As I write this the the 7th edition on the Transcontinental Race is underway but, sadly, I’m not riding in it.
Simple answer: The demands of work.
Complex answer: A multitude of factors also play into the above.
I’m a self employed consultant contracted to a company in Germany, establishing a presence for the German company here in southern France. I have backup and support from the office in Germany but here in La Ciotat there is just me.
I secured several projects over the autumn and winter of 2018 that were all due to be completed by late June or early July latest. Perfect timing for the TCR.
All manner of complications have evolved, unexpectedly, on a day by day basis that mean that two of these projects will now be running well into August.
The week before I was due to head to the TCR start in Bulgaria I thought I had everything squared away so that I could, at least, escape for a couple of weeks and ride the race. Finally though, more complications occurred at the last minute, meaning that my presence was going to be needed on these projects throughout the first week of the race at least. I could not delegate this work away to another consultant from our team without hugely inconveniencing our client’s and adding greatly to their costs. Even if that had been an viable option I still didn’t have the time available to properly brief anyone on all the details of these projects. I felt I had to put the needs of my client’s and the German company ahead of my own. It was a professional commitment I made when I agreed to follow these projects.
All of the above made the decision not to race clear in the end but, my, the days running up to this were stressful. All these unexpected work demands were eating away at my final race preparation time and I was feeling increasingly overwhelmed as I desperately tried to get every task completed necessary to allow me to race with total confidence. I wanted to feel that my route planning and bike were totally prepared for virtually any eventuality that might beset me. And also, so that I would not be having to stop mid race to reply to emails, messages and phone calls. (One of the client’s was talking of lending me a satellite phone!)
Everything was so nearly ready but still my preparation was nowhere near as well advanced as my preparation for previous races had been so close to the start.
I confess to another niggle of doubt as well. The self routing requirement for the vast majority of the Transcontinental Race, through unfamiliar countries, on unknown roads, means you have to make some judgement calls on how busy a road you’re prepared to ride on. It’s a race though and minor, theoretically safer, roads are almost always slower so there’s a silent pressure to ride fast, busy roads, in preference to slow roads.
Extensive use of Google Street View regularly produced images of “A” and “B” roads with traffic and big trucks rumbling along them. It was unnerving me, “..was racing across Europe really such a good idea..?”.
On a race with a fixed route these decisions are largely avoided, you get what you’re given. The TCR is not like that though, you are self supported from the very moment you get a place in the race. That is, of course, very much part of the appeal but I certainly had underestimated how much that effected the complexity and time requirement necessary for race planning.
Of course, you don’t have to obsess over planning and in many ways planning less makes for more of an adventure, more of a leap into the unknown, I’m good with that. If it wasn’t for the work demands, then I know that none of my preparation issues would have actually mattered very much and TCRno7 Cap180 would have been pedalling away in the race.
The upshot of all this is that I am a great deal wiser about the whole business of preparing for a race such as the TCR and the need for contingency work plans, but ultimately, I have also wasted a placing on the race that could have gone to another rider. I deeply regret that.
Thankfully, my frustration with all of this has passed and I now feel at ease and more focused than ever on my preparations for future events.