Having clocked up a staggering 305.513 miles (provisional) on the Norfolk circuit, the Chippenham & District Wheelers rider added over three miles to the previous benchmark of 302.46 miles set by Andy Wilkinson in 2009. We’re not sure what’s more impressive; being the new record holder, or making it into the office after spending almost all of Sunday’s daylight hours pedalling at an average speed of 25.46mph?
Talking about his feat, Jeff said that apart from leg cramps two hours out, bruised forearms from resting on the bars, sore feet, stomach discomfort from eating and drinking so much, early pangs of self-doubt, Vienna by Ultravox going through his head and a neck that finally gave way six minutes from home, things went as well as he’d hoped. Anyone who’s spent long periods riding alone will testify that overcoming the mental hurdles are as, if not more, important than physical ones. And it’s something he says he learned to cope with through riding his first 12-hour last year.
“I didn’t go through extended bad patches, mainly because I kept my eating and drinking regular,” Jeff said. “The focus you need to ride that hard for that long is the really hard part, mentally. It was very much driven by process, not outcome. Emotionally it was weird because I shut that out as much as I could. I didn’t want to get carried away, ever, because I knew it could go wrong at any point. At the end I was happy but so drained that I couldn’t really appreciate it. It’s sinking in now – no-one’s ever ridden that far in 12 hours on an upright bicycle, starting and finishing in roughly the same place. That’s quite something.”
Jeff said resisting the temptation to go too hard, too early was key to his success, as well as banishing self-doubt as quickly as it appeared. “The hardest thing is the black periods that hit you at random times,” he said. “You suddenly think, ‘what’s the point, I’m never going to finish, I’ll blow up, I’m going too hard, I’m feeling sick’. You just need to put those out of your mind as quickly as possible and get on with it.”
With the national 12-hour TT being held on the same day at the other end of the country in Cheshire, Jeff knew that winning the race and breaking the existing record might not be enough – his distance could still be beaten. After an anxious wait, it turned out Andy Bason had broken the original record, but his total of 302.75 miles wasn’t enough to beat Jeff.
So, where does he turn to next after fulfilling a long-held ambition? The 24-hour record perhaps? “No, not interested,” Jeff said. “No disrespect to those who attempt it but I think after 12 hours you’ve pretty much proved what you can do as an endurance rider. Just my opinion of course!
“I do have a few other things in mind, especially as physically I think I can improve a bit more. I’m only 40 after all! With time trialling you can pick from lots of events and they each have their own challenges. Improving on my eighth places in the national 25 and 50 this year would be a good target and there a few other things that are interesting – I’ll discuss that more with my coach Ric Stern. Not sure about another 12 though. I don’t think it would get much better than Sunday.”