Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Local solicitor joins record breaking bike ride

A SOLICITOR from Henley helped to set a Guinness World Record by competing in a charity bike ride with some British Olympic champions.

A SOLICITOR from Henley helped to set a Guinness World Record by competing in a charity bike ride with some British Olympic champions.

Matt Richardson, 49, of Deanfield Avenue, was one of 40 cyclists who tackled the hour-long relay challenge at Lee Valley VeloPark in London for Sport Relief. Also taking part were double Olympic rowing gold medallist James Cracknell, hurdler Sally Gunnell, who won gold at the Barcelona Games in 1992, BBC sports presenter Mike Bushell and former Labour Party spin doctor Alastair Campbell.

The group, who were led by Cracknell, rode a total of 41km in shifts of 1km, setting a record for the furthest distance covered by a bike relay team in 60 minutes.

Their efforts were filmed and a brief portion was broadcast as part of the BBC’s Sport Relief coverage.

Cracknell came up with the idea after Mr Richardson, an old rowing friend, raised more than £4,000 for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research by cycling 31.9km around the Palmer Park stadium in Reading on a 1969 Raleigh Chopper children’s bike last summer.

Mr Richardson, a father-of-two, is believed to have set a world record for the furthest distance cycled in an hour on an unmodified vintage Chopper but Guinness refused to acknowledge it because it doesn’t classify cycling achievements by the model of bike.

For the London relay Cracknell opted to cycle for the whole hour on a modified vintage Chopper and completed a total of 35.1km. Everyone else rode ordinary racing bikes.

He and Mr Richardson modified the bike for speed by replacing the front wheel with a racing tyre and removing the gear system and the brakes so Cracknell could slow down by pedalling backwards.

Mr Richardson said: “We basically stripped out anything that wasn’t necessary. By the time we’d finished, it wasn’t really a Chopper any more — we’d just built a racing bike around its chassis.

“I brought my own Chopper along but unfortunately they wouldn’t allow it on the track because it didn’t have the right drive system and the pedals could have damaged the surface. I was able to take a photo with it at the trackside but that’s as close as I could get.” Mr Richardson, who wore a Seventies-style purple and white lounge suit with a Chinese dragon design for the ride, was almost excluded when officials discovered he hadn’t had a formal induction to riding at the Olympic venue.

The course is required because the corners bank at a 47 degree angle and a novice could injure themselves.

Mr Richardson said: “I told them I’d been riding for absolutely years and had experience of outdoor track riding. I think they let me through because it was for charity.

“We all started by riding straight down from the top of a bank on a corner, which was hysterical.

“I had to tackle this steep drop in front of a huge, roaring crowd even though it was something I’d never done before.

“James was first to set off and he just kept going when Sally started her 1km after him. I think he benefited from having others on the track because it kept the air circulating in his direction, though it meant we all had to be careful to avoid him.

“I had no idea what I was doing and I was pretty nervous but I managed it without falling off.

“Most importantly, I didn’t crash into James — that would have been more Comic Relief than Sport Relief! The relay was nothing like what I did last summer. I was part of a bigger team so my 1km went by very quickly. It felt like I’d barely started before I was back off the track again.”

Mr Richardson said he was grateful to Cracknell for inviting him to take part.

“I think it was a thank-you for helping him to set up his bike,” he said. “He did a fantastic job — there was a camera trained on his face for the whole hour and you could tell he was really hurting by the end.

“We’ll never know exactly how much we helped towards Sport Relief’s total but it was great to be a part of it and to support such a good cause.”

Mr Richardson has tackled several cycling challenges for research into leukaemia, which killed his father David in 1999.

In 2014 he conquered Mont Ventoux, one of the Tour de France’s hardest climbs, in two hours and 10 minutes on the Chopper.

He is yet to decide where and when the next one will take place.

This year’s Sport Relief raised at least £55million, which will go towards fighting poverty in the UK and abroad.

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