingly excited about a view he describes as one of the best on the island. I have to say that as we rolled through the gap in the rock it was as though we had been teleported to the Grand Canyon. We had covered 18 miles and climbed 1300ft although it felt a great deal more due to that stubborn head wind. Wouter informed us that we only had 6 miles until lunch but we needed to descend a bit before another climb to Santa Lucia at 2250ft above sea level.
Having completed a healthy amount of climbing it was not going to be difficult to eat but it was made even easier due to our mouths being wide open due to the views from the cafe. It’s safe to say that this must be right up there in the top 10 cafe views in cycling.
Light lunch consumed it was time to ride out. After a short descent it was time to tackle some more climbing, this time to the highest point of the day, Fataga viewpoint at just over 3000ft. Wouter rode straight past the viewpoint as he wanted us to see the awesome views of the road while on the descent. I’m not quite sure who designed the road in to the valley but it has to be described as a masterpiece. Tight hairpins flow in to open turns punctuated with a few high speed straights all laid out on formula one quality tarmac. I had already decided that the Specialized Tarmac was a great climbing machine and during the 6 mile descent to the valley floor it showed off its poise through the corners too.
Through all the excitement i either missed or forgot that our bike guide advised that we had a little more climbing to do before getting back to Maspalomas and the Free Motion shop. However the adrenaline was flowing so the shallow bump out of the valley was quickly dealt with leaving a further 5 miles of descending in to the city and another well deserved post ride pizza.
Wednesday morning and breakfast was a quiet affair. Rox was a little pensive as today we had signed up to ride to the highest point on Gran Canaria, Pico de las Nieves. The peak had been pointed out to us the day before whilst riding so we had a good mental picture of the challenge ahead. At Free Motion we discovered that we only had three riding buddies today. Another couple and our guide Erik (Norway) who admitted he was looking forward to an easy day out. The first third of the ride retraced our route to the Fataga viewpoint from Tuesday’s ride. This time though we stopped in the car park and took some photographs to document our successful climbing.
At this point Erik declared that we still had more than half the days climbing to complete which threw some metaphorical cold shower on our mood. We could have used a cold shower too as the heat was taking its toll on all four of us, Erik looked like he had barely passed a sweat. Onwards we rolled for another 8 miles and 1000ft of climbing to our lunch stop at Bar la Candelilla.
After lunch we started climbing through the pine forest which had been ravaged by wild fires September this year. Erik described how the damage was limited by mother nature as winds changed direction and blew the flames back on to already burnt land. 2700 hectares of forest was destroyed by the fire and sadly one person lost their life. At several points on the road to the top we could see the scars on the landscape.
We were starting to think that Erik only knew a single number in English. After every junction he cheerily announced that we had a further 3 kilometres of climbing. After the fourth such declaration we ignored him and just kept pedalling. Eventually military style security fencing appeared on the road side, there is communications and radar equipment on the peak, heralding that the top was close. At this point Erik came flying past us at full gas apparently setting a personal record on the last Strava segment to the top.
The cooling breeze at the top was nice for a few minutes while we took photos and shook the hands of our fellow cyclists at the top. We confirmed with Erik that the city in the distance is Maspalomas which gave us an appreciation of the route through the mountains we had all completed. It was an out and back route with the outward leg being predominately uphill to 6327ft above sea level. While going up took us 5 ½ hours to complete we returned to the bike shop in less than 2 hours. 65 miles complete and over ten thousand feet of elevation gained we both agreed that pudding was certainly on the menu tonight.
The team at Free Motion have clearly thought out their weekly ride schedule. Thursday’s have a easier ride planned with a single small climb included. An ideal recovery if you tackled the big climbing on Wednesday and an equally good warm up ride for those that arrived on the island midweek. Ronny was back on guide duty and today he was accompanied by Bart (Belgium) who looked like a climbing machine. Bart declared that he was making it harder for himself today as he was riding the heavy bike.
We cycled through the city again and departed north-west towards the tourist attraction called Aqualand. We had no time for flumes and water slides though as we progressed as a small eight man, plus Rox, peloton up the valley. Yet again we were surrounded by towering rocky out crops which acted as a funnel for the coastal breeze. As we entered the village of Ayagaures we ascended a short punchy climb up a narrow road. Coming down the hill was a peloton of a different kind, a half dozen off road buggies. Their roaring engines echoing within the valley and drowning out the heavy breathing of us cyclists during the climb.
After a few hundred yards we stopped in a small car park where Ronny advised that we now had a 2.3 mile climb to the viewpoint overlooking the valley through which we just travelled. Smooth tarmac resulted in all of our pedalling output being transferred to forwards and upwards progress. I climbed with Bart who happily stood out of the saddle turning the big ring with ease for the majority of the climb. I spun away in the small chain ring with only a couple of gears to spare clearly showing I am a guest within Bart’s playground.
