An attempt by James Cracknell and Jerone Walters to break the Land's End to John O’Groats tandem record was abandoned early this morning with just 68.3 miles left to go. At the moment of abandonment, they had around three hours and 48 minutes to cover the remaining distance.
Former Olympic rower Cracknell and time trial specialist Walters were attempting to break the 45-year-old record of 50 hours 14 minutes, held by Pete Swinden and John Withers. They would have to have ridden non-stop, without sleep for 850 miles, at an average speed of around 17mph, to eclipse the benchmark.
But with 773.7 miles on the clock, the challenge run by Project 7 Racing was over. A message left on their Mapmytracks page, set up to detail their progress, said their safety had become a factor and that 'they simply couldn't continue'.
Crew chief Richard Gorman gave further details later on Monday: “It’s the most heart breaking and difficult moment you can possibly imagine," he said. "After 773 miles of riding not a single member of the team or crew want it to come but I had make a call on the safety of the riders and we will just have to come back again even more prepared in the future.”
Cracknell related his side of the story on his blog, a tandem too far. "I don't know whether the celebratory atmosphere when we arrived in Inverness [with 104 miles and 6hrs to go - ed] satisfied our hunger for the record, as the chartists were fond of saying "you can't motivate a man on an full stomach." I'm sure it was mostly an accumulation of over 40 hrs cycling but the party atmosphere may have had a similar effect as offering Mr Creosote a wafer thin mint.
"A few hours later the support crew pulled us over, not because we looked unsafe or they were worried about us physically but because our average speed was lower than at anytime over the previous 48hrs (funny that). It's what I said that caused them concern, for the first time they detected a 'Laissez Faire' attitude to the record that hadn't been there over the previous two days and I was convinced we'd gone off track despite assurances to the contrary. There wasn't much point in asking Jerone, not only had he been cycling for the same amount of time but pulling along a fat bloke as well."
"It was this change of attitude and the fact that Jerone and I had given Richard Gorman and the support crew absolute control over all aspects of safety so a considered, unemotional decision could be taken."
The pair's ride was not without mishap either. After passing the halfway point in Kendal (426 miles) slightly down on schedule, they made up time as they headed into Scotland. But then they broke a crank on their tandem, and while it was being repaired they managed to puncture on their backup bike, losing another 20 minutes and any margin for error for the remainder of the record attempt.
This is the second time Cracknell has been forced to abandon an attempt to break the record. In 2009, he and Olympic Champion Rebecca Romero were almost 500 miles into the ride to break the mixed tandem record when Romero was forced off the bike after medical advice suggested she could have done long-term damage to her knees.
The latest challenge, which started at 3am on Saturday, was raising money for the Headway brain injury association, which had nursed Cracknell back to health after his bike crash last year.