Which sort of means I won, unless you count the men and women together (which I prefer to), in which case I came in somewhere around 40th. Partly because it seems unnecessarily smug to devote a whole blog post to my winning a race (and I don’t have time to write the long rambling race report that would reveal winning to be merely the cherry on a very large and delicious cake), and partly because – well, a lazy cycle-tourer like me shouldn’t be winning the Transcontinental .
I’m under no illusions that if riders like Juliana, or Sarah Hammond, or Lael Wilcox entered they’d wipe the floor with me – and probably most of the men as well.
I haven’t weighed every single item I’m carrying, or spent six months tweaking my route to take in the strongest tailwinds, smoothest tarmac and fewest climbs.
I haven’t figured out my optimum sleep cycle, or managed to convert my body to burn fat instead of carbs.
So I’m going to recreate that fateful evening when Juliana, Tori and Peta convinced me to enter the Transcontinental. What I imagined was that I’d get together a few women who’d done this sort of thing, invite along a few more who wanted to, or thought they might want to, have a few drinks and a chat, and gently convince them that they were no different from us.
As I type this, my bike is sitting outside the cafe, looking extremely handsome in its Apidura bags, some of which are brand new, and some of which bear the scars of last year’s Transcontinental. And it’s a funny feeling, stepping up to the start line for a second time, knowing that the only acceptable narrative is “this time, I have to finish the job”. Around half the field dropped out of last year’s race, and many are back with scores to settle.The women who are murdered while travelling along US highways generally aren’t well-to-do foreign cycle tourers with blogs and instagram feeds and hundreds of family and friends anxiously awaiting their return.They’re more likely to be women who don’t have a home to go back to, who are on the run from something, whose disappearance will cause far fewer ripples, and indeed, might not even be noticed until someone stumbles across the body in the bushes. The jersey I’ll be wearing for two whole weeks is lying on a chair in my bedroom, as yet fragrant and unstained.Oh, and I published a book, and spent the first couple of months of the year cycling around the UK promoting it.Goodness – until I wrote all that down, I didn’t realise what a busy year I’d had! So yes, there’s been very little time for anything resembling a formal training plan, and the Transcontinental has been continually bumped down to second place on the To Do list, because there was always something else that seemed more urgent.