independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Cycling legends gave my world plan momentum

Cyclist Simon Hutchinson
Cyclist Simon Hutchinson

The first thing most people do when they sign up for a physical challenge – whether it is just getting out for a walk, jog, cycle, swim or actually signing up for the local 5k or 10k – is to research what exactly is involved and devise a plan.

This can be anything from registering and simply showing up on the day to getting a coach, or somebody with the experience of the challenge, and devising a detailed training schedule.

The problem I faced was that the pool of people who have cycled around the world is small – in fact, any three-year-old would have fingers to spare if they tried to list them. I drew up a shortlist and it didn't take long to track them down with a bit of help from a mutual friend.

Over the course of a few emails and Skype calls to Cavan native Simon Hutchinson in Vancouver and record holder Mike Hall, they could not have been more supportive. The enthusiasm from both men was hugely evident, and despite saying otherwise, I can't help but feel that a little bit of each of them longed to have this expedition in their future rather than as a past memory, albeit a fresh one from 2012.

With my list of questions primed, I made copious notes, and the plan was starting to form. First I needed to decide on a route. The requirement that you must cover 18,000 miles without retracing your steps means a large portion of the route is pre-determined. You must cross Australia and New Zealand. You have a choice of whether to cross the US and, given the climate, Africa and Russia are not sensible choices.

In order to challenge the world record, you have to avoid mountains where possible, so the only decision in Europe is whether to go north or south of the Alps. I've plumped for the northerly route through Germany and Austria, which avoids the worst of the mountains and picks up the prevailing tailwind in Serbia.

Next is physical preparation. The longest journey I'd completed was 140k and I'd only ridden four consecutive 100k days. I would need to cope with double this distance with minimal rest days. I need to get stronger, get the hours in the saddle and vitally cut down a bit of excess weight.

The final part of the puzzle was to source funding. It is not cheap to undertake a challenge such as this. Luckily, very early in the project, I was given the opportunity to speak at a sports sponsorship conference organised by Rob Hartnett, which allowed those behind sports projects to pitch their ideas to the marketing departments of some big national and multinational firms.

The response was phenomenal. I secured a number of partners – particularly the expertise of Martin Kennedy and his team in the National Athlete Development Academy (NADA) in Blanchardstown and AerTV.ie – as a direct result of the conference. It gave the entire project momentum.

NADA gave me a rigorous fitness and mobility test before developing a strength and conditioning programme designed at getting me to a place where the thought of cycling the equivalent of Dublin to Dingle every day for more than three months was almost normal. If you like seeing a grown man suffer, catch my VO2 max test on my AerTV SportsLive channel.

The support has been immense and it is possible for you to become directly involved. Last week, I launched a campaign to raise a portion of the funds by offering rewards on my website www.challengeten.com. They start from as little as €1, which will see you sponsor one of the 18,000 miles of the journey.

Breifne will take part in the World Cycle Race next March, in which he hopes to break the current record for cycling around the planet

Irish Independent

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