Thus far all three tracked riders have reported difficulties with equipment, the weather and other delays. While they have no doubt been testing equipment, conducting training rides and doing plenty of research they have still run into issues early on. This is not that uncommon at the start of a race like this and we would expect to see some teething troubles that would not last too long and riders get into their stride eventually. Nerves, the overriding impetus of the start and a more rigid plan can upset the early miles and shake rider’s resolve a little. The first few days are in some ways the easiest to plan as the closer one is to the start line, more accurately we can predict where we might be. This tends to mean the first couple of days are planned in much more detail however, and with a greater expectation to meet that plan. Getting thrown off plan early undermines confidence significantly.
In November 2011 I recced the route to the ferry port on a 130 mile ride to Newhaven and back, this prompted some to question the worth and rationale of practising a 57 mile section of an 18,000 mile race and I did it mainly to please myself and drive motivation by seeing the first few miles. However I did it also because I didn’t want the excitement of the start to distract me and mean I would get lost right at the start. If nothing else it would be mildly embarassing. I’m glad I did, I got off to a flyer, even though the start was pandemodium and I wasn’t quite ready, the ride to the ferry terminal was a tidy job, with the only events being pot hole related. A few things not quite tied down tight, and the stem face plate was under-tight due to me being too cautious not to over tighten when building the bike meaning my handlebars rotated out from under me on a descent. So its easy done, something always happens and even if we are totally ready which I for one never am, that just gives us time to think about changing something and fiddling about with something new.
Things are generally a lot better however if you have built the bike yourself and know it intimately – that way any odd noises or play is picked up easily and sorted quickly.
Fran reported rain and strong winds setting her back, she camped in ‘the middle of nowhere’ and her sleeping bag got wet, She also struggled to find open services in France on a Sunday. The other riders also reported strong headwinds and bad weather.
Breifne is on a more Easterly trajectory however, which helps but he has had his share of problems too. His support crews had issues with their rental car meaning he has been on his own for a while. A couple of punctures later and he was out of tubes and walking back to Brussels. He has also had trouble with his lights and the past few evenings has stopped early as a result. According to his updates yesterday his support car should now be with him and issues like this should be a lot less likely.
Lee has also suffered more than his fair share of punctures. Many a seasoned cyclist can profess to having only a few punctures a year, so when we hear that Lee has had 7 in the last three days, that tells us something isn’t right. More than a couple would raise suspicion that there is something in the tyre and sure enough Lee reported yesterday that he’d taken a piece of glass out with tweezers.
Yesterday Fran broke her seat collar and had to limp to a bike shop to get sorted, affecting an impressive field repair given that she describes herself as ‘not a mechanic’. Unsupported around the world though means you have to be, and it would appear she is resourceful and learning fast. The first few days and the weather have taken its toll however and Fran appeared pretty glum in the video she posted to her Facebook page. She decided to check in to accomodation in Amiens, dry out and re-calibrate.
Today started a lot better for Lee Fancourt, long straight roads and a slight breeze from the North West offered up swifter miles for the taking but it wasn’t long before mechanical issues struck again and Lee told followers “my gears have packed up” and “I’m in the back of a French man’s van” having quickly found a lift to a bike shop 16 miles away. Within an hour Lee’s machine was fettled and he was headed back to the point of departure with his new friend to resume. Details on the fix haven’t appeared as yet or whether new parts were required, or if Lee is also on the steeper part of mechanical learning curve too, but he’s back on the road and punching out the miles again. Lee managed a little under 200 of his target miles yesterday, putting him about 50 miles under target but closer than in previous days. He estimates he is around a day behind where he’d like to be. Its still very early days though. I’d say there’s plenty of time to catch up but when you are facing the stiff challenge of this kind of mileage, the lost miles tend to stay lost. Adding miles on top generally hurts the next day. What I would say is that all attempts like this have a target drop off and its about accepting it and getting on with the plan without incurring more damage and although one would expect the first week or so of miles to be above average for the trip, this is something that is still very much achievable.
Fran is on the move too this morning, heading out of Amiens due East. A relatively hard left turn for the unsupported rider to catch a 15kph wind to her back. Reset, well fed and mechanically sorted I hope, she should be having a better day today. Like Lee also she has estimated that her difficulties so far have cost her about a day on the plan she had made for herself. If the forecast can be trusted and she follows the wind south in the evening, she can look forward to a tailwind pretty much all day. That should boost morale no end.
I hope things are looking up for Breifne too, especially since its his birthday today. He started it right waking up in “A Mansion in the Belgian Hills” The ever positive Irishman is heading through the challenging, yet beautiful, Ardennes on his way towards Luxembourg. Where and how better to celebrate. Happy Belgian Bicycling Birthday Breifne, maybe a cheeky Duvel with dinner no? He’s headed for Saabrucken today.
Twitter based WCR mileage number cruncher @blackhound59 estimated the following distances for riders as of this morning, circa 67 hours after the race start. Incidentally this was about the hour on race clock during the Transcontinental that the Flemish Flahute Kristof Allegart was beginning his climb up the Stelvio Pass to control number 2, though the timescales and weather conditions don’t really make for fair comparisons, its food for thought making predictions.
Lee Fancourt: 450 miles
Breifne Earley: 289 miles
Fran Hollender: 174 miles