Self-supported bike race North Cape-Tarifa -also known as NCTR- started a week ago.
Riders are riding from the very northern point of Norway all the way down to Spain.
We interviewed its organizer, Andi Buchs, a few days before the start.
How did you come up with this idea of racing from North Cape to Tarifa?
Originally, the idea came eight years ago while cycling to North Cape. I heard there was a Guinness World Record “North Cape-Tarifa Unsupported”. At that time, I wasn’t thinking about making it a race, I was looking for people to cycle this route with me.
Then I participated in the TransAm Bike Race, Transcontinental… That’s how it started to become a race.
So it’s a single-stage race, unsupported. Is it like the Transcontinental, do you have checkpoints to clear or is there a precise track to follow?
I thought a lot whether I would make it a checkpoint race or a fixed route, but you see the Transcontinental is a lot of work after the race to check if the riders took a road that was not allowed.
This way, I have a lot of work before but it is much easier to check off-routes afterwards.
Besides, people come from all over the world. So the ones that wouldn’t be able to recon their route have the same chances as European riders.
So it’s a matter of chance equality?
Yes, although riders don’t have the same bicycle ! It’s like TransAm Bike Race: they have the same route, so if the road is bad or someone doesn’t want to take the risk to ride a fast road when someone else would, everybody has the exact same route.
Will it be tarmac all the way long?
Haha ! We cross many countries… In the Baltikum, it’s probably difficult to find all-tarmac. But it’s not like the Torino-Nice Rally: even though it’s difficult to have everything tarmac, you can ride it all on a road bike. And sometimes unpaved roads are better than fixed tarmac ones, full of potholes.
It’s not about “is it paved, is it gravel?”
When you spend all day on the bike, the bigger the tyres, the less fatigue you get.
Sun’s out, guns out
With summer well under way, we have to be careful about protecting ourselves from lengthy exposure to the sun.
Were you aware, however, that most sun creams are a catastrophy for the environment?
According to research, between 6000 and 25,000 tons of sun cream end up in our oceans every year, killing off coral and phytoplankton in less than 48h.
Chemical vs mineral
2 types of sun cream exist.
The most common, chemical, penetrates the skin and takes around 30 minutes before offering any protection. It also poisons marine life (and us of course at the end of the food chain) and is directly harmful to our health.
Mineral sun cream creates a layer directly on the skin, immediately creating a barrier and presents no danger to either nature or ourselves.
Nanoparticles and endocrine disruptors
Chemical creams can disrupt our endocrine system and for several generations.
The choice isn’t straight forward either as both types of cream can contain nanoparticles. These particles can penetrate deep into the body, even passing through the protective blood-brain barrier..
So how do we choose?
Mineral based creams are of course the prefered choice, but it’s knowing whether they contain these nanoparticles. Some bio brands such as Ecocert ban their use and as for other brands, if the manufacturer has gone to the effort of not using nanoparticles they’ll advertise that fact in bold! Otherwise you know what to expect.
That well established advice
We’re all aware of the obvious solution, limiting our exposure to the sun. Ride in the cool morning hours and there’s usually no need to apply cream, but if you’re out all day, there is the option of anti-UV clothing, such as super lightweight arms with UPF50 etc.
It isn’t so complicated, and cheaper in the long term!
What can riders expect on this race?
Well, you can have snow in the Alps… Col du Galibier was still closed a few days ago. It happened that a Tour De France stage got cancelled because it was snowing in July. You never know.
I rode the Galibier at night, it was 15° at midnight and only 3° the next morning, it can change very fast.
Is there a typical rider profile?
You can see the rooster list on the race website, with their background. Most of the riders this year did the TCR, TransAm, Indian Pacific Wheel Race, that kind of self-supported races. Two of them did the Race Across AMerica. It could be interesting, as the RAAM is a supported race, there’s a crew around you, organizing everything so you only have to ride. This is totally different.
It’s a lot of organization, it’s not about riding fast.
You have to be good at organisation, optimising the breaks you take.
What I like about adventure is to get lost. How much of an adventure is it to follow a line on a GPS?
It’s still an adventure. Where you stop? Where do you stay tonight? There’s the weather you cannot control, there are many parameters you can’t control… You can have a flat tyre and run out of spare tubes ; you travel through 14 countries, many different cultures, many different languages…
In the Baltikum, the route doesn’t follow main roads all the time. Main roads look alike all over the world, same petrol-station shops, same sandwiches, same croissants, but as soon as you leave them, it’s different. Some places in Poland, Finland, people don’t speak English.
It’s an adventure, I think.
So the start is soon, how do you feel?
Yes, it is on June 20th, one minute after midnight, the shortest night of the year. But with midnight sun!
That could be an interesting point, how can riders manage this? When sleeping outside during daylight…
I did ride there, and it’s very relaxing to be able to ride without being stressed “oh, it’s dark in an hour, I should stop”. Plus, roads there are pretty quiet, but during night hours, you’re absolutely alone. It’s quite special. We’ll see how they manage their breaks.
North Cape-Tarifa founder
Ultra cyclist, world traveller, veteran of TransAmerica Bike Race, Indian Pacific Wheel Race, Transcontinental, TransAtlantic Way and many more…
Likes the thrill of driving his electric car until the battery almost hits 0%
Read more and follow the race on northcape-tarifa.com
All pictures in this article ©northcapetarifa excepted Andreas’ portraits by @Evanoui.cc