Belgian Kristof Allegaert has become the first rider in the TransContinental Race to reach the event's third checkpoint at Mount Lovcen in Montenegro. At his last check-in Allegaert had just reached the checkpoint, and was over 350km ahead of second-placed Josh Ibbett from the UK.
Allegaert has covered almost 2,200km since leaving London at 8am on Saturday August 9. His punishing 400+km/day schedule has been achieved almost without sleep: he has stopped for just 9 hours and 38 minutes in that time.
Ibbett, on the other hand, seems to be less of a sleep-deprivation specialist and has paused for a total of a day, 2 hours and 51 minutes.
While TransCon race stats are not 100 percent reliable, Ibbett appears to be covering ground faster than Allegaert. Their average moving speeds have been 24.8km/h and 24.3km/h respectively. Allegaert's lead is down to the simple but devastating tactic of not stopping.
Update: Allegaert did eventually become the first rider to reach checkpoint three, but not until he had ridden back down the mountain and around the Bay of Kotor. He had previously taken a ferry across the mouth of the bay, a shortcut explicitly forbidden by race rules. As for the difference between their rest times, Ibbett is reported to have had problems with his tracker in France, while Allegaert may have stopped more than the race stats indicate.
Five men and one woman have dropped out of the race so far. Some have succumbed to the horrendous weather that has seemingly followed them across Europe since the race started, some to technical difficulties.
Earlier today Stephen Phillips wrote on the race's Facebook page: "After spending too much time in a plastic orange bag storm trying to dry out and trying to keep warm avoiding local floods and storms I've bailed at Basel and [am] heading home.
"I look like the worst shrivelled prune from shrivelled prune land."
Peta McSharry dropped out in France after her Garmin developed a fault and the USB charge output of her dynamo hub stopped working, leaving her no way to charge her backup navigation device, an iPhone. Concerns about the reliability of satnav computers have prompted some riders to carry a spare (as well as a phone for social media updates), despite the almost obsessive weight-consciousness of bikepackers.
There are happier tales from the riders who are no longer vying for the lead, however. Adrian O'Sullivan, currently fourth overall, took shelter early this morning in the canopy in front of a hotel. "Was asked into reception got talking one thing led to another and now I'm sitting down to a 6 star breakfast in a 6 star hotel," he posted on Facebook. If you're ever in Rijeka, Croatia, it sounds like the Jadran Hotel deserves your business.
Other riders have been less fortunate in where they've found shelter. Yesterday morning David Chapman posted: "Just had a bit of a kip in one of those little roadside stone huts. Getting out of the wind & rain for a bit was nice. The poo smell not so much."
Gavin Scott, on the other hand, went the hotel route — in Switzerland. "Not the best of countries to book a hotel on the hoof," he posted. "Desperate need of a shower and bed...that's the budget blown!!" He would probably have struggled to hold on till Croatia.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.