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212 miles, 22 and a half hours

Mike Cotty about to avoid a photographer

The South Downs Way is a popular weekend jaunt. There’s a well-established enduro event along its length, and plenty of people do the 106 miles of rolling chalk downs, dry valleys and steep scarp slopes over a couple of days. And usually a couple of fairly full and tiring days, too.

That’s not enough of a challenge for the committed endurance nut, though. And neither, alarmingly enough, is the idea of doing the whole lot in one hit (although that’s certainly a challenging ride in itself). No, the SDW challenge du jour is both ways in one go. That’s 212 miles from Winchester to Eastbourne and back again, taking in 22,000ft of climbing (not quite as high as Everest, but almost exactly as high as Llullaillaco in Argentina, your randomly-chosen about-22,000ft mountain for today).

Apparently Ian Butler of Tunbridge Wells has achieved this feat in 23 hours and one minute, a time that we suspect made Ian wish he’d tried just a tiny, tiny bit harder somewhere along the way. But now Mike Cotty (day job: Brand Manager for Cannondale Europe) has raised (or dropped, depending on your frame of reference) the bar.

He set off from Winchester at 3pm on 14 June and experienced weather conditions including, but not limited to, thick fog, drizzle, lightning, blue skies and sunshine.

“Although the conditions weren’t perfect, it could have been a lot worse,” says Mike. “I was really lucky to be just on the edge of the storm that hit Eastbourne around 11.30pm. Any quicker on the way out and I really would have been hammered on!”

The “thick fog” part of the equation showed up at about 2am on the 15th, making the return leg potentially navigationally tricky – Mike was trying to follow his own outward tyre tracks to avoid mistakes. But he arrived back in Winchester at 1.25pm, thus completing the ride in a time of 22 hours, 25 minutes and 22 seconds. Exactly three minutes faster would have been aesthetically pleasing, but still.

Mike used Exposure Lights for his ride and was supported by his mum Chris. So there’s a gauntlet thrown – any takers?

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