An insight in the diary of world's best ultra-racer Kristof Allegaert.
Three time winner of The Transcontinental Race and winner of Trans-Siberian.
AN ULTRA RACER.
MADE OF ULTRA STEEL.
Allegaert rode the race on his red Interceptor, and if we check the timing we're pretty sure he gave his Campagnolo Neutron Ultra wheels a run for their money. When asked why he chose Jaegher, he immediately says it was love at first sight. The quality of the Belgian brand, the steel they work with, the custom fit, and the gorgeous appereance.
When we ask him about the red colour, he says he loves the simplicity and fierceness of it. And that next year he might go for something special. When asked what quote he placed on his frame, he says 'NI KRIEPEN DEURE RIEN' which is West-Flemish for ‘Don’t complain just ride.’ When we asked him to keep journal of his last Transcontinental Race, he came up with these 5 detailed pages.
A distance of 3.827 kilometers
between London and Istanbul
in 7 days and 23 hours.
As winner of the 1st edition of the Transcontinental Race, the expectations were quite high this year. Fairly early in the year I started adding up my mileage to have a good foundation to start from. Once the list of participants was available I took a good look at what names were on it. of course there was Richard D. and he wanted to take revenge.
Also kept in mind that there were some strangers who wanted to set a very good time. Because there is no fixed route, I had to create one. This was a job that needed to be done quite meticulously. What was the perfect route to take, which road was faster? I also created a rough schedule of the planned distances per day.
Day 1 — August 9
London > Persan: 357 km
At the start I had a quick chat with Richard who told me that it was possible to catch the 12 o’clock ferry from Dover. My first thought was it was quite impossible, but because we rode with a neat bunch and a bicycle speed of 40 kph between London and Dover, we arrived in Dover at 11:35. Because the queue at the counter was taking a long time, we bought another ticket from another company. The check-in had already ended but issuing 3 tickets wasn’t too much work and we took a ferry at 12:15. In short, I was ahead of schedule. Once in Calais we each chose our own path. My plan was to sleep before the first control.
Day 2 — August 10
Persan > Belfort: 450 km
Crossing the center of Paris is always a bit of an adventure, even on a Sunday morning. But shortly before 6am I arrived at the first checkpoint in 6th place. To receive the stamp from Mike Hall was fantastic, but I was more than 3 hours behind the first rider, Josh. He is an experienced 24-hour rider, so I had to be wary of him. In the afternoon, near Troyes, I saw him standing with his bike at a bakery, we waved and I was very happy to know that we were “together” again. The weather went from bad to worse; first normal rain that changed into pouring rain and in the evening I even ended up in a small tornado. The trees in the forest provided me with some shelter but I had to hold my handlebars with both hands to keep from being blown away. In retrospect, I should have just waited half an hour by the side of the road, but it’s still a race and you don’t want to lose too much time, so you keep going. Because the weather didn’t show any change I decided to sleep near Belfort.
Day 3 — August 11
Belfort > Stelvio: 439 km
Mostly rain. After a short night’s sleep a lot of rain had already fallen but apparently there was still enough left in the sky to keep raining… All day... Since everything was already soaking wet, I couldn’t get any wetter. To keep going was the only solution, so I kept pedaling. The advantage of this trick is, of course, that the miles accumulate. Switzerland is familiar ground to me, and I crossed both the Fluëlapass and Ofenpass around 5pm. The latter of course, opened the perspective of reaching the Stelvio Pass that same day.
Day 4 — August 12
Stelvio > Bakar: 487 km
The advantage today was that it would be downhill for a long time and I could finally leave the clouds behind me. It was the perfect day to ride a lot of kilometers. Around Trieste it was clear that we were in a very touristic place again. That meant that the advantage was that there were many shops and restaurants. I’d actually never seen the border with Slovenia, and I was glad that the border crossing was just a short passport check. Once across the border of Croatia it was back downhill to Rijeka.
