Photography: James Robertson
James Robertson: Transcontinental 2016
In the days when the bicycle was the fastest thing on the road plucky riders took on long hard races alone with no team cars and soigneurs to look after them. They were hardy and desperate, ate what they could find, slept when they could and rode all day. They were not professional athletes, they were ‘mavericks, vagabonds and adventurers’ who picked up a bicycle and went to seek their fortune.
While modern day race action continues to thrill and the physical feats continue to amaze, some might say that the romance and adventure is long since lost to the industry and commerce that surrounds and propels the modern peloton. One can either look back to yesterday and lament about what was and what could have been, or one can look to the future, reset the clock and reset the rules.
The Transcontinental is a bicycle race for those who wish to pick up a bike, shake hands on the start line and race thousands of miles, unsupported, for the pure satisfaction of sports and no other motive but for the learnings of one’s self.
As the sharp end it is a beautifully hard bicycle race, simple in design but complex in execution. Factors of self-sufficiency, logistics, navigation and judgement will burden the racers’ minds as well as their physiques. The strongest legs will only prevail in the presence of the sharpest wit.
The 2016 edition took riders from start at Geraardsbergen, Belgium, to the finish in Çanakkale, Turkey.
The 2017 Transcontinental was deeply marked by the tragic deaths of Frank Simons on the first night of the race and Mike Hall, Transcontinental founder, dying earlier this year after being struck by a car in Australia. Rider safety has been a major focus of this year’s Transcontinental and should be for all of us.
If you liked this story consider purchasing Soigneur Cycling Journal 16 where it was first printed.