Day 11 / Paired Perseverance

August 4, 2023

Sherry Cardona (334a) and Gereon Tewes (334b) have stormed to an emphatic victory in the Pairs race in TCRNo9, having led the Race since day one to finish last night in a time of 10 days, 21 hours and 42 minutes.

The former B-Hard and Trans Ibérica winners have now added the Transcontinental to their list of victories, proving beyond any doubt they are one of the strongest duos in ultra-distance cycling right now, with their nearest rivals – Kris Wright (330a) and Mark Anderson (330b) – still to reach the fourth Control Point.

Holding back tears with a mixture of joy, relief, and nerves after a testing Final Parcours, the pair arrived as the sun set on the Aegean Sea, turning the sky dusty pink. Sharing a beer after an adventure which challenged them in different ways than their previous races, the pair recounted their experience:

“This race was a bucket list experience. I thought it would be more physically challenging, but it was more mentally challenging … This was kind of the first race where, racing as a pair, we wanted to do really well [rather than simply finish it], and that introduces more conflicts into a pair situation. Deciding whether to sleep in a hotel, power nap or get proper sleep – it is all a joint decision.” Sherry Cardona (334a) and Gereon Tewes (334b)

For the pair from Columbia and Germany, they were clear that, regardless of where they would have finished, racing as a pair remains a “life experience” for them and, while they do race solo from time to time, nothing compares with sharing the racing experience with someone else.

“Communication and experience really helped us in the Race. We agree it’s a race and an experience together and, if things don't go as planned, it's still a good trip together. And we are a couple, so it helps with the conflicts along the way.” Sherry Cardona (334a) and Gereon Tewes (334b)

Dawn Patrol

As the dawn light streamed through the wakening streets of Thessaloniki, and the fishermen reeled in their early catches, Jaimi Wilson (004) rolled into the Finish as the first solo woman to complete the Race.

Jaimi showed a dominant performance in the early part of the Race but struggled in the heat as she entered the warmer climates of the Balkans and Greece. For a time, she and Maria Holdcroft (041) tussled it out for the top spot, before Maria’s unfortunate crash yesterday. Despite the challenges in the final 24 hours, Jaimi ripped across the Finish Parcours to arrive in Thessaloniki in 11 Days, 7 Hours, and 39 Minutes.

The former winner of GBDuro pulled an all-night shift to reach the Finish, and was relieved to reach it and finally be out the sun:

“I loved being in the Alps! It was a lot cooler … [Compared with my other races] I think I was most excited to finish this one. Towards the end, I was just surviving, just to stay out of the heat. I couldn’t put any power through the pedals.” Jaimi Wilson (004)

Just three hours later, Marei Moldenhauer (191) crossed the Apidura-sponsored Finish as the second-fastest woman in the Race. Climbing consistently through the field, Marei went from 43rd to 27th overall between CP3 and CP4, ultimately finishing 27th overall in 11 days, 10 hours, and 16 minutes. Marei is also the first woman on the Green Leaderboard to finish the Race, recognising her commitment to travel to and from the Race without flying.

Ahead of Jaimi, Leighn Chambers (321) finished his second Transcontinental Race. The Scotsman was originally registered to race as a pair with his wife, but she withdrew for health reasons. Stretching out on a bench, Leighn recounted the final 24 hours, wherein his phone died due to a power cut in his accommodation, leaving him with no alarm and an unexpected nine-hour sleep. Unsure of his fitness at the start of the Race, Leighn defied his expectations to finish 23rd overall:

“It feels amazing to finish … I definitely prefer riding as a pair; it’s nice to share the experience with someone. This was a little bit lonely at times, but it was something I always wanted to tick off, anyway, riding a solo TCR … I am very surprised to finish where I have. I guess experience got me through in the end, and I feel I got fitter as it went on. It’s nice to know that, even if you aren’t in the best shape, you can still bounce back.” Leighn Chambers (321)

Meters and Meteors

The third Control Point of the Race – Burrel in Albania – closed at 12.00CEST yesterday; meaning 185 of the 341 riders to start TCRNo9 remain in the General Classification. Arriving at CP3 with 90 minutes to spare was Gerold Lehmann (123) behind the former lanterne rouge, Nicholas Barnard (192).

Gerold seemed unperturbed by his position in the Race, however, taking plenty of time to replenish his energy reserves.  He sat down to a monstrous plate of food at the CP, before taking on the demanding third Parcours. Gerold, and the rest of those still in GC, have until 12.00CEST tomorrow to reach CP4 in Meteora.

Anyone who has reached CP3 has already ridden nearly 3000km, riding close to 300km per day so far. In that time, they have climbed around 35,000m. Regardless of what comes next, each rider on the road – and all those before them – have achieved something incredible.

Riding hard to reach CP4 before closing time are third-placed pair Sarah Ruggins (337a) and John Sowler (337b). After “sleeping in an Albanian ditch last night”, the pair are now “riding until the wheels fall off” in their pursuit of a fourth brevet card stamp at Pub 38 in Meteora tomorrow. Before then, they have the two-pronged puzzle of Parcours 4A and 4B, with at least 170km and 4000m of ascent between them and CP4. After that, there remains Parcours 4C and a further 400km to Thessaloniki.

To them, and around 100 other riders still making their way to the penultimate Control Point, we wish them all the best in reaching the CP before 12.00CEST tomorrow.

Photos: Saskia Martin, Liz Seabrook, and Charlotte Gamus

Words: Ross Brannigan


Scratch Report

029 - Robert Hicks
041 - Maria Holdcroft
040 - Thomas Brandi
076 - Walto Oskari Salonen
112 - Johann Bollen
145 - James Paul Luther
228 - Marko Beštak
237 - Alexander Kühn
274 - Elliot Denappe
285 - Anne Sophie Gerlich
299 - Erik Venneman

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