A few things to consider – how the 2015 and 2016 Transcontinental races will differ.
The checkpoints for TCR 2016 have just been released, and clearly it’s going to be a race for the climbers – whilst it may be several hundred km’s shorter than 2015, it will feature several thousand more metres of climbing, ensuring that overall m/km it will be significantly tougher! The mountains truly have been calling!
But, it’s not just the climbing that will make things more interesting, the geography of the race is fascinating, but it’s what that geography means to racers which will make things really interesting…
2014 took us sideways from Paris and into Switzerland, heading to the Stelvio checkpoint, the altitude and time spent in mountains brings with it far more propensity for cold and extremes of weather – I wasn’t the only one to witness snow that year, it was present for 2 days – in AUGUST!
That meant that riders had to have clothing capable of coping with those temperatures and conditions, with the route in 2015 dropping straight south and then heading to Italy it was very unlikely that racers would see snow, or any significant periods of cold (other than the Ventoux ascent itself).
Subsequently in 2014 I took a full-on waterproof jacket, extra cold(er) weather gear, and spare kit, whereas in 2015 I gambled on just a sleeveless Rapha race cape, and merino arm/knee warmers.
Had I taken that clothing choice the first time around I would have been in serious trouble.
Moral: The Alps represent a significant challenge not only in terms of altitude, but in terms of localised weather conditions, racers NEED to be far more prepared for cold and extremes of weather than at lower altitudes (dynamo’s might also struggle to provide power for battery packs due to the consistently slower speeds).
A traverse of Switzerland will also involve a far greater financial outlay than a traverse of Italy, I remember a pizza costing over €25 in Davos, everything is much more expensive – shockingly so! This can mean a overly cautious approach to calorific intake, with the result being the potential to bonk hard! And it’s not just food, rooms are also much more expensive, and with the much higher chance of really cold nights at altitude it is more likely that the racer will go for that option – you can figure £60 for a night quite easily.
Food and accommodation can add up real fast in Switzerland!
One way around the food issue is to carry extra in your TCR musette, obviously this isn’t limitless and will add weight, but it certainly will be cheaper than buying it in Switzerland – factor buying it about 50km from the France/Swiss border before the prices start to ramp up.
Already touched upon in the money side of things, but sleeping in Switzerland will require a different approach than in 2015. A night in the Po Valley in Italy entailed crashing in a bivy wherever you fancied (away from mosquitos ideally), with the temperatures staying reasonable all the way through the night. If the weather turns wet, then a night at altitude will get very unpleasant very quickly and a tent may well be the way forward.
I saw very few tents being carried in 2015, but plenty in ’14. This could have been down to weather, but also due to entrants being more clued-up on the lightweight nature of the race in 2015? Either way, in 2016 the tent may see a return to more luggage lists (i’d totally recommend the Vau-de Lizard GUL 1 person tent it weighs less than 750grams and packs down into a saddle bag!).
The race will be fascinating, I won’t be riding as my family are owed some time with daddy during the summer!
It will be fascinating to see tactics and strategies for it. Will racers go heavier laden than they did in 2015, more akin to 2014? The race is a big serious of calculated risks as far as kit is concerned, how much will racers be willing to gamble as they strive for aero and lightweight rigs, will they be making sacrifices to the weather Gods and stripping down to the minimum?
It’s going to be another great race!