It’s a challenge that only three people, as far as we know, have completed in under 24 hours. The challenge in question is the South Downs Double, a relatively unknown (at least in the grand scale) feat of human endurance that takes riders along the South Downs Way, from Winchester to Eastbourne, and back again.
Reading the reports from the only three chaps to have completed the ride in under 24 hours thus far, Mike Cotty, Neil Newell and Ian Butler, it’s clear the task facing anyone who fancies their chances at taking the title, which unofficially Neil holds, will have to be confident of their abilities.
Rob Lee is no stranger to endurance events, a veteran of 24 hour solo races, and has just announced his intentions to have a crack at break the record in the next four weeks. All that is needed is right weather and it’ll be on.
“I’ve had this challenge in my sights since 2005, just to see if it was possible – before there was any talk of it being a record,” Rob says. “I had a date set in 2006 but I learnt at the last minute that Mike [Cotty] had ridden it and it seemed unsporting to attempt to break a record that was two weeks old. Time has now passed and a newer record set so now it’s my turn and I can’t wait.”
In the time that has passed since we last reported on this record, a gentleman’s agreement seems to have been reached, stating simply that there’s to be a supported and unsupported record. As all the previous records have been supported, Lee hopes to increase his chances of coming away successful by riding unsupported. He’ll be carrying anything he requires for the effort (apart from water from public taps). That means no help or support, no pacing, no food parcels or directions.
USE’s Rory Hitchens has agreed to be an outside adjudicator to ensure the record is as official as it’s possible to be. And in liaison with the previous record breakers, a start and finish point has been agreed, so no shortcuts can be taken. The King Alfred statue in the center of Winchester is the official start and finish point, with the ‘Paradise Drive’ sign at the start of the South Downs Way cycle route the turning point.