Cycling’s marathon man attempts year-long endurance record


Story highlights

Steve Abraham attempting record for miles cycled in a year

The long-distance record of 75,065 miles dates back to 1939

Englishman Abraham, 40, will need to average more than 200 miles per day

CNN —  

While many people are recovering from a hangover, Englishman Steve Abraham will be cycling more than 200 miles on New Year’s Day.

And he then aims to do the same again every day for the remainder of 2015 as he attempts to break a record that has stood for 74 years and many consider to be unbeatable.

It was set by another Englishman, Tommy Godwin, who covered 75,065 miles (120,805 kilometers) in a calendar year – an average of 205 miles (330 km) per day.

What is more, Godwin continued on to complete a staggering 100,000 miles (160,930 km) in 500 days, finishing his epic ride in London on May 13, 1940.

Abraham, 40, who lives in Milton Keynes in central England, knows only too well just how tough the mark will be to beat – it’s the equivalent of cycling around the world three times.

He will need to be in the saddle, riding a steel-framed Raleigh bike similar to that used by his hero Godwin, for up to 20 hours per day, surviving on minimal sleep, particularly in the more favorable summer months.

But Abraham, a veteran of other long distance cycling challenges, has been building up to this attempt for a number of years.

Extreme challenge

“It’s just something I fancied doing, but it is a bit extreme,” he told CNN.

The heyday for the record was in the 1930s when various cycling publications ran competitions to encourage attempts but according to the official website for Abraham’s 2015 bid, the year record has never been formally sanctioned by a national cycling federation, or ratified by the Guinness Book of Records.

Instead, it is being run under the rules of the Ultra-marathon Cycling Association (UMCA) – which stages the annual Race Across America and other distance classics. It will be tracking Abraham’s progress using technology and random checks.

The UMCA has also assigned its 24-hour champion Chris Hopkinson to support his fellow Englishman and offer valuable advice.

The 47-year-old Hopkinson, from Yorkshire, where the Tour de France started in 2014, told CNN that Abraham was made of the right stuff.

“If anyone can break the record, Steve can,” he said. “And I plan to help him get there,” he added.

As well as the inclement weather, with the majority of his rides planned around the flatter central belt of England, Abraham will need to be kept constantly fed and watered, burning up to 10,000 calories each day with his marathon efforts.

Volunteers from the cycling community have pledged to support him on food stops and Abraham is grateful for their help and encouragement.

Inspirational attempt

“I think it just inspires people, I know that’s a big headed thing to say, but I hope this will bring people together to have a good time.”

Abraham has had to give up his job as a warehouse worker to free up the necessary time for such an all-consuming record attempt. He is also single.

“This is not the sort of record that a married man would attempt,” said Abraham’s media spokesperson Idai Makaya.

Ahead lie the dangers of spending many solo hours on the busy UK roads, where an accident could spell the end of his record hopes.

“A crash could be nothing, or it could be life or death,” Abraham admitted.

He is also doing all he can to steer clear of colds and flu, which again could derail his daunting schedule.

With so many imponderables, so much sacrifice and potential hazards, it begs the question why attempt such a daunting record?

Fighting talk

“I would be crazy not to try it because if I don’t I would never know [if I could achieve it],” he said.

“I would rather fail than not try it. I can’t see the sense in not trying it.”

Abraham is hoping that the warmer summer months will see him, like Godwin before, clock up tallies of 300 miles per day (483 km) so he can reach his target of 80,000 miles (1287km).

He has also hoping to compete in the Paris-Brest-Paris challenge in August, a famous and grueling 1200 km (745 miles) endurance event run under Audax rules, which means it is not a race, but riders must complete the distance within a set time to be classified.

Abraham was the youngest Briton to finish the event within the 90-hour mark and has completed it five times.

It is his performances in races such as Paris-Brest-Paris that first persuaded Abraham that he could try to beat Godwin’s record, having previously believed it was out of reach.

American challenge?

There may well be another contender for the year mileage best.

Arkansas-based cyclist Kurt Searvogel, a winner of prestigious long distance events in the United States, is ready to begin his attempt on January 10, long-time rival Hopkinson told CNN.

Searvogel, who has the nickname of “Tarzan” is set to take a different approach to the “long and slow” method being deployed by Abraham, looking to complete his daily 200 mile efforts at a much higher average speed.

“I wish Kurt the best of luck,” said Abraham, who believes that riding too fast would leave him at risk of burning out too quickly.