Rob Webb did not take losing the Recumbent Cup, a couple of years ago, lying down. He got back on his bike, determined to reclaim it following completion of his latest ride, the world's longest and oldest long-distance cycle race, the Paris - Brest - Paris.
The intranet manager at npower's offices in Worcester, Rob (48) started his training back in January, with the intention of reclaiming his old record. The Recumbent Cup is awarded by Audax UK (AUK) to the rider of a recumbent bike who gains the most points during a season.
Long-distance rides are called Audax rides, from the Latin word for 'audacious'. Audax UK organises and validates rides and is affiliated to the governing body, the ACP (Audax Club Parisienne) in France. The shortest Audax ride is 200km (125 miles) for which two points are awarded (one point per 100km/62 miles cycled). Standard ride distances are 200km, 300km (185 miles), 400km (250 miles) and 600km (360 miles).
The Paris - Brest - Paris challenge, which pre-dates the Tour de France, involved more than 5,000 cyclists and covered 1,200km. Rob added another 1,000 km riding from Worcester to Paris and back. Riders have to complete the race within 90 hours. Rob took part in the PBP in 1999, completing it in 85 hours and again in 2003, when he knocked ten hours off his time.
However, it was well worth the pain and effort, as he explained: "The ride itself was very hard - even by PBP standards; weather conditions went from blazingly hot (you should see my suntan), to epic thunderstorms of biblical proportions, and really dense fog climbing the Roc Trévézal, the highest point in Brittany.
"The support of the local people was amazing. Thousands of people along the route cheered the riders on all day and all night, with many offering free food and drink and the essential top-ups for empty water bottles. On all long-distance and ultra-distance rides there are times when you are at a physical or mental low point and a cheery "bon courage" shouted as you pass a family, at the side of the road, in the middle of the night really helps lift the spirits."
Rob's vehicle of choice is a Bacchetta Giro 20, which he has spent both time and money modifying and upgrading, so that both he and the bike were prepared for this year's challenge.
He has now reached 94 points (5828 miles), beating the current Recumbent Cup holder by twelve points. When Rob last held the title he had 72 points, meaning he will have added a further 1,364 miles to his cycling total this season. But the title is not yet in the bag; Rob will have to wait until the end of the season to see whether he has beaten his rivals to the title.
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