Last year's winner Kristoff Allegaert became the first rider to pass the Stelvio checkpoint on Monday evening, and now has a solid lead in the second TransContinental Race, which left London for Istanbul on the morning of Saturday August 9.
Allegaert, from Belgium, has covered over 1,300 km at the time of writing, and is storming across Europe, ahead of second-placed Josh Ibbett (UK) who is climbing the Stelvio this morning.
Eighty-nine riders set out from London at 8am on Saturday, including seven women, making this year's field almost three times bigger than last year's inaugural edition.
In 2013 only one woman started, round-the-world record holder Juliana Buhring. Her ninth place finish, ahead of the majority of the men, seems to have inspired more women to have a go this year.
Riders in the TransContinental race entirely unsupported, carrying all their gear with them. They choose their own routes between the start and finish with just three compulsory checkpoints on the way.
This year they must visit the Cafe Reveil au Matin, where the first Tour de France began in 1903; the top of Italy's famed Stelvo Pass with its 48 switchbacks; and Mount Lovcen National Park in Montenegro.
Race director Mike Hall says the TransContinental carries on the tradition of the early epic 'Randonneur' races.
He said: “Ordinary people entered those races, there were no superstars and no help from huge teams of helpers in tow. It was show up with a bike and race, and pretty much anyone with the audacity could have a go and the distances covered were vast.”
New checkpoints in this year's race mean riders will have to take a slightly longer route than last year. The first racer is expected in Istanbul on Saturday August 16 or Sunday August 17, and will have covered about 3,500km. However, the way Allegaert is chewing Europe in big mouthfuls, he might just beat his 2013 time of 7 days 13 hours 45 minutes.
For lots more about the TransContinental Race and to follow the progress of the riders, see Transcontinentalrace.com.
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.