Monday, 3 October 2011

James Cracknell End to End Attempt

Photo courtesy of Twitter @flashjackson
Imagine the hardest longest ride you've ever done.  For me it was the Fred Whitton sportive - 114 miles and just shy of 14,000ft of climbing, in one day - it took me about a week to recover.  Now imagine doing a similar tough day - back to back - about seven times, with no sleep. 

In support of Headway, the brain damage association, James Cracknell and Time Trial specialist Jerone Walters attempted to beat the Road Records Association tandem record for cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats (842 miles in 50hr 14min 25sec).  The fastest ever solo navigation of the route was in 2001 when a chap called Gethin Butler did it in 44hrs 4mins and 20 secs - incredible).

The record had stood since 1966 (45 yrs) and is held by Messrs P M Swinden & W J Withers.  With advances in aerodynamics, wind resistant materials, bike technology, nutrition and training techniques, it seemed inevitable that the record would fall.

Heartbreakingly, the crew chief for the event -Richard Gorman - called time on the attempt, 773 miles into it, 68 miles from John O' Groats.  You can read the release and the reasons why here.  James and Jerone had been in the saddle for around 44 hours at this point and must have been absolutely exhausted.  A tough decision for the crew chief, but that's what he's there for. 

In my view, it's no failure.  I chose to back this attempt as a sponsor in my day job at printer company Brother UK.  We backed it under our 141% initiative, you can read what that means here.  What we backed was the ambition of this attempt.  James Cracknell recovered from a significant cycling injury, after he was hit by a truck wing mirror at 75mph in Arizona.  He's an inspiration for anyone that life post a serious accident goes on.  Read more about his story here.

The tandem was one of the most sophisticated ever built, the support crew drilled, well equipped, social media was slick with an excellent app, the riders well prepared.  The first days cycling saw them go through the hottest October day on record, that can't of been easy.  If you've every cycled in hot conditions, you'll know how energy sapping that can be.  As they headed North into the evening, the weather got cooler and heading into the Lakes, it deteriorated.

To slug it out on a bike for 44 hours at an average speed of around 16.7mph in those conditions, takes a level of physical and mental strength that most people don't possess. What this attempt stands for is about what human beings can achieve with determination, dreams and sheer effort.  A magnificient achievement, regardless of the outcome.

If you think back 45 years, you have to respect those two riders who - without modern day technology, techniques or training - set this distinguished record back in 1966.  I've no doubt Cracknell will be back for this one, call it unfinished business and he'll be be supported by us all again, at the roadside or on our computers, we'll be behind you.  To read his post-ride reflections, click here.

In closing, please take a moment to view this short video that James made encouraging all cyclists to wear a helmet.  I one hundred percent support this, regardless of the distance, conditions or weather, I always wear one, it may be the difference between your life or death.

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