New World Record set from the most northerly point in Ireland, Malin Head, to the most southerly point, Mizen head, and back.
1187.69 kilometres in 44 hours, 15 minutes, breaking the existing record (held by Joe) by 4 hours, 23 minutes, 47 seconds.
Maiden Voyage – Spiegel, Diablo
As the magnitude of the pandemic came to light in the spring, one by one our 2020 races cancelled – Race Across Italy, Race Across the West, Race Around Ireland.
We collectively locked down.
In that lockdown, the essence of our season, Reaching Further with title sponsor White’s Oats, still shone brightly. We just didn’t know how or where it would lead us.
Well in July, as soon as travel restrictions lifted, it lead us back to that iconic Irish start line on the most northerly tip of Ireland, Malin Head.
Our goal was to put the record under 48 hours.
Our secondary goal was to put the SPIEGEL Diablo, a bike that I had been gifted by Ted Spiegel, under extreme race conditions to see what it was really made of. This was significant given my history with Colnago.
World Ultra-Cycling Records follow very tight guidelines around start times. Once the application goes in with a start date and time you are limited to a period of 24-hours ,on either side, to aim for the best weather window.
True to form the weather forecast was dire – extremely high, gusty winds and heavy rainfall with weather fronts coming in fast and fierce over the 48-hour period of the record attempt.
A decision was made within the team to cancel as you simply can’t race the competitor known as ‘time’ under such bad conditions, because of course ‘time’ doesn’t feel the wind or the rain.
But all that preparation and all that form would be lost and my body and soul desperately needed to race. I couldn’t accept the cancellation. Things in my life were coalescing to drive me to that start line, throw caution into the head wind and just GO.
We reinstated and the team assembled. These were nervous times but we gathered ourselves and we headed to the start line.
What happened in the next 44 hours and 15 minutes was a personal performance that I know I can never replicate.
Maybe it was the privilege of being able to race after lockdown. Maybe it was the all too familiar conditions being against me, trying to disrupt and hold me back.
All I can say is that standing on Malin Head with a 40mph roaring wind in my face I descended into a very quiet place inside and made a firm decision to reach further than I ever had before, to trust that at my very best the performance of a lifetime was there for the taking.
I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t there to fight the wind, the rain or the circumstances but none of the above was going to disrupt who I am and what I do.
Don’t get me wrong it was hard. Every mile was hard but hard is a feeling just like wet and cold. I got myself above those feelings yet stayed firmly in my body and mind. I could hear my heart beating. I could feel my legs moving. My vision of the road was wide. My mind was still.
It was a flow state like no other and it lasted and lasted and lasted. I was free. Free of everything that was holding me back.
I knew the team was rock solid behind me, even though there were some new players in the mix, and together we made our way south, reaching Mizen Head in a record breaking 22 hours and 20 minutes.
We had a short stop for a clothing change and warm food and headed north again. Yes there was a tail wind but the wind was stormy, coming in huge gusts and you must have enough strength to ride with it. Heading into the second night became a real challenge.
There was massive debris on the road. We kept moving. At one point during the second night sleep deprivation became severe and I had to focus and work my way through each minute of forward. Still we kept moving.
Because we were using a live GPS tracking system people could come out onto the road and show support. They came out in droves. In my flow state I was hyper-aware of families, kids in fancy dress with signposts to Malin Head cheering. People at all times of day and night taking the time to come out in foul weather to show support buoyed me.
Malin Head was a sight to behold. Seeing Eamonn and Hughie with arms outstretched to receive the bike was both welcome and sad. The ride, the race was done, for now.
The return leg from Mizan Head to Malin Head was done in 21 hours and 55 minutes giving a total race time, including stops, of 44 hours and 15 minutes. We smashed that record.
Every single mile was done on the SPIEGEL Diablo, a bike worthy of the extreme conditions. It was aero when it needed to be, aggressive when it needed to be, always comfortable, reliable and just a joy to ride. I was delighted to have such a mammoth maiden run on it.
What made this performance so special? I think it was a unique mixture of self-belief , the abiding flow state and the level of support within the team and people along the route. I found myself riding for anyone and everyone who has ever felt that things were against them, I found myself riding as it to say to each and every one...keep pushing on…do not let internal or external circumstances define you…..reach further…believe…you can do this.