Cancer researcher Fiona Kolbinger has become the first woman to win the epic 4,000km Transcontinental Race, in her first ever ultra-distance challenge.
The 24-year-old was the fastest rider to cover the mammoth distance, starting in Bulgaria and finishing in Brittany in northwest France and riding for 10 days, two hours and 48 minutes.
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Kolbinger, from Germany, completed the unsupported journey at 7.48am on Tuesday (August 6), beating 263 other riders across Europe and over daunting terrain, including the Col du Galibier in the French Alps, which featured in the Tour de France 2019.
“I am so surprised to win,” Kolbinger said at the finish.
“When I was coming into the race I thought that maybe I could go for the women’s podium, but I never thought I could win the whole race.”
Remarkably, Kolbinger said she hadn’t reached the limit of her endurance: “I think I could have gone harder. I could have slept less.”
The 2019 Transcontinental, the seventh edition of the race, started from Burgas on the eastern coast of Bulgaria at 6am on July 28, as the riders set off in search of the first of four checkpoints spread across Europe.
After thousands of kilometres and testing terrain, over gravel tracks and high altitude climbs, Kolbinger was first to arrive in Brest, France having led the race from day five.
With a clockwork routine of 19 hours riding and five hours resting, she continued to extend her lead from that point on.
Depending on their chosen route, riders travelled through at least seven countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Croatia, Italy, Kosovo, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland and France.
Kolbinger, one of 40 women in the event, was competing in her first ever bike race and eased her way to victory, saying she only struggled on the final night: “Last night was too long, too dark and too grim.”