Transcontinental Race: Five years worth of veterans

The 282 people who started the Transcontinental Race (TCR) No5 in 2017 brought the total number of starters across the five editions to 787. Because many people have started more than once, the number of different individuals who have started at least one edition is now 636. These people are all considered race veterans because anyone who starts the TCR gains a lot of experience and is therefore immediately a race veteran.

Starting and finishing rates

Out of the 636 different starters, only one of them started all five editions of the race (Mikko Mäkipää), one person started four times (Matthijs Ligt), 19 people started three times (listed below), 105 people started two times and 510 people have started once.

The three-time starters are: Kristof Allegaert, Gareth Baines, Emily Chappell, Martian Cioana, David Coulon, Mathias Dalgas, James Hayden, Josh Ibbett, Jeff Liu, Patrick Miette, Douglas Migden, Martin McConnell, Stephane Ouaja, Lee Pearce, Fabian Rabe, Hans-Jurgen Schmitz-Rech, Mike Sheldrake, Nelson Trees, and Chris White.

57% of people who have started only once finished that race and 74% of the people who started twice finished at least one of their two races. All of the 21 people who started at least three times have finished at least once, with seven of them finishing three times and Mikko finishing all five editions.

Finish rate of rookies versus veterans

In 2017, 52% of all starters reached the finish. This value was slightly higher for veterans, with 60% of them reaching the finish, compared to event rookies at only 49.5%. In previous years, we’ve seen the inverse of this trend, and over all years we’ve seen about 57% of rookies finish the race and 61% of veterans, but this small difference is not statistically reliable.

The official finish positions for the 2017 race are not yet available, but the data up to 2016 shows that when a veteran does finish then they almost always finish in a higher relative position than they had in their previous year. So veterans do tend to be faster than rookies despite not being any more likely to finish than rookies.

Proportion of rookies versus veterans

In 2014-2016, veterans were automatically given a starting place if they asked for it and 23% of them took this opportunity. This rate was reasonably stable each year, but the absolute number increased because the number of veterans increased. We therefore saw 7, 24 and 59 veterans in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively, for a percentage of 8%, 14% and 27% of all starters in those editions.

If the same pattern had been allowed to repeat itself in 2017 then we would have had about 95 veterans starting, or over one third of the field. Instead, only veterans who previously finished highly were given an automatic place and most other veterans had to rely on the luck of the draw, which resulted in a total of 60 veterans making it to the start line in 2017 (14% of all veterans), which made up just over 20% of the field (this blog post explains some of the selection process). This suggests that about one third of veterans who wanted to start did not receive a place.

Conclusion

The best preparation for doing the TCR is to do the TCR – the knowledge gained from being a veteran is invaluable and this is shown by people tending to do better in their second year. When reflecting on the experience of doing the race, most people have many regrets about decisions and plans that didn’t work out as they wanted and so many rookies vow to come back to the race so that they can have a chance to correct all of their rookie mistakes and improve on their performance. Many people (including myself) do the race a second time so that they can ‘race’ instead of just participating like they did the first time.

Given that there are now over 600 TCR veterans, it is going to be increasingly difficult for veterans to obtain a starting place in future editions of the TCR. Mike Hall always wanted there to be a reasonable number of race veterans on the start line to have some continuity, build a community, and for knowledge and behavior to be passed on from the experienced to the less-experienced starters. How to manage this will therefore be a topic that organizers of future editions will have to address.

Fortunately, there are now many more races being organized that have a similar format to the TCR, which can make excellent training for the race for hopeful rookies and interesting alternatives for TCR veterans, some of which are listed on the pages on Race Info.

References

All of these analyses are based on the official results data that has been published publicly by the Transcontinental Race for 2013-16 (see here) and the unofficial data for 2017 that is available on Free Route.

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