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Transcontinental Race 2015: the return of #IshmaelCycles

He’s done it! After an incredibly gruelling 13 days, 12 hours and 3 minutes, LEO Learning’s resident endurance cyclist Ishmael Burdeau has completed the Transcontinental Race 2015. Having had a couple of weeks to recover, we wanted to know more about this amazing race, and how he fared in his single LEO Learning jersey over nearly a fortnight of intense cycling.

Harder, better, faster, stronger

One thing to note about this year’s race is that it was seriously hot. The riders battled through 30-45 degree heat through the majority of the race, forcing Ishmael – and many of the other riders – to take a last-minute change of tactics. He had planned on sleeping around four hours a night and riding through the day, but to avoid the constant low-40s heat, he instead found himself riding through the night, often on treacherous, mountainous terrain. He carried cheese and Nutella for sustenance, but otherwise he had to rely on coming across shops or petrol stations – many of which were few and far between as he followed the more obscure routes through the Balkans. Despite planning more carefully than last year, adapting to the extreme riding conditions meant that Ishmael had to respond quickly to many of the unexpected challenges he faced, making the race even more mentally exhausting.

ishmael3-350x347Overcoming obstacles

The Transcontinental Race is not an event for the faint hearted. Owing to the challenging nature of this race, many of the competitors found themselves blighted with technical issues. Ishmael himself was blighted with five punctures on one particularly difficult day in Bulgaria, and another racer was hit by a car in heavy traffic, yet still managed to continue and complete the race. Following last year’s ordeal where Ishmael was chased by stray dogs in Greece, this year it was sheepdogs attacking him on a long, difficult night ride through the mountains, after a long ride without food or water on an especially tricky stretch of rocky path along a sheer cliff drop. With this, and the high winds in Slovenia knocking him off his bike into a ditch, it is clear that this year’s event was particularly challenging for even the most seasoned endurance riders.

Across the finish line

This race was significantly harder than last year’s, with less than half of entrants finishing, compared with 2014’s three-quarters. Ishmael considered quitting in the last few days, when the oppressive Balkan heat made it difficult to cycle for more than a few hours at a time, but by this point it was easier to carry on than to stop and find his way to public transport. Eventually, he met another rider on the way into Istanbul, but the dense urban environment meant they quickly got lost, so they followed a taxi driver to the finish line to complete the race. Whereas last year’s race was more of an adventure, this year’s was most certainly a competition, with the winner completing the race in just 9 days, 22 hours and 31 minutes.

So what’s next?ishmael4-350x196

For those of you wondering – no, he won’t be participating in the 2016 race. Ishmael promised himself that this would be his last major cycle race, as he feels he has achieved everything he wanted to accomplish in cycling. But the competition doesn’t stop there. Next month, Ishmael will be winding down from his 4,450km race with a 50km Ultra Trail running race in the more sedate Ashdown Forest, and intends to build up to a 100 mile race next year. After his amazing performance in both his years in the Transcontinental Race and running 11 marathons in 5 years, we’re confident that LEO Learning’s very own Ultra-human will do an incredible job.

Thanks to Camille McMillan for the race photos – you can find more pictures on the official race Instagram page.

LEO Learning is proud of its pioneering people, and Ishmael’s achievement just goes to show that we are brave, confident and ready to take on even the biggest challenges. To find out more about what our people are up to, follow us @leolearning, where we’ll keep you up to date with the latest news from our team.