World record holder Dom Irvine gives us an update on life after the LEJOG.
The soft patter of summer rain fell. I wended my way South onto the Jurassic coast eating up the miles in preparation for my next event, the 606km Ultracycling Dolomitica taking in 16,500m of climbing in the Dolomites in one sitting. I’ve been training for this event since we broke the Lands End to John O’Groats tandem record but it’s not been the same.
At first I thought it was just the intense relief having completed such an epic challenge and all the years of preparation it had taken. I mused that it might be the lack of a really challenging goal, but trust me, the ride in the Dolomites is plenty hard enough. But the real reason is I’m not riding my Tandem very much.
Over the last year, Charlie and I had probably spent somewhere north of 500 hours riding our tandem together. Whilst we spent a significant amount of time in addition to this training on our own, riding together was always something we looked forward to. The banter, the friendship, the endless debate about how to tweak what we were doing to go faster, the shared experience of a beautiful view or the grim driving rain and snow – whatever the ride, weather or experience, we had done it together. We had got to know each other really well and to appreciate what the other brought to the team. We’d arrive back from a ride, dump the bike in the garage and head inside for a coffee and a debrief. I’m missing those chats too and so’s my wife. She’d got used to Charlie popping in around breakfast time and the craic.
That’s the thing about riding a tandem – if you’re riding with the right person it’s such a great social shared experience. In the thousands of miles we’ve ridden together we’ve put the world to rights countless times, argued about the perfect house, debated the ingredients of a great coffee shop as well as counted down intervals and shouted encouragement during epic suffer fests our coach had devised. I didn’t care whether I was stoking or captaining – I just loved being out on the bike.
Sadly, Charlie hurt his knee during the attempt and it’s taking a bit longer to fix than we hoped. He’s restricted to the occasional 90 minute foray at a more sedate pace than he’s used to, meanwhile I’m trying to build on the fitness acquired during the LEJOG attempt for the Dolomites and long distance riding has gone back to the lonely business pre-tandem days. It’s not until you stop doing something that you realise how much you miss it. Never was this truer for me than the experiencing of riding a tandem. Still, at least I have time to hatch some plans ready for Charlie’s return.
Until then, it’s the sound of silence for me, and frankly, it’s not as much fun.