Adventures on Bikes, thats what the tagline from Josh’s own blog states. We all have an Idea in the back of our minds what kind of adventure we would like to go on, or what challenge we would like to achieve next on our list of cycling goals. After achieving many goals in the UK mountain bike scene, a keen and young rider is about to embark on one of the biggest challenges on a bicycle, The Transcontinental Race. A race from Westminster Bridge on London, to Rumeli Hisari in Istanbul via three checkpoints chosen across Europe. Simple, pick your route, and get there first, oh and the race is an unsupported race. This means racers can only use what they take with them, or what they can find along the way at commercially available sources. Scanning the entry list on the Transcontinental Race list, at number 90 out of 101 entrants, there is Brighton resident Josh Ibbet, what kind of person puts their name up for such an adventure?
So Josh, like all of us your passion for cycling started somewhere. How did you get into cycling?
Well initially riding around the garden as a kid, making obstacle courses with planks of wood before I really knew what cycling was in the way that we see it today. Then as my step dad got into mountain biking in the early 90’s and then got my mum into it around early 2000’s and we used to go for bike rides, which I enjoyed, and they would try and get me to try racing, but I was reluctant as I just wanted to ride around Thetford forrest. But around 2002? I saw the commonwealth games up in Manchester and saw mountain bike racing, and just thought I wanna do that! So I went to Thetford for an ERMA series race and did a race, came last…..and thought bugger! can’t have that so went back another time and tried again. The thing that really got me into the idea of racing was watching the late 90’s era of the Tour de France with Marco Pantani and Jan Ulrich, that was inspirational and I liked watching it in 97/98. Then MBUK grasped my attention and I became a Steve Peat mega fan just as I started to really get into trying to race mountain bikes.
For those people who don’t know you, you have been around the cycling scene in the UK for around ten years now, racing mountain bikes and taking on various challenges. What the achievements you are most proud of?
Well the South Downs Double record, I was never quite happy with it when I had finished, I always felt I could have gone faster and had several ‘what ifs’ in the back of my mind. Then Ross Adams went for it last year and missed my time by about seven minutes with a few hiccups of his own. At that point I realised how much it meant to me, when I was pacing around the house looking at my phone checking for updates and counting down!
Do you think you would try it again if someone was to beat it?
Defiantly, I know that I wasn’t at my fittest when I set the record but I got it right and approached it in my own way which helped it pan out the way it did. So if someone tries it, and they have done the prep work, and its timed with them being fit with good weather and few hiccups……it will be broken.
Tell us what the TCR is all about?
Well basically its riding to Turkey. Or well racing to Turkey with a hundred other riders setting off at the same time from London and making the individual way there via a few checkpoints on the way. Unsupported. So no team van behind you or waiting for you with food, spares etc. You can only use what is available for everybody to use along the way.
What made you choose to complete this monster challenge?
So last year I marked my tenth year of racing, and I was just starting to feel fed up with it, I had just become too much of a routine going to the same old races, same old this, same old that. I had been keeping half an eye on some the newly emerging endurance races, like the round the world race that Mike Hall set the new record for with his new approach and set a new bench mark. Which anyone who wants to do this sort of thing fast now sticks to. So I saw him do the around the world race and thought that looked cool, and didn’t think much of it, then he did the Tour divide and it looked like a good ride so I followed it online with the tracker which was exciting. Then last year he was a part of setting up this race for the first time, I saw the website and was quite tempted and got close to entering but just didn’t have the confidence to commit to something so much out of my comfort zone, it was daunting. So I didn’t do it last year, but started to buy all the kit that I would need for such an adventure, and then flew to Slovenia and rode home via the toughest route I could pick, across the Dolomoits, Stelvio Pass, through switzerland, black forrest, through Luxemburg, the Ardens, across the Somme and then got the ferry back from Dieppe and turned up back here and loved it! Then thought that I had proved to myself that I could do such a thing, at a pace that would be more like racing than just going for an adventure.
