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Transcontinental Race: England vs Scotland in battle to be first woman to Istanbul

Tatical nous sees Gaby Leveridge overhaul Pippa Handley; English riders complete men’s podium

Belgian cyclist Kristof Allegaert may have won the Transcontinental Race for the second year running, but many other competitors are still on their way to Turkey. British rider Josh Ibbett yesterday finished second in the men’s race, while an Anglo-Scottish battle has developed at the head of the women’s race.

That is currently being led by Gaby Leveridge of Cookham, Berkshire, who used her tactical nous to overhaul Edinburgh’s Pippa Handley, whom she had trailed by 18 hours at the second of the three checkpoints on the race, at Prato dello Stelvio in northeast Italy.

Other than passing through the three mandatory checkpoints on the route – the first in Paris at the Café the last in Montenegro at Mount Lovcen – riders are free to choose their own routes, which include selected ferry crossings and Leveridge took the risk of heading down Italy’s Adriatic Coast and making a sea crossing.

The trade-off is the risk of mis-timing arrival in the departure port and having to endure a long wait, but Leveridge caught her boat and got ahead of Handley, who had chosen the overland route and moreover was struggling with an eye infection, which has now cleared up.

As of this morning, Leveridge has covered 2,730.83 kilometres, while Handley has completed 2,484 kilometres. Both are through the third checkpoint, and they respectively have 652 and 592 kilometres left. It’s not an insurmountable gap for the Scot to pull back, but she is running out of time, with the pair expected to arrive in Istanbul early on Thursday.

In the men’s race, Ibbett, from Brighton, yesterday finished as runner-up in a time of 9 days 5 hours 59 minutes, some 35 minutes ahead of Norwich rider Richard Dunnett. Ibbett had to ride a good chunk of latter part of the route single speed after his gear cable snapped.

As mentioned above, any ferry crossings taken by riders need to ones that are pre-authorised by race organisers, and the margin of Allegaert’s victory – around 1 day and 6 hours – would have been even greater had he not fallen foul of that rule.

Using a banned ferry, only discovered at the third checkpoint, meant he had to turn back on his route. The ferry crossing was 600 metres, but cut out 38 kilometres of riding, and the Belgian spent an additional five hours in the saddle rectifying his mistake, and what’s more he then had to climb the 25 switchbacks up to the Mount Lovcen for a second time.

Meanwhile, the Transcontinental Race group on Facebook has become a place where riders have been sharing some of their stories as they make their way across the continent, giving a glimpse into just what some of them are going through – including tales of injuries, mechanical woes, and unfriendly locals. It also has posts from friends and family.

Here’s one post, written by Chris Dobbs:

Really bad day or so. Broken pedal meant a new set in split. This has changed my position and is causing knee and foot pain. Got to Kotor late on and couldn't find the hotel with space. Loads of hassle from local youths. Couple of incidents where they threatened violence for a 'go' on my bike. Then got struck on the back by a passing scooter as i had ignored what they said. Finally managed to get checked in some where. I'll be here for a while to rest up and re-plan before i decide what's next.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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