Richmond24- The Preperation

We all go out for our regular weekend rides. We have a leisurely coffee stop. We eat some cake. We pedal home. 

85km with brilliant company is a great ride and a full morning on the road. 160km spent exploring is one of the most perfect ways to make the most of every hour offered up by the long, bright, sunny days of summer.

But what happens when you keep going? When you've seen the sun come up and watched it set again? When you've turn on your lights on and pedal into the darkening road ahead with no intention of going home? 

What happens when you spend 24 hours straight on the bike?

I've always been one for a spontaneous challenge. Each year these seem to become more and more unrealistic, as I set myself targets that are daunting, but just the right side of the achievable to remain tantalising doable (just). 

Most recently, I spent the last few days of summer 2015 cycling across Romania and climbing the legendary Transfăgărășan and Carpathian Mountain range. Covering 800km in 5 days, and taking in more than 13,200m of climbing, I rode with a team of riders across Romania. From Bacau, we headed over the Transfăgărășan (voted the most beautiful road in the world), across the Carpathian Mountains, into Transylvania and finished exhausted, sick from altitude and and sun stroke, but incredibly proud at Sinana.

With pain and suffering from the last challenge having faded, leaving behind just the enjoyable memories collected along the way, the question soon reared its head: what's next? 

In a bid to answer it, I thought about my strengths. I used to race track. I train for power. I can go flat out over short distances. 

And then I headed to the other end of the spectrum: endurance. Going far is something I know, but not well. I've never truly tested how far I can go (both literally and metaphorically speaking) and where my limits lie. In that unknown lies the excitement, the trepidation and the challenge.

That's why, on the 18th and ‪19th June 2016 – the weekend of the summer solstice – myself and Chris Pressdee will be cycling around Richmond Park for 24 Hours.

The ride is not just an opportunity to hammer myself into the ground. It has a greater purpose: to raise money for The PACE Centre, a charity my cycle team, Ripcor, has supported for 10 years. A family-centred charity, PACE provides an innovative education for life to children with sensory motor disorders. It's based on a belief in each child’s ability to learn and they tailor that service to their individual needs. The unrelenting, inspiring work of every member of staff transforms the lives of the children that they help. 

On the Richmond 24, the aim is to get as many other riders and clubs involved as possible. Minute men, pace setters, wind buffers, friendly faces, domestiques, fresh legs, a change in conversation – the involvement of everyone and anyone will be integral to getting us through the daylight element of the challenge. 

When night falls, it will just be Elvis and I, grinding it out in the dark. Our only company will be each other and the deer that roam the park. 

Until then, the training continues. So far, it's been weeks of as big a distances as I can muster. Anything from 240-320km can climb to more than double that as I head out on long, weekend rides. With seven weeks to go, the mileage keeps increasing. I'm mixing early morning rides with cycles that begin in the middle of the night and high intensity turbo sessions as I try to acclimatise my (increasingly aching) body to functioning well on a bike at during its darkest hours. Advised to focus on my heart rate (and keeping it low), attacks off the front and chasing down those riders in the distance remains tempting, but is something I'm learning to do less of. 

I've no doubt that what lies ahead is going to be brutal. There are going to be times when I want to throw down my bike and admit defeat. Beyond the support of the day, I know what will get me through each of those 1,440 increasingly grueling minutes will be the effect the money raised as a result of the challenge will have on The PACE Centre and the lives it touches.

Distance and hours on the bike remain King. I don't know how many kilometres we'll have clocked up by the time we see our second dawn, but whatever it is, it'll be a first and a Richmond Park record.