"Thank goodness I had taken the plunge and exposed myself this way despite all the fear I had felt at the thought of such a huge undertaking. Imagine having missed this experience because I hadn’t dared try."
In 2016, I abruptly gave up running, bought a bike, and entered a race. Not one to do things by halves, my first ever bicycle race was one of the biggest, hardest events there is: The Transcontinental Cycle Race. It changed my life, introducing me to the suffering and delight of ultradistance cycling. Over the following years I built quickly on what the Transcontinental had taught me. I won a 4300-km race across Europe and then broke the Guinness World Record to become the fastest person ever to cross Europe on a bicycle.
To make sense of these past few years, I have been writing about my ultradistance cycle racing experiences. What I've written might become a book one day, but for the moment, I wanted to share an essay that I wrote on my Transcontinental experience. I'm doing this because the Covid-19 Lockdown means we are all missing the adventure of cycling. All our races are cancelled, and most of us are sticking very close to home, if we are riding at all.
Although true adventure is currently on hold, we can still dream about when we can again load far too little kit on our bikes and head off for punishing, life-defining journeys into the unknown. I hope this essay might help you a little with your own armchair adventures.
"I almost rode onto a motorway by mistake. The day felt like one setback after another and I started to feel out of control. I felt I was waiting for something to go wrong from which I could not recover."
Here is my description of riding the 2017 Transcontinental Cycle Race, yours for free as a PDF. I'm giving this away, so please take it in the spirit in which it is given: read it, share it with friends, but don't reprint it or try to make any money off it. You know the score.