Guest post by Sam Gate
My answer when asked if I wanted to race the Transcontinental Race, as a pair with my Dad, was no. But we have now gained entry in the 8th edition of the TCR!
We believe we are the first father and son pairing in the race history.
I can’t remember exactly when Dad first hinted at a father and son tilt at the Transcontinental Race; but I could tell after he returned from the TCRNo6 in summer 2018 that he wasn’t finished.
I’d received a pair of TT handlebars for Christmas in 2018 and didn’t really think much of it. I knew he had a desire to race it as a pair one day, but wasn’t convinced this was anything more than a pipe dream. I’m still at university and despite doing solo tours and long days in the saddle before, TCR is definitely a step up!
My main enjoyment of cycling doesn’t come from racing, but from exploring and finding new places. In recent years I’ve done a couple of solo tours in my summer holidays, and found there’s nothing better than seeing the world from the speed I can go on two wheels.
Our father & son tour in summer 2019 was well overdue following our coast2coast when I was a young’un back in 2012.
Slovenia was Dad’s favorite country on the TCRNo6, specifically the CP2 parcours of the Mangart saddle and Vrsic Pass, so we planned a trip to revisit it. Slovenia’s pretty small though, so I insisted we chuck in the Alps and Dolomites of northern Italy as a warm-up.
In the back of my mind I knew this wasn’t just a tour, but also a test event. Some days were considerably longer than my previous tours, we didn’t book campsites to keep things flexible and I wasn’t allowed to buy a pizza in the evenings to stash for breakfast the next day!
We also followed that years CP3 parcours in reverse, to cheer on the TCRNo7 racers. We didn’t fall out, I had to ride in the rain, and Dad had to chase me up the Col del Nivolet and Monte Zoncolan. Success? YES!
In the final days of our tour, the unspoken words finally came out: “So what do you reckon to the TCR then?”
I knew the question was coming but I hadn’t quite prepared my answer. Yes I wanted to do it, but no I didn’t think I could commit. I just didn’t think it was practical to have such a big distraction in my final year of university with targets and final exams looming.
We finished our tour successfully, a fantastic two weeks together. When we got home, Dad started looking at solo events he could enter instead.
So how did we get here?! (Having gained a place in the TCRNo8 (Sorry Mum!))
I didn’t take the decision lightly, and took a number of weeks to weigh up my options. My decision eventually came down to three things:
- Uni comes first.
I’ll ride when I can but I can’t prioritise the bike this year. The race itself wont clash with exams, I’ll have a couple of months free between. As long as I maintain base fitness I can get race ready then.
- Dad can do most of the route planning.
He’s got experience, this takes a huge pressure off knowing he’s done this before, and can also advise on kit decisions. I can focus on uni and know that preparations are still being done, one of the advantages of entering as a pair.
- I like having a goal.
I appreciate it is a big undertaking, but I hope that it will give me a clear focus and a goal to make sure I’m disciplined with both my studies and extracurricular activities in order to best prepare for exams and the TCR.
Having then informed Dad of my decision (to his surprise!) I was immediately emailed 11 questions. A “TCR mindset check” to ensure I knew what I was signing up for – I passed!
Then came a second email: my trusty Kinesis T2 wasn’t “good enough” 😦 with its mechanical shifting and rim brakes. Nerve palsy in the hands is a well known injury among ultra-distance cyclists, and given my future career in dentistry, something I’d rather avoid. That means fancy hydraulic disc brakes and posh electronic shifting on the shopping list (oh and remember those TT bars I received for Christmas….. now where did I put those…..)
Fast forward a few months, TCR application was submitted and I settled on the bike build. Taking advantage of the cycle2work scheme (thanks Woodrups) I decided to forgo a full carbon canyon or Ribble and build my long range weapon based on a Kinesis RTD frame. An alloy frame designed for this very race, and of the same brand as my trusty T2, plus a cool paint-job (we all know the importance of that). Mudguard mounts so I can train in all weather and get used to the position. 3rd bottle cage mounts on the downtube for extra storage and the endurance geometry swayed my decision. Saving money on the frame allowed me to build some wide carbon wheels for comfort and aero, and then hydraulic Ultegra Di2 to finish it off.
And here we are. We don’t find out our cap numbers for a few months, but Richard and Sam Gate have officially gained a place in the TCRNo8.
We’re pleased with the West to East overall route and checkpoints (maybe not the bears in Romania). Route, race strategy and subsequent equipment choices are in discussion.
Watch this space.
Oh and in other news, everybody meet the latest addition to the Gate family: Ruby!
(She’s going to help us train for Bosnia)