Getting back on the bike: Karl Holbrook looks to the new year and gearing up for his toughest challenge yet
I like a challenge. Like getting out of bed on these cold, dark mornings or not devouring the entire tin of Quality Street meant for Christmas.
But next year an altogether different challenge beckons.
I’ve been invited to take part in the legendary Deloitte Ride Across Britain – the biggest and most popular organised cycle ride covering the full length of the iconic Land’s End to John O’Groats route.
Around 800 riders will cycle almost 1,000 miles in just nine days from the craggy coastal cliffs of Cornwall to the tip of the Scottish Highlands through the backbone of Britain – including our very own Trough of Bowland.
Over the course of the odyssey riders will climb around 15,000m – the equivalent of scaling Everest twice. That’s a lot of Quality Street!
There will be driving rain and howling winds – riders will be inspired and battered, exhausted and elated in equal measure. Deloitte Ride Across Britain is arguably the biggest challenge this country has to offer.
Julian Mack, founder of Threshold Sports, the sports event company behind the event, explains the allure.
“Cycling the length of the British Isles from one end to the other captures the imagination of people,” he says.
“It’s one of those challenges, cyclist or not, that appeals to the natural adventurous spirit of homo sapiens.
“In Britain, we are brought up with weather forecasts panning the length of England, Scotland, Wales (usually showing wind and rain).
“To see every inch of that landscape under your own steam is a deeply rewarding experience, but, like everything in life that’s worthwhile, it’s not easy and it requires grit and determination.”
Okay. So far, so good. Just the small matter of actually cycling the best part of 1,000 miles in nine days.
Now, I’m not totally unfit. I’ve tackled Ironman UK and the London Marathon in these pages, but I’ve never done anything like this.
Cycling 100 miles in one day is hard enough (I’ve done it) – but doing it nine days in a row is another proposition altogether.
But Julian – or Mack, as he is better known – explains why this challenge isn’t just for lycra clad Bradley Wiggins’ types.
“As any of my friends or colleagues would tell you, I am no cyclist,” he admits.
“But I completed it in 2012 with my best man and I loved every mile of it.
“I was determined to create a truly accessible event that would welcome all shapes and sizes and levels of cycling knowledge.
“With the right training and preparation, a healthy dose of respect for what you are taking on and a half decent bike, anyone and, I mean, anyone can do this challenge and feel the explosion of self-esteem at the finish line.”
Over the next nine months, I will chart my progress getting ready for the event, which starts from Land’s End at the tip of Cornwall in September.
In a monthly feature, I’ll speak to others taking part and get the inside track from those whose job it is to make such a huge operation happen – from the route designers and the chefs to those who have to put up more than 8,000 tents during the event and the army of mechanics on hand to keep the pedals turning.
I’ll look at the highlights of the route, training, nutrition and much more as I (hopefully) go from podgy desk jockey to bucket list conqueror.
In the meantime, I’d better get my bike out of the shed and squeeze my over fed frame into some lycra to start my training.
Next month I will get my fledgling training off the ground and look in detail at the iconic route.