The last two and a half weeks have been monumentally thrilling for both the riders and spectators of the Trans Am Bike Race. From broken bikes and lost racers, to controversial ‘HPV’s and outrageous paces – here’s a look back at the past 19 days of competitive continent crossing:
On 2nd June, 114 riders lined up at dawn in Astoria, Oregon, for the fifth instalment of the #TABR. Facing east, all that separated them from their end destination of Yorktown was 6,900km – the width of North America.
Last year’s winner-turned-insightful-race-commentator Evan Deutsch began posting his musings to the TABR Facebook page, kicking things off with this day 1 analysis.
After the first few days of any long distance event, routines and tactics settle in and start to make their mark on the leader board. On day 4, Peter Andersen made his first appearance in the top ten – where he’d stay for the next 12 days.
Austrian female Tanja Hacker’s race was going incredibly well until a 10-hour layover at the summit of Lolo Pass caused some concern with racers and dot watchers alike. After a long rest she rejoined the race, but disaster wasn’t far away when, taking a wrong turn near Wisdom, Montana, Tanja became lost and would spend the next 17 hours off course.
One week in, leading British rider Darren Franks suffered the mechanical issue from hell: a broken frame. Unfortunately, this would spell the end of his race – but Darren fought on to acquire a new bike and complete the final section of the course.
On day 9, Marcel Graber and his controversial velomobile moved into first position – which he'd hold for the remainder of the race.
Now behind Marcel and his recumbent machine, Newton Bike Shop at #Mile2588 in Kansas (just over half way) was prepping itself for a steady stream of bikepackers rolling through its doors in need of food, a bed, spare parts, or all of the above.
Collisions with vehicles have plagued this year’s race, with four incidents in total, and three in Kansas. We send our very best wishes to everyone involved, and speedy recoveries for all. It does appear that these tragic circumstances have stimulated positive conversations however, with the director of the Adventure Cycling Association promising to push for safer conditions.
The flat plains of the Mid West were also the proving ground of the velomobile’s ability at long-distance racing, and last year’s winner Evan weighed in on the mounting discussion:
“…The caloric intake is absurd. The fact that you are racing through towns and meeting people that have no idea a bike can travel more than 20 miles per day is absurd. Riding through 100 + degree heat and snow in the same race is absurd. Adding some Velomobiles to the mix and seeing how it plays out is just adding to the absurdity. No one's livelihood is at stake. Remember this race is simultaneously the most important thing you are doing in your life at that very moment, yet pales in comparison to some of the true adversity of what some people are facing.”
For the next six days, Marcel maintained a tight grip on his lead (and his ferocious pace) until his record-breaking arrival in Yorktown. Positions swapped hands behind him, but his performance was unequivocal.
This finish line picture and its distinct lack of fanfare sums up the nature of bikepacking races perfectly: there’s no crowds, no award ceremony, and no prize money. It’s a solo endeavour from beginning to end, and a sport that rewards only in experience and adventure. Keep watching the dots.