Oct 27.16 – Taking on the Transcontinental Part 1

George Marshall is a long-time friend of ours at Donhou. He’s a professional photographer and takes most of the photos you’ll see on our site, as well as accompanying Tom on his recent expedition to Iceland to test the DSS2. In search of an even greater challenge, this year George signed up for the Transcontinental, a self-supported 4,000-kilometre solo race across Europe. He took his Donhou, and his camera along with him. After giving him a couple of weeks to readjust and recover, we caught up with George to find out more about his adventure.

How are you recovering?

In terms of a physical recovery from the Transcon, I just ate. I had this uncontrollable hunger. Like, absolute bottomless pit. I lost about a kilogram during the race itself, but I’ve put about five back on. You quickly get in a routine – I was on the road for two weeks – and your body gets used to it after about a week. I probably could’ve kept on going, because I was in quite a consistent sustainable routine – six hours sleep, 14 hours on the bike and four hours of eating and faffing. I had a partner, who scratched quite early, and that slowed me down a little bit. After that I pushed it really hard. I was doing two hours sleep a night for two nights. I actually got up to about 40th, and then I had a really bad day. I realised it was because I was pushing too hard. That’s when I decided not to destroy myself going for top ten.

Is it more survival than racing?

Yeah, it’s not a bike race. The whole thing is about keeping your chin up. You’ll be bombarded every day with disasters. There’s the obvious, easy ones like punctures. But then you’ve got navigation – that’s the big one that gets you. Say you’ve descended a big climb and you realise you’ve got to go back up. Or you get chased by some dogs. Or you descend for a few hours and you’re frozen solid with cold. The race is really about keeping happy, lying to yourself and telling yourself you’re happy. You’ve got to know why you’re doing it before you start.

Why were you doing it?

I think I realised halfway through that I wanted to do it because I could do it. It was at the top end of what I could achieve, but it was achievable. I knew it would be a challenge, but I actually like travelling, I like riding on my own. And the other thing is my girlfriend is pregnant, so this was the last year for a while I can do something like this. I just had to seize the opportunity.

Is there anything you’d have done differently on the Transcon?

I wouldn’t have worn pink in the Balkans! I have this super-tight, aero Rapha jersey that’s got a really bright pink band around it. I wore it one day and I felt so self-conscious, it’s fine in London, but it felt weird there. I went into this petrol station and there were four hench, brutal blokes in there. You get a bit ruined on these trips, you look a bit weird. Your eyes are messed up. You stink. And you get a bit impatient with people, so I just asked the person working there, “Where’s the toilet?”. And she pointed to the women’s. Everyone in the place just erupts laughing at me, and I was like “It’s this f***ing jersey isn’t it?”. I went outside and changed it.

You can read the rest of George’s story in part two.


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