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 :-)