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The feeling of dejection was total as we sat on the platform waiting for the 09:50 train to Milan. We’d been on the road for a week, but any thought of reaching Istanbul was over as I texted race director Mike Hall to say we’d scratched. We’d actually made the decision 12 hours earlier, but after giving it one last go we knew our hearts just weren’t in it.
As we sat in the sunshine we reflected on the enormity of the previous days. It was difficult to comprehend how far we’d come, having embarked on the mad dash from the flatlands of Belgium to the very western edge of Asia. However, for us this year’s Transcontinental Race was not to be.
The race started at midnight on the legendary Muur van Geraardsbergen with cowbells, flaming torches and rowdy towns folk, as Fraser, myself and 173 other riders headed into the night, unsure of what exactly lay ahead. Our heads full of apprehension in our ability to reach the ‘Bull before the official finishing party in 14 days time.
The first nights’ riding was relatively uneventful and after an hour’s snooze in a churchyard around 5am, we were woken by rain and in no time it was bucketing down. Back on the road, we were nearing the French border when I managed to slip, crashing to the ground closely followed by Fraser riding over the top of me. As it was wet, we had on all our gear that saved the worst of injury, but I was pretty beat up with deep gravel rash to my knee and backside, a grizzly puncture wound to my forearm and a badly staved thumb. Fraser was not fairing too well either with a pulled achilles, aggravating an old injury. We patched ourselves up and continued sore but in one piece and were relieved to reach our target for the day with the first 300km and 20 hours of riding in the bag.
A few more long days brought us towards the first checkpoint on the summit of Mont Ventoux. Our planned schedule had us climbing early morning, but as we were now a half-day behind schedule we expected an uncomfortable ascent in afternoon heat compounded by 150km in the legs. Slowly we ground our way up the notoriously climb and enjoyed the sense of relief in reaching the summit, rewarded by spectacular views and kind words of support from the checkpoint team. Inevitably, what goes up must come down and we had further rewards careering through pinewood forests in the early evening sun to Sault, Frasers superior descending skills leaving me for dead on the corners.
By now the cracks were starting to show with hands and backside raw from 14-hour days on the bike, further compounded by injuries from the crash. All the time the race clock was ticking and we knew we were falling behind schedule and it would be difficult if not impossible to make up time.
We reached checkpoint 2 the next night after riding through spectacular landscapes with mountains growing more and more impressive as we pushed further into the Alps. The climbing was hard but it was good to be away from the dull monotony of rolling farmland and to have the scenery and change of pace take the mind off physical discomfort. Arriving at Sestriere around 10pm another TCR checkpoint team were in the hotel lobby to greet us and stamp our carnets. Mike Hall happened to be there too and I had a quick chat about how things were going and he cautioned about the Strada dell-Assieta that lay ahead the next day, telling tales of punctures and general carnage. I thought too I could detect concern he might have made this year’s race just a little too hard… The hotel had kindly put on rooms at discounted rates, so after scoffing some pizza nearby, we made use of the luxury to get clean, replace dressings and get a good sleep for the day ahead. A pleasant change from roughing it in a bivi bag.
We were up early and after stuffing faces (and pockets) from the breakfast buffet, we wheeled our bikes into the cool mountain air and towards the Strada. In no time we were off paved road and onto gravel winding through sweet scented pine trees onto the old military road than runs along the high alpine ridge from Sestriere to Susa. The views were spectacular and we took delight in skipping along unpaved roads similar to our favourites in Scotland. However, the fun was short lived and as we descended the 2,000m towards the valley below, our spirits sank as the heat became oppressive and we knew we were in for a long and tedious slog across northern Italy. The headwind had picked up too and as the adrenalin of the morning faded, we returned to flat monotony and aches and pains as we rolled through agricultural flatlands and industrial towns and cities.
By now we knew there was no chance of reaching the finishing party in time and we’d also be cutting it fine to catch our flight home. It called for drastic action so decided we’d miss the Vokovar checkpoint 3 in Croatia and take a ferry to Montenegro. Two ferry crossings across the Adriatic were allowed in the race rulebook and although there’d be penalty for missing a checkpoint, we knew we’d effectively have abandoned the race. Out hearts were heavy as we deviated from our route, headed for Ancona and battling into wind and the dull monotony that comes from 15km stretches of flat, straight roads through fields of maize and mosquito infested drainage ditches. Monotony was compounded further after running out of GPS maps (I’d only installed enough map tiles to cover our planned route) so now there was no virtual targets on the GPS screen to play mind games with – which is about all you can do when focusing on pedal stroke for hours on end, and regularly changing hand and seat position to ease discomfort.
