Everyone can ride a bike. And for the young, old, fast or slow, cycling can become a passion. There will always be new levels and challenges when riding—whether you’re pounding for a sprint finish on a local course, or achieving a new personal record on the Alpe d’Huez. But even after you’re done with the Alps, there are still bigger challenges to face. Meet the Transcontinental Race.

Race through Europe

As you can probably already guess, this is no ordinary race. It is insanely challenging. The competition, held over the entire continent of Europe, is about 4,000 kilometres long (that’s more than the entire Tour de France!). And where a professional peloton has 3 weeks to cover this distance, the Transcontinental Race (TCR) is a timed race against each other. The winner this year crossed the finish line after 8 days, 22 hours and 56 minutes of riding!

Checkpoints

You can choose to participate solo or as a pair. The concept is simple: every participant has to ride from A to B on his/ her own without any external assistance. Riders must have everything they need on their bikes. They are allowed, however, to purchase food and other supplies along the way, as long as it’s commercially available for everyone.

The start and finish are in a different place each year. This year the race began in Geraardsbergen (Belgium), and finished in Kalambaka (Greece). There are four checkpoints that all participants must pass through in order to collect stamps and complete the race. These stops are located at some of Europe’s most beautiful roads and climbs. The route they take between these points is not fixed. Everyone has the flexibility to choose their own route, as long as they’re cycling.

Sundown on the rocks. Meteora. #TCRNo6 ? @camillejmcmillan

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Ultra-endurance cyclists

This race isn’t for everyone—participation is only recommended if you are sure you want the challenge. The TCR organisers wanted to keep the concept “simple in design”, but the execution is a lot more complex. It is a challenge of self-reliance, logistics, and navigation, as well as mentality and physical form. It’s made for the so-called ultra-endurance cyclist. Where and when—and if—the cyclists rest is up to them. Many choose to sleep only two hours at night to recharge, riding all night on all roads whether they take you up or down.

Finish

Although it requires a lot of preparation before one is ready to sign up for the Transcontinental Race, it’s never certain that a rider will finish. Of the approximately 300 participants who participated in a previous edition solo, more than half of them scratched out. This happens when a rider, without consulting the organisation, does not move for more than two days (everyone has a tracker with him), or when someone decides to quit.

Are you up for the challenge? You have a year left to train for the next one (if it is organised—the past editions were held in August).