In a repeat of last year’s race, an all-German head-to-head between Bjorn Lenhard and Bernd Paul emerged in the fight for victory. Bjorn Lenhard took up first position on day 1, setting an electric pace for the 163 other riders competing to try and match, with his rival from last year, Bernd Paul, hot on his tail. Temperatures dropped and drama unfolded approaching CP2, with the leading pair arriving within five minutes of each other in Derrynasligguan. The race would ultimately be decided by whoever was first to reach the ferry in Killimer, and it was Bjorn who won this battle, staying ahead and eventually winning the race altogether for a second consecutive year. Bernd Paul finished shortly after, with Brendan Cassidy in third, and an injured, race-hardened Karen Tostee winning the women’s competition.
The first cross-continental race of the season, the TransAm Bike Race, ran as usual from Astoria to Yorktown, but with a very different ending to one that we’re used to: It was won by a person riding a velomobil. Marcel Graber’s vehicle was the cause of much conversation as it arrived in Yorktown first, but his was a performance to impress nonetheless. Peter Andersen was the first two-wheeled rider home, finishing in second place after 16 days, 20 hours and 41 minutes; still 13 hours faster than the previous year’s winner.
As far as modern-day ultra-distance bike racing events go, the Tour Divide was the original. Stretching from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide, the race is one of the most respected, prestigious, and anticipated races on the calendar, and the 2018 edition was well worthy of such expectation. Riders battled fierce wintry elements in the Rockies during the early parts of the race, but through the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, it was Australian Lewis Ciddor who emerged as the uncatchable leader. Bailey Newbury and Greg Gleeson finished 2nd and 3rd respectively, in what was considered a particularly tough edition of the race.
On the famous cobbles of Geraardsbergen, more than 250 riders set off to take on Europe at TCRNo6, with James Hayden present, and looking to defend his title from last year. The race headed south into the Alps first, then up to Poland, before a final turn south again, through Bosnia, to the finish in Greece. Bjorn Lenhard again pushed James hard in the first half of the race, and would eventually finish third, but the 2017 winner’s ruthlessness showed, and he finished almost a day ahead of eventual second place Matt Falconer. Ede Harrison rode a stellar race in her first TCR, comfortably finishing as first woman.
The inaugural edition of the SRMR, organised by distinguished distance rider Nelson Trees, saw riders take on the punishing climbs and unpredictable terrain of Kyrgyzstan. It promised extreme weather conditions, polarising climates, breath-taking views, off-road climbs and isolation, and delivered on all fronts. The scratch count rose rapidly from a very early stage, but Jay Petervary carved out a healthy lead early on. His main contender, Levente Bagoly, surfaced in the second half of the race, but with the limited phone signal, Jay had no idea that Levente was close until very late on. Despite the drama, Jay stayed ahead to become the first winner of the SRMR, with Levente and Alex Jacobsen rounding out the podium of a truly memorable event.
The Race to the Rock has only ever been won by one rider; Sarah Hammond, and this year was no different, with the Australian making it three from three since 2016. This year, the race was split into two, with nine riders setting out from Tasmania for the ‘starter course’, and five of those making it over to the mainland for the ‘main course’; an off-road marathon from Melbourne to Uluru. From snow early on, to remote, parched desert in the latter stages, the Race to the Rock’s notorious difficulty held true once again in 2018, and it was again won by one of ultra-racing's best.
In June 2018, Adventure Syndicate rider Jenny Graham set off east from Berlin in an attempt to break the women's record for cycling around the world. Technically there is no distinction in the record between supported and unsupported, but wanting to stay true to herself, Jenny undertook the entire ride completely self-supported. After 124 days of riding, Jenny arrived back in Berlin late on Thursday 18th October to complete her 18,000 mile ride, and smash the record by 20 days.
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