Got 24 hours to spare? Cycle it!

The limit of human endurance knows no boundaries. Every time someone beats a record, someone has to go one better.

So it’s not surprising that the sport of endurance cycling has its own niche and protagonists enjoy 24-hour events.

Cayman resident Tony Watts is one of them. Don’t ask me why, he’s just wired that way. He’s my mate but when it comes to sporting success we’ve got a slightly different outlook.

The Englishman completed a 24-hour ride recently and deserves props for it no matter how pointless it seems.

It was in Sebring, Florida on Valentine’s Day, starting at 6.30am. (Well he does love cycling so it was romantic in a sense.)

Around 200 people took part in what was a qualifier for the Race Across America and the benchmark was to do 400 miles in 24 hours.

There was a 100 mile loop to start with, out to the countryside and back and then a few 11-mile loops before going for the last 12 hours in the dark on a grand prix motor racing circuit around 3.7 miles long.

Watts did 366 miles which was 16 more than he aimed for. It was a personal best, but only his second 24-hour ride. Two years ago he did 326 miles around Cayman virtually on the spur of the moment. Larry Walters accompanied him for some of the time then.

Englishman Watts, 44, said: ‘I went around that track around 50 times so by the end I knew it quite well.

‘There were a couple of crazy guys there and they did 480-odd miles but most good cyclists did over 400 and then there were a lot of people like me who were pleased to get over their personal best.’

Staying focused and fighting off fatigue are obvious problems, but Watts came through okay.

‘It really isn’t a problem to stay awake. I didn’t even yawn or anything. Because you’re working throughout it’s easier than sitting up all night or staying in a bar. You forget that you’ve been awake all that time and you’re just concentrating on how many hours there are to go.’

His biggest problem was eating. Unlike others, Watts didn’t have a backup team to hand him food and sort his bike out.

Normal bike food of energy bars and gels were not enough to sustain him. His nutrition came from cold oats in milk whilst standing on the bike. He would refill the water bottles on the bike.

Cyclists of all shapes, sizes, ages and both genders were there, as teams and on regular bikes, recumbents and tandems.

Watts came third in the 40-49 age group. The two ahead of him did way over 400 miles.

Has he got it out of his system or is there more to come?

‘It’s a challenge. The first one wasn’t very good really so I wanted to do an organised event and go further. Now I’ve done that I want to go for 400 next year.

‘The point of it? Without challenge, there is no achievement, Ron! We need some more Cayman cyclists to do it next year. The real cyclists could do 400, they just have to stay on the bike.

‘People do it just because they like that sort of event or they want to go in for the Race Across America, from the east coast to the west coast 3,000 miles. That takes around seven days. I’ll never be good enough to do that nor will be able to afford it.

‘Maybe next year I’ll get up to 400 and you might want to come along too, Ron.’ Eh, yeah Tone. I’ll see you there.

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