TCR No.5 report 2 – Sebis, Romania

It's the notorious day 3 for the riders today. Day 3 is known for various body parts to seriously start hurting (most notably the private parts) and for a dip in the morale after the novelty of the start has worn of. By the accounts of multiple riders, the day 3 phenomenon was present as ever. I saw tweets and instagram post of plenty of people saying they kept faffing around today, or just generally struggling to keep going. I had brief WhatsApp contact with Paula Regener (#14) after sending her a cheer, and she too was having a hard time, although hers came mostly from being really sad about Frank Simons. I'm sure that weighs down on a lot of the riders too. For Paula it took away the will to genuinely race the race, but for now she'll continue.

What's also not easy is that most of the riders are now crossing the Alps to get to CP2 on Monte Grappa. But as hard as the riding may be, the gorgeously dramatic surroundings will well be worth the effort. And after day 3 the body usually really starts to settle in for the continuous torture it's enduring, so it's a matter of hanging in there. Things will get better.

Meanwhile my own ride towards CP4 was again hot and hard fought. But it seems a bit daft to bitch about my 160km ride, while the rest of them are having much longer days in the saddle, with much more climbing and much less sleep. So let's just keep it at saying that 3 degrees less heat doesn't really matter when it's still 35 degrees Celsius. And the next two days it seems to heat up again, so my ride reports will probably be something like HOT and HOTTEST. I did manage to hydrate myself well, though I'm so done with lukewarm water by now. And the issue with the heat is that it takes away your appetite, so it takes even more effort to keep force feeding yourself.


Sweat all day

What was nice though, was that I crossed the border to Romania. At the first Romanian stop I stared at my phone for a good ten minutes, wondering when I'd been riding so slow to have lost so much time, before I realized I crossed a time zone. But for the most part the ride was actually rather uneventful. Just me starting to talk to myself more and more, usually just repeating today's mantra: you'll get there eventually.

I do really enjoy the few interactions with the people here. Most of the people don't speak a word English, French or German (or Dutch! Ridiculous…) and I unfortunately don't speak a word Hungarian or Romanian. Like yesterday, I just finished a long stretch of nothingness, running low on hot water and in desperate need of something cold. When I finally got to a little town, it seemed a bit desolate. There were some buildings with beer sign above the door, but they seemed dark and closed. Then I found one with the door open and some sound coming from within. It didn't look very welcoming, but I was in no state of being picky, so in I went. Inside were 4 older guys drinking beer and completely surprised at my sight. I figured either "water" or "aqua" would be universal enough to get the message across, but guess again. The guy behind the bar pointed at every other drink first, before it clicked. When I finally got my glass of water, I chugged it in one go and asked for a second. It was dark and cool inside, so I decided to sit down for a bit and take my time for the second one. The guys still had their eyes nearly popping out of their heads, no clue who this strange, smelly, sweaty girl was that just entered their man cave. But the F1 was broadcasting, so I broke the ice by simply saying "Ferrari?". They confirmed Ferrari had won, and could then tell me that Max Verstappen came in 5th. Somehow this exchange opened up to a whole new level of sign communication where I managed to get across that I just cycled in from Budapest and was on my to Romania. And just like that I became best pals with guys I couldn't understand a single word from. When I wanted to pay, they refused to take my money and wished me best of luck for the rest of the journey (That last part is a guess. I have no clue, maybe they said "never ever come back here again").


This is the "reception" of my hotel

Today was no different. I specifically booked a hotel with a swimming pool, as extra motivation to keep going ("you'll get there eventually"), and when I finally arrived, it turned out to be the recreational area for the entire village. Everyone turned their head to me as if they just saw a pink striped zebra come in. But I was immediately waved over to the "reception", where again no one spoke anything but Romanian but their demeanor was extremely friendly. So what followed was a hilarious conversation where both of us had our phones in hand, talking to Google Translate, to make ourselves clear. I nearly got beets and wine for dinner though, when Google didn't pick up my phrase very well, but finally we got there and I got to end the day with a big dinner and a short dip in the pool. Makes today's suffering once again very worthwhile.

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TCR No.5 report 1 – Szarvas Hungary

Unfortunately, as some of you may know, the Transcontinental had a very bad start this year. I had the pleasure to visit the wonderful departure from de Muur van Geraardsbergen on Friday and I was about to write a first little blog about it, when I heard the news of Dutch rider Frank Simons being involved in a fatal collision after just 5 hours of racing. I can't even begin to imagine how his family and loved ones must feel, my heart goes out to all of them.

My heart also goes out to every other rider, for whom the news must be yet another cruel reminder how vulnerable they are while out on the road. And really no one needed a reminder, with Mike Hall's and Eric Fishbein's death still fresh in our minds. We can prepare everything we can and take all possible measures to be safe, but unfortunately our safety is often not in our own hands. I hope everyone is okay and can find the will and pleasure to keep going and make it a good ride for Frank, because in accordance with his next of kin, the race is still very much on.


Photo credits: Philip Velghe

Headed for CP4

So that also means I still get to volunteer in Romania, and I'm now well on my way to the checkpoint. I landed in Budapest last night and after spending the night in an airport hotel (full of F1 maniacs, oblivious of the much better race going on right now) I set off towards the border this morning.


Unauthorized ferry crossing

The East Hungarian flatlands are rather dull (understatement, red.), but riding conditions are surprisingly good. Tarmac is mostly really good, traffic is low and drivers gave me plenty of space when they passed me. And the bus stops would score plenty of hobo stars for our bivvying riders, I even saw one with a sofa in it. Unfortunately the riders won't be headed this way, but I bet they'll find some good ones elsewhere in Hungary. But the good roads combined with the flatlands being genuinely flat (not like France flat, which was a huge lie), I set out for a fast ride. I didn't factor in the heat though. I'm not one to be fazed by heat much, but today I was suffering. When the afternoon was well underway, I had to force myself not to stop more than once an hour. And it was a hard battle with the heart, because I really just wanted to stop at every gas station. All in all, I had just 5 hours of moving time in which I drank 6 liters of water/fluid. And still I started to develop a head ache, so I decided to keep today short and end it in Szarvas.

The only hotel room available in close proximity of the city turned out to be a luxurious spa hotel. Did I try hard enough to find a more suitable alternative? Of course not… I figured this is my holiday, I'm not racing, in fact I even left my bivvy bag home to make space for my bikini, so what the hell. I just went for it. I'll survive tomorrow exclusively on 7 day croissant to make up for it. Of course, after my much needed shower I had barely enough energy left to get some food, let alone to go into the spa. Maybe tomorrow before breakfast. After all, tomorrow I'll leave the flatlands behind to exchange for hilly Romania. Bring. It. On.

Good night!

Oh and before I forget: keep an eye on Karen Tostee (#228)! I met her in Girona earlier this year and I've taken the liberty to call her my friend now. 😉 She's new to these kinds of events and though I was already convinced she would do well, she still surprises me with how she's KILLING it. I'm a bit scared she's going to make me race her to CP4 (I'm not due until the 2nd shift on August 6th, but at this pace she'll be there earlier). Head over to www.transcontinental.cc to track the riders.