The Transcontinental Race started in the town of Geraardsbergen in East-Flanders this weekend, with nearly 300 cyclists setting off on a 4,000 km journey across Europe from the cobbles of Flanders to the shores of the Black Sea.
This is the fourth time that Geraardsbergen was the starting point of the prestigious ultra-endurance race, with a total of 280 cyclists from 33 different countries taking part this year.
"We are very proud, because this is one of the most important ultraraces in the world," city councillor for Sport Stephan De Prez told VRT. "Along the 'Wall of Geraardsbergen,' the participants first ride to Czechia. Then they will go to Italy where they will ride over the Passo di Gavia – very well-known from the Tour of Italy (Giro d'Italia)."
Competitors will then ride through Montenegro and Romania to Bulgaria, where they will arrive in the city of Burgas, on the Black Sea.
Three-time winner of the race Kristof Allegaert explained that the event is unsupported, which means that the riders are left completely to their own devices. "Very simply: it is a race from point A to point B, and between those points, you just have to see how you manage."
"You choose when you sleep or eat and you also have to provide everything yourself," he said, adding that participants also have to choose how they organise their day.
"The bike and your physical preparation are obviously very important, but apart from that, it is mainly your mental strength that determines how you do," Allegaert said. "You cycle all alone, you do not see anyone. If you have a dip, you are on your own."
The first participants are expected to arrive in Burgas at the beginning of August.
More information about the Transcontinental Race can be found on its website.