On a grey Saturday morning in Greenwich, London this weekend, nine hopeful riders set out on the World Cycle Racing Grand Tour, hoping to break the Guinness World Record for circumnavigation of the globe by bike.
This ‘mass’ start at the home of the meridian marked the event as something greater than yet one more rider throwing everything he or she has at the record, making it instead the first ever round the world bicycle race.
Greenwich park was buzzing, as a decent crowd of spectators gathered to see the departure of the riders, clustered at the starting line for 9am on a date specifically selected such that the winning rider would be returning around the start of the Olympics. The riders competing in this rider-organised event, are Mike Hall, Jason Woodhouse, Sean Conway, Simon Hutchinson, Stephen Philips, Martin Walker, Kyle Hewitt, Stuart Lansdale, Richard Dunnett. A 10th rider, Paul Ashely-Unett is himself attempting a record breaking ride, starting instead on February 15th from the Isle of Man.
And they’re off in the World Cycle Racing Grand Tour!
Seeing nine cyclists together, all hoping to break a round the world record, showed just how diverse and personal each approach to the task at hand is. Some, such as Mike Hall and Sean Conway are riding super light, with minimal equipment, relying instead on their fitness and speed to get them through, while others, like Kyle Hewitt, Stuart Lansdale and Stephen Philips have gone for a more traditional approach, carrying much more in the way of supplies, but hoping that this means fewer stops. The one thing every rider shared, though, was an air of trepidation and pre-race anxiety, not helped by last minute hitches such as having left a passport in the library photocopier the night before, in the case of one rider, and all manner of accommodation problems and mechanical issues for more than one.
All ten riders are carrying SPOT satellite trackers which, in addition to being a safety measure, means that live race coverage is available on the website created for the event www.worldcycleracing.com. Currently, Sean Conway seems to have covered the most ground, but it’s virtually impossible to have an accurate idea of who is “winning” given the various different routes involved. Some are starting travelling east while others have headed west. Guinness only stipulate that 18,000 miles must be travelled and two antipodal points passed.
Sean is also the only rider to be aiming to visit six of the seven continents, making his route more complex than most. With three months or so of riding ahead of all of them, even if they are to break the current record of 106 days, it’s a tough call to say who will make it back to Greenwich first.