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Where There's a Will: Hope, Grief and Endurance in a Cycle Race Across a Continent

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  349 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Emily Chappell's story of transformation into a cross-continental bike racer, pushing the limits of her endurance

A London cycle courier with a taste for adventure, Emily Chappell entered an extraordinary new race - The Transcontinental - in which riders must find their own way, entirely unassisted, across Europe in the shortest time possible. On her second attempt, she won
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 7th 2019 by Pursuit Books
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Average rating 4.45  · 
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Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have been a follower of the Tour de France for three decades now. It never ceases to amaze me the limits that these guys can push themselves to, just to complete the course. Some have used artificial aids, but even with that, it is still a mammoth achievement to complete the 3000 or so kilometres.

There is another cycle race across Europe though that is twice the length of the Tour. The race is called the Transcontinental and rather than having the luxury of team members and lots of support, th
Cliff Moyce
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly well written for a ‘cycling book’. Emily could write anything and make it come to life. A rare talent. She has an admirable ability to be completely honest at all times about feelings that most of us hide from the world as a matter of course.
A shocking event towards the end of the book elevates this from being a tale of incredible endurance into being something else. Something much more important. The person involved couldn’t have asked for a better testament.
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This may be my favorite endurance cycling memoir of any that I've read. Emily Chappell's writing is beautiful, her imagery compelling, and she succinctly captures a depth and range of emotions that we all experience in these endeavors. ...more
Zachary Kjellberg
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
As I've been getting more interested in ultra cycling, I decided to pick up this book. Often, we glamourize these events due to the adventure and extreme challenge, but due to the high tempo, it is hard to get perspective on what the riders go through.

I enjoyed hearing Emily's experience, starting as a bike courier, and then joining ultra races, surprised by her results. It was also wonderful hearing of her friendship with Mike Hall, evolving into training partners, encounters during races, and
Dec 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
As a fan of cycling and a keen cyclist myself, this book appealed to me from the outset. In it, the author recounts her exploits, and hardcore long distance adventures as a bike courier and racing cyclist.

The story is told honestly, warts-and-all from Chappell’s perspective, and it is so refreshing for an author to write about taboo subjects, seemingly without a second thought. (Periods whilst on a stupidly long bike ride, anyone?)

It documents the highs and lows of her training and her subsequ
Charlotte Kramer
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely love this book because it really took me along and is so well written! It made me want to take my bike immediately and explore (in less extreme ways - I'm only a very recreational cyclist). Emily also writes honestly about certain feelings and thoughts that I don't think I've come across very often in a book. And although I have not been in the same situations, they touched me very much. She's a great writer and seems an amazing human. I wish the book never ended.

And if you happened
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
My daughter Samantha bought me this book for Christmas. I have been very excited to read it and I was not let down. I gobbled it up! Just the sort of story that I love to read about. Endurance cycling is fascinating to me. Also, so sad portions of this book where (view spoiler). I'm very happy to be introduced to endurance cycling through this book and I'm looking forward to reading others on a similar theme. ...more
Ron S
Sep 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Former bike courier turned ultra racer Chappell writes about her experiences racing The Transcontinental (Belgium to Istanbul in an unsupported, choose your own adventure format) and her relationship with race founder and fellow cyclist Mike Hall.
David Freeman
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
George Jack
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Awe inspiring, well crafted and puts into words lots of things about cycling that I find impossible to normally!🚲
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A pre-ordered copy arrived and took over my “down time” for the next two days. Non-cyclists might find it hard to comprehend the enormity of the challenges Emily took on. Cyclists may feel something of the experiences she had, and suffered, and will read in awe. Long distance riders (as I once was) might find themselves emotional, and somewhat jealous of her, and also grieving for loss of strength and capacity brought on by the passing of the years. Emily writes with a fluidity and purpose, her ...more
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have not ridden a bicycle for many years but nevertheless I became totally immersed in adventure seeker Emily Chappell's account of the challenges she faced while undertaking her passion for cycling very long distances. The main narrative centres on her participation in The Transcontinental which is a single stage 4,000 mile race across Europe with four mandatory control points which guide the route and where each rider plan, research and navigate their own course and choose when and where to ...more
Jessica Luther
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read Chappell's memoir in preparation for interviewing her for the feminist sports podcast I co-host, Burn It All Down. You can hear that interview on Episode 142:

It's beautifully written. You don't have to care about ultra-endurance cycle to be invested in this story, especially when you make it 2/3 of the way through and realize that the book does not end on the high of Chappell's career (winning the 4000K trans-European cycling race, the Trans
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There is a lot of great cycling in this book, but that’s not what makes it noteworthy. In addition to a page-turning account of her experiences on the epic Transcontinental Race, Chappell provides us with a window into the emotional side of endurance cycling and loss following the death of her friend Mike Hall. This book about accomplishing ambitious goals while plagued by self doubt should appeal to cyclists and no-cyclists alike.
Mike Langan
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Transcontinental is a 4,000km unassisted bike race across Europe. In other words, the rider is totally self-reliant with the only requirement that he or she checks into the various appointed check-points along the route.

