The Transcontinental is bikepacking race across Europe, self-routed (but with some mandatory checkpoints), unsupported and with a distance of usually somewhere around 4000 km. The cut-off time is 15 days, with the winner usually taking 7-10 days.
This year, the route went from Belgium to Thessaloniki in Greece, with control points in northern Italy, Slovenia, Albania and Meteora (Greece).
The event was great - it was well organised and communication was a lot better than at the Northcape. It did feel very different from the Northcape, though, being a proper race. Participants are not allowed to draft off each other or help each other, though a quick chat here or there as you pass people is possible, or when you’re both stopped at a shop or control point.
The route was beautiful - the first bit through France was a bit monotonic, but especially the views in the alps were amazing. Like with other long events, the first day or two can be hard but once you get into the rhythm of things it’s a lot easier.
From early on, I lost a lot of time. We started in the rain, and I ran several flats in a row, just 4 hours in. In addition to that, the thread on my pump had worn so it wouldn’t fit on some of my spare tubes, and my tubes were all TPU - which are hard to patch. So at 3 AM I found myself by the side of an N-road in France without any usable tubes to put in my rear wheel. I ended up walking 20km to the nearest town with a bike shop, where they fortunately had good old butyl tubes and a working pump. But overall, this cost me about 12 hours in total.
In addition to that, my time management wasn’t great. On previous rides, I’d usually gotten about 8 hours of sleep per night while staying in hotels. On the transcontinental I had meant to get less sleep but still stay in hotels most night, but I found that not all hotels accomodated well for that - especially with a bike. So I ended up getting more sleep than I had intended, and spending more time off the bike than I had planned - close to 11 or 12 hours per day. I hadn’t scheduled much time off work after the finish either, so arriving in Greece late wasn’t really an option.
And then, on an early morning in Croatia (about 2000km in) in heavy fog, I rode into a kerb at 35 km/h, bending the rim of my front wheel (but fortunately not coming off my bike). While I probably would have been able to continue with a replacement wheel (and mailing the broken one home), that would have taken another day to sort out and I almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to source a new dynamo wheel in Croatia - which would have made night time riding a lot harder. So I decided to scratch and take the train home from Zagreb.
Overall, I really enjoyed the event and I think I’ve learned some useful lessons. I’ll probably try again next year.