No-one said that attempting to set a new record for the fastest 1,700-mile cycle journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats and back again would be easy.
But Chris Hopkinson’s epic challenge was almost derailed at the starting line when the endurance cyclist smashed his helmet and launched an emergency Twitter appeal for a replacement.
Hopkinson hopes to better the current time for the ultimate UK cycling challenge, known as the “Lejogle”, of five days, 21 hours and eight minutes, set in 2010.
The 45-year-old music teacher from Richmond, North Yorkshire, set off from Land’s End at 10am this morning and is using the record attempt to raise awareness of the Royal Signals Benevolent Fund.
Hopkinson, who took up “ultra” cycling aged 31, as a way of commuting to work, has previously conquered a number of gruelling challenges.
He was named the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association 24 hour champion in 2012, and was the first solo Briton to finish the west-to-east coast Race Across America in 2005, where he completed 3,052 miles in 11 days, and 23 hours.
Ben Rockett, a postgraduate student from the University of Bath, achieved the current record time for “Lejogle”, which is notorious for its brutality. Rockett lost 8kg and burnt 105,000 calories during his journey.
Hopkinson expects to get less than three hours of sleep a day during the journey, as well as battling against unseasonably cold weather and high winds.
However Lejogle is just a warm-up for Hopkinson, a member of 32 Signal Regiment, Royal Signals (Northern) Band. “The world record attempt is basically just part of my training for the 2013 Race Across America in June,” he said.
That 3,000 mile challenge, described as the world’s toughest bike race, departs from California. “Mind you the weather is going to be slightly different,” said Hopkinson. “We currently have snow and strong winds which are expected to last, but I'm prepared. I just hope the crew can stay warm.”
However 'Hoppy''s helmet didn’t make it beyond the start line after its owner discovered that the visor had been broken in transit.
The Twitter account for the Road.cc cycling website, which is following Hopkinson’s progress, sent a message: “EMERGENCY: Chris Hopkinson has broken his TT helmet on his LEJOGLE record attempt. Anyone in Cornwall got one he can borrow for 4.5 days?... Needs to be a size L, with a visor.”
The father-of-two is supported by a 9-strong road team, which includes his girlfriend Jenny. She said: “Chris’s helmet got squashed and we’ve sent a van off to find a replacement which is not easy – or cheap.”
Hopkinson was still on course for the record, she said. “There’s some big hills on the first day but he should get through 375 miles so it’s all looking good. A lot of endurance cycling is mental strength, rather than physical he says. Chris has just shot past shouting ‘yee-haw’ so I’d say he is in a good mood.”
The cyclist is living off malt loaf, energy bars and hot pasta during breaks, his girlfriend said. He will bed down to sleep in two hour bursts on pre-planned sites on his route.