Sometimes interview subjects come on to your radar in the least expected ways.
At the big lay-by on the Crow Road on Sunday I was admiring a titanium machine, a ‘No. 22’ by name, made in Canada. The unusual name comes from Titanium’s place in the periodic table of elements; but a very nicely built frame.
As one does, I got chatting to the owner, Fleur Stoops who asked me if VeloVeritas would be covering Christina’s End-to-End attempt?
I explained that we have an interview with Christina, ‘ready to run,’ having spoken to her after her victory in the CTT National 12 Hour Championship.
‘Not that Christina, the other one, Christina Murray, she goes next weekend,’ Fleur explained.
One thing lead to another and there I was sitting chatting over the phone to the ‘other Christina’ on Thursday evening.
The basics first please, Christina; age, where from and what do you do for a living?
“I’m 44 years-old, originally from Cheshire but live in Glasgow and I’m a lieutenant colonel in the British Army.”
[I duly sat to attention for the rest of the interview.]
The obvious question, what possesses you to want to ride a bicycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats?
“That’s a question I’ll be considering for some 52 hours commencing 07:00 am this Sunday [the 13th September]!
“My response has to be; “what if I can do it?”
“It’s the Blue Riband of RRA records and has so much history attached to it, to add my name to the roll of honour of such a magical, romantic endeavour would be wonderful.
“The other aspect is that since I got my first road bike back in May 2014 I’ve discovered that I’m suited to the longer distances – 12 and 24 hours and this has to be the logical progression from there.”
Tell us about your race results thus far.
“I was second in the 12 hour championship in 2017.
“I rode the 24 hour championship in 2018 and was DNF but came back to win it last year with a new competition record of 478.42 miles which broke Christine Roberts distance of 461.45 miles from 1993 by a pleasing margin.
“After the ‘24’ I rode the ‘12’ champs where I was second then six weeks after that I went for and broke Eileen Sheridan’s Edinburgh – York record from 1953 – but not by much, which proves what a remarkable lady she was.
“She phoned after the attempt to congratulate me.
“I did those three big endurance efforts to test myself, see how much I could suffer.”
I believe Michael Broadwith, who has featured in VeloVeritas for his 24 hour and End to End successes, is giving you advice?
“Michael is a good friend and has put my schedule together, he also helped me with my 24 hour and Edinburgh – York schedules.
“He’s a huge supporter of the RRA, last year there were four ladies, including me talking about going for the End to End, he’s helped all four of us, he’s completely impartial.
“But I have to tell you that being in the Army I thought I knew about planning and logistics but there was a mountain of it to climb for this attempt; December and January saw a huge amount of time spent on planning.”
With your being in the Army I guess they’ll be providing your support team?
“Some of my team will be Army people, yes but the majority will be civilians – friends and club mates with perhaps a third of my team coming from Glasgow.
“My coach, Mark Powell will be there with a core group of 15/16 people with other people coming in along the way to share the driving.
“All in all, some 20 people with four support vehicles.”
I believe the RRA rules on support vehicles are pretty strict?
“Each of our four vehicles will have an RRA observer, they’re all volunteers and not there to, ‘catch you out’ just to ensure you’re complying with the rules and give advice if necessary.
“The rules don’t actually stipulate a permitted frequency for your vehicles to pass you but it’s generally accepted that it should be no more than once each half hour.”
Will you be going for the RRA 24 hour record ‘along the way’?
“No, I decided against that, I don’t want distractions from the primary goal but I have lodged a notice of intent to carry on and do the 1,000 mile record – we’ll make a judgement on that after I reach John o’ Groats.”
Have you ridden much of the route to familiarise yourself with it?
“Pretty much all of it.
“I started my preparation on Boxing Day but had to pause during lock down obviously.
“I actually rode a part of the route unwittingly during my first race, the Lang Whang hilly time trial.”
Is your training all about volume?
“No, if you train, ‘long and slow’ then that’s how you’ll race.
“I train to power, pretty much as any time trial rider who’s riding 50 mile, 100 mile and 12 hour time trials would – plus extra volume, of course.”
Will you be on your Scott machine?
“Yes, my Scott Plasma time trial bike with an upgraded cockpit by Drag2Zero, who have been very helpful in getting my position right.
“A disc wheel on the rear and deep section front rim.”
How about nutrition?
“It’s a subject I’ve spent a lot of time researching, I have a friend who’s a Paralympian and nutrition expert and he’s given me a lot of guidance.
“I’ll be both real food and sports nutrition products, it’s something I’ve done a lot of experimentation on; I use OTE sports nutrition products – they’re not sponsoring me it’s just that I’ve found their products to be best for me.”
When’s ‘zero hour?’
“Sunday 13th September at 07:00 am, it’s later in the year than some have gone for it but when Andy Wilkinson broke the record it was this time of year – the prevailing south west wind should have settled in.
“I actually nominated May 1st on my notice of intent to the RRA but the Covid situation meant it’s only now I can go having followed all government guidelines on Covid safety.”
What’s the target?
“Lynne Taylor of Walsall Roads CC has the current record which she set back at the start of October in 2002 with 52 hours 45 minutes and 11 seconds.
“I’m targeting 52 hours so that gives me 45 minutes ‘in hand’ – but I’ll be happier with anything faster than the existing record!”
We wish Christine well on her epic adventure and will be out to, ‘give her a shout’ when she enters The Kingdom of Fife around tea time on Monday. You can check out the route and progress on LeJog.