The route for the 2023 Transcontinental Race has been unveiled, with the annual event returning for its ninth edition.
The 4,000km ultra distance race, due to take place next July, sees participants ride self-supported across Europe, navigating a sequence of control points and tough mountain passes.
The 2023 edition will start for the sixth time on the Flandrien cobbles of Geraardsbergen, Belgium, a city famous for its inclusion in the Tour of Flanders. From there, riders will wind down through the Alps before scaling the 2,114m-tall Passo dello Spluga on the Swiss-Italian border.
The race will then turn east, with a passage through the verdant countryside of Slovenia, before pointing down through Albania and on to the Aegean coast. The final checkpoint in Thessaloniki will mark the event’s third conclusion in Greece, having also previously finished in Turkey, France and Bulgaria.
In total, participants will visit 11 countries, with the five control points scheduled at Passo dello Spluga (Italy), Zgornje Jezersko (Slovenia), Peshkopi (Albania), Meteora (Greece) and Thessaloniki (Greece).
According to the race's website, those participating will have to strike harmony between "the heights of elation and the depths of despair".
“Those who come looking for adventure will find it,” the blurb on the website continues. “This Race offers the chance to pit mind, body and spirit against thousands of miles of Europe’s most beautiful, remote, inspiring and challenging roads and tracks.
"Riders will discover the strength of their resolve and test the limits of their self-belief."
Last year’s edition of the Transcontinental was won by Austrian debutant Christoph Strasser, who averaged over 477km a day to complete the route in exactly nine days and 14 hours.
The 40-year-old's result, however, was thrown into contention when it was revealed he lent a fellow rider €1 for a can of coke 3,500km into the route. After consideration, the race officials judged that Strasser had not infringed on the rules of the event, which stipulate participants are to have "no outside support by third parties or other racers".
The race was first held in 2013, founded by the late ultra-distance cyclist Mike Hall. There have since been eight editions of the event, which was absent from the calendar between 2019 and 2022 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Registration for next year’s Transcontinental Race opens in December, with the start date set for 23 July 2023.
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