T minus 6 days to Trans Am 2015 and with the Inspired to Ride film dropped from last year in April, this race has had an acceleration to the forefront of the Bikepacking Calendar. It is also something of an American Cousin to the Transcontinental.
A few riders will return to tackle it again whilst a few experienced hands and familiar names we have seen in other races including the TCR will line up to see what they can do. Here are my picks for the riders to watch but also watch out for some that haven’t hit our radars too as we warm up your peepers for a summer of dot watching.
Well respected Australian ultra rider, 24hr racer and past BMX champion Jesse Carlsson finished 2nd in the 2013 Tour Divide in a time that would have worried Jay Petervary’s record pace. Jesse certainly has the talent, the experience and the attitude to do some comprehensive damage on the Trans America trail. He also has a kit list and an approach that I can’t fault, save for the comment about the climbing being concentrated in the first half. This was the same mistake Jason and I conferred that we made in our thinking last year. Sure the elevation is in the first half, but for actual gain it works out roughly 50/50 which is quite an unpleasant surprise when you are 10 days in and thought it was going to get easier. Nevertheless if Jesse can pace himself well and not underestimate the Ozarks and the Appalachians then I think that he could definitely be the man to raise the bar and post a time well under 17 days. It sure is going to be exciting to watch.
After a false start in 2014 when his tracker eventually stopped in Kansas, experienced ultra racer Donncha is tipped to go well in 2015. Having seen a little more than half of the route in 2014 he will be taking a lot of invaluable route knowledge with him when he sets off from Astoria next week. He will be one of only a few riders to have experienced the Trans Am before and the most likely of those returning to be challenging for the top spot. Donncha has placed well in several large ultra races including the Race around Ireland and the Race Across America. He has a proven track record in Ultra Racing and any bikepacking lessons he was short of were surely taken care of on his last outing on this route. Another strong dot to watch and it will be interesting to see how he paces this year’s race.
Matthias is a familiar name to Transcontinental dot watchers. The German finished 5th in last year’s race. Matthias had a great attitude and approach to riding but really wasn’t pushing the race button until near the end. He told me when I said its OK to race to him at control 3 in Montenegro that he pondered that for a while and really began to enjoy the concept. Mueller is a very experienced and savvy rider with a lot of experience with equipment and navigation so we would not expect him to make too many mistakes but the question will be what does he want to achieve on the TABR – an adventure or a race, or a warm up for a return to the TCR? I have no doubt that he will put in a very solid run regardless of whatever gear his head is in.
Adrian arrived at the aforementioned Control 3 at the same time as Matthias Muller in the 2014 Transcontinental. The two had met on the road out of Kotor and the pace had quietly escalated until the two were full on racing to the control. Adrian claimed victory on the climb but it was Matthias who left the control first and eventually got to Istanbul ahead with a different route. Racing on the same route it will be interesting to see if these two are as equally matched and if we will see another battle. Adrian doubtless learned much of ultra racing last summer and is a very passionate competitor. I would expect to see him fight hard all the way to Yorktown.
I didn’t know an awful lot about Paul, only that he is originally from North Wales and lives in Colorado and that I’d have been tipped off that he could go well. A little digging uncovers that he’s a serial long distance cycling record hunter having set records across the length and breadth of the US and across Europe. He is also a dab hand at ultra racing and a veteran of the Colorado Trail race and the 7,500 mile Tour D’Afrique. He completed his latest record from the most Northern point in Europe at Norway’s North Cape to Tarifa in Spain covering 4008 miles in 22 days. He definitely has great experience across the board of ultras and backpacking on road and off and should be a strong challenger.
It remains to be seen who will take to the front and how the racing will go down this year. Last year I remember viewing the top of Mckenzie Pass as the goal for day one and it was stunning in the moonlight alone with the road still closed to motor vehicles. I thought that the peak at almost exactly 300 miles in would provide the selection filter for those who were going to break away on day one and had it set in my mind that I wanted to be sleeping on the far side having descended most of the way to Sisters so I could grab an early breakfast when things opened there in the morning. We had a great tailwind coming inland off the Pacific Coast though and hit the bottom of the climb at around 10pm. Ed and Jesse started the climb ahead of me, so I knew once I got over the top I needed to go further and when we came down the other side I saw their lights behind me approaching. I had passed them on the way up but punctured on the way down and they were starting to catch me again. I re-filled my bottles from a spigot behind a gas station in Sisters and carried on into the small hours getting another 30-40 miles that night and grabbing some food at a 7eleven in Redmond and about 90 minutes sleep near Prineville. Jason lane didn’t stop at all and when I got up he was about 30 minutes ahead of me on the road.
This time around we can’t necessarily count on the tailwind again but the McKenzie pass will still be a great focal point for day one and might provide the early leaderboard selection.
The 2015 Trans Am Bike Race kicks off at 5am PCT on Saturday 6th June (1pm GMT).
Follow live dots on Trackleaders.com
More info at www.transambikerace.com