(You can check out what Josh got out to on this trip on his blog. http://josh-ibbett.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/riding-home-from-slovenia-pt1.html)
What is your biggest motivation to enable you to keep going for such an incredible distance?
Well, it just feels like the most relaxing thing ever. Before I did my trip last year, everything here seem quite hectic with normal life stuff and I was starting to feel a bit stressed out. Then I rode back across Europe and I was just so relaxed, you just think about nothing, Its just you and the little line on your GPS, thinking about food, where your going to sleep and then the rest of it is just enjoying the views. If your legs hurt or your feeling a bit tired, well you just eat a bit more and then carry on. Its really just relaxing and you just drift away, and before you know it you have done a hundred miles and half the day has gone.
With all your preparation and setting up for the race, has your bike changed? What kind of setup are you riding?
So last year I started with a similar set up with my bags, using the Revelate Designs bags across my bike, I was using a Rab ridge Raider, shoes, towel, trouser and a few extra luxuries. Which I’ve now cut out of my kit! So now I’ve gone for a Bivi bag and my sleeping bag as halved in weight, a Neo air lay mat which altogether makes a really light sleeping arrangement. So in the seat pack, 80% of the space is taken up by my sleeping bundle and a jacket. So when I stop and want to sleep, I pull out the jacket and put it on, pull out the rest of the bundle and start inflating the laymat and get in it. Then a top tube frame bag for food and a few spares and just to keep options open and flexible to what I need to carry for certain stretches of riding. Oh and of course there is always space for some packets of waffles on top of my seat pack too!
What’s sort of training did you need to do in preparation?
This year the main thing I’ve been doing is just racing, mostly road racing, working on top end speed. Ive also done a few long rides, gradually building up the distance so I know what I can do. The other week I flew upto Inverness and and rode back, until my knee played up riding along the route of Stage two of this years Tour de France in the cold rain.So I got most of the way back, doing 275miles on the first day, 160 miles through Yorkshire which was really hilly, and then had to bail into a hotel to avoid hypothermia. Then rode down to my parents, at this point I stopped as my knee was giving me some gip. but it was a good experience learning that I need to look after myself and listen to my body. Last week I did a five stage road race, which felt amazingly easy after doing all the long distance riding. The whole race had a total distance of the first day of my long ride, so by the fifth day I was feeling really strong. One of the main things to concentrate on is just eating enough food, as its easy just to keep pedalling away and forget about topping up. The key thing about this race is that its a race, but you have to finish it to be apart of the race. Its not a race if you don’t finish. Which is what I realised when my knee packed up on my training ride after 500 miles. So these little setbacks are good lessons to have before setting off.
How have you planned your route?
Ive used a site called ridewithgps.com to plot my chosen route, its almost all done now, with just a couple of different variations that I’m not quite sure upon yet. Its hard to choose, but id rather choose now so I’m committed to the route, as making adjustments along the way can be hard and time consuming. One place id love to tie into the route would be Kosovo, as I’ve always wanted to go there and see it, albeit a brief visit passing by.
How can people follow you during the TCR?
There will be links from the TCR website, with track leaders covering the race, as everyone will be carrying a SPOT tracker to plot their movements you will be able to see everyone spread out over their different paths across Europe.
Who’s your biggest cycling or non cycling hero and why?
Steve Peat, growing up with the UK mountain bike scene, Steve has been such a driving force that so many of us have looked upto over the years. Also following the Tour de France in the late 90’s and onwards I was certainly a fan of Lance, Pantani and their inspiring and almost unbelievable ability…. Then moving on to recent times, Mike Hall and the way he has approached these long distance events.
So with some good weather, a little luck, no upsets with mechanicals or unseen circumstance, and you never know….A good adventure with a race along the way…..well thats what I’m saying, I’m really kidding myself a bit, its more of a race with a little adventure along the way!
Find more photos from the interview and geek out on some of Josh’s kit over on our Flickr.