Nando's, closed roads and 'thinking I'm gonna get wrestled off my bike': how Mike Broadwith dramatically broke Edinburgh to London cycling record
A lot can happen in 18 hours on a journey south from the Scottish to the English capital
"I'm not too bad," Mike Broadwith laughs, his voice slightly more hoarse than it was a few days ago when we last spoke. "I'm on a strange emotional and physical comedown. I'm elated, but exhausted. A bit broken."
It's understandable, for the long-distance supremo has just ridden 386 miles from Edinburgh to London in a provisional time of 17-42.47, breaking the previous record set by Pete Wells in 1989 of 17-48.04. Subject to the Road Records Association approving the time, Broadwith will have sliced five minutes and 17 seconds off the 32-year-old record.
And he did it in the most dramatic, eventful manner.
Edinburgh depart and heading south
Broadwith, who only had a limited window to attempt the record due to working as a maths teacher, got to Edinburgh on Wednesday with his small support crew. The final preparation for almost 18 hours in the saddle took place in a chicken restaurant.
"I think it's the best bonding experience, taking the whole team out to a Nando's," he says. "We enjoyed a nice meal, everything was ready, we had a nice hotel and then we were up at 4.30am."
Broadwith had to start his ride outside the general post office in the city, and the weather "was quite a bit colder than I was anticipating." Luckily, though, the wind was blowing southwards, his direction of travel.
He had to pass three big climbs just south of Edinburgh, crossing the summits with the mercury barely above zero, and then dropping into valleys where "the cold hung about. It was quite hair-raising and still dark."
The fastest man to ride from Land's End to John O'Groats was down on schedule as he approached Newcastle, the north-eastern city where the day's first proverbial spanners were thrown full pelt into the metaphorical works.
He had been warned though. "About two weeks before, a cyclist I didn't know messaged me and told me that they were doing roadworks on the ring road around Newcastle and I wouldn't be able to cycle through there," he reveals.
"It meant we had to re-plan the route late on and I had to go through the centre of Newcastle which was quite the adventure. I ended up even taking a cycle path through the middle of the city which wasn't in the plan, and the support crew couldn't get bottles to me."
Roadside support helps morale
As Broadwith exited Newcastle, he picked up speed upon reaching the flatter lands of Yorkshire, with the tailwind providing a vital support too.
Edinburgh to London may not be an iconic record - indeed there have only ever been 12 previous successful attempts at resetting the fastest time - but Broadwith's name is enough to ignite interest. And Yorkshire cyclists were out in force.
"The number of people supporting me at the roadside in Yorkshire was basically mad. There must have been 200 out there. They made such a difference with their drums, cowbells, shouting my name. The whole thing was incredibly special; I never dreamt that that amount of people would turn out. It was fabulous."
Broadwith was around 20 minutes behind his schedule pace which was intended to see him arrive in London after 17 hours and 30 minutes. The wind, the support, and jumping onto the non-motorway section of the A1 saw him claw back time time. "I don't recommend the A1 to anyone as it's not scenic, but in this sort of context it's great because you can just hammer it down there.
"We got to Peterborough level on the schedule and we were all pretty excited."
It was there when the demons of long-distance riding came out to play.
In a race against the clock
Broadwith resumes the story. "Just after Peterborough, I started to get cold and I knew I only had four hours left, but the legs were really suffering.
"There was this small climb to come but it really started to get on top of me. The support crew were trying to get the message across to me that I was down, trying to motivate me, but I was in a negative head space."
Cue the cycling community.
"I crossed onto the A10 and I've never known anything like it," he says. "Those last 10 to 15 miles on the A10, there were people in every lay-by, on every bridge, ringing bells, with signs, shouting my name.
"It sounds a cliche but I found something from their enthusiasm. I looked down at my Garmin and I'd been averaging 32kmh, but then I was cruising at 38kmh. It was touch and go at that point, I was feeling dispirited, but all those people helped me fight."
He was motivated again, but there was to be another obstacle. Parts of the A10 were closed to begin a night of resurfacing. Clearly Highways England hadn't got the memo.
"It was completely unbeknown to us," he says. "We go the north circular and it was all coned off. I took the plunge and just cycled through all the road works. I was thinking 'I'm gonna get wrestled off my bike, here'. I hope they don't have CCTV to track down the man on a TT bike riding through the resurfacing works."
Passing the M25 with around 40 minutes of riding left, Broadwith was followed through the capital at a distance of 20 metres by his team-mate Josh. "I saw this grin of his and it was so special. It was like being chased through the streets of London with added adrenaline.
Broadwith - and Josh trailing behind him - arrived into the old post office in the City of London just before 11pm, stopping the clock after 17 hours and 42 minutes. He collapsed to the ground.
"It was a remarkable day out," he adds. "It was exciting, emotional, intense. It's a real vote of confidence in the RRA by the amount of people who turned out. There's a real narrative to these journeys; people love the story behind it. Yesterday was very special - like all the record rides have been."
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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