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The Transcontinental Race – Can You Cross Europe on a Bike?

By Jiri Kaloc

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to ride your bike from one end of Europe to the other? Turns out that a lot of people did and The Transcontinental Race is a result of that. If you love bikepacking, adventure, and aren’t afraid of many days in the saddle, you might want to read on. How long does it take to ride from Belgium to Turkey? Can you do it self-supported? What kind of bike would you need?

“Be ready for suffering. Be prepared for the unexpected. You will get lost. You will get extremely hungry and not know if the next store is 10 minutes or 2 hours away. You will go very deep.” That’s what the three-time winner of Transcontinental, the Belgian ultracyclist Kristof Allegaert, has to say to anyone considering this adventure. What exactly is The Transcontinental Race?

You, your bike, and 4200 kilometres

The Transcontinental Race is a self-supported, ultra-distance bikepacking race across Europe. The route varies each year with a length of up to 4,200 km (2600 miles). The race generally starts in Northwestern and finishes in Southeastern Europe with four checkpoints along the way and the participants are free to choose their own route between them. Racer positions are monitored via GPS tracker devices and the clock never stops, so riders must decide how much time to spend riding, resting, and refuelling each day. Being self-supported means that participants can’t receive any help; all food, accommodation, and repairs must be purchased from commercial sources on the way.

Across Europe in 8 days 15 hours and 2 minutes

The Transcontinental Race 2016 route started in Geraardsbergen, Belgium and went across France, Switzerland, Italy, and Montenegro to Çanakkale, Turkey, roughly 3800 km (2360 miles). Kristof Allegaert finished just after midday of the ninth day, with the nearest rider, Carlos Mazon, more than 300 km behind in Greece. A truly astonishing feat considering that some riders took over 30 days to finish, and over half the starting field gave up. So, what can we learn from Kristof?

The winning bike

It is clear that Kristof Allegaert has the right attitude for this kind of racing. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t feel sorry for himself, he doesn’t do much of anything except of cycling, actually. So, how does a man like this select his bike?

“Everything I carry went through years of testing. It’s not the lightest or the fastest, but it’s something I can absolutely rely on under any conditions.”

He’s riding a custom-built steel Jaegher Interceptor, the best compromise between performance and comfort. He runs a Campagnolo Record mechanical system, so that there’s no danger of a flat battery. A Supernova dynamo hub powers both his front and rear lights which allows him to ride without any need for stopping to recharge. Every detail has been tried and tested.

The 2017 edition of the Transcontinental Race starts in Geraardsbergen, Belgium, as usual and goes all the way to the beautiful Meteora, Greece. The race starts on Friday 28th July 22:00 CET, check it out and get inspired for the next year. If you dare!