2019 was a relatively quiet year from a personal ultra racing perspective. There was the small but perfectly formed All Points North (APN) and an exceedingly enjoyable cycle-tour of Italy and Slovenia together with my eldest son Sam. I was an official dotwatcher for TPR. I returned to Cyclocross racing, delighted to ride to a new personal best in my 5th Three Peaks CX race. (I even managed to chat with Josh Ibbett on the way up PYG – before beating him to the finish!)
My 2020 plans were being formed around a repeat APN, (now confirmed – woohoo!) followed by either the Transatlantic Way or the Pan Celtic Race and the Two Volcano Sprint to finish the year. Then came the surprise from Sam that changed the plan dramatically.
We had discussed entering TCR many times, especially during our summer tour yet I had dismissed the idea for 2020. I felt it would be adding undue pressure to his already stressful University final year. But as Sam’s calendar of events became more defined, he found his finals would be well behind him by the time TCR starts. He regards the race as a reward, something for him to look forward to at the end of his long 5 year Dentistry degree and he gave me his unexpected decision.
So we have now submitted our entry for Transcontinental Race No 8 together. If we are fortunate enough to be selected, I think this would be a first ever Father and Son pairing.
This would be quite a different experience from my solo entry where the only person I had to fall out with was myself and my various body parts!
A fast pair will have to be very well matched in order to remain competitive. Perhaps a Father And Son team can meet that challenge or maybe it is the worst combination ever! Are we like minded? Can we survive on the same sleeping and eating regimes? Does a blend of experience and youth lends us advantage?
We do have a couple of killer strengths: I have the ability to bank roll the trip and Sam can fix my teeth again afterwards!
Our summer 2019 tour was a useful tester, overall we rode very well together and we didn’t fall out or I wouldn’t be writing this chapter!
Pairs have not fared well historically in overall results compared to solo racers. The highest finish by a pair was in the Silk Road Mountain Race 2019 with a 10th overall.
My own solo TCRNo6 finish time was well ahead of the first pair.
A 400 km event in Belgium was won by a pair, though that hardly counts as ultra distance. Short events will allow a faster average speed which means greater drafting benefit.
Over longer distances, stops and more critically sleeps means double faffing time, double frequencies of stops and the potential for each rider to have their bad days at entirely different points in the race.
Whilst some kit like tools can be shared between a pair to save weight, mechanical issues are twice as likely and again will probably cancel out any gains.
As I write now in the run up to Christmas, it feels a little like the last time around. The entry has been submitted for TCRNo8, Sam has been selecting his bike and kit, we have finally learnt the details of the race route and we have the Race Manual to dissect and a route to prepare. Starting in Brest, the far end of the race includes Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria all of which represent new adventure.
All the while of course, we are both hoping that we can gain an entry when the places are announced in January.
Should we be awarded a place, I have insisted on doing the detailed route planning (Sam has exams to concentrate on). But after finals, his keen eye will be a welcome check over the route to eliminate any faults (or tunnels)
I’ve also insisted on buying Sam a new bike. His plan was always to treat himself on graduation. An endurance bike wasn’t really going to be his choice but no-one turns down an N+1 right? Especially with hydraulic brakes and electronic shifting. We can’t have Sam at risk of finger palsy when he is embarking on a career in Dentistry!
Our strategy will probably be to ensure regular sleep each night in a hotel. I consider this to offer the best chances of a faster race. Keeping our bikes lightweight by eliminating sleeping kit is obviously advantageous to speed.
More crucially I feel that a regular pattern of sleep will offer the best chance for both our riding performances to stay in alignment. If we are at the edge of sleep deprivation, it’s highly likely that one of us would crack big time before the other!
And so in the run up to Christmas, we have plenty to dream about and look forward to.
And in non-cycling news, there is going to be a PUPPY! Quite how this will help training I am not so sure……