Jamie, aka ‘Magic’, successfully aced all the tests to qualify for the much coveted Trans Continental Race (TCR). A race that challenges your wits as well as your legs. We talk frankly to Jamie about the TCR and what made him take on another mammoth ride instead:
1. What is the TCR?
Transcontinental is a self supported, ultra distance race across Europe. It’s basically a long individual time trial with a free route between mandatory parcours and checkpoints. The route is typically about 4,000 km / +40,000m but you can flex that if you prefer shorter and hilly or longer and flat. This year the race will start in Brest, go across France to Roubaix, then south to the Col du Petit Saint-Bernard, across northern Italy to the Swiss border, down the spine of Italy through the Appennini mountains, and finish in Thessaloniki.
2. Why does this challenge appeal to you?
I love the sense of adventure that cycling offers. There is something really special about jumping on your steed and ending up in another country, or another continent for that matter, all under your own power. TCR is also very appealing if you like to optimise stuff. The choices you make about routing, sleep strategy, tyres, saddle choice etc. can all make the difference between finishing or scratching so it helps to plan ahead.
3. What changed and made you choose LEJOG?
Last year TCR was postponed due to Covid so like everyone else I found myself trying to find new goals for the year to stay motivated. With international travel not an option the next best thing was the UK from end to end.
4. Did you have a plan and how does one go about preparing for it?
I was riding LEJOG as a substitute for TCR so I approached it in a similar way. Optimise the route for speed, mark all the 24 hour petrol stations on your phone, and pack light. The fastest way to ride an ultra is to minimise your stop time so it helps to be strategic about resupply points, especially as you get up into the Highlands which are pretty remote.
5. You did some massive long distances each day. What’s it like riding solo and unsupported?
Distance is all relative I suppose. I wasn’t counting kilometers, just observing the landscape and the environment slowly change over time which is fun if you’re into that sort of thing. For long rides the key is to stay mentally engaged and feel a sense of progress, if you’ve got that you can keep going forever really.
6. How did it go? What were the challenging parts and what kept you motivated.
The ride started with a nice tailwind so I wanted to push as far as possible before stopping. My pancake-flat TT saddle had other plans. By Lancaster the relationship between my saddle and my backside had reached a breaking point and I was very close to scratching. But a good nights sleep, full English and plenty of chamois cream was enough to convince myself to press on (I’ve since switched to a different saddle for ultras with more curve at the back which really helps). Luckily by that point the Lake District scenery was just stunning and keeps getting better as you make your way north so that made up for the discomfort.
7. What, if any, part of the ride did you enjoy?
On reflection the best parts were things I never could have expected or planned for. Like meeting ultracyclist Adam Watkins on the big climb up Shap Fell – I recognised him from his youtube channel – who was riding LEJOG on fixed (!) and ending up in one of his videos. Or on the final night, bivvying outside the ancient Dornoch cathedral with stars all across the sky. Whenever I do a big adventure there’s always one or two things I remember vividly and I really cherish those memories.
8. How long did it take and what would you differently?
My goal was sub 4 days and I finished with a couple hours to spare. In hindsight a different saddle would have been nice! Also a lower gear ratio wouldn’t hurt, I used a 48/32 with 11-34 and the 34 definitely helped get me through the Highlands with tired legs.
9. What advice can you give to people wanting to give it a go.
Just set a goal and go for it. There’s lots of ways to ride LEJOG, you don’t need to smash it. Some folks take several weeks just poodling along the scenic routes with full touring kit. Any way you ride it can be really enjoyable.
10. What’s next on your bucket list?
At the moment TCR #8 is rescheduled for July 2021 and we find out in April if that is happening. If it’s postponed again I will still keep my entry for next year. In the meantime there is some local stuff – TransEngland21 in May, and the audaxes should start soon if things keep opening up. If borders are open by autumn I would really like to do BikingMan Oman, the Jebel Shams climb looks incredible. Normally it is raced in February but this year they are looking at maybe October so we’ll have to wait and see.
We’re very proud of you Jamie. Chapeau!