Ultra-endurance mountain-biker Jody Forrester is gearing up to tackle the tough self-supported ultra-distance Transcontinental Race across Europe that starts on Saturday.
One of the world’s toughest endurance races, it combines a distance of between 3 200km and 4 200km with about 41 000m of climbing. The aim is to make the finishers’ party on Sunday, August 11, at 8pm.
The clock doesn’t stop from the moment the riders set off until they arrive at the finish, which makes it one long individual time-trial.
“I came across Transcontinental and was immediately hooked on the idea of a solo unsupported race across beautiful Europe,” said the 41-year-old.
“I submitted my 12-page application in December and fortunately was one of 300 out of 1 000 applicants chosen on January 10.”
He said the desire to compete in this challenge came after he completed the Freedom Challenge in 2012. He developed a real affinity for the long-distance A-to-B format of racing.
Forrester has completed two 100km trail runs, along with a few Ironman races and the Comrades. He has hiked to the Everest base camp and ridden a KTM motorbike from London to Cape Town down the west coast of Africa.
“These adventures all provide a catalogue of trials and tribulations that hopefully equip you with a mindset and attitude that helps you deal with challenges and hardships along the way, and the interpersonal skills to meet and engage with a wide range of people on your travels.”
The Hillcrest resident is looking forward to going further than he’s gone before and pushing his own boundaries, something he says has become an addiction.
“I’m just simply hoping to finish, which would be a massive accomplishment. Winners in previous years have done incredible mileage per day to finish in eight to nine days.”
This year’s event runs east to west, starting in Burgas, Bulgaria, and finishing at Brest on the French west coast. Each rider determines his own route between mandatory checkpoints, where cardboard brevet cards are stamped.
Each checkpoint also has a parcour section, which is inevitably the toughest way to reach the checkpoint, usually involving gravel.
“The organisers specify the start and finish points, along with four mandatory checkpoints. The route is then totally at your deciding, so long as you avoid highways and banned tunnels, for safety.
“The juggling of shorter distance versus more climbing is up to each rider to decide, using navigation websites and Google. Once plotted, it [your route] is then transferred to your GPS device and a back-up is created.”
Forrester believes the main challenges will be balancing eating and sleeping well with trying to maintain a good pace.
“I’m expecting to ride an average of 15 to 17 hours a day. I also have celiac disease, which means no gluten allowed in the diet – so no delicious European pastries for me.
“The other fun challenge of long-distance endurance is balancing the weight of your bicycle rig versus carrying spares and clothing to make sure you are covered for any breakdown or weather situation.”
He added that the highlights would be seeing the sheer beauty of Europe in summer and traversing some of its most breathtaking valleys and fields, which would help distract him from the prodigious distances he had to cover.
“I also naturally get energy from conversing [in pidgin French] with locals. A warm shared smile really can motivate you.
“Never forget how unbelievably fortunate you are to be taking on this adventure, no matter how tough it gets. Perspective is your friend.”
Track his progress below: