Belgian Kristof Allegaert won the Quick Energy TransContinental Race over the weekend, arriving in Istanbul at 23:45 local time, Saturday evening. He had covered the 2,980.49km (1,852 miles) from Westminster Bridge, London in just 7 days, 13 hours and 33 minutes.
Allegaert led from early in the race. He arrived at the first checkpoint, at the top of the Muur van Geraardsbergen in Flanders, in second place behind Rimas Grigenas, but by the time he reached the second checkpoint, at the top of the Stelvio Pass in Italy, he had a commanding lead over Britain’s Richard Dunnett.
Dunnett was second, a little over a day behind Allegaert in 8:16:33. Most of the difference was in the length of the two riders’ stops. They were just a few hours apart for much of the race, but Allegaert pushed on through Friday night to ride the final stretch of over 400km from Plovdiv, Bulgaria almost non-stop.
But even the best-prepared and organised TransContinental racers have last-minute hiccups. Allegaert surprised the welcoming party waiting at the the Rumeli Hisari by approaching Istanbul from the south west but arriving at the finish from the north after a last minute wrong turn resulted in one more bonus climb over the hill where Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II’s medieval fortress sits. Well, he’s Belgian and the hill’s cobbled...
The sole woman in the race, Italian round-the-world record holder Juliana Buhring is currently 13th overall on distance covered, with a little under 1000km to go.
Australian Matt Wilkins is currently in third place, 150km ahead of James Jordan and about 150km from Istanbul.
Riders in the TransContinental had to choose their own route across Europe, with only four compulsory points: the start in London, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the Stelvio and the finish in Istanbul.
Most have elected to go through the Alps and overland, though a couple of riders chose to mix bike and ship travel, riding down the coast of Italy before taking a ferry across the Adriatic.
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.