Fiona Kolbinger — a 24-year-old German cancer researcher and newcomer to the world of ultra-endurance racing — has become the first female rider to win the Transcontinental Race.
The 4,000km adventure race took riders from Burgas, Bulgaria to Brest, France and, despite finishing in a time of just 10 days, two hours and 48 minutes, Kolbinger says she could have ‘gone harder’ and ‘slept less’ after producing one of most outstanding sporting achievements of the year.
“I am so, so surprised to win. Even now,” said Kolbinger, one of 40 women in a field of 265 riders. “When I was coming into the race I thought that maybe I could go for the women’s podium, but I never thought I could win the whole race… I think I could have gone harder. I could have slept less.”
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Finishing six hours ahead of her nearest rival, Ben Davies, Kolbinger had maintained a 120 to 130km lead for the past few days, but extended that to a huge 200km last night, eventually arriving in Brest this morning. Remarkably, the Transcontinental is also Kolbinger’s first ever race.
Founded by the late Mike Hall in 2013, the Transcontinental Race is considered to be one of the hardest solo races on earth. Riders must be fully self-sufficient throughout the length of the race, receiving absolutely no external support, choosing their own route between four mandatory control points.
This year’s controls required riders to climb the Timmelsjoch (2,474m) on the border of Italy and Austria, and the iconic Col du Galibier (2,645m) in the French Alps, which featured on stage 18 of the 2019 Tour de France.
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Fiona Kolbinger has won TCRNo.7 in a time of 10 days, 2 hours and 48 minutes. But as always with Fiona, those numbers only tell half the story. For the rest, you have to look at how she rode. She has raced TCRNo.7 on her own time and at her own pace – never chasing, simply outlasting every other competitor. For the first 9 days of racing, Fiona never looked anywhere close to her limit, the first cracks only beginning to show on the final push through the dark. “Last night,” she said, “was too long, too dark and too grim.” And yet, she admits at the finish “…I think I could have gone harder”. Fiona is not the first woman to excel in the world of ultra-endurance cycling, and while having our first female winner is a landmark moment for the Transcontinental Race, it is not the remarkable part of this story. What is remarkable is that she won the TCR as a rookie, in her first-ever ultra distance bike race and without ever really breaking a sweat. #TCRNo7 @apidura @kinesisbikes_uk @pedaledjapan @fizikofficial ???? @angusung ???? @jack_enright_lives
Belgium’s Kristof Allegaert won the first two editions of the Transcontinental, in 2013 and 2014, before Josh Ibbett became the first Briton to triumph in 2015. Allegaert was victorious again in 2016 before another Brit, James Hayden, claimed back-to-back wins in 2017 and 2018.
Kolbinger adds a new name to the honours board and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching this remarkable race unfold on DotWatcher, the leading live blog for all things ultra-endurance.
As of writing, Ben Davies — who, like BikeRadar, is a Bristol native — is (in the context of a 4,000km race at least) within spitting distance of the finish in Brest – the historic midway point of the Paris-Brest-Paris race, a 1,200km randoneé that dates back to 1891.
Good luck to all of the riders still on course and hats off to Fiona for her remarkable win.