Oct 28.16 – Transcontinental part 2

This is the second part of our interview with photographer and ultra-racer, George Marshall. Part one is here.

What was your mindset going in?

I did the National 24-hour Time Trial the week before Transcon. I came 5th, racking up 498 miles. I saw my physio three days in a row the week after, and she basically told me I was ruined; that I needed basically a month off. When I got to the start line I was the most f***ed one there. I hadn’t slept, I couldn’t walk. I was like, “How the hell am I going to ride to Turkey?!” What I discovered is you’re much better having your mental reserves topped up, rather than being in peak physical condition.

Tell us about the bike your rode.

It wasn’t built for this race, it’s not a tourer. When it was made I just went to Tom and asked for the fastest possible bike. I didn’t want any fancy details or trinkets that would make it slower. He was really happy with that as a brief. I’ve raced crits and time trials on this bike. It’s got great wheels, it has Di2. And most importantly it fits me like a glove. For the Transcon, the only change I’d make is that I’d want discs for some of the descents I did. 

Any advice?

What I realised is you’re better off going slow for seven hours, than smashing it for four. The best guys go fast and they don’t stop. I went quick for a few days and I was flying up the table – but then I realised doing it that way was a lot less enjoyable. I like taking pictures, taking in the scenery and I enjoy just sitting down in a caf and watching it all go by. I went to Bolzano this beautiful town in the Italian Dolomites, and my race brain was saying “Keep going!” And I suddenly just went “Screw it”. I ended up spending a few hours sitting there taking it all in.

So was it a positive experience?

Whenever I talk about it I just go on about the crap side; the dogs, the sunburn, getting punctures on a motorway in Greece. I was on the hard shoulder, run out of water. I had to walk for 500 metres to the nearest tree. Of course, the patches didn’t work – the 44° heat means the glue won’t set. And I had a little meltdown. 

Are dogs really a big problem?

Yeah I wasn’t too worried about the dogs, because I’ve always loved dogs. Now, I f***ing hate dogs. It’s just like that film The Birds, once you’ve seen it you think ‘They’re evil f***ers!’ As soon as you get to the Balkans it changes. You go over into Kosovo and from that point on there’s just dogs constantly everywhere chasing you. In Greece you have to ride at night because of the heat and that’s the worst – because all the dogs come out at night and lie on the roads. You’d be riding through a village and you’d see shadows start to move, then one dog would bark and they’d all be after you, nipping at your heels. 

Would you do it again?

The only thing that possibly would make me want to do the whole thing again is that I have a lot of things to correct. Overall it’s an experience of epic highs and lows. Lows like that moment on the motorway in Greece. Highs like sitting in Bolzano. The skill in it is just keeping yourself riding.

Thanks, George!

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