Planned chaos

For the last three years I would spend my summer riding the TransAtlanticWay in Ireland. It’s probably the best race for anybody looking to enter the wonderful and sometimes strange world of self-supported long distance cycling, it was for me anyway. The spirit is relaxed but engaging, the scenery incredible and the roads are comparably quiet with patient drivers. Couple that with the challenging route and it’s really an unforgettable experience. I’m glad it was my introduction and I surely learned a lot. But routine is an enemy of time. This year I’m going to do something else.

The Transcontinental is the race that started the whole fascination with this kind of riding for me, fueling my imagination like nothing had before. I’ve started it before, two years ago, but didn’t get far. This year I’m going back to finish it.

For the first few days after receiving the news that I’m actually offered a place I was in some state of shock. I’m still overwhelmed, but something like a plan for the next few months is starting to take shape now.

This plan, obviously, involves a lot of bike riding. That I can do. Unfortunately it also involves logistics, finances and less exciting things. It’s about time for a new bike, which is a topic for itself. Money is one thing but there is also time. I’ve put up a huge wall calendar and filling it with goals, it’s hard not to get nervous about how little time is actually left. TCR starts July 26th in Bulgaria. And working freelance, too much time away from the desk comes back to haunt you.

So I have to sacrifice a few of my plans and make new ones, local and practical. That means I won’t be able to ride Transcimbrica, which I was looking forward to a lot. Other long trips to other countries will also have to wait. Not a big deal, the TCR will take me through 9 different countries, many of which I have never visited before.

The brevet season is starting late March and it’s now possible to ride the series from 200 to 600 kilometers at the venue closest to me, so these are on the list, as well as the Frank Simons Memorial Brevet in the Netherlands in September for more personal reasons.

There’s still time for a special ride in April thought up by my friend and Taunus Bikepacking finisher Boris that I am looking forward to. We will ride 555 km visiting 5 countries – Luxembourg, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany – and collect plastic trash along the way, hoping to raise awareness for the fact that everybody can make a difference.

This trip is followed by a back-to-back 300km weekend: Brevet on Saturday and Sunday 300km of Frankfurt City Gravel, or Greffel as they say here. At this point I should be feeling it.

I might spend the week of Easter on a farm in East Germany and if that actually happens, a little devil on my shoulder keeps telling me that it’s not that far to Hamburg and the start of Hanse Gravel, where I could meet a lot of friends, make new ones and discover the region my mother is originally from, all on a long weekend. It’s far from decided but I really hope that happens.

In any case May starts with the 400km Brevet and ends with Mainfranken Graveller, another classic I have yet to finish.

And unless something happens, I will be watching the TransAtlantic Way from afar this time in June, which will be a strange feeling. It’s become like a tradition and I have a lot of friends over there. There’s a faint hope that I can manage to be there at least to see it unfold from the side of the road.

Brevet season ends for me middle of June with the 600 that I haven’t even attempted yet, ever. Yes I’m planning to be in Brest in August, but I’ll be resting my legs and not riding PBP… 900 km of France to get to the finish line from the last TCR checkpoint will be enough, thank you.

And then there’s Taunus Bikepacking No. 2 end of June, which is hard to believe. There’s already 41 riders signed up at a maximum of 60.

In July, Bikepacking TransGermany and Franconia are two rides I’ll sadly have to miss, both being high on my list for next year. It doesn’t always have to be far away, Germany has a lot of regions left for me to discover still.

Provided I can even still face to ride a bike by the time August comes, I’ll be riding Eifel Graveller, another promising new event not far from home whose organizer Holger is a personal friend – and Taunus Bikepacking finisher.

Plans need to be flexible of course. But it’s good to have them. In between I’m building a habit of going on the bike first thing in the morning at least 5 days a week. Since I work from home and don’t commute anymore, it’s good to rediscover how good it is to start the day with a bike ride, no matter how short or long. And since I’m changing the Taunus Bikepacking route for this year’s ride, there’s a lot of riding to be done just to scout and find the best bits.

I’m not setting any number or distance goals for the year apart from the usual 700 hours as a vague benchmark but I’m sure there’ll be lots of miles and time in the saddle anyway.

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