The Accursed Race:
Untouched Balkan Trails

During May, Transcontinental Race organisers Lost Dot held the inaugural edition of The Accursed Race. This is their first fixed-route, no-fly, off-road race. The route takes riders 1600km through the Balkans, visiting Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo. We caught up with Beyond rider Josh Ibbett following his third-place finish to hear how the event went.

As this is the inaugural edition, it's always hard to judge the terrain and difficulty of the route. How do you prepare for this?

The race was excellent. Part of the draw of a first-edition race is the unknown element. Taking place in the Balkans made this even more relevant than usual, given that many mountains are still relatively remote and untouched. Had it been in the Alps or Pyrenees, then Google would have provided plenty of information and images. I had to ensure I was prepared for all eventualities, keep an open mind about how long sections would take (usually double the anticipated time!) and carry enough supplies to see me through.


Tell us about your setup.

My setup was very similar to the one I used at the Atlas Mountain Race earlier in the year. I'm running a prototype Mason Cycles Macro, which is an aluminium mountain bike with 100mm of suspension. In fact, I actually ran the same tyres, drive chain and brake pad as Atlas, so I'm pretty sure I've had my money's worth out of them now! I've been running a prototype version of the HUNT Proven Dynamo wheelset for a few years now, which is due to go on sale later this summer, so they've ticked off another ultra!

Is there anything you would change if you did it again?

I didn't use the hooped bivvy bag I carried, as plenty of shelter was always available. If I took part again, I'd take a slightly lighter one, but there's not much I would change apart from that. After many years of riding these things, I'm pretty dialled in with my setup, so I know what I need and, more importantly, what I don't need. 


The event had a no-fly element to it. How did you get to Albania, and would you make the effort to travel by land for an event again?

The no-fly element of the journey was probably the most daunting for me, but it worked out okay in the end. Navigating the train network with a bike in a bag was stressful at times, but I think if you did it regularly, you'd soon get it dialled. The biggest issue is cost, both financially and in time. However, with a little effort, I think it's possible to travel overland to most events in Europe if you are willing to plan accordingly.

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June 15, 2024