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Transcontinental Race 2023 guide: Route, how to watch the TCR, how to enter and more

Transcontinental Race 2023 guide: Route, how to watch the TCR, how to enter and more

Emma Cole

31 Jan 2023

All you need to know about Europe’s most famous ultracycling event

The Transcontinental Race (TCR) is a self-supported ultra-distance bike race which traverses Europe, with riders typically covering 4,000km to reach the finish line.

Now in its 9th edition, the TCR is a single-stage race and takes place towards the end of July. The start and finish vary every year as do the Control Points (CPs) and set Parcours. For 2023 the route starts in Belgium and ends in Greece.

The clock never stops and riders are required to plan, research and navigate their own course and choose when, where and if to rest. It can take anywhere from nine days to over two weeks to complete the race.

The TCR was founded in 2013 by the late Mike Hall, regarded as one of the greatest endurance cyclists of all time. Hall was killed in a road accident during the Indian Pacific Wheel Race in Australia in 2017.

2023 TCR: Key information

  • Start date: 23rd July 2023
  • Start: Geraardsbergen, Belgium
  • Control Points: Passo dello Spluga, Italy, Zgornje Jezersko, Slovenia, Peshkopi, Albania and Meteora, Greece
  • Finish: Thessaloniki, Greece
  • 2022 winner: Christoph Strasser

The TCR route

The TCR does not have a set route or length, instead it has Control Points, Parcours and a set start and finish.

Riders are expected to research and plan their routes themselves and must include each of the CPs and set Parcours. Most riders will cover 4,000-4,500km depending on the route they take.

Credit: Angus Sung

For 2023, the route starts in Geraardsbergen in Belgium and includes the area’s fabled Muur-Kapelmuur climb, with its 9% average gradient and pitching to 20% on the steepest bends.

CPs in the 2023 edition include Passo dello Spluga in Italy, Zgornje Jezersko in the Slovenian Alps, Peshkopi in Albania and Meteora in Greece. The latter location is steeped in TCR history, having played host to the finishes of TCRNo5 and TCRNo6.

Riders will finish the TCRNo9 at the Aegean Sea in Thessaloniki, Greece.

According to previous race director Anna Haslock, the locations in every race are inspired by a map created by Hall.

What is a Control Point and Parcours?

Credit: James Robertson

A CP is a mandatory location which riders must include on their route and where their Brevet Card will be stamped.

A Parcours is a fixed length of compulsory route which riders must follow. It can be both on road and off road – the 2022 TCR contained a gnarly gravel Parcours.

For the 2022 edition the Control Points were in the Ore Mountains (Czech Republic), Italian Alps (Italy), Durmitor National Park (Montenegro) and Parâng Mountains (Romania).

How can I watch the TCR?

If you are expecting Tour de France-esque coverage, think again.

Ultracycling comes with its very own spectator sport package called dotwatching.

Credit: James Robertson

Each rider is represented by a dot on a map, which includes their status (active, DNS, DNF etc) and shows their position in the race. Spectators track this dot online.

As the TCR spans thousands of kilometres and goes through remote locations, dotwatching allows people to follow the race from anywhere in the world and from the comfort of their sofa.

In 2022 a Netflix documentary about the 2019 race was released, showcasing the race in all its glory (and grimacing).

How can I enter the TCR? 

Credit: James Robertson

Applications for the race open around November each year and for the 2023 race (TCRNo9) applications opened on 13 December 2022.

Riders can enter as a solo or in a pair and will be entered into a ballot.

There are no qualification requirements however applicants should have relevant, multi-day long distance expedition experience either alone or as part of a small group.

The race also offers the Mike Hall Adventure Bursary award. This was first introduced for TCRNo8 and aims to support riders from lower income households to increase diversity and inclusion in the race.

For the TCRNo9 it costs £465 to enter. Applications are now closed.

Past TCR winners

Credit: Sam Dugon

Austrian ultracyclist Christoph Strasser won the 2022 TCR in nine days, 14 hours.

Fiona Kolbinger won in 2019, becoming the first female and rookie to do so and took ten days, two hours and 48 minutes.

Brit James Hayden topped the podium in 2018, taking eight days, 22 hours and 59 minutes. He also won it the year before, in nine days, two hours and 14 minutes.

What does self-supported mean?

Credit: James Robertson

Simply put, riders must complete the TCR without any outside assistance. This means not accepting help from other people.

For example, riders cannot share equipment, ask for directions, or have any sort of support vehicle.

Riders must agree to follow the TCR’s ten rules which dictate what they can and cannot do. Those who are in a pair are regarded as one entity. 

However the boundaries of what it means to be self-supported can be blurry.

In 2022, there was a small dispute over whether the purchasing of a can of coke went against the rules and led to a delay in the Christoph Strasser being announced as the winner.

Front runners Strasser and Ulrich Bartholmoes both ended up being at the same supermarket and decided to drink a can of coke together to celebrate.

Bartholmoes’ bank card wasn’t working so Strasser gave him €1 for the coke. However, because of the TCR rules on being self-supported, there was a debate over whether this was outside assistance.

In the end, and after evidence was supplied by both parties, it was decided that the act of buying the coke was sportsmanship and had no impact on the race.

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