Interesting point, how does it feel different from TCR where the pairs can draft? I guess they’re in a different classification and are restricted to their original pairings. It definitely reduces the psychological aspect of the event, being able to ride with others. When we caught up with Bruno at a petrol station, he actually hung around waiting for us so he could he have some company. At the finish, those who finished solo in front didn’t seem to resent people riding together - I think they knew that they were still travelling faster solo anyway.
It’s definitely a much much less competitive event than the TCR, having talked to people doing it who have ridden TCR before. It’s deliberately billed as not being a race, though there’s still a fair few trying to put in a good time. I think there were also fewer people ‘racing’ it than last year, given the larger spread of finishing times this year.
I wouldn’t recommend it as a back-up for TCR if you’re after something really competitive, it’s more of an alternative to it. I went into it with a schedule I wanted to achieve for my first ultra-distance event, then found that I could do more miles in the second week than I’d expected. Riding with others definitely helped this as someone new to it. Also watching the dots when you’re in the moment is pretty good motivation.
As an event in itself, the main plus point was the route - Sweden and Norway were spectacular, and the fixed track was pretty well done. Main downside is the poor organisation/ crap trackers they used this year. I think the concept is great, but they reeeally need to sort out the little things (for example, they had listed a bunch of bike shops near the airport at the finish so people could find boxes, but didn’t actually contact said bike shops to let them know the event was happening).