With the short climb completed we headed down a cliff edge descent that overlooked Palmitos Park towards Monte Leon. The wind had picked up again making some of the corners tricky and we really felt how light the bikes were while riding over an exposed ridge. After dropping back down to the valley road and navigating round the edge of Maspalomas it was back on to the coastal road cycling west with a stiff tail wind. We headed back up the Soria valley as we did on the first day but this time we stopped just short of the climb in a little cafe located up a short rise at Cercados deEspinos.
While sat out on the raised deck of the cafe sipping cool drinks and eating mango cake we could see many cyclists heading up the valley on their way to the climb we tackled on the first day. It was another warm day and i was glad to be sat under a parasol and not about to drag myself up 10% gradients.
Cafe stop over it was back in to the Soria valley for a blast back to the GC500 coastal road. Ronny & Bart rotated on the front of the group in order to keep the pace relatively high. The group needed to stay tight as if you dropped more than a couple of metres off the back wheel it was going to be a lonely ride to the muster point at the next junction. Having warmed the legs up in the valley Ronny now declared a ‘free for all’ back to Maspalomas on the coastal road in to the headwind. It was five miles of rolling exposed road where ideally working with someone was the best tactic.
Ronny kicked off first breaking away from the group on the first climb and a few others upped the pace as a group to stay in contact with him. Rox kept it easy on the climb and held my wheel while i brought her back to the group who had settled for letting Ronny go up the road on his own. As we both joined the group i decided to push on and see if anyone would jump to try and reel Ronny back. Obviously i was the only one stupid enough to try as i found myself working solo to catch the bike guide. I did not know it but Ronny had seen me coming and eased off the pace in order to keep me interested. Once i caught him i pushed on up the final sharp rise with him on my wheel only for him to release a Wattage Bazooka at the crest and sprint through the final few curves to the bus stop which was the designated finish line. Local knowledge and a little cunning won the day!
On the last morning we rode to the shop with some casual clothes in a back pack. The shop has lockers to store your belongings while out cycling and we needed to change after our last ride and handing the bikes back. Erik joined us again for the last day of cycling riding the reverse of Tuesdays route.
So off we went to Fataga again as a team of six. Rox appeared to be growing in to her climbing legs as i kept her company on the main climb of the day up to the viewpoint. She got stronger as the climb neared its peak and got to the top first beating the other four riders to a refreshing drink in the viewpoint car park. That was pretty much the climbing done for the day as we dropped down to Santa Lucia to the cafe with the fantastic view.
It was great sitting there on the road side in the November sunshine just watching the small town residents going about their relaxed lives. It certainly made you think about the hectic lifestyle most of us lead in our ‘normal’ day to day schedules. We commented that Erik was a lucky guy having a job that involved riding a bike all day in the sunshine, he seemed to agree. The conversation stopped there as we all reflected for a moment.
Lunch break over it was time to descend again and this time for twelve miles to Casa Pastores. Erik kept the speed sensible as the road was very twisty with blind bends and crash barriers the only protection from sheer drops. I stopped a few times in order to capture some photos of the spectacular scenery which gave me the added bonus of having some space to ride in to and enjoy the road to its maximum.
Once the descent was completed we turned on to the GC500 and headed west for home. With the assistance of the famous wind, this time at our tail, we zipped along the main road at over 30mph. The occasional roundabout slowed our progress but we made short work of the 10 mile coastal road and was soon back at the Free Motion shop. Ride over we thanked Erik for his guidance again and topped up our water bottles. In the last couple of miles of the ride Rox and I had agreed to do some extra mileage and headed out again.
Filled with a little confidence from our few days being guided we headed back to the valley just North West of Maspalomas. Rolling past Aqualand again we got chatting to a Canarian resident who was on a short afternoon ride. She and Rox were sharing cycling stories for the full length of the valley road. Yet again we arrived at the village of Ayagaures and its short climb. This time i decided to push on and leave my legs on the road as it was the last day. The girls just kept chatting as I sweated up the climb.
At the top I turned round and headed back down the road to meet Rox and our new friend. We had agreed to take a couple of pictures on the last hairpin of us riding as we rarely get pictures of us actually on the bike, most are of a cafe stop and us eating cake. Our Spanish acquaintance agreed to capture us both riding up the turn which turned out really good. Facebook profile picture updated!
Atop the climb we descended back through Monte Leon to the outskirts of Maspalomas. It was now late afternoon and the bikes had to be returned so we headed back to the shop. After handing the bikes back it seemed appropriate to buy a jersey as a souvenir of our week of cycling. The walk back to the hotel was 2.5 miles but it seemed like only a few yards. We could not stop talking about how great the cycling is on the island and also how Rox found her cycling mojo again after the difficult times recently. We affectionately gave the holiday the moniker #rebuildRox and although there is still some work to do we laid some great foundations on this awesome island cycling paradise.
Do it yourself:
We travelled with Jet2 Holidays on an all inclusive package.
Hotel: Koala Garden Suites – although rated as 3 star there is a huge amount of development work going on which would see the rating increase to 4.
Bike Rental: Pre order from Free Motion Cycling bearing in mind that December is start of peak season. Their bike range is huge for all abilities of cyclist.