Emily Chappell embarked on this formidable challenge. She made it half-way on her first attempt but entered again a year later and won.

The book doesn't pull any punches or try to glamorize the race. The descriptions of physical discomfort and mental exertion bring home the e
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
In her second book, Emily invites the reader to follow her in the 2015 and 2016 Transcontinental Races. The Transcontinental, or TCR, is a self-supported bike race from one end of Europe to the other, approximately 4,000km long. Approximately, because each rider devises their own route, threaded between several mandatory checkpoints which are often at the top of mountain passes.

These riders can become slightly god-like to the average cyclist, with their feats of endurance and willingness to suff
Aug 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
As someone who rides cycles both as a weekend leisure cyclist and tourist this book simply had me awestruck. The thought of riding 300km per day for 13 days with very little sleep is so far from my own expectations that it is almost incomprehensible. Chappell offers a no nonsense, honest account of riding the Transcontinental written in a very accessible style. This is not a technical cycling book but simply a wonderfully written exploration of human endurance and incredible mental strength. Und ...more
Oct 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Well written description of the mental and physical challenges of extreme endurance activities. I felt it fell to pieces towards the end after the death of Mike Hall.
I know well the pain of riding 250 km on a bike. It's hard to imagine where riders like Emily get the strength to continue for day after day.
One thing that concern me is that these activities are being followed by huge numbers of armchair observers which puts pressure on the athletes to continue even when injured. I don't think tha
John Hintz
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I actually listened to the Audible recording of this rather than reading it. It's read beautifully by the author herself. It's a simple, unpretentious heartfelt account of two things: (1) endurance cycling, and (2) her relationship with her friend and fellow endurance cyclist Mike Hall (RIP). Endurance cycling is a fairly arcane pursuit, so I am not sure how wide of an audience this book will appeal to. I am a cyclist, although neither a competitive nor endurance cyclist, and I found it compelli ...more
Rob Jordan
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Emily writes exceptionally well. The subject is well-known to me, I raced in the Transcontinental Race which Emily won. So there was an extra enjoyment for me, of recognising people and places that hold a special place in my heart. The second part of the book deals with grief at loss of a treasured friend. It's a universal subject and would be enjoyed by anyone, not just endurance cyclists. Enjoy Emily's gorgeous writing and emotional honesty. ...more
Anna McNuff
Feb 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is SO beautifully written. It’s less about the physical pain of enduring a self-supported bike race across Europe and more about the mental struggles that we all go through - in everyday life and when facing the loss of someone we love. Think Amy Liptrot’s Outrun, meets Dervla Murphy’s Full Tilt.
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
An absolute joy from start to finish. Much like ploughing one of her lone furrows into the night of another endurance race, I kept turning the pages, enamoured by the perfect mix of resilience and honest vulnerability. Thoroughly recommended for cycling lovers and those with little knowledge of the sport alike. A gem.
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written and inspirational

As close as it can get to undertaking huge rides whilst sitting on your sofa, and to gain an insight into the emotional drain that such endeavours entail. Have started planning my own venture
Feb 25, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the writing of this book. It read like poetry to me. I found the descriptions of her rides enjoyable. I do feel the book was healing for herself (I could be wrong) so I felt it kind of faded for me towards the end which is why I didn't give it four stars. But it is a pretty good book. ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just read it .. Try not to weep .. I failed ..

Emily writes with passion and sadness . There is humour and the everpresent reality of long hours the bike that I recognise from my own 50+ years of cycling.
It was nice to read her thoughts on Mike.
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Honest and with the details others would not be willing share, this book tells of Emily's endurance rides and winning of the transcontinental as well as her inspirations and challenges before, during and after. ...more
Chris Wilby
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A precursive read for anyone who wants to know the grip on long distance cycling. Really two pairs of shorts are necessary, one drying on the bike whilst wearing the other.
The book takes me back onto my rides , as I decide my next adventure.
It's just you and the bike.
Nov 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another cracking read from Emily Chappell, covering the brutal and gruelling world of extreme cycling events like the Transcontinental and Strathpuffer. Some deeply personal reflections here on the themes of endurance, grief, mental health and the physicality of cycling.
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 20-in-2020
Emily paints a vivid description of the blood, sweat, tears and beauty of life on balance of two wheels.
Ildebrando Aires
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great insight to the ultra endurance bike racing. Brilliant writing.
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