On Sunday night I spend an hour watching a man on a bike cycle around a track. There was no-one else riding at the same time, there were no hills, just a man and his machine going around the oval track. I realise that it wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of fun but I was absolutely enthralled by it. Watching someone who was at the top of their game putting everything they had into testing themselves against the clock was an example of cycling in its purest form.
The man who was riding around the track was Sir Bradley Wiggins and he wasn’t just doing it for fun. There were 5,500 people packed into the Lea Valley velodrome witness what could be history in the making as one of Britain’s most decorated cyclists attempted to break the World Hour Record. He had prepared well for the record attempt and was confident of breaking the current record, held by Britains Alex Dowsett (52.937km) but the nature of sport meant that nothing could be taken for granted.
Before the start he looked focused and calm despite all of the furore in the stadium and on his welcome lap he didn’t look up to acknowledge the crowd as he kept in the zone. As he set off from the starting gate his form was perfect. It was the something that cyclists would dream of, his back was perfectly flat as he leant over the bars, there was very little movement other than his piston like legs turning the pedals and his narrow profile was cutting through the air with minimal resistance. I was intrigued watching the stats as they came up on the screen, how was he doing, how fast was he going, how far would he go?
As the clock continued to tick, the perfect union between man and bike continued to eat up the track at a speed I could only ever dream of. The bike was going to play a part in the record, it had been made as a collaboration between the Italian bike manufacturer Pinarello and Jaguar and had been designed specifically for Sir Brad and the record attempt. The bike had a revolutionary one piece titanium handlebar and frame that had been designed to provide a perfect aerodynamic performance. The fork design had also been changed to adjust the airflow around the bottom bracket and smooth the path through the air. No expertise had been spared in the design of the bike and the position that Sir Brad was going to be in was as aerodynamic as it could be within the UCI guidelines for the record. It was now all about how the power could be applied to the pedals.
In an interview before the attempt Sir Brad had said that he had broken the time down into 5 blocks of 12 minutes. The first block was a given as if you couldn’t keep the pace through the first section then there would be no record, the second block was when he would get into a rhythm, the third block was where it would start to burn towards the end but he should still be in control, the next block is where he would convince himself that it was nearly all over and then the final block would be about getting through the pain to the finish. At the halfway point he was still looking smooth and keeping his form and it was only in the last block that there were signs of fatigue setting in as there was more movement in his torso, he was comfortably going to beat the record but would he be able to smash it as many had predicted?
The last 10 minutes must have been absolute agony, even for someone who has won the Tour de France, Olympic Gold medals and it the current World Time Trial Champion, as he wanted to leave everything on the track. The previous record was passed as he continued to keep up the pace and then it was all over. The record had been broken and all of the preparation and hard work had come to fruition. The consistent pacing had produced 54.526km putting nearly 2km on the previous record.
There were a few different things going through my head as I watched Sir Brad circle the track, some I would imagine were typical of most of the cycling fans that were watching: I wish I could cycle that fast, I wouldn’t mind a bike like that, I can’t wait to have a ride on a track and I wonder how far I could get in an hour? Then I started to think about all of the dedication and effort that had been put in to get to that point and how Sir Brad could be happy at the end of the attempt no matter what the outcome as he had put everything into it and left nothing behind. I pondered how that related to what I’ve been trying to do with the challenges and the fundraising.
My attempts so far have probably had more ups and downs than Sir Brad will have encountered from the lows of illness and not being able to train to the highs of completing the first event and getting the first batch of sponsors. Have I given it everything I have so far? The honest answer is that I’ve tried. I don’t think I’ve succeeded but I’ve definitely tried. The whole thing has been much harder than I thought it would be, mainly due to time pressures, illness (both physical and mental) and probably taking on too much. There have been many times when it has felt like I’ve been ploughing a lone furrow but the support I’ve had has kept me going even at the toughest times. I thought it would be a good idea to try and get more awareness by running the social media feeds but don’t think I was aware of the time or effort that would take up but I feel like I’ve reached more people that way than I would have done without it. I don’t think that the events have gone as well as I would have liked and I’m still sad about having to defer the Tough Mudder.
There are still plenty more events to come and I need to start making some progress with my weight and fitness which have had more up and downs than the Tour de France! That’s definitely one area where more work is needed but if things were to end today then I would be leaving it with regrets which I don’t want to do. Hopefully Dan is watching everything from somewhere and is proud of what has happened so far, I don’t want to let him or the charities down and want to try and achieve everything I set out to do. Fortunately there is still a long way to go and hopefully by the end I’ll have made it much closer to the goals. For the immediate future and for the remaining challenges it now has to be all about leaving everything on the track. I’ve got to get my head down, work as hard as I can and focus on what I’m trying to achieve. If I can do that then I’ll have no regrets at the end of the year no matter what the outcome.
Onwards and upwards