The Miracle of Brest: Fiona Kolbinger wins Transcontinental 2019
Fiona – first and foremost to all ( men )
It’s August 6, 2019. This date will go down in the history of cycling. Her story is already trending on social media. At precisely 7:48 am, Fiona Kolbinger won the Transcontinental Race TRCNo7. The 24-year-old medical student completed the 4,000 km (2485 miles) in 10 days, 2 hours, and 48 minutes. Fiona blitzed the field, finishing ahead of her closest rival, Ben Davis, by more than 10 hours and crossed the finish line as the first woman ever to win the Transcontinental Race. Together with the spectacular victory of Ultra Endurance runner Jasmin Paris in the 431 km Spine Race in January 2019, and the success of Lael Wilcox who won the 6,800 km (4,200 miles) long Trans Am Bike Race in 2016, Fiona Kolbinger joins the growing ranks of women taking first place at Ultra Endurance competitions.
In response to the astonishment for the victory of her as a novice in the world of cycling – and a woman in particular – the new doctor has a frank explanation for Tom Bonnett, the journalist who interviewed her for the latest episode of the Transcontinental Podcast. In an Ultra Distance Race, it’s not just about physical ability, and especially not about testosterone levels. The route has to be well planned, food shopping has to be done quickly and the bike has to be maintained. Get along with little sleep and breaks, don’t waste time, just such things. In short distance races the physical condition is far more decisive.
The Transcontinental Race is one of the toughest, self-supported bike races in the world. This one-stage race started in the Bulgarian city of Burgas on the Black Sea coast and ended in the Breton port of Brest in France, spanning the European continent. This race is unique as the riders decide individually on the route and the length of their rest periods. The clock never stops. However, the riders have to pass four checkpoints on the way.
But she doesn’t seem to have won this race just because of her strong character. Stamina, speed, efficiency: when her STRAVA profile is analysed, these qualities are striking immediately. Fiona has already completed some solid long distance races. In the world of Ultra Distance Races, however, she is a newcomer.
Humor, she’s got that, too. She tells the story of her collision with the Serbian border fence smiling. How she repeatedly said to the border guards, “hey, I’m on a race”. Nevertheless, she had to wait half an hour for her passport. The border chief had to be informed first.
So, what are the thoughts of someone who for the first time in his life is leading a long-distance race? She spent a large part of the trip calculating how many kilometres it will possibly take to get to the next checkpoint and how much time to the next border. She immediately switched off her mobile phone when the media rush started. She preferred to be taken in by the breathtaking nature and let herself be diverted into thoughtlessness.
She had also rather accidentally taken the lead. Shortly after checkpoint 2 it suddenly started pouring rain when she left the supermarket. It was late, Fiona decided to take a sleeping unit. The place she chose would seem shady to her. There, in the middle of the night, she made the decision to continue. That was the moment. And the “race mode”? It happened shortly after the Austrian border. She’s good in mountainous terrain, that she knows. At the third checkpoint, she had already left all her male competitors in the dust and increased her lead even further after climbing more than 5,000 meters (16,400 feet) elevation, riding over 160 km (99 miles) by night. When Fiona arrived at the fourth checkpoint in Le Bourg-d’Oisans, she had been riding for seven and a half days and had covered two and a half thousand kilometers (1553 miles). And guess what she did when she arrived at the hotel: she sat down at the piano in the lobby and played ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ – after sleeping for an average of only four hours in a bivvy bag on the side of the road for the last seven days. She is a hard act to follow!
Fiona was the fifth winner of the Transcontinental who relied on the Supernova E3 TRIPLE 2. Many endurance athletes use this powerful front light. It is one of the brightest dynamo front lights in the world, requires only minimal energy, and is ready at any time of day or night. It also improves safety through the use of the stand light function. “I could have given more and slept less,” Fiona said after the victory. This would have been possible with the E3 TRIPLE 2. And then all you need is a little character strength…
Here at Supernova, we are delighted with Fiona’s victory and are proud to have played a small part in this historic win with our TRIPLE 2. Congratulations, Fiona!!
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Text: Myriel Hauser Ι Pictures: Angus Sung / James Robertson Ι Quotes: Transcontinental / Fiona Kolbinger