Cycling the length of the UK from Land’s End to John o’Groats is a bucket list ride for many, but one that few ever dream of completing in one go as a time trial, starting the timer at the tip of Cornwall and not stopping it until reaching the north-east coast of Scotland.
Michael Broadwith, however, is one such rider and Cycling’s Unbreakable Record, a new feature-length documentary from BikeRadar, follows his attempt to break the LEJOG time trial record.
Produced by Joe Norledge and Tom Wragg, with words and images from End to End author Paul Jones, Cycling’s Unbreakable Record sheds light on the motivation behind the 2018 record attempt, the remarkable physiological and mental effort required, and the highs and lows of Broadwith’s incredible ride.
In time trialling circles, the Land’s End to John o’Groats is known as ‘the End to End’. The route is roughly 839 miles long with 34,626 feet of elevation, including two mountains.
The End to End record has been regulated by the Road Records Association since 1881 and in its 140-year history, there have been fewer than 30 successful attempts by men and women.
The women’s record was beaten in July this year by Christina Mackenzie, who completed the course in 51 hours, five minutes and 27 seconds, beating Lynne Biddulph’s (née Taylor) record that had stood since 2002.
Gethin Butler beat the men’s record in 2001 with a time of 44 hours, four minutes and 19 seconds. For a long time, this record was deemed unbreakable – a feat of pure superhuman endurance and mind over matter riding.
But Broadwith, a 24-hour time trial specialist, had become fascinated by the record. The poetic quality of seeing a route spanning the length of the country, its rich history and the sense of it being a journey many others have ridden before him, drove Broadwith to try and break Butler’s record in 2018.
Behind the record attempt there is a huge emotional, financial and training investment. There is also the need for the self-belief that you are a serious contender, to justify not only taking yourself to the start line but a full support team.
In Cycling’s Unbreakable Record, Broadwith describes how finally announcing his intention to make a record attempt was like stepping on a conveyor belt that you can’t stop.
What happens next is close to two days of relentless riding; no sleep, indescribable pain and fatigue, and febrile euphoria.