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6 February 2012 No comments
The 2012 Grand Tour - Seán Conway.Events Travel & Adventure Cycling
Talking to Zimbabwe's Seán Conway, one gets the impression of dealing with a man who has a lot of irons in the fire. This makes him no different from the rest of the riders signed up to take a shot at the Guinness world record for fastest circumnavigation of the earth in 2012. But with incidental things likes overseeing solar power projects for schools in Africa, endurance canoeing marathons, swimming the Channel, and even booking transfer flights to keep him occupied, you could almost forget the small matter of an entire planet which will very soon need to be lapped by bike. As quickly as possible. But not Seán. Besides raising money for Solar Aid, why are you doing this? Besides raising money for Solar Aid, why are you doing this? The charity side of it is a huge part- solar is such a simple and effective way to tackle global warming, increase education and save lives. But also testing myself, testing what’s humanly possible, and achieving something that for many many years seemed only a distant dream that you read about in the paper once in a while. It is, simply put, an adventure. Though of course in its purest form, adventure is simply a way of thinking. I think adventurously. What has been the toughest part of the preparation? Route selection is probably the toughest part. It’s so hard to know whether the route you have chosen goes over a huge mountain or not. Everything else is the same for everyone. It’s the route that can make or break a record and that’s the thing keeping me up at night right now. I decided to take part quite late and have only been in training for 8 months. It can take years to get the stamina in your tendons. But physical training is only a small part of the preparation. As I say, route selection is a puzzle, but logistical planning for food, sleep, flights, visas, equipment, spares, navigation and the rest also takes up way more time than cycling. How can you plan flights and boats ahead of schedule if you don’t know exact arrival times at countries? I have had to guess arrival times at airports but there may be times when I miss a flight so will just have to beg the airline to help me out. I haven’t booked boats yet as I figured I will just be able to jump on with my bike when I arrive. The plan is to get back to London before the Olympics so I can’t afford any delays. Seán will be travelling light for the best possible finishing time. If it rains, he gets wet. No big deal! How much sleep you will be getting and how you are going to eat? Sleep strategy is the hardest thing to work out. It’s such a fine balance between keeping the miles rolling vs recovery so that you cover more miles the next day. I don’t really know the answer to that and I guess only time will tell. Food is difficult too. Some countries will be easy but other like the Atacama Desert in Chile will be more difficult and I will have to carry what I can. I literally need to eat anything and everything I can find. What are your plans for getting the head down at night? I have no plan really. It all depends how well I am feeling. I will be taking a tent, sleeping bag and mattress and will camp whenever I need too. What I won’t do is cut my days short in order to stay in a hotel. Graveyards are a great place to camp as people tend to stay clear of them at night. And what does your training schedule look like? I currently spend about 25 hours a week on the bike and then spend another 5 or so in the gym. I am trying to vary my training with some short sprints, hill work and some long rides. Nothing can compare to the race but I can only hope to replicate some of the fatigue I am going to have to endure. Do you speak any languages other than English? I can speak Zulu and Afrikaans but I don't imagine either of them will be terribly helpful on this trip. I hope to learn Spanish along the way via audio books. That should be fun and keep me occupied. Lapping a velodrome is good psychological training for those planning to lap a planet. Rolling through South America with Don Quixote on the earphones, perhaps? Cycling is a great way to see the world due to the huge distances you can cover in a short period of time. The feeling of freewheeling down a long road after a long day is second to none. Can people help? There are loads of ways you can get involved from helping me with route tips, places to see, places to avoid and choosing songs for my iPod. Most of all I am looking for people to help me Solarise Africa by paying for a school to be solarised which is as little as £1000, or simply providing a family with a Solar Lamp for £6 so that they no longer need to use kerosene. Please help me banish the kerosene lamp. What bike are you using? I am using a full steel frame bike with 2 small bags on the back. I want to be a lightweight as possible yet not sacrifice comfort too much as being uncomfortable is just as bad, if not worse, than having a heavy bike. Have you met any of the others that will be competing for the title? I have seen them on Twitter and Facebook. There are a few really hard core guys. It’s great. It really pushes everyone’s game up.