Yorkshireman Mike Hall arrived in Greenwich just before one o'clock this afternoon after smashing the round-the-world bike ride record. The 31-year-old from Harrogate took around 91 days, 18 hours to circle the world from west to east, averaging almost 200 miles per day. As well as crossing the finish line on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend, today happens to be Hall's birthday.
A small but enthusiastic crowd was waiting for Hall at Greenwich Park – including his mum Patricia – with champagne and a couple of birthday cakes to mark the occasion.
Hall said he hadn't been expecting “anything like this” as he found himself surrounded by reporters, a video crew from the Press Association, reps from sponsors including Quick Energy and Upgrade Bikes, lots of friends and well-wishers from the long-distance cycling word and quite a few passing tourists who'd picked up that something was happening and stuck around to cheer him in.
Once he'd got over the surprise of being almost mobbed, we were able to ask what he'd been looking forward to most about being back. “Getting out of these shoes!” he said. “I've worn them away from the inside and there's a rivet that holds the rubber on the outside. Every time I pedal, it's all on my big toe, it hurts like crazy.”
Would he do it again? “Not for my own reasons, I don't have any curiosities to be out there satisfying and I think you need a personal reason to do this otherwise you end up coming home when it gets bad.”
Would he do things differently? “Lots. If you did six lots of 3,000 miles, and hit them all in two weeks, you could get the time right down. But it feels like more of an achievement to have gone through those long periods on the bike.”
Hall's longest continuous stint was when he crossed the USA. That 32-day section was the hardest, he said, because after a couple of weeks you can't remember when you started and you can't imagine the end.
Stopping for a couple of days at an airport for a transfer section “resets you.” By breaking the trip up into two week segments, Hall said he thought the record could be reduced to “certainly less than 80 days.”
“This record's open to a lot of criticism in the rules, and that [two-week stage strategy] would sort of lose something. This is a riders' race and we spoke among ourselves and decided that the winner would be the first back. We were all signed up to the Guinness rules so we had to stick to that, but if we did the race again, it'd be first back.”
Of course, on those terms or on the official Guinness rules, Hall is a clear and stunning winner. His journey started on February 18 when he and 9 other riders set out on the World Cycle Racing Grand Tour [http://worldcycleracing.com/]. Of the 10 starters only three are still riding, and Hall's closest rival Richard Dunnett is still in India, over 5,000 miles behind.
The previous record – 106 days, 10 hours and 33 minutes – was set last year by Alan Bate. Bate had a support crew for some of the distance, while Hall has ridden entirely unsupported, making his achievement in breaking the record by a two-week margin all the more astounding.
If you're wondering how the time since February 18 amounts to 92 days, it's all down to the rules set by the Guiness Book of Records for round-the-world rides. For a record attempt to qualify, riders must ride for at least 18,000 miles, continuously travelling East or West, and with flights and ferries etc must cover a total distance greater than the length of the equator. Transfer times are not counted in the record time and must use public transport. The route must also pass through two approximately antipodal points. The time Hall has spent on planes and ferries therefore doesn't count toward the record.
One of the aims of Mike's world record breaking ride was to raise money and awareness for the charity Cycle a Difference which works to improve the survival chancesof babies born prematurely in poorer parts of the world. You can find out more about Mike and his ride via his website www.normallyaspiratedhuman.com.
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.