Finishing off another volunteer shift at Control Point 3, I looked down the valley to see a couple of white fluffy clouds sailing over the tops of the distant peaks, wishing once again I’d brought my DSLR camera with me. Even so the view was enough to make me turn back inside our hotel to collect my iPhone and with this in one hand and a cheese sandwich in the other, I strolled down the lane to capture the image.
As I passed by the water trough just outside our CP gazebo, I watched enthralled as a cyclist washed his shirt, wrung it out and then proceeded to put it back on. At first I thought he was one of our TCR riders and wandered over to have a chat, but it turned out that he was not in the race at all and what he told me truly made me realise just why the TCR inspires others.
Oscar Gayraud is a French student who has just finished his studies and all that remains is for him to write a final thesis for his PHD. Taking time out he had decided to take a bike-packing trip from his home in France to Slovenia, taking in a TCR Control Point or two along the way and hence why I met him at CP3.
His dream is to take part in a future edition of TCR, but first he will volunteer because he feels his fitness and experience is not sufficient to make an attempt on the race. The fact that he is a relative newcomer to cycling and is prepared to do all this to realise his dream speaks volumes about his integrity and I truly hope to see him on a future edition.
Not long after Oscar had cycled on, my good friend cap #176 Ben Clay arrived at the CP with a huge smile on his face. Ben typifies what TCR is all about (IMHO) as this is his second edition and he has come back to make amends for missing out on the finishers party last year. He made the General Classification in just over 15 days, but was gutted to miss the party and so has come back to do battle again.
Arriving at CP3 in 8 days, 9 hours, 14 minutes, he is well within the time limit and will hopefully go on to finish well in time for the party this time around. I have followed Ben’s dot from the start and his tenacity and will to fight has been very much in evidence. Despite a visit to hospital due to an allergic reaction to an insect sting which cost him 4 hours, he was back in the race as soon as he was given the OK. Truly inspiring.
This got me thinking more about why TCR inspires not just the committed cyclist, but many non-cyclists who decide to give it a go. Then add in all those who will never apply, but live the dream through others taking part, the dot watchers, the social media followers, the trail angels and many more and it’s not difficult to see why.
While it’s certainly not the only answer, for me it’s down to the terrific work put in by those working on the race, be it the volunteers or the permanent staff. The event has truly reached a global audience, is growing year on year and with the stunning photography (by both old and new) combined with some of the very best writing, more exposure and therefore more inspiration is the result.
Of course let’s not forget the riders who are putting in performances that are simply breathtaking to say the least. With national media now taking much more of an interest, the audience is growing. It will be interesting to see where this all leads, but I for one am very excited by it and if my experience with Oscar is anything to go by, a new generation will be inspired.