The beginning of 2017 brought with it the awaited email from TCR organiser Mike Hall, confirming that I have a place in the race this year. If you don’t know what the Transcontinental is all about, this link will give you a quick overview. But in short it’s a solo and unsupported bike race, covering a course of approximately 4,000km across Europe.
My mind has shifted up a gear, from one of thoughts and speculation to that of reality and practicalities. Around 90% of my headspace contains ‘TCR’ in one format or another. It’s only January, but the build up is already addictive. There’s a lot to ponder on, a lot to organise as well as lots of miles to be ridden in preparation. The preparation is a lonely venture, but it’s one that I subscribe to 100%. My intuition and dreams tell me about this journey to Meteora, and it’s absolutely worth it.
I’ve been asked by Bikesoup to write an account of my preparation, talking on a different topic each month between January and August. Perhaps this writing will allow some mental release, and transfer some headspace into written word.
JANUARY – Who are you and why did you enter?
Nicky Shaw. Over the past 5 years I’ve been fortunate enough to move around and live in different parts of the UK, always with a road bike to hand to explore the ‘new area’. I’m originally from South Yorkshire, but currently based in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m 27 years old, and definitely spend more time riding and thinking of bike related ventures than most other things despite it having nothing to do with my career. To me, cycling is freedom, adventure, fitness and wellbeing. It has become an integral part of my everyday life and I love it.
The last time I raced a bike was 2014, racing the national women’s series with amateur team Biketreks. Racing at this level, (if you’re not at the top of your game, or not getting paid) is pretty stressful, dangerous and expensive. Considering myself more a lithe climber than tree trunk legs sprinter, my explosive power was no match where the courses were never long enough or hilly enough for me to do anything except hold onto the wheel in front. Well, that’s my ‘pro cycling’ career over with, now onwards to a ride of higher purpose: freedom, adventure and fitness.
The following year (2015) I took a diversion and dived into the world of Audax, completing a super randonneur series (200,300,400 and 600km) and the 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris. It was a brilliant experience. The comradeship of audax is unbeatable, the journey itself is king, and a totally mindful state achieved after spending days on the bike is addictive.
In hindsight these two cycling episodes are quite opposites, but have inevitably resulted in me entering the TCR.No.5. Really, it’s a quest to satisfy my competitiveness alongside the desire to travel and explore an ever changing landscape at speed, a multitude of discoveries and personal revelations along the way. I had my first experience of the Transcontinental in 2016, I just wanted to know what it was all about. I obviously wasn’t ready to just dive in and enter the race so the next option in my mind was to volunteer at the fourth and final checkpoint in Zablijak, Montenegro. Of course I cycled there, albeit at a more leisurely pace than those racing.
I have been meaning to write about the ‘why’ as a reference for myself, a reminder of how I justify entering the race. It consists of a multitude of reasons and is quite hard to pin down, but here’s a shot.
- It’s an epic adventure. Yes it is, and one that is very much removed from the familiarity of our everyday. The act of cycling across Europe continuously, exposed to an ever changing landscape and culture in such a short space of time, is just incredible.
- Competition. Yes I’m competitive. If you possess none of this trait, I don’t believe that there’d be reason or will to really take part in the race. Being a TCR rookie, I’m simply intrigued to see how I stack up against the field. I plan to train hard, race hard and push my limits, but have the advantage of no added expectational stress.
- Physical Being. Probably the most obvious one, based on the fact that I simply love the physical and mental affects of riding my bike a long way. It’s the cyclists’ rush, appreciated once experienced.
- I’m riding for my mum. A year ago she was diagnosed with MSA, which is a degenerative neurological disease that affects 5 in every 100,000 people worldwide. As a result, my own self acknowledgement and appreciation of physical capability has grown. I will think about her during the race, and how fortunate we all are to have the physical ability to undertake something as immense as the Transcontinental, whether we finish first or last.