A team of Yorkshire cyclists are hoping to be the first to pedal their way to space
- Credit: not Archant
Gruelling challenge aims to raise funds for ABF the Soldiers’ Charity
Crowds at the Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire marvelled at the riders’ speed, power and strength. But their efforts seem lightweight compared with those of Andy North and his team who will this month attempt to cycle to space.
The 54-year-old, who has already completed incredible feats on his bike and holds world records for events you probably didn’t know records existed for – cycling from Leeds to its twin city Dortmund, for example. Incredibly though, he only took up cycling a few years ago.
‘About five years ago I was sitting on the sofa watching television coverage of the war in Iraq and a lot of soldiers were being killed and injured,’ he said. ‘I have always enjoyed running and I wanted to do something for a charity that would help those soldiers and their families.
‘I have always read books about people like Ranulph Fiennes and Rosie Swale-Pope who ran around the world. I decided the time was right for me to crack on and do something. I did some research and found ABF the Soldiers’ Charity which gives money directly to soldiers and their families.
‘I did Land’s End to John O’Groats and the Coast to Coast and then went from Catterick Garrison to Gibraltar Garrison, running, cycling and kayaking. During that time I had the idea of setting a world record, so in August 2013 six of us set off and ran a marathon each morning and cycled 100 miles each afternoon from Land’s End to John O’Groats. It has just grown since that first event and so far we have raised about £110,000.
‘I have given presentations to school children, telling them about what I had done and encouraging them to follow their dreams. I’m just an ordinary guy who has grown up dreaming of doing stuff and now I’m making it happen as I get older.’
Business consultant Andy and his Ultra6 team will this month set off on their biggest challenge to date – a punishing and never-previously-attempted five day ride, cycling day and night up and down Mont Ventoux, one of the toughest climbs on the Tour de France route, aiming for a total ascent of 100,000 feet.
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‘Ben is one of the team who joined me and he suggested doing the Everest challenge – cycling up and down a hill until you’ve done about 30,000 feet, the equivalent of riding up Everest,’ Andy said. ‘He said not many people had done that so we should give it a go.
‘I had just watched the film Gravity and I thought, why stop at 30,000 feet, why not aim for space. I looked into it and I think the highest anyone has gone before is about 65,000 feet but we are aiming for 100,000 feet.
‘Training isn’t just cycling, I’ve started doing yoga and cross fitness training and we’re on our bikes four or five times a week. Working through the horrible winter was tough but we went away to a training camp in Spain and we have been building it up.
‘We did 17,500 feet in a day the other day to see what that felt like and to be honest, it didn’t feel good. The other guys are all about 20 years younger than me though, so that’s my excuse. I have no idea if we’ll be able to do this though.
‘Ben was born on a bike but I have only been cycling for about five years. We invited some of Ben’s friends to join the team and although they are all fit, they’ve not done any endurance events before. We’re all scared in different ways.’
Dda-of-three Andy lives in Guiseley with his wife Melanie and he added: ‘When I was working and bringing up the children, I would be looking out of the window. It’s only in the last few years I have realised I wanted to be outside doing stuff, that’s where my dreams were. Melanie is great – she does get worried and concerned, but she’s very understanding and cooks really good, healthy food.
‘Where do we go from here? I don’t know, Mars? Pluto? The Ultra Six is about inspiring and motivating people to do something they’ve never done before – to be fit and healthy and to look after themselves. I think next year might be a good time to do something which can involve other people.’ w
To find out more about Andy’s epic attempt, go to ultra6.org.