Day 5 — August 13
Bakar > Capljina: 438 km
Soon I was cycling on a nice stretch of road along Croatia’s coastline. But because I feared large crowds along this road I chose a parallel inland route. This road went through some incredibly beautiful nature that amazed me. Although it was a very empty area there was quite a lot of traffic. Around noon I started looking for a place to have a meal but there wasn’t any accommodation, the only solution was to go on cycling until I actually found something. Around 1pm I saw a sign for a restaurant 5 km further along, so I headed there hoping I wasn’t too late because I was really hungry and thirsty. When I arrived, all tables were perfectly laid out but I couldn’t get a meal! They were expecting three full buses of tourists and needed to operate smoothly.
I was told there was another restaurant 15 km up the road where they could certainly serve me, as I explained that I had a really big appetite. She insisted on giving me a sandwich “to go”. Fantastic! This turned out to be a kind of religious region, hence the tourist traffic and the helpful staff. The rest of the afternoon was a series of little climbs and descents with a nice headwind. Once the darkness fell, I passed many small groups of people who were walking along the road. My first thought was that this was something like a night walk, but there were just too many people. When I stopped to ask for an explanation someone told me they were part of a pilgrimage.
“It’s easier to keep going
than it is to rest and then
have to leave again."
Day 6 — August 14
Capljina > Podgorica: 344 km
Today I planned to arrive at CP3 around noon but first I had to do my last kilometers in Bosnia and cross the border with Montenegro to reach the famous climb to Lovcen. Because the ride there took longer than expected, I had my meal at the lakeside before I started the climb. Once I got to the top and the checkpoint, Mike told me that I had taken an illegal ferry. Huh? It felt like a slap in the face, partly because I had done this unintentionally. Of course I couldn’t disagree when Mike showed it on paper. To correct this error there was nothing for it but to redo the whole route around the lake, which is actually a sea inlet. Five hours later I came back to the checkpoint where I was told that everything was in order. Because of this error, detour and loss of time, I had found a new motivation to keep going.
Day 7 — August 15
Podgorica > Sofia: 704 km
Today, my first job was to crest an unknown col, of which I knew neither length nor height; I just knew I had to pass it.
Kosovo offered some fantastic pieces of nature but all the people’s waste was dumped alongside the road. If you happen to be cycling against wind, the smell is dreadful. That night I tried to use my mobile phone to send a message to my wife but it didn’t seem to be working. Turning the phone off and back could have been a solution but it didn’t help. What was going wrong? I tried again and I actually began to get scared when I couldn’t find the error. In fact, the only solution was to just keep cycling for as long as possible, to reassure the people following up at home. As long as my “dot” moved on the map I was alive.
When I stopped at a restaurant around midnight I asked if I could use their mobile phone to send a message saying that everything was OK. I was told there that the national telephone company’s service was very bad. Because the border with Bulgaria was coming into view I picked up the pace again. Again, three countries in a day.
Today, my first job was
to go over an unknown col,
of which I knew neither
length nor height.
I just knew I had to pass it.
Day 8 — August 16
Sofia > Istanbul: 608 km
Now that the finish line was in sight and I had passed the tallest mountains, I could start the countdown. But after a short time boredom began to strike. Because of the monotony, my concentration faded.
Then I got the idea to finish before 8am English time! This felt doable: 400 km and
16 hours before Big Ben struck eight.
It was very risky given the circumstances, but I accepted my own challenge within the challenge! This also meant that I had to keep cycling, leaving no time to sleep or even to have a slightly longer stop. Only then did I begin to realize what I had said to myself. Hopefully I wouldn’t lose too much time at the border with Turkey, or have punctures. Because it was late, there wasn’t much traffic and I could keep cycling at a nice pace so the challenge went ahead. I even was able to build up a small margin, so why not redefine my goal and take it a little further still? I eventually arrived at 7 am English time. The final sprint to arrive at 6:59 failed, but I was happy nonetheless.
Like the Transcontinental was not tough enough. The Trans-Siberian race covered 9,200km between Moscow and Vladivostock, including 58km (yes, that’s 58,000m) of climbing, passing through four climate zones and seven time zones. Guess who won?