2013 Team of 4 - Keith Burley, Sam Burley, Stuart Ellis, Steve Golding
An overweight, almost 50 year old man decides to buy a bike and try and get fit, and so it started back in 2012. Along with my equally overweight son we started riding and found that we enjoyed it.
We completed a number of sportives and started looking for another challenge and stumbled across Greenrock and the RACE on line. I spoke to some friends and colleagues and contacted Joe and Laura for more information. The route looked impossible at first, almost 3,000 miles and crossing the Alps twice and then the Pyrenees, with all that riding in-between. We thought about it for a week or so and then I decided ‘let’s just go for it!’ and entered as a team of four.
We signed up with just under a year to go and started our training, we did a French sportive, we rode up and down the North Devon coast, all the while being encouraged and supported by Joe and Laura. We found out that no other team had managed to complete the RACE and this spurred us on. We sought sponsorship from local companies and that proved easier than expected mainly because everyone was just stunned that we would consider taking on such an epic event.
The information we got from Greenrock was excellent, we felt extremely at ease that the whole event was well organised and the mapping was excellent. We practiced riding with a support vehicle and riding at night. Right until three weeks before the start of the RACE we built our mileage up and felt fit and ready, but extremely nervous too. Joe and Laura were excellent at helping to calm our nerves, they were so confident and experienced that we knew if something went wrong we would not be alone.
The start was in Calais and the Greenrock team had organised a civic event in the Calais Marie (Town Hall) and the day of the RACE was upon us.
And we cycled, through the French countryside which was stunning and when we went through villages and towns the people were interested and impressed at what we were doing, we met some great characters and saw some amazing places. We crossed the French German border and headed for the Alps. They were stunning from a distance and just grew in size until we started climbing through Austria, and we climbed into the clouds and through beautiful alpine pastures and valleys, into Italy, stopping at an old border post for one of many expresso’s which helped fuel us through.
Slovenia was stunningly beautiful although the cobbled mountain climbs were challenging to say the least. Back into Italy and a blast through the market garden that is Northern Italy, miles of crops and always a friendly wave, then we started climbing again.
As dawn broke we found ourselves climbing the Italian alps, my cycling partner and I taking turns to fight the hairpins and crawl up the side of the mountain, reaching the Italian French border and handing over the other two cyclists who rode down to the base of Mont Ventoux!
It was early afternoon and we began the ascent of one of the most iconic climbs in cycling, we decided to climb as a team and reached the summit just as the sun was starting to set. The climb was emotional for us all.
I had the privilege of the decent down the other side of Ventoux and after all the climbing of the day I relished it, 16 miles at an average of 70kmph in the dark was and is one of the highlights of my time cycling. I had to wait for the support vehicle at the base and a few words were exchanged but were quickly forgotten as we had pizza in a town square and set off towards Spain!
The rest of France was as beautiful as ever and relatively flat, which we were all thankful for, then we hit the Pyrenees and we were not really prepared for the climbs and we really did struggle up them!
We then hit the Spanish desert and rode through some iconic Spaghetti Western landscapes, Spain is a big country and we were all really tired by now, but we rode through the night and as dawn came up we were greeted by the site of a stunningly beautiful Castle in the sky, the sun rose and we rode past and ever onward.
The Greenrock team were with us all the way, we saw them almost every day and kept in touch over the phones and although we did not have any problems where we needed their help, having the so available made everything much easier.
We made the turn South and we all felt that we were actually going to make it to Gibraltar, there were some nasty hills to remind our legs how tired they were but we finally saw the rock and rode through the Spanish border with little trouble and around the rock finishing at Europa Point in 9 days 22 hours and 16 minutes.
Joe and Laura were there with a finishing line, flags and a bottle of bubbly, and brilliant way to finish a fantastic event. We had done it, the first ever team to finish the Race Across Europe!
Five years on I still think about the race almost every day, the achievement was brilliant, the team are now the closest of friends and share a common bond. I had three amazing cycling colleagues and six much more amazing support team colleagues.