And so came the night of our decision to quit, sitting on the terrace of a gelateria café, drenched from another of the thunderstorms that had followed the continental heat wave. We had covered just under 1,800kms, but there didn’t feel much point in carrying on if we couldn’t technically finish the race. Fraser had family he was missing deeply and I had commitments to think about too, so it was rather emotional to make the final decision – especially after months of training and the patience of loved ones, colleagues and supporters who neither of us wanted to let down. In the end, however, it came down to just the two of us as we shook hands and finished the box of jellybeans we’d been munching.
Josh Ibbett eventually won the 3rd Transcontinental race after riding 4,239km in an astonishing 10 days (9 days, 23 hours, 54 minutes to be exact). 175 Racers departed from the Muur van Geraardsbergen and with only half the field finishing, it proved to be a much tougher race than anyone expected.
It took a while to get over the disappointment in scratching, but as I’m writing this I received an email yesterday to say my application for 2016 has been accepted. The route for 2016 looks totally fantastic and with more mountains will take a very different race strategy with just as much commitment as before. An exciting prospect for sure.
We’d like to start the new year with a healthy order book, so if you place an order by 20 December 2015, you will be entered into a prize draw with the chance to win accessories and/or upgrades up to a value of £350 RRP.
This could be a combination of components, lighting, racks, dropper post – anything really that we have access to from our current suppliers.
Two prizes are being offered to two lucky customers, so if you’ve been thinking about placing an order, pick up the phone or send us a message!
The small print . . . The two winners will be announced on 21 December and names will be drawn from a list of customer orders placed between 23 November 2015 and midnight of 20 December 2015.
Last week I had the pleasure to attend the opening of Cycling Revolution, the new exhibition at London’s Design Museum celebrating British cycling over the last decade.
I was representing Shand as part of the frame-builders workshop showing the best of British alongside Tom Donhou, Toby Toad, Caren Hartley, Robin Mather and Mercian. Andrew Denham from the Bicycle Academy helped organise the frame-builders area and had done a fantastic job adding props alongside the bikes and videos of each builder on show.
Other highlights included Sir Bradley Wiggins’s hour and world championship bikes plus Eddy Merckx 1972 track bike – although my personal favourite was the first ever production Stumpjumper from 1981!
The exhibition runs until 30 June 2016 and the Stoater we have on show is there for the duration. There’s plenty to see and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area!
UPDATE: Now officially named the Shand Tumshie!
Today we are pleased to announce a new addition to our range of bikes built here at our workshop in Scotland. So many people have asked for a fat bike, we decided to make one – and here it is!
Due to the nature of the bike, we’ll be doing limited production runs throughout the year and can offer a full bike with the new fat bike Rohloff 500/14 XL Speedhub. If you’re interested, get in touch to place and order and we’ll let you know what the current lead time is.
We’ll be posting more info, pics and name (Tumshie) soon, but in the meantime here’s the basic info.
– 4.8 maximum tyre clearance
– Suspension corrected geometry (compatible with 485mm a-c RockShox Bluto suspension fork)
– Paragon Polydrop dropouts (interchangeable dropouts for Rohloff, Singlespeed and 1x derailleur options)
– Shand suspension corrected 12mm thru-axle rigid tapered carbon fork (graphics painted to match frame colour)
– Gates Carbon Belt Drive compatible (splitter concealed within Polydrop dropout)
– Dropper post compatible
– Bolt on cable routing for different drivetrain options
– 100mm PF30 bottom bracket shell
– 31.6mm internal seat tube diameter
– 170mm rear axle spacing
– 44mm head tube for tapered forks
– Columbus Niobium heat-treated steel tubeset
– Available in Medium/Large and Large/Extra Large sizes
– Approx. weight of 2.1kg
Frame only – £995
– Shand fat bike frame (Rohloff, singlespeed or derailleur dropout insert)
Frameset only (rigid) – £1,100
– Shand fat bike frame (Rohloff, singlespeed or derailleur dropout insert)
– Shand 12mm thru-axle tapered carbon fork
Full bike – £3,250
– Shand fat bike frame
– Shand 12mm thru-axle tapered rigid fork
– Fatbike wheelset (Rohloff 500/14 XL Fat Bike Speedhub (belt or chain), Hope Fatsno front hub, Sunringle Mulefüte 80SL rims (80mm), Surley Knard 26×4.8 tyres)
– Middleburn fatbike chainset (belt or chain)
– Gates Carbon Drive Belt
– Shand stem, seatpost and saddle
– Shimano XT M785 hydraulic disc brakes
– Thomson HB-E114 bars
– Chris King headset
Alternative options on full bike
– RockShox Bluto suspension fork – add £350
– Jones Loop H-Bars (as shown) – add £65