This year, our ambassador Ben Davies, finished the Transcontinental Race (TCRNo6) in an incredible 10th place, out of a starting field of 254. We asked him about his experience and how he got on with a pre-production prototype of the AeroPack, our new seatpack killer.
The most important question. Did you enjoy it?
I loved it! Any opportunity to be on my bike for a sustained period, ride some incredible roads and cross a number of countries is a good one, but the Transcontinental Race really is a special race.
How did you find this year compared to last year?
This year racing the Transcontinental was very different than last for me. Last year’s race was my first of this kind and I went into it a with fast-paced touring background so it was a great learning experience. With the race this year being less of an unknown, I felt like I was able to prepare in a better way and hopefully learn from some of the mistakes that I made the first time around.
What were the challenges?
During races like the TCR, there are lots of challenges, both physical and mental, and one of the key things is how you react to and approach these challenges. There is the obvious physical challenge of cycling 4,000km as quickly as you can, but there are also all of the unforeseen challenges that you have to tackle.
I was really lucky this year with no real mechanical issues to speak of - the only puncture that I had was in Meteora (after the finish) so I will take that one! I feel like I put a lot of thought into my race setup which hopefully helped on the reliability front.
On the TCR we have to route ourselves between the designated checkpoints across Europe and this is always an area which causes some challenges. In Bosnia I spent a whole night climbing a mountain and pushing on only to find my route was then impassable... I hate turning back on myself but unfortunately I didn't have a choice and I ended up losing a pretty considerable amount of time.
I have also found out through TCR that I react quite badly to some insect stings which isn't particularly nice. I got stung twice this year: the least bad of the two was on my crotch...from the inside of my shorts (don't ask!).
What were the highlights?
That's a hard question: parts of the race blur into one! I'm really looking forward to taking some time to look through my Strava which I am sure will remind me of some places I have to go back to.
Montenegro was definitely one country where I made a mental note to go back and explore properly rather than pacing through. It was stunning.
The Karkonosze Pass in Poland, which was the parcour for the third checkpoint, also stands out as a real highlight. It may not have been the most beautiful, but I have never experienced a climb which sustains such a steep gradient (28% at points) for such a length of time. The whole parcour was 11.5km which felt relentless!
Any low moments?
Getting stung on the crotch could be considered a low point but in all honesty I found it pretty funny! I genuinely couldn't pick out a low moment as I think you really have to embrace the "tough" moments. Yes, you end up encountering some poor driving etc., which is never fun, but I wouldn't consider that a low moment as it is almost expected.
In our previous chat with you, we asked you about your approach to training for this year. Do you feel like this paid off?
I definitely went into the race stronger physically this year than last, so I would have to say that my approach to training this year was beneficial. In June, I also managed to fit in a short ride across Spain to test out my kit which was really useful.
There is definitely more scope to make improvements on the training front so I am excited about that.
Any plans for the next challenge?
I'm taking some time now to plan out what I want to do next but I would love to do TCRNo7 next year. More immediately, in the next month or so my partner and I are planning to head over to Belgium for some relaxed touring.
How did the AeroPack perform?
In short, I was really impressed! There are two design features which really stand out for me and are a massive improvement from what I have previously used. Firstly the Aeropack is planted on the bike: by that I mean there is no sway or movement to disrupt how the bike should feel. This is particularly noticeable when ascending or descending and you have a stable platform that you can throw into and flow through the corners.
The second thing is simply the ease of use and access. The kit in the bag is easily accessible, you don't have to pack the bag in a certain way (with a saddle pack, for example, you have to be careful where you are loading the heavier items) and there is generally no faff. This really makes a difference in a race situation where you are trying to limit dead time, but also, when you are fatigued, the last thing you want to be doing is fiddling about with how you attach a bag to your bike.
Due to the final TCR results being released we can give the great news that Ben was a top 10 finisher, an incredible feat if you ask us.
Below are some interesting statistics from the race that clearly show how tough the TCR truly is.
Relive Alice and Joe's adventure as they take the AeroPack for extensive testing on a bike packing tour around the west coast of Ireland.