Just a Normal Joe?

I had the opportunity to ask some questions of another racer, Martin Walker, participating in the upcoming World Cycle Racing – Grand Tour.  Martin is 38 years old and living in London.  On February, 18th he will be setting off to cycle 18,000 miles (28,800km) around the earth.  Martin claims he’s just a normal Joe.  I beg to differ.

Cycle the Earth (CTE): What are your motivations for taking part in this epic race around the world?

Martin Walker (MW): My motivation for this event come from a desire to show my daughter who is 11years old just what is possible if you set your mind to it. With the Olympic games to be held in London I saw this an an opportunity to do something big. I saw this race and thought “Yep that’ll do”.  I’m never going to be a Mark Cavendish and compete in these games but I could do this. What better way to show someone how small the world is than to cycle around it.  I will also be raising money for Cancer Research UK along the way.

CTE: Previous to this race what has been your longest race or ride?

MW: I am completely new to cycling and the bike I am riding is my first race bike. I had bought one of those cheap bikes you find to have a weekend cycling adventure with my little one for something to do earlier in the year so I’m on bike number two as an adult; which is the one I will race on.

Wow, I’m amazed that somebody completely new to cycling is attempting a race of this magnitude.  If successful this adds to magnitude of the accomplishment.  Should Martin contend for the record it will be truly an underdog story.  In either event, the race updates from Martin will be very interesting to follow.  He will certainly discover all of the pitfalls that can and will probably occur whether they be mechanicals, nutrition and/or the ability to maintain focus & bearing in a completely foreign environment.  I recommend to Martin attention to detail in all aspects of his preparation.

CTE: What is your personal time goal for finishing the race and do you think it will be enough to secure the World Record?

MW: My personal goal for the race is 80 days…kinda has a nice ring to it with Phileas Fogg and all of that. I’ve been told repeatedly that it’s not possible. Honestly, I have no idea if it is but I’ll give it a good go.  There is no margin for error and I guess everything has to go right for me to pull it off. Will it be enough to secure the record?….If I hit 80 days I will feel no shame if someone beats me and I’ll be the first to buy them a beer. In fact even if I don’t hit my target and someone beats me I will buy them a beer. To compete in a first ever race like this is pretty special.

The current World record set by Canada resident Bruce Gordon , which stands at 153 days, 10 days faster than the previous record.  Martin, I will fly all the way to London and buy you a beer if you finish in 80 days.  Anything is possible and his daughter will certainly not get discouraged by somebody telling her “it’s not possible” with the example Martin is setting.

CTE: Will you be racing in a supported or unsupported manner?

MW: I will be riding unsupported, but thankfully I have many friends around my route so I will be seeing familiar faces on the way.

CTE: What type of bike will you be riding?

MW: I will be riding an upgraded Rose Pro SL.  I’ve been riding it for about a month and I can’t say i’m disappointed with it. It’s a great bike for the price.

CTE: What type of gear and supplies will you be carrying on your bike?

MW: In terms of gear, not that much. I get funny stares off people when I show them how much I am carrying. Think day ride and you’ll be on the right track.

CTE: What do you anticipate as being the hardest part of your route?

MW: I have 5 legs planned and they each have there own unique challenges. I would say Australia would be interesting due to the distances between resupplies, going light means that I can’t mess around in the middle. My leg in the US is similar to Bruce Gordon’s attempt but in reverse, which brings about a whole host of different problems to solve in planning and riding it.

CTE: How many miles do you intend to average on a daily basis?

MW: Well to get round in 80 days I have to average 225 miles a day. Like I said before, It’s going to be a huge ask. If I sleep in one morning I’m looking at some monster miles to make it up.

CTE: What are your biggest fears about the upcoming race?

MW: That’s an interesting question. I don’t have any fear. I have a nervous excitement about leaving but that’s no different to any type of race.

CTE: How do you prepare for a race of this magnitude? How long have you been training?

MW: There are many ways I could have prepared for this race and I’ll only know if I got it right at the end. Get super fit for the start line and then degrade and hold on. Turn up medium fit and build into it or turn up with a base level of fitness and grow into the race. It’s an interesting choice that the entrants have to make. Physical fitness is only a part of this and mental preparations will just be as key. One thing that is for sure, If you have done no prep for the race you will be found out very very quickly and it’ll be a miserable race to ride in. I have been training for 9 months and feel comfortable with where I am at.

The mental challenge is sure to be as tough if not tougher than the physical aspect.  No preparation is a recipe for disaster.  I can’t stress enough the importance of attention to detail.  I encourage Martin to speak to as many people that have completed these types of races.  There are also a number of good books about that can be helpful.  I just started reading, “be brave, be strong”, Jill Homer’s personal account of her mountain bike race from Canada to Mexico along the Great Divide.  So far it’s an excellent read.

CTE: How many hours per day do you intend to be on the bike?

MW: It will be however long it takes me to ride 225 miles that day.

Hopefully, Martin, won’t take this too literally and is risk mitigating, for issues that are certain to occur, with contingency plans.

CTE: How will you be updating us of your progress?

MW: I do have a Facebook site and Twitter feed. I will do my best to update as I go but, my focus is on riding. If I hit a wifi spot and have time I will update but it won’t be like some other competitors who will be running the full media spectrum. You can track me on the race website when the race gets going.

CTE: Will you be monitoring the progress of the other racers?

MW: I will not be looking at what the other riders are doing. but I’m sure my mates will politely tell me to get a move on should I need to drop the hammer for a while.

CTE: If someone were to want to donate to support you or your charities how would one do so?

MW: I do have a donation page for Cancer Research UK which is (www.justgiving.com/cyclearound).  Now I know most of your readership are based in the US, so if people would like to donate over there then feel free to donate something to any cancer related charity in the US.  Lastly I would just like to say. I’m not an athlete or an adventurer, just a normal Joe showing someone else what is possible with a bit of hard graft. I was very fortunate to be given help by my sponsors easygym.co.uk who it would be remiss of me not to mention them because of their help in my preparations.

Martin, I’m very impressed and inspired in your motivation and drive towards this race.  Having two daughters myself, I know this will surely show them that the sky is the limit.  This journey is certain to be a life changing moment for both him and his daughter.  This makes Martin larger than the average Joe in my book.  We will be following your progress.  Best of luck!

Meet the other Racers:

Stuart Lansdale


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