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Briton takes less than 9 days to get from Geraardsbergen in Belgium to Meteora in Greece in unsupported race

British rider James Hayden has won the fifth edition of the Transcontinental Race, arriving at the finish line in Meteora, Greece, at around 9.15pm Central European Time on Sunday evening.

He overhauled his friend and early leader Bjorn Lenhard on Wednesday. Earlier that day, they had passed the third of four checkpoints, in the High Tatras mountains of Slovakia, with Lenhard still in the lead.

Following the second checkpoint at Montegrappa in Italy, Hayden had chosen to approach Slovakia via the longer route through Slovenia and Hungary, rather then the more direct but tougher one via Austria, which Lenhard took.

While some were sceptical about his plans, the gamble paid off handsomely. He was still climbing to Checkpoint 3 as Lenhard descended from it, but once he caught him later that evening there was no looking back.

Since then, he continued to extend his lead, with Lenhard nearly 150 kilometres behind by the time Hayden crossed the finish line this evening.

Most of that lead was built in the past day and a half as Hayden rode hard, spending barely any time off the bike.

By the time he finished this evening, he had covered around 3,650 kilometres at an average speed of 26.8 kilometres an hour, according to his page on Trackleaders.

Over the slightly less than nine days, he spent around six days 23 hours on the bike, and 12 minutes shy of 48 hours stopped, including sleep.

It's the third attempt at the Transcontinental Race for Hayden, who was one of this year's pre-race favourites, with former winners Kristoff Allegaert and Josh Ibbett both absent.

In 2015, he started well, but fell victim to Shermer's Neck, the condition that is the bane of ultracyclists, causing severe pain and weakness in the muscles of the neck.

It's named after former Race Across America rider, and later race director, Michael Shermer, who suffered from it during the 1983 edition.

Hayden was back last year, but was hit by a chest infection early on which meant he had to take an extended break from the race.

He eventually battled back to take fourth place, earning last year's award for the most combative rider.

Writing on his website shortly before this year's race began, Hayden said: "For all Transcontinental racers and followers, this year’s race will be a bittersweet experience.

"The sudden and tragic death of Mike Hall in March 2017, while racing in Australia was a terrible shock.

"Mike was one of, if not the world’s best ultra endurance racers and Transcontinental was conceived and organised by him.

"For 2017 the race is being organised by a group of his close friends and family, we collectively thank you for stepping up in this hard time.

"Together, we will line up in Geraardsbergen to compete in his vision of a pure bicycle race, testing and pushing the resolve of its competitors to their limits.

"I love and live to race my bicycle. The only way I can think to honour his vision is to race my best and enjoy every moment, to make it a celebration of his extraordinary life."

He's certainly fulfilled that promise.

Chapeau.

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Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.