The last time I was in John O'Groats I'd been driven there in a Rover 75 by a stranger who turned out to be a trombonist called Katrina. It was two years ago and I'd been asked by this newspaper to find out if it were still possible to hitchhike in modern Britain. I proved you could (but not without getting very wet or experiencing moments of mild peril); Katrina was the last of 12 drivers who had taken me from London to the tip of Scotland in two and a half days.
All things being well, on 12 June, I'll be back in John O'Groats for a greater challenge – to point my front wheel south and cycle all the way to Land's End in the farthest reaches of Cornwall. This time, I'll have nine days to complete my journey, but that will mean cycling an average of 115 miles a day, every day – albeit through some of Britain's most stunning countryside.
An end-to-end bike ride, usually following the more traditional Land's End to John O'Groats route ("Lejog" as opposed to "Jogle"), is a popular test for mile-eating cyclists. But the options have been prohibitive. You either had to find a friend prepared to spend a week in a support car, or you went it alone and carted everything in giant panniers or one of those even-less-cool mini trailers.
The Ride Across Britain (RAB), sponsored by Deloitte, offers a third way. A mobile festival of cycling making its debut this year, RAB will give more than 500 riders the chance to tackle a tour of epic proportions. In effect nine "sportives" in a row – with all the equipment, feed stations and mechanical support you'd expect – it's tied together by a vast mobile tented village that will race ahead with the gear during each stage to set up camp and put on the pasta.
The brainchild of Olympic-rower-turned-cyclist James Cracknell, RAB is one of the most exciting additions to the cycling calendar for years. It represents a Herculean feat of logistics for the organisers but I'm more worried about its demands on my legs. I've done more than 115 miles in a day – but repeating that nine times over decent hills will be something else. I can't wait for the challenge and the chance to see the entire country from the comfort (or discomfort) of my saddle. I'm just hoping I won't need to hitch any rides along the way.
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