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Michael Broadwith – Breaking the Lands End to John O’Groats Record at 19.438mph!

"I enjoyed huge amounts of the ride – I couldn’t fail to be touched by all the folks who turned out to see me through..."

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It’s been a few years now since we spoke to the then new world 200 metre flying start record holder, Frenchman Francois Pervis. It took him just 9.347 seconds to make history.

We have another exclusive interview with a man who’s just broken a long-standing and seemingly ‘shelved’ record; he was in the saddle just a tad longer: 43 hours, 25 minutes and 13 seconds to be exact, taking 39 minutes off TT and BBAR legend, Gethin Butler’s figure from 2001.

VeloVeritas has spoken to Michael Broadwith in the past, when he won the national 24 hour championship in 2015 with a monstrous 537 miles.

This time the distance was even more extreme: 840 miles, the distance between Lands End and John O’Groats, which he covered at an average speed of 19.438 mph.

I try to be sparing with the superlatives but that is truly an amazing performance.

Michael kindly gave of his time to us just a few days after his gargantuan ride.

Michael Broadwith
Michael is all smiles at the start… Photo©supplied

Congratulations, Michael on a truly remarkable achievement – when did you first begin to think about the record?

“Thank you, I’ve been very moved by the amount of support and congratulations I’ve received.

“When I won the first of my three national 24 hour titles folks said to me that I had the ability to go for the ‘end to end’ and I rather dismissed the idea.

“But I have to say that it’s something I’ve always dreamed about.

“And last year, after my third 24 hour title I sat down with my wife and began to plan – we thought I may never get the chance again and should go for it.”

Tell us about your training.

“I’m a teacher and the bulk of my training is my 20/25 miles to work then the same home plus turbo sessions in the garage.

“I do 10 to 12 hours on the road each week and two to four hours on the turbo.

“I have a family and my training has to fit in around them.”

No monster ‘prep’ runs?

“No, I don’t believe in huge training runs, I think that they take too long to recover from and mean that it’s not there for races.

“But I did a couple of recce. runs in February; I rode Taunton to Stafford then later I did another run from Kendal to Perth but those were more to familiarise me with the route.”

Who prepared your schedule?

“I did that myself, I’m a maths teacher and I’ve come up with a way to write schedule programmes – I did Alice Lethbridge’s schedule when she beat the ladies’ 12 hour record.

“I framed it so I had a 30 minute ‘buffer’ at the end and that’s how it worked out.”

Michael Broadwith
Michael’s support team celebrate breaking the record. Photo©supplied

Tell us about your support team.

“We had four vehicles, with the guy who runs our team – Pete Ruffhead, then Tim Bayley, Steve Nunn, Steve Abrahams, my wife, RRA officials, friends; my auntie and uncle were there in their camper van – and my eight month-old daughter, Poppy was with us too.”

I believe there are pretty strict rules about passing/feeding?

“Very strict; there’s an RRA observer in each vehicle and the following vehicles are only allowed to pass twice each hour – and when they pass they’re not allowed to communicate with you.”

Is it synchronised watches at both ends or does the time keeper travel with you?

“The same guy, John Pick accompanies you the whole way, he starts the watches at Lands End.

“On the way we picked up the 24 hour record, around Lockerbie, that point has to be marked by the time keeper; the distance has to be officially confirmed but it’s around 508.5 miles, Gethin had the record previously with 505.5 miles.

“I had a good tailwind coming up through Cornwall so I had a feeling at the start that I could get that record.”

You rode a pure time trial machine.

“Yes, an ‘old style’ Specialized Shiv of the kind Cancellara used to ride, the position is pretty aggressive and after 30 hours my neck gave out.

“I had a rear disc and front Zipp 808 thanks to my sponsors – it was a fast set up but to take the record from a guy like Gethin Butler you need every advantage; with that in mind I didn’t put off time at the start, my first ‘100’ was a 4:05.”

Michael Broadwith
Michael held the tuck for most of the way – incredible. Photo©supplied

What was your lowest gear?

“I think it was 39 x 28 and I used it on Berriedale.”

The highest?

“I had a 55 x 11 but because I was riding to power I actually freewheeled most of the descents.”

That’s a nice drop into Inverness from Drumossie…

“That was a good part of the ride, the rain stopped there and I had an off-the-bike feed and a complete change into dry kit, near the Kessock Bridge for the final push.”

What about nutrition?

“I was sponsored by OTE who make sports drinks, gels and bars – I had a schedule to drink one bottle, take one gel and eat one piece of food every hour.

“What was a big help was that I have a friend who made me savoury energy bars – chicken curry and egg and bacon, they were great, your palate gets so tired of all the sweet stuff, they were a huge help.”

Michael Broadwith
Michael uploads a fresh intake of calories. Photo©supplied

Perhaps a daft question but did you enjoy any of the ride?

“I enjoyed huge amounts of it – I couldn’t fail to be touched by all the folks who turned out to see me through, especially in the Midlands and the North.”

And the least enjoyable?

“From Cowdenbeath to Inverness it rained solidly and heavily all the way – that was pretty intense.

“There was a tough patch north of Perth where what kept me going was the thought of how much everyone had given up to be there with me.”

Tell us about that mythical beast of a climb, Berriedale Braes near Helmsdale, that you mentioned?

“I said to a few folks before the ride that it would be good to climb it knowing the record was ‘on;’ and that’s how it how it turned out, I climbed it in the dark but strongly, just as strongly as I’d ridden the climbs in Cornwall.

“My friends were cheering me on up there – I loved it!”

And you had terrible neck problems?

“I did; my neck muscles gave up from the extreme TT position is was in; on the flat I could just about see where I was going but on the climbs I had to hold my head up so I could see where I was going – the descents were accomplished with my elbow on the tri-bar so I could support my head with my hand.

“My wife was a bit worried about that manoeuvre!”

And how are you feeling now?

“My neck is better and – perhaps surprisingly – my legs and backside are fine too, but I’ve damaged a nerve in my hand; I’ve lost feeling in two fingers.

“The doctor says I’ll just have to wait and see if the feeling comes back.

“My lips too have been giving me problems but I think that’s just because my immune system is so down after the ride.”

Michael Broadwith
Michael’s immune and nerve systems and took a hammering on the record ride and he’s still suffering. Photo©supplied

Have you got all the ‘stats’ from the ride?

“I had a Garmin on the bike and a tracker so folk could see where I was and whilst I haven’t figured out at all the details on calories burned and exact watts, I reckon I averaged 210 watts – 280 on the climbs, 230 on the flat and I freewheeled the descents.

“What’s strange is that I’ve continued to lose weight this week – my body is still recovering from the effort.”

And what’s next?

“The British 24 hour champs in four weeks time; no one has won that four times in a row, I’ve won three, four would be amazing.

“The next four weeks are about getting my body into a fit state to be on the start line.

“The World 24 hour Championship is in Los Angeles in October, out in the desert; it starts off as a massed start for 10 miles but then you have to ride your own race as a time trial.

“There’s a long 15 mile circuit you ride for the first 20 hours then it goes onto a smaller circuit for the final four hours.

“I may think about that – but it’s hard to know where to go after you’ve done Lands End to John O’Groats…”

Indeed it must be! With thanks to Michael for his time and congratulations again on a truly massive achievement.

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

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