4,300km in 10 days: how hard is the Transcontinental Race?

What a top-10 finisher’s Strava upload reveals about the ultra-endurance event

Ulrich Bartholmoes Transcontinental Race

The Transcontinental Race is billed as the world’s toughest self-supported, non-stop ultra-endurance cycling race.

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Riders pick their own Transcontinental route from A to B, passing through checkpoints and usually racking up in excess of 4,000km and 40,000m of elevation.

Some riders, such as double-winner James Hayden, take a direct approach on faster roads; others avoid busy thoroughfares but have to do more climbing.

As the cut-off time for the penultimate checkpoint 4 approached, 100 or so hardy athletes were still out on the road 16 days after setting off.

The fastest finishers, on the other hand, sped from Belgium to Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast in 10 days.

But how hard is it exactly?

No one here at BikeRadar has ridden it – not even our in-house ultra-endurance competitor and video manager Felix Smith.

Unlike the majority of ten-10 finishers, Ulrich Bartholmoes, who came sixth overall, posted his full route on Strava. We’ve picked some stats from his upload to the cycling app and examined his bike tech choices below.

The ride

Bartholmoes was moving for three-quarters of each of his 10 days of racing.
@ubartholmoes

The German was lying just 20 minutes behind eventual winner Christoph Strasser at the penultimate checkpoint before a ferry fiasco cost him four places.

Bartholmoes kept his Garmin Edge 1040 solar recording throughout the event, so we can see his 4,324.59km-ride in its entirety. Other riders stopped and saved their activity on their bike computers every day or two days.

The sixth-placed rider’s finishing time of 10 days, one hour and 51 minutes converts to 241 hours 41 minutes.

Of that elapsed time, he spent 183 hours 42 minutes moving at an average speed of 23.5km/h.

Roughly 60 hours paused time over 10 days doesn’t allow for much sleep. He told BikeRadar he slept between one and a half and three hours a night.

Bartholmoes averaged 425km a day and climbed 42,200m in total, or an average of 4,200m a day.

In comparison, Strasser averaged 480km a day, finishing in nine days and 14 hours.

Bartholmoes’ average power is 134 watts on Strava, but he told BikeRadar this is an estimated not actual value and preferred not to disclose his true output.

Strava’s calculations are less accurate than the best power meters, so its estimate of Bartholmoes’ calorie expenditure (40,512) is likely to be an undershoot given how many calories cycling burns.

Bartholmoes reckons he expended 8,000 t0 9,000 calories a day and ate between 6,000 and 7,000.

The bike

A lean, racy build for an ultra-endurance event.
@ubartholmoes

The standout components on Bartholmoes’ BMC Teammachine SLR01 Team were the tyres: prototype 32mm Hutchinson Challenger Tubeless.

They didn’t puncture, according to an Instagram story the rider posted after the race.

Ceramic bearings in the bottom bracket and wheels and oversized rear derailleur pulley wheels from Kogel also catch the eye.

Bartholmoes ran prototype Hutchinson tyres and an oversized pulley wheel system at the TCR.
@ubartholmoes

Numerous weight-saving measures brought the fully loaded bike to 13kg, according to the rider.

These included carbon Tune Rechtsträger bottle cages and a prototype Schmolke saddle.

The rider defended his choice of lightweight Meilenstein Evo Disc wheels, saying before the race he had topped 100,000km on them without breaking a spoke and praising their stiffness to weight ratio and aerodynamics.

Like many riders, Bartholmoes ran aero bars at the TCR.
@ubartholmoes

But rim damage on the 45km gravel secteur in Romania’s Transalpina forced Bartholmoes to walk through the cold.

The bike is built from a mixture of largely SRAM components. The shifters and brakes are SRAM Red eTap AXS HRD with Centerline XR 160/140mm rotors.

A SRAM Red 12-speed chain was lubed with Muc-Off C3 Ceramic Lube. The cassette is the brand’s Force XG-1270 10-36T.

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He used Aptonia Long Distance handlebar extensions and Apidura bikepacking bags.