I cannot recommend the RACE more, the organisers are now friends too and they do a brilliant job.
Thank you Joe and Laura.
Team Viribus Audax
2015 Team of 4 - Ronan Archbold, Sue Pugh, Nick Hitchman, Phil Morris
The 2nd team to attempt the challenge and proud to say we completed it in what was then a new record time. A mixed team of Ronan Archbold, Nick Hitchman, Sue Pugh and Phil Morris took on the breathtaking scenery through Europe with challenging climbs and descents.
Along with the iconic cycle routes thrown in just for fun. Our support crew were epic . Team work, effort and commitment resulted in an achievement we will remember. Would we do it again? The heart says yes the brain says in pairs, the body? #RAE #Rideit
2018 Solo supported team - Fritz Geers
About the race I can say, that especially the track was very nice. I liked, that there were nearly no bigger citys in it, alot of little streets and without the part in Italy, we had not much traffic for long times. I did not ride the Race Across America, but I cannot imagine, that the race in America have that much of turns, little climbs and variety. On the one side that made the race in Europe very hard and tough, but on the other side the time-limit of 15 days gives the riders more time, you really need. I'm a very young ultracyclist and I came to my limits a few times while the race. There was no other option than making a stop for one or two hours until I was able to get back on the bike. The time-limit gives you mentally more freedom. About the organization I liked the personally contact and the well looking start and finishing area. The roadbook was very well written and structured and also the gps files were splitted up very good and made no loading-problems on all devices. I do not know, in wich direction the Race across Europe will develop. All races in europe I know are calling themselves hard, tough and difficult. I even think, that a Race across the Alps is very tough, because you have to ride yourself all out in one day, a Race around Austria is very tough when you ride it without any powernaps or sleeping, a Race around Ireland often has very bad weather conditions, the Race around Germany has many citiys in it and so on .. The Race across Europe is beating them all in nearly all dimensions. That race will be for the ones, who have expirience in shorter distances, no money for a Race across America and enough will to run free a big adventure.
All in all I will remember two things after the Race across Europe: The first one is the sentence 'We made the track a little bit harder than the Race across America, Fritz' on the start line and the second thing is, that I never felt that happy in the race and after the race twice!
2018 Solo supported team - Thomas Jaklitsch
The track of the Race was incredible beautiful and tough. No climbing got lost, so I got the cance to change my views.So climbing for me it was good :-). And i liked the heat. I had the biggest problems and obstacles with the cold nights in austria and later in spain....
I hope that the race will become bigger cause Europe is beautiful and every part is worth to see! In comparison to RAAM.. I´m not sure if the hardest race in the world is there...for the landscape there is no use to travel the USA..just the Monument Valley if you can ride there in the light...and in Europe the climbs are nicer, heavier and the downhills are much more difficult than in the States..You should be able to ride a bike at the RACE...it would be better ;-)
In the last weeks many riders aksed me abut my opinion...and i guess next year there will be some of them at the startingline...maybe I´m also there ...just crewing...cause i think my team and I did a good job, but we have made some mistakes..experience cause we haven’t been there before...so sure for the next time 12-24 hours faster :-)
Team king of sheen
2019 Solo unsupported - Paul Pearce
I had a dream!
