Imagine, if you will, a grey morning in January. Sullen pigeons are sheltering from the drizzle under bare trees. The leaf blown roads are gritty, wet and empty of cyclists. It’s not a day to inspire joy, so you stay under the duvet with a mug of tea and the paper. That isn’t an option for Steve Abraham. He’s a man on a misson and that mission is to break one of the most extraordinary sporting records of all time, the legendary one year cycling record of Tommy Godwin.
“After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow.”
He’ll be swapping leisurely cafe stops for a more prosaic fuelling strategy, washing down garage pasties with vending machine coffee, or grabbing fast food from anywhere convenient. His rides will be dictated by how flat the route is and the direction of the wind, not by the quality of the scenery. It’s going to be an incredibly hard year, not just in terms of the physical effort required but mentally. Getting out of bed to pound out mile after mile, day after day with no immediate end in sight can be soul crushing, but if anyone can do it, it’s Steve. He’s already a legend in British long-distance cycling circles, a veteran of countless epic rides and the audax points record holder. Not many people have ridden the Great Triangle (Dover, Lands End, John o’Groats, Dover). Steve has. On fixed…
Tommy’s record is a staggering 75,065 miles. It’s hard to express such a vast distance in terms that makes sense. It’s a third of the way to the moon. Three times round the equator. London to Brighton 1390 times. What puts it into real perspective is that to merely equal the record Steve has to ride an average of 205 miles every single day. To hit his target of 80,000 miles his daily average needs to be a whisker over 219 miles. Steve’s strategy is to start relatively slowly, but by mid-summer he’ll be doing nearly 300 miles per day. For comparison, pro-cyclists are usually reckoned to ride about 20,000 miles per year. One of them, Laurens ten Dam, is a Strava regular and in 2014, when he finished 9th in the Tour, he rode a mere 17,717 miles (itself about 6000 less than Steve’s audax points record).
Much like the recent revival of the Hour record, there has been a lot of excited chatter about someone taking a tilt at the Godwin record – it’s such a monumental achievement that it’s been on the shelf, bar one heavily disputed attempt, since it was set in 1939. In that time it has acquired it’s own mystique. Guinness refused to ratify future attempts, saying that the record was too dangerous to be attempted. They say that Tommy had to be taught to walk again afterwards and wore ladies silk underwear to ward off saddle sores. Although ostensibly a record of athletic prowess, it is really about perseverance, resolve and a bloody minded determination not to give in. Anyone who finds themself going through a dark spell on a long ride can relate to that.
Although this a epic sporting endeavour, it’s also testament to the spirit of the cycling community. There are no highly paid professionals here, Steve has taken a year off work and is using his life savings to fund the attempt. No, this is proper grassroots stuff with everyday cyclists chipping in donations and support. Everyone involved, from Steve to his crew, is here just for the glorious splendour of the most extraordinary challenge in sport.
It’s going to be a long year and along with everyone else we here at Chapeau will be following Steve’s progress and cheering him the whole way.
If you want to be involved, you can find out more about Steve’s record attempt on his website – http://oneyeartimetrial.org.uk/