The weekend just passed was punctuated with thrilling adrenaline soaked performances at the velodrome in Rio where Olympic athletes demonstrated just how fast a bike can go. However, over in Turkey stood a very different finish line – that of the PEdAL ED Transcontinental Race, located around 3,800km from the start line with approximately 50,000 metres of climbing in between.
This year, the first woman across the line was Emily Chappell – bike adventurer, ex-courier, and author of ‘What Goes Around’ as well as Adventure Syndicate women’s group athlete. Chappell finished in 13 days, 10 hours and 28 minutes – just under two days ahead of second place woman Johanna Josten-Van Duinkerken who made it in 15 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes.
“I felt I was thriving, even during the more challenging sections”
- Chappell rode on a custom-built steel frame from Shand Cycles
- Unlike many, she opted for no aero-bars – Chappell says: “I barely use them, and have found it’s much more efficient for me to have a lot of space for food up front – this means I can hydrate and refuel whilst riding”
- She took less than on her 2015 attempt: “Immediately after I finished last year I went through everything I was carrying, photographed it all, and then weeded out all the things I hadn’t used.”
- Chappell was kitted out in Rapha kit, taking 2 pairs of shorts: “No matter how far I let the rest of my personal hygiene slip, I always put on clean shorts once a day. And was rewarded with an almost-saddle-sore-free ride!”
This year the race began in Belgium. It was the second time Chappell had made her way to the start of this event, but the first time she’d finish it – having been forced to pull out due to chest pains which put her in hospital in 2015. Looking back now, Chappell can appreciate that her attempt would have been over with or without those pains – saying: “I knew in my heart of hearts it was really because I’d mismanaged the race. I’d rashly decided, a few days in, that I could do without sleep, which was impairing my mood, pace and decision making, and eventually the exhaustion caught up with me. If it wasn’t the chest pains that knocked me out, it would eventually have been something else.”
Ending up on hospital after 8 days of solid riding might be enough to put some people off – but not Chappell. If anything, the experience made her realise how suited she was to this style of competition: “When I checked social media, a lot of the other riders were constantly complaining about their saddle sore, and back pain, and aching knees, and how painful and difficult it all was – whereas I felt I was thriving, even during the more challenging sections. So I came back for more, partly because I had unfinished business, but also because I now knew this was something I loved doing – a challenge into which I could pour all the skills I’d gained in my years of touring, couriering, bikepacking, and generally living in the saddle.”