I took up cycling in 2016 and by late 2017 I was doing a few local sportives of about 60-80 miles, I really enjoyed cycling longer distances so ended up doing a couple of 200Km Audax’s in the Autumn of 2018. I started thinking to myself I wonder just how far I could push myself and so started looking for longer events and that is when I found the Race Across Europe, It looked like a well organised event and for the first year ever since its launch they were going to accept solo unsupported riders as a category. So there it was a near 3000 mile solo unsupported road race across Europe taking in 6 countries also the Alps, Mont Ventoux , the Pyrenees, rolling pastures and high plains “ Epic is what I thought” so immediately signed up and started training. By the Start in Boulogne sur mer I had managed to get up to couple of 200 mile rides and a five day stint of 600 miles in training! was it enough, well only time would tell! The start of the race started with a 170 mile day to a B&B that I had booked previously the one and only pre-booked accommodation that I had for the whole event all others was on the fly, from then on each day would start between 3am to 5am and would go through until 7pm to 10pm my mileage would range between 115 and 270 miles over the next 18 days. I had the privilege to witness every sunrise and some incredible night sky’s, the scenery was amazing and constantly changing and the route by most part was on quite roads. I met some really kind and helpful people along the way and was even greeted by a young Spanish dot watcher who had cycled nearly 40 miles from his home just to say hi and to chat. For me the RAE really was everything I was hoping for and more and has left me feeling charged for more life changing adventures, if you’re thinking of doing this event then stop thinking and just sign up it will be the best decision you’ll ever make. Joe and Laura where always there for support through the whole journey and the What’s App group that was set up for all the riders provided us all with a great way of sharing information about the roads ahead and keeping in touch etc.
The dream was no longer a dream I had done it!
Thank you Joe and Laura for giving me a life changing experience, that will stay with me forever.
2019 Solo supported team - Remigiusz Siudzinski
The Race Across Europe was to be my preparation for the Race Across America. A similar distance, only closer to home. Therefore, lower costs and less free time, which I and my team had to reserve. In 2014 in the US it was 4 weeks (including acclimatization), and here it was enough to take a holiday for 2.5-3 weeks.
Joe and Laura, the organizers, are very nice people. At the pre-check-in, they went to our hotel, which saved us a lot of time. Also, communication and pre-start arrangements went smoothly and in a friendly atmosphere. It was a nice idea to create a what's up group where the organizers, cyclists and support teams could exchange important information from the route, inform about obstacles and - what is also important - just keep in touch for two weeks of competition.
For me, the surprise (positive!) was the route. Before the start, I did not analyze the track profile and I used to have the idea that there would be more or less the same mountains as in RAAM. I just wrongly remembered that there is 50,000 m of elevation in the US, while in fact it was 35,000 m. What I mean is 50,000 m elevation I met only at RAE. What's more, the flat sections suitable for cycling were only 500 km, which was only about 10% of the entire route. I'm not complaining. All this made the race from "preparation race" become the most difficult I have ever ridden. It verified my optimistic estimates that I would finish it in 11-12 days. It confused my feelings. On one hand, I was dissatisfied that I arrived at the finish line later than I had expected. On the other hand, I was proud and happy that I completed such a difficult challenge.
The route is brilliant. Apart from the flat section in Italy, it is not very busy. It avoids large cities while discovering the atmosphere of Italian, French and Spanish small towns. You drive a big race through Europe and at the same time squeeze through the narrow streets full of buildings that are centuries old. It's lovely. You can often use bicycle paths that run parallel to the road. I must admit that the culture of driving drivers in the countries on the RAE route gives comfort to the cyclist and I personally do not remember any dangerous situations on the road.
The icing on the cake are legendary passes and peaks like Col d’Agnel or Mt. Ventoux. You can feel the closeness of proffesional cycling and watch and touch the effort that you was earlier watching only on TV.
For me, the race is also Spain other than the one I knew. Instead of seaside resorts and cities in the style of Barcelona, I had the unique opportunity to see this country from the inside. I will never forget the huge desert and agricultural areas that I rode at temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius.
A 12-day trip through 6 countries deserved a good final. Such was the view of Rock of Gibraltar welcoming from afar and announcing the end of the route. And the English breakfast after a short night - unforgettable!
Who do I recommend this race to? First of all, Europeans getting ready for RAAM, just like me. Just remember that RAE is more mountainous and "slower" because it has a more varied route. Reserve more time than you think at first. In addition – to all ultracyclists putting on an interesting landscape route full of both endless hills with up-down-up-down ride, as well as many hours of climbs to the peaks above 2000m above sea level. And to those who are not afraid of heat! Although you can always handle them 😊