British adventurer Maria Leijerstam is three days into her attempt to cycle to the South Pole and already ahead of her rivals American Daniel Burton and Spaniard Juan Menendez Granados despite starting days behind them.
Maria has spent the first three days of the ride climbing, as you can see from the elevation profile below. She now faces a ride of 500km on her fat-tyred recumbent trike across the Antarctic plateau, one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.
In her last tweet, she wrote: “I now must survive 500k on polar plateau. Have sore back from misplaced strap but cured cold feet!”
She sounds in good spirits and is covering ground surprisingly quickly - 41km on December 17 and almost 50km on December 18, after which she tweeted: “Can't believe I am camped half way up Leverett which has been giving me nightmares for a year! All I want for Christmas is to get to the top of this glacier!”
Meanwhile, Daniel Burton has been covering 10-20 nautical miles per day on his fatbike, towing his supplies in a sled. He has described each day of his ride so far as “the hardest day of my life”.
On his blog, he writes: “On a spin bike, turn the resistance up as high as you can and still be able to turn over the pedals, I mean even harder than that. Now ride like that for 10 hours a day for two months and you will have an idea what it is like to bike to the South Pole.”
Juan Menendez Granados has struggled with bad weather and has mysteriously managed to pick up a touch of frostbite on the skin over his collarbone.
Both Daniel and Juan are listening to music to keep their spirits up, though Daniel writes: “When you are dead tired and don't want to go on anymore is not a good time for Pink Floyd's Goodbye Cruel World to come up on the playlist.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.