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Irvine and Charlie Mitchell off to storming start this morning

At 6:30 this morning, Dominic Irvine and Charlie Mitchell left Land's End in an attempt to break the men's tandem record for cycling between the two furthest points on the British mainland.

The existing record, held by Pete Swinden and John Withers, stands at 50 hours, 14 minutes and 25 seconds. Swinden and Withers set that mark in 1966, making the tandem Land's End - John O'Groats (LEJOG) one of the most durable records in cycling.

Irvine and Mitchell have got off to a storming start, covering the first 100 miles in 4:44:19, an average of 22.89 mph, according to their tracker.

It's Irvine's third attempt on the record after things went pear-shaped for him and his partner in 2012 and 2014.

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.

In 2014, Irvine teamed up with time trial legend Glenn Longland, but things went south when Longland collapsed just before they reached the halfway point.

The tandem LEJOG has defeated other pairs of top-flight athletes too.

In 2011 James Cracknell and Jeroen Walters abandoned 68.3 miles from John O'Groats, citing safety issues.

That was Cracknell's second attempt at a LEJOG tandem record after a tilt at the mixed record in 2009 with individual pursuit Olympic champion Rebecca Romero had to be abandoned because Romero developed swelling around the knee.

A typical End-to-End touring ride takes about ten days, though riders doing it for fun usually take a longer route than the 832-mile track Irvine and Mitchell are following.

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.

But as the record's recent history shows, a bike with two riders means there are twice as many chances for something to go wrong.

Irvine's previous experience and support team should increase the chances of everything going smoothly this time.

He said: “Charlie and I might be the ones riding the bike, but it’s a real team effort and a huge amount of work from everyone has gone into making this record attempt possible.

"I’m extremely grateful to the coaches at Winchester University who developed our training plan, the guys at Orbit Tandems who specially designed our amazing bike, our nutritionist and all the medics, route-planners and support crew who have given up their time to support the attempt, proof that success is a team game.

"With the dedication and training we've all put in, myself and Charlie have a real shot at breaking this record and we’re very excited to get going.”

You can follow the team's progress throughout the attempt on their live GPS tracker or follow them on Twitter at @a3crg, @DomIrvine and @cmitchell5017.

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.

20 comments

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Must be Mad [625 posts] 2 years ago
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Did they choose today specifically? 40 mph (mostly) tailwind this morning, raising to 45mph this afternoon.

Good luck guys, and hang onto the bike!

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TeamExtreme [104 posts] 2 years ago
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Apart from the odd drizzle of rain, the weather forecast couldn't be much more favourable, good luck to them!

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EK Spinner [78 posts] 2 years ago
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First of all good luck to them and I wait to be impressed with their time

BUT I do wonder if it is wise for such records and attempts to be promoted in this day and age. These guys will be on the public roads, an environment that we all know requires the users to be alert for their own and others safety. As cyclists we are the first to condemn HGV drivers who exceed their hours or drivers who have been driving a car when excessively tired so why do we allow/encourage 30+ hours on a bike or tandem. I struggle to believe that by the time they get to the finish they will be alert enough to be as safe as they should be.

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sunDOG [26 posts] 2 years ago
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Significant wind-assist, their speed should be phenomenal!!

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pirnie [199 posts] 2 years ago
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EK Spinner wrote:

First of all good luck to them and I wait to be impressed with their time

BUT I do wonder if it is wise for such records and attempts to be promoted in this day and age. These guys will be on the public roads, an environment that we all know requires the users to be alert for their own and others safety. As cyclists we are the first to condemn HGV drivers who exceed their hours or drivers who have been driving a car when excessively tired so why do we allow/encourage 30+ hours on a bike or tandem. I struggle to believe that by the time they get to the finish they will be alert enough to be as safe as they should be.

The difference being an HGV weighs several tons. A tandem does not.....

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Must be Mad [625 posts] 2 years ago
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Also, they will have a support car/van following on behind to keep an eye on them.

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mtm_01 [201 posts] 2 years ago
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EK Spinner wrote:

First of all good luck to them and I wait to be impressed with their time

BUT I do wonder if it is wise for such records and attempts to be promoted in this day and age. These guys will be on the public roads, an environment that we all know requires the users to be alert for their own and others safety. As cyclists we are the first to condemn HGV drivers who exceed their hours or drivers who have been driving a car when excessively tired so why do we allow/encourage 30+ hours on a bike or tandem. I struggle to believe that by the time they get to the finish they will be alert enough to be as safe as they should be.

Blah - stick in the mud. Embrace the attempt!

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TeamExtreme [104 posts] 2 years ago
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So they're completely absolved of any kind of responsibility to themselves or others?!

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mtm_01 [201 posts] 2 years ago
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TeamExtreme wrote:

So they're completely absolved of any kind of responsibility to themselves or others?!

Well they're supported and it sounds like they've had no problem throwing in the towel before.
The way you've written the previous post would deter people from going up Everest because they might die or swimming the Channel because they might die. Running the marathon seems to have a reasonable death rate these days so we should stop that too!
For me it's a personal responsibility - if you can do it, then have a go but it's not worth giving up your life for if you can't - don't nip it in the bud before the off.

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barbarus [497 posts] 2 years ago
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You know that the monetisation of Olympians has reached new levels when cyclists start developing "selling around the knees"

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Must be Mad [625 posts] 2 years ago
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13 hours in, they are still whizzing along at an average of 22mph, and going past (or round) Birmingham now.

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John Stevenson [304 posts] 2 years ago
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barbarus wrote:

You know that the monetisation of Olympians has reached new levels when cyclists start developing "selling around the knees"

Thanks for the funniest typo-spot I've seen in a while. That's now fixed.

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pakennedy [183 posts] 2 years ago
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If they can maintain that average speed it'll be 40hours and 20 minutes.

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pakennedy [183 posts] 2 years ago
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Quick play with a spreadsheet (unless I've messed up) crossing the line around midnight.

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Paul J [943 posts] 2 years ago
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Am I misunderstanding the tracker, or did they cycle along the M74?  1

(Not that I buy into the "Cyclist on motorway! Danger Will Robinson!" rubbish - motorway cycling is a lot less dangerous than being on dual-carriageway with no hard shoulder).

Edit: Ah no, it's the road that goes exactly alongside the M74.  1

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pakennedy [183 posts] 2 years ago
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I did make a mistake on the calculations courtesy of the way Excel treats hours as times sometimes.

ETA 2:18am

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 2 years ago
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currently 5hrs ahead of schedule!!!!

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Al__S [1268 posts] 2 years ago
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Beasting their way up the A9 at the moment

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pakennedy [183 posts] 2 years ago
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I make that 45:27:00. Congrats when they wake up!

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EK Spinner [78 posts] 2 years ago
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I didn't ask what the differences are, I do understand physics afterall, these differences explain why HGVs have tighter controls than cars etc BUT I do ask is it wise to promote cycling for 45 hours continuously on the public road - I don't think so. They still need to be able to react to situations, judge traffic speeds at junctions etc.

Should extreme endurance events be encouraged on the roads network is really the question regardless of the mass of vehicle involved.