More than 90 cyclists will today start a race from London to Istanbul on Westminster Bridge.

The second edition of the Transcontinental Race will see riders racing day and night across Europe to cross five checkpoints en route to the narrowest section of the Bosphorus Strait and the tip of Asia.

Transcontinental race director, Mike Hall, has designed 'a race of two halves' that will take riders across iconic Grand Tour cols and 'hidden gems' en route from London to Istanbul

Mike Hall, Velo Cafe, Brighton, pic: Timothy John

Race director, Mike Hall, who won the World Cycle Race in 2012, said he wanted to offer a similar experience, but within a time frame that would not force participants to give up their jobs.

Hall, winner last month of the Trans Am race across north America, has designed a route for the Transcontinental that he hopes will embrace the spirit of the early Grand Tours and offer a sense of discovery.

“It’s a race of two halves," Hall told RoadCyclingUK. “We were trying to find a classic Tour de France-style Alpine climb to do and a hidden gem of eastern Europe."

“You go through the Alps where you’ve got that classic European cycling feel where we’re doing the Stelvio and all of the famous cols and climbs, and then you’ve got this pretty much ‘unknown to most people’ region, which is historically interesting. And there are some beautiful climbs in that area of the world, which maybe many people don’t know about."

The first check point will be stationed outside the Café au Reveil Matin in Paris, which served as the start line for the inaugural Tour de France in 1903. The second is at Italy’s iconic Stelvio Pass, whose 48 hairpin bends will take the riders to 2,770 metres, and which provided the most dramatic and controversial racing of this year’s Giro d’Italia.

The Transcontinental riders will race on into eastern Europe on their journey to Turkey, scaling Mount Lovćen in Montenegro's Lovćen national park, before crossing a finish line outside the medieval Turkish fort of Rumeli Hisari.

Hall thanked event sponsors, Brooks, whom he said had saved last year’s inaugural race, and cycle clothing company, PEdALED. “They are really excited for the event and so are all the riders," he said. “It's a really good, excited vibe this year!"

Readers can receive realtime updates on the riders' progress at Transcontinental Race.