MIDNIGHT, GERAARDSBERGEN, BELGIUM

At the starting line, 200 racers fiddled with their gear and fidgeted beside their bikes. It was strange to think that as many as one of every two riders around me wouldn’t make it to the finish, due to fatigue, illness, accidents, mechanical breakdowns, medical conditions, and any number of other reasons, physical and emotional. After hundreds of hours of preparation and all the sacrifices made just to get to the starting line, all I could hope for was to avoid any major mishaps on the first night. The rest would just have to be taken in stride. Anyway, there were more pressing matters at hand. For starters, how do you pace yourself in the first moments of a race across a continent?

To a Transcontinental cyclist about to set off for Istanbul, uncertainty lies in the darkness ahead, but so does adventure. The town mayor said some words, the clock struck midnight, and with the chime of a bell…