Our first full calendar year of existence has come to a close and it’s time to look back at the highlights of this year. Despite global events, 2022 was a fantastic year of cycling, especially with our new event, the Wild West Country, bringing a host of new faces into the sport. But what made it such a memorable year?
The first challenge is getting to the start line. So to the 35 riders who beat covid, injury and family calendar clashes to make it to one of our start lines, we thank you!
Many experienced riders forget how daunting their first start line was, so it’s worth remembering that our sport can easily seem out of reach to your everyday cyclist. But once you’re on that start line and you see you’re sharing it with normal people, rather than superhumans, it hopefully becomes that bit less terrifying. And if anyone is on the fence about taking the plunge in 2023, just go for it.
We had 23 riders reach a finish line this year. And for all but a freakish few individuals, this will always remain a challenge in itself, so we applaud you all!
It’s easy to forget that these kinds of events are meant to be difficult. Finishing is not supposed to be comfortable and you should feel like it has taken you to your limit. But with this level of adversity comes a corresponding sense of achievement. It was fantastic to see the range of emotions that everyone went through at the finish line. And it’s one of the reasons why I’m going to find it difficult to ever delegate finish-line duties.
Being resilient is not just an asset in these kinds of events; it’s a requirement. And this resilience was on display by the bucket load in both events this year. An honourable mention has to go to Rhiannon, who was our lanterne rouge at the Wild West Country. Despite being timed out, she rode through the entire final night to finish just after dawn the following morning.
But the greatest show of resilience was certainly by Donald and Joe, who braved the hottest ever UK weather during The Perfidious Albion in July. In temperatures where simply existing was unpleasant, they were tackling a succession of tough climbs. However, resilience takes different forms and it was their ability to stop for an entire afternoon – whilst the heatwave was dangerously ferocious – and then go again the next morning that truly impressed me. This kind of pragmatic resolve is actually far tougher than blindly powering through.
Ultra-endurance sport often paints itself as gritty, painful and unrelenting. But beneath this macho veneer, there is a certain amount of pleasure in the simple existence and escapism it provides. Finding happiness in never-ending miles is not a skill that everyone can master. But so many riders this year seemed to be relishing the challenge and embraced this mindset.
Whether it was Joe heading to the next pub, Simon and Ian heading to the next pub or Simon Vale heading to the next pub, they all seemed to ride with a smile on their faces. Actually, wait, I seem to sense a theme here…
Our events have always been about celebrating British riding and the landscapes that the routes take you through. Therefore, it would be remiss of me to ignore the true star of the show: Britain’s natural beauty. Admittedly, both events benefitted from ludicrous amounts of sunshine and clear skies, meaning the views were exceptionally good this year. But it was still lovely to hear riders getting off their bikes and talking about the views they had encountered during the ride.
Size Doesn’t Matter
When our start list for The Perfidious Albion dropped to single digits, I was a little worried. When it fell to just five riders, I was very worried. This was not because of the financial implications, but rather my concerns that the riders might lose that sense of community and shared experience with such a small group.
However, once the pedalling began, my worries faded away. I had forgotten that the essence of ultra-endurance riding is you alone against the route, which remains unaffected by the number of other riders. And the sense of community that might have been lacking on the road was more than made up for by the lively WhatsApp group and social media engagement. In the end, I became just as engrossed as everyone else watching Joe and Donald masterfully tick off the miles, tackling one challenge after another.
Our New Year’s Resolution: Giving Back
One thing that events never really talk about is how they are costed and where any leftover money goes. Well, I’d like to be a little more transparent about this with our events. We have two key aims when it comes to costing and pricing. Firstly, the priority is to keep prices affordable, even if this means that things like manned checkpoints may never be included. Secondly, our events are costed with the aim of being profitable.
This second point may surprise you. But the reality is that both costs and numbers fluctuate, so aiming for profitability is a much safer bet than pricing to break even. In essence, I believe that this is a more sustainable strategy and will ensure that our events will still be around in 10 years.
But what happens to this profit? Well, firstly, it’s not a particularly large amount of money. However, we are committed to donating at least half of it to good causes, usually with a cycling connection. The remaining amount will be used to reinvest in our events and also act as an emergency reserve.
Eventually, I hope to be able to commit to giving an exact percentage to good causes, but we are still only 18 months old, so I can’t be certain what this will be yet. But for this year, we have donated £300 to the cycling project at Swindon Welcomes Ukraine. This donation was made in October and, at the time, they replied with this message:
“Thank you! I have run out of ladies’ helmets and with just £3.04 in the bank, I was facing handing out bikes with no safety equipment.”
Hopefully, you will agree that this is an excellent cause and the money has been put to good use. If you would like to support them further, we will be taking kit/parts donations at the start of both Wild West Country and Mountains of the Merfynion.
Thank you everyone for your support and enthusiasm this year and I hope to see you at a start line in 2023,