The European Transcontinental Race - A Rewarding Challenge!

22 October 2016 - posted by Peter Sandholt
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Peter Sandholt is a part of Team Formthotics in Denmark. He has done several challenging long distance cycling races around the world - all with the support of Formthotics in his cycle shoes. Benefits Peter gets through Formthotics are more power in his pedals and a lack of 'hotfoot' on those long distances.

Peter tells us more about his decision and experience with the European Transcontinental Race.  

It was time for something new. After having done several ultraraces, with RAAM being the latest, I was wondering what should be next? I found RAAM challenging, sure. But it actually wasn´t as challenging as I expected. I knew I had my good fortune in a strong team, who helped me set up a race plan, that we executed to perfection.

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After some time, it became clear to me, it was time to challenge myself at an equal physical level, but at a higher mental level. I wanted to challenge my courage and determination. I set my eyes on the European Transcontinental Race. A 4,000 kilometer unsupported race from Belgium to Turkey. Beforehand, I had visions of myself setting off into the Balcan night and being chased by dogs. This would be something of a completely different challenge than what I was used to. And, as it turned out, I would encounter both scenarious.

The race started in Geraadsbergen, Belgium on July 29th. The race start was quite horrific for me. It turned out my route planning was a disaster. Within the first hour, I had several detours into Belgian forests and on to boneshaking pavets. 

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The road to Canakkale, the end destinatio in Turkey, seemed very far away at that point.

The ride through France went smooth. As the race progressed, I found a good rhythm. I started moving up in the ranks as well. At times it was frustrating, though. I could tell that I was moving faster than most, but my inadequate route planning showed again and again. It was sort of like two steps forward, one step back. By the time we reached the time station three in Italy, I was in second place, about 15 minutes ahead of Neil Phillips, who finished second in the race. At that point, I had ridden about 1900 kilometres, about 200 more than Neil. 

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Going towards Balcan, the race started to change character. Sleep deprivation, the heat, and too much energy spent started to take its toll on me. I was still in the top of the standings, but in Croatia, I made a huge mistake. I had missed a crossing over a mountain, and rode a detour around it. It took me most of a day, and cost me a lot of time compared to other riders. Yet, it was also this detour, that challenged me the most, and pushed me to my physical and emotional limit. The traffic was a nightmare, with cars passing me at high speeds and often very close. I stopped for a night and reconsidered my participation in the race. The day after I hit the road again, but it was definitely one of those experiences that leaves one with extreme gratitude and humbleness.

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Moving along from Montenegro to Kosovo was quite exciting. At the border I was held back by a border patrol. The people around here “are not friendly”, they said.  Kosovo was quite a ride. Going through areas still marked by the civil wars in the nineties with cities such as Pristina was very emotional as well. Macedonia came next, and while I had only met harmless streetdogs so far on the route, Macedonia would be the place, where one of my fears would come true. Trying to make a short cut, I took a what turned out to be a gravel road through a plantation. Two thirds into the 5 kilometer stretch, I heard some dogs barking ferociously. Trying to escape, I made a wrong turn. After 50 meters, I found out. Now, I had to turn back towards the dogs. With my headlamp mounted, my lock in my one hand and the other hand on the handlebar I headed towards the dogs. It´s been a long time, since I´ve shouted like that (as if they understood me). Fortunately the dogs seemed to be as scared for me, as I was for them, they backed off. Yup, that sure was an interesting experience.

 

Going towards Greece, the wild dog encounters became more of a habit, and also almost a sport in itself. It´s quite incredible, how fast you accelerate even after 3.000 kilometers of riding. But it sort of broke the monotony.

The last 300 kilometers weren´t much fun, I have to say. The heat and the long stretches were demanding. Luckily the road had a gas station every 10 to 15 kilometers, and I think I pretty much visited them all. The need for something cool and refreshing was overwhelming and a need I couldn´t ignore. At this time, I was also suffering from heavy sleep deprivation. Over that last 48 hours, I slept only one.

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Going the last 100 kilometers towards Canakkale was strange. Due to sleep deprivation, the many experiences and impressions through Europe and a GPS tracker that didn´t function properly, I didn´t know my ranking, and I pretty much didn´t care. I had got what I came for. The ride was exactly as challenging as I had hoped. So when I reached Canakkale and heard I was 5th I had really mixed emotions. As I mentioned, I was sort indifferent, and at the same time happy. I thought I had dropped to a top 20 result. And yet, at the same time, I was a bit annoyed. The number of mistakes I made were numerous, and had cost me so much time. It didn´t take me long, before I decided, that it called for another ride.  And this time I will do my homework better.

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"I have to say, I cannot recommend Formthotics insoles enough. Ever since I started using them, I've never had any issues of any kind with my feet. And that's after racing across both the American and the European continent. I would never dream of going into a race without them. Thanks again for giving me one less challenge during my races." - Peter Sandholt

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