Mack (founder of Threshold Sports and 2012 Deloitte RAB participant) tells us about what makes Cycling LEJOG so special and if it’s only for the elite cyclist.
What do you think the allure is behind cycling LEJOG?
Cycling the length of the British Isles from one end to the other captures the imagination of people. It’s one of those challenges, cyclist or not, that appeals to the natural adventurous spirit of homo sapiens. In Britain, we are brought up with weather forecasts panning the length of England, Scotland, Wales (usually showing wind and rain). To be able to see every inch of that landscape under your own steam is a deeply rewarding experience, but, like everything in life that’s worthwhile, it’s not easy and it requires grit and determination (More is in you is Threshold’s mantra).
What makes it so great?
One of the greatest things about the challenge is the pure simplicity. You are removed from aluminium boxes (cars) and the computer/tablet/phone screen. Just you, your leg power, your will and the beauty of the cycling machine, the basic design of which hasn’t changed much in a century. In terms of the Deloitte Ride Across Britain event, we have tried to take care of every last logistical detail so a rider can focus firmly on turning the pedals and drinking in the sights and smells of the British Isles. We have condensed the challenge to nine days which means an average daily mileage of 105 miles. To make that achievable we have a battalion of crew making sure you are fed, watered, massaged, showered and hugged (on the bad days). Each night you come in to a fully serviced basecamp with tea and toast on the go, power showers ready to wash off the mud and sweat, teams of physios and doctors to repair and restore the body and five choices of main course in the catering hall to make sure the engine is ready for the next day. Most riders put weight on during the ride which is a testament to the quality of the food. All this occurs at ten specially constructed camps at 105 mile intervals. It’s the equivalent of a logistical Everest.
Why is it the sort of event every cyclist wants to tackle?
For cyclists, LEJOG is a badge of honour. It carries plenty of cycling currency to be able to say you’ve ticked it off. Because of the length of the challenge, the commitment needed to train and prepare for it and the idiosyncrasies of our wonderful weather, there’s a knowing nod between people who have been through it. It’s on the bucket list for most serious cyclists but also for the generation of challenge seekers – people like myself who are not cyclists but love a proper challenge. It’s accessible to anyone even people who can’t ride a bicycle today. Cycling is a truly democratic sport and the LEJOG is on the cards for anyone with an adventurous spirit and the right level of determination.
Why is it so special?
The scenery is spectacular. Deloitte RAB is really special because it brings together such a diverse range of people unified in the common cause of getting to John O’Groats over nine days. There are people from all walks of life from CEOs of FTSE 100 companies to 66 year old challenge seekers proving they’ve still got a big one left in them. There’s a huge range of abilities with people completing the daily mileage in 5 hours to some who use the full 12 hour time allocation. A mutual respect breaks out between the expresso riders and the sloggers – they admire what each other is capable of doing – being on the saddle for 12 hours requires more determination than riding it in 5 hours.
Some are there to fund raise, or quietly grieve the loss of a loved one and some for the sheer hell of it. The event has raised £3.5 million pounds for 75 charities over 6 years. It’s the best fund raising cycling event per capita in Britain. Deloitte’s official charity is Paralympics GB. The £1.6 million they have raised from the event has made a significant difference to how well prepared the team were for London and will be for the Rio Paralympics. We’ve been lucky to have been joined by Paralympics Chairman Tim Reddish, who as a blind person, rides it on a tandem each year as well as illustrious athletes such as Paralympian multiple gold medallist Dame Sarah Storey, Jody Cundy, Olympian James Cracknell and England Rugby Captain Lewis Moody.
What do you love about it?
I love the way challenges like this bring out the best in people. I carry a small, water proof, yellow book and a draughtsman pencil to record why riders take on the challenge. The stories are moving. Some are raising huge sums for worthy causes. I have been reduced to tears by stories of parents finding a degree of solace from the loss of a child or a parent by riding and reflecting on life. Some are recovering from cancer and others making the most of being 100% healthy. What breaks out after a few days is a tremendous camaraderie. Everyone has a bad day on Deloitte RAB as you are putting your body through extreme strain and the hills of Cornwall and Scotland can break you. But you see great acts of kindness between people and quiet words of encouragement when people really need it. My favourite moment is when the entire camp crew drop what they are doing and run to the finish line area to clap in the last rider of the day – it’s very moving to see the humanity of that gesture. There’s also plenty of amusing banter about the sores in unmentionable places. The Deloitte RAB bubble, as we call it, is an unstoppable arrow of human positivity – you have to be part of it to know what I mean.
Is Deloitte RAB only for the super fit cyclist?
As any of my friends or colleagues would tell you, I am no cyclist. I completed the Deloitte RAB in 2012 with my best man. I loved every mile of it. I was determined to create a truly accessible event that would welcome all shapes and sizes and levels of cycling knowledge. With the right training and preparation, a healthy dose of respect for what you are taking on and a half decent bike, anyone and, I mean, anyone can do this challenge and feel the explosion of self-esteem at the finish line. All the better if you’ve picked a charitable cause close to your heart as the achievement provokes respect and incredible generosity in even the most sceptical of people.
Sign up to Deloitte RAB 2016 here.