TCRNO7: Between a Rock and a High Place
Words: Pete Harrington
Photos: Matt Clark
If you haven’t heard of the Transcontinental, the self-styled ‘beautifully hard bicycle race’ across Europe, then you may well have been living under a rock. In which case you have much in common with the race’s participants, to whom sleeping under a rock for the night, as they support themselves with only their wits and a pointy flashlight-spork, is considered the height of luxury.
Now in its seventh edition, TCRNO7 begins on Bulgaria’s Black Sea, before tracking west – rider’s choice (usually the fastest route, hang the scenery) – towards the finish in Brest, France. The post-race party comes to gel-swapping life on Sunday 11th August, but the fastest riders will have arrived well before then, with the winner clocking up some 4000km in just over 9 days. As you can imagine, sleep is somewhat optional.
This year, 7mesh is lucky enough to have the opportunity to support three talented riders with TCR-proof bike apparel: Germany’s Björn Lenhard and British duo, Ross Lovell and Christopher Grundberg.
TransAtlantic Way winner Björn Lenhard needs little introduction. In some parts of the bike world, the mere mention of his name is enough to cause lesser bikepackers to zip up their frame bags and wobble home for cocoa. His resilience is legendary. Do a web search for ‘Björn Lenhard Nutella’ (trust us), and you’ll encounter a fantastical story of how he rode 1230km in only 42 hours to win 2015’s Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP), fuelled solely by a chocolate-tipped baguette. True or not, Björn’s stamina is beyond question.
Might Say: “One more rock should do it.”
Won’t Say: “I think I’ll take it easy this morning.”
UK riders Ross Lovell and Christopher Grundberg are new riders to the 7mesh fold, but not to self-supported endeavours. When they’re not out turning wheels over local loops, they’re exploring Europe by bicycle, and in Ross’s case, trail-running marathons – for fun. Like many of the TCR riders, much of the duo’s excitement stems from the planned, yet unpredictable choose-your-own-adventure nature of the race. “It’s exciting because although there are many others in the race, my experience will be unique,” Ross told us, prior to flying off to Bulgaria. “And therein lies a lot of the attraction. Everyone will experience the route that they have meticulously planned and visualised unfolding from Google Streetview. We all have the same targets and the same checkpoints, but how we get between them will be a journey that is completely our own.”
Might Say: “Earl Grey, please.”
Won’t Say: “When’s the next train?”
Björn, Chris and Ross are equipped with apparel that will help to assure all-day (and night) ride comfort, from Bulgaria to Brest. Luckily, Canada is a near-neighbour to Europe when it comes to terrain. Out of the door at our HQ in Squamish, British Columbia, we’ve got vast expanses of backcountry, lofty peaks and changeable conditions; if our gear works here, it works everywhere.
With this year’s TCR summiting the high peaks of the Ötztal Alps, the race calls for a featherlight wind-blocking, waterproof jacket, and a packable thermal jacket. When the weather takes a turn for the worse or while tackling fast, chill descents, Björn, Ross and Chris can pull out our pocket rocket waterproof, the Rebellion Jacket. Built for off-season training miles in the wettest conditions, this high visibility road riding outer layer delivers unmatched breathability and unwavering protection. But if temperatures plummet, they can turn to the reassuring warmth of theFreeflow Jacket, and its stellar Polartec® Alpha insulation.
Aside from outer layers, the tubeless tire in the room is the bib short. On his way to winning the 2018 TransAtlantic Way race, Björn relied upon our MK2 Bib Short, since updated to MK3. Unlike other bib shorts crisscrossed with unsightly stitching, the MK3 sports 7mesh’s Clean Finish technology, a tailoring ethos that places seams and stitch points well away from sensitive areas. When paired with a flawless chamois, integrated leg grippers and soft, supportive straps, comfort is assured.
It’s no secret that TCR riders skip showers. And what comes with not washing is usually odour – unless you wear a merino bike jersey like the 7mesh Ashlu (available for men and women). Made with fine, responsibly-sourced merino, the Ashlu enables multi-day riding, sans-shower. It fits like a dream, and provides plenty of room for snacks and supplies in its strengthened pockets – essential on the energy-intensive TCR.
But if you are going to bed down each night in a bus shelter, reach for the Björn-favoured Quantum Jersey (also available for men and women). While it might not resist odour as well as the Ashlu, it is equally adept at handling the daily demands of the TCR. And on such a long ride, sometimes you just want to change jerseys.
FOLLOW THE RACE
Keep up with the progress of all of the riders in realtime at the Transcontinental site. And for updates on how Björn, Ross and Chris are getting on, make sure to follow our Instagram and Facebook pages