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How far can you go? London to Istanbul and round-the-world non-stop challenges open

Entries are open for the second edition of the TransContinental, the non-stop cycling race across Europe that was run for the first time this summer, and for the 2014 World Cycle Race, the round-the-world event that was won in 2012 by TransContinental organiser Mike Hall.

The inaugural TransContinental was won by Kristof Allegaert who rode from London to Istanbul in 7 days, 13 hours and 45 minutes.

The 2014 race will have the same start and finish point,  Mike Hall tells us, but different intermediate checkpoints.

In the second TransContinental, riders will check in at the Café au Reveil Matin in Paris, the start point of the first Tour de France back in 1903. Then, they will make their way across Europe to Montenegro to check in on the 1,749m Mount Lovćen, taking in Italy’s 2,757m Stelvio Pass on the way.

This year riders had to check in at the top of the Koppenberg in Belgium, a cobbled climb famous from the one-day Belgian Spring Classics, and on Italy’s Stelvio Pass.

Because the mandatory checkpoints are different, it won’t be easy to compare riders’ times between 2013 and 2014, but that’s almost impossible anyway. Aside from the checkpoints and the start and finish lines, riders are free to choose any route they like.

Kristof Allegaert has signed up to defend his title, and runner-up Richard Dunnett will be back to try and dethrone him.

The only woman to ride the 2013 TransContinental, Juliana Buhring, hasn’t yet thrown her helmet into the ring for 2014. The women’s round-the-world record holder, Buhring was disappointed no other women lined up among the 30 riders who started the 2013 TransContinental.

There are 101 places available for the 2014 TransContinental and entry costs £165. Organisers warn that competitors have to know what they’re doing.

“This is an adventure race, not a holiday,” says the event website, before taking you through a couple of pages of more detailed warnings about what you’ll face before allowing you to sign up.

Find out lots more at the TransContinental website.

To whet your appetite, here's a trailer for Melons, Trucks & Angry Dogs - Going AWOL on the Transcontinental Race a documentary series featuring Specialized engineers Recep Yesil and Erik Nohlin who rode the 2013 race on prototype Specialised AWOL adventure bikes.

Round the world in 80 days?

If merely riding all the way across Europe isn’t enough of a challenge for you, the World Cycle Race is also back for 2014, and entry is free.

The 2012 World Cycle Race started and finished in Greenwich, but the 2014 race will have three start points, which will help riders from outside Europe keep under control the costs of an event that’s unavoidably expensive anyway.

At 0800 on March 1, riders will set off from London, Auckland and Singapore to ride at least 18,000 miles through two antipodal points. Riders must travel consistently in one direction - east or west - and finish where they started.

Mike Hall won’t be back to defend his title, as he’s busy with the TransContinental and has said in the past that the round-the world record is something you attempt once and not again. His 107-day ride stands as the fastest unsupported circumnavigation, though after Guinness changed the rules for the record he hasn't bothered claiming it.

Instead, a crop of new faces will line up on March 1. Irish radio presenter Breifne Earley, 32 is working his way through 10 life-changing challenges; American Nathan Eikenbary, 24, is aiming to break the Guinness record for the trip; German Fran Hollender, 26, has been getting training tips from record-holder Juliana Buhring; and French bike mechanic Maxime Seiter, 35, is expected to be the first man to ride round the world on a recumbent.

For full details, see the World Cycle Race website

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.