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James Hayden wins Transcontinental Race No. 5

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.

> Catch up with our Transcontinental Race Live(-ish) Blog

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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