The record for riding Land’s End to John O’Groats by tandem is one of cycling’s most enduring. On May 3 2014, Dominic Irvine and Glenn Longland will set out to crack the mark of 50 hours 14 minutes and 25 seconds set in 1966 by Pete Swinden and John Withers.
A typical End-to-End touring ride takes about ten days, though riders doing it for fun usually take a longer route than the 840-mile track Irvine and Longland will use.
The solo men’s record is just over 40 hours (40:04:20, set in 2001 by Gethin Butler) so on paper the tandem record looks vulnerable, tandems usually being faster than solo bikes.
In practice, it’s not so easy. Olympic rower-turned-endurance cyclist James Cracknell has tried to break both the men’s record (with Jerone Walters) and the mixed record (with Rebecca Romero) and failed both times.
In 2012, Irvine and Ian Rodd rode the full distance, but missed the record by more than eight hours after Irvine became ill early in the ride. They are thought to be the only team to have ridden the distance non-stop since Swinden and Withers.
After that attempt, Irvine described the record as “unfinished business” and now he’s back with one of the legends of British time trialling, Glenn Longland.
Longland was the first rider to average more then 25mph in a 12-hour time trial when he set a record of 300.8 miles in 1991 on the way to winning the British Best All-Rounder time trial title for the second time.
As well as an endurance cyclist, Dominic is a motivational speaker and facilitator and is all about ‘Maverick Thinking’ - examining how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
After his 2012 attempt on the record, he said: “It’s really great, isn’t it, as an ordinary person, not a superstar, not an Olympian, to take on an extraordinary challenge, and just see if you can do it.”
Irvine and Longland hooked up after Ian Todd decided another crack at the record was not for him, and Irvine put the word out that he needed a partner.
On his blog, Irvine wrote: “Glenn’s a legend, and living proof that age is just a number. At 57 years of age his prowess on a bike is simply phenomenal. We had our first century ride together a few weekends ago. If you were riding a sportive in and around Pewsey and Upavon, my apologies, you weren't slow, it’s just we were in the groove and flying. It bodes well, really well for the next attempt.”
Talking about his latest attempt on the Land’s End to John O’Groats tandem record, Irvine said: “I like to practice what I preach and I am a prime example of someone ordinary accomplishing something extraordinary. With dedication and training, myself and Glenn have a real shot at breaking this record and we’re very excited for things to get going.”
Irvine and Longland will be using the attempt to raise money for Heart Research UK’s ‘Helping Little Hearts’ campaign.
Irvine said: “Having spent a number of years helping young people make the most of their potential through sport, and with several members of my own family benefitting from the improvements in heart surgery, supporting 'helping little hearts' as part of HRUK seems a particularly appropriate focus.”
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.