Waiting for Kristof – 2 days at checkpoint 3 of the Transcontinental Race

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We are checking his dot again and it seems to be true, Kristof Allegaert has finally stopped to sleep – the machine needs a rest. So we volunteers call it a night and catch some sleep as well.

Waiting can be exhausting business, even more so than stamping brevet cards. You don’t want to miss your first rider, and the 4 of us (Alberto, Norbert, Paul and myself) had gotten here well the day before with the first possible arrival of a rider estimated at 3 on Tuesday morning. Turns out that Mike apparently made the race tougher than he thought, because when Kristof finally gets to CP3 in Alleghe it is already 2:30 Tuesday afternoon. At least Mike and his team where able to beat him in the car to get to us, even in time for lunch.

(By the way, if you have no idea what I am talking about: in a nutshell The Transcontinental Race / TCR is a nonstop race from Belgium to Turkey via a number of checkpoints – and the clock never stops. Details can be found here: Transcontinental)

When Kristof does get in he looks surprisingly fresh and well rested – not like someone who only had a little over 4 (!) hours of non moving time since the start in Belgium 3 days, 16 hours and 17 minutes ago…
Plenty of race media attention on him, and Mike gets a little interview, then it’s fill up the bottles and off he goes, starting towards Passo Giau…

Another look at trackleaders tells us the closest pursuers are at least 130km and a minimum of two passes behind him, and Mike confirms no one with a dead tracker could sneak up on us, so we make some use of the free time we get. I climb Passo Giau (Beautiful pass – and an super nice climb with fresh legs and an unloaded bike…) and after dinner we continue the storytelling from last night: Super Randonnés, Paris-Brest-Paris, cycle touring in places like Iran or Tadzhikistan or – in Paul’s case – last year’s TCR. I don’t know if it’s true, but it feels like a typical TCR checkpoint crew even though I haven’t seen any other ones: people that can immediately relate to each other because they are all crazy about bike riding. At least we can say that the riders are the really crazy people. Ok, minus Paul. And maybe minus Norbert and myself who had signed up for this year but didn’t get a spot. And Alberto riding the Mille Miglia also isn’t what you’d call an “average cyclist”. So maybe better scratch that “us not crazy”…

The night turns out to be an old school suspense movie – nothing really happens but a lot could happen, so it keeps you on the edge of your seat:
We recon four people are in striking distance to reach us not too much after midnight, so Paul expects at least some to push through and then sleep at the control. Mike figures that’s not gonna happen and they will arrive in the morning. He probably also doesn’t share our optimism on the average speed in the Alps we assume the people will ride. So we decide that whoever is on shift decides whether or not to wake up the next shift and I get lucky and go to bed…

Getting up at five the next morning (Norbert obviously didn’t wake me at the start of my shift at 2) I come down to find 3 people staring at Carlos’ tracker – he has been no more than 10km from the control for a couple of hours, unmoving. Taking a nap we hope, sleeping until the hotel serves breakfast and so making the most of his stop before moving on. Turns out that’s the case and he his route planning got mixed up by a rock slide and he simply decided to bivvy it.

But the first one to come through CP3 after Kris is actually Hans (#56) who pushed through the night with just an hour of sleep somewhere. He is more than 15 (!) hours behind Kristof, but the spell is now broken. First Carlos shows up, looking well rested and enjoying a big breakfast at the hotel, then 6 other riders in quick succession. Some stay for breakfast, some just get the stamp and go, one falls asleep on the couch in the lobby…
But all of us get to stamp someone’s card before we hand over the control to the second group of volunteers – a group of four all crazy about riding bikes…

Guys, I’d like to thank you for those two days. We might not have had a lot of riders come by, but we heard and told good stories. I really enjoyed it. And Mike and Anna, thanks for the chance to be part of TCR this way.

And who knows, maybe next year’s get to see more than just one control point crew…

PS: pictures to follow in this post, or maybe I’ll upload a corresponding Facebook album – I am posting while traveling and can’t resize the pictures to a manageable resolution…

Sag deine Meinung.