Going the distance is the story of Ribble’s youngest ever sponsored rider and GBDURO’s youngest ever competitor. With previous entrants reading like a who’s who of enduro racing, George’s epic trek aboard the Gravel SL is following in the footsteps of the finest endurance riders of a generation.
Going the distance
There is a cruel simplicity to an event like GBDURO. Land’s End to John O’Groats as fast as you can, carrying everything with you, including your own rubbish.
It’s one of several ultra-endurance events that have gained popularity in recent years, in response to the growing elitism of professional road cycling. Along with concerns over the environmental impact of pro racing, there’s a desire to go back to a simpler time. A time when the Tour de France was a self-supported amateur event. When the sheer, dogged determination of the rider was the difference between winning and losing – marginal gains weren’t even a pipe dream.
Cooked up by The Racing Collective, a self-styled nationwide “club” of like-minded long-distance cyclists formed in 2016, GBDURO is only in its 3rd edition. Although a relatively young event in bike race terms, the scale of the ride has captured the imaginations of professionals and amateurs alike.
Recent high-profile entrants include the likes of EF Nippo’s Lachlan Morton, retired UCI Pro Rider Svein Tuft, and TransContinental winner Josh Ibbett. They have helped the event to grow rapidly. Becoming one of the premier ultra-endurance events on the global calendar. This year, even round-the-world record holder Mark Beaumont will be lining up at the start.
Whether you’re paid to ride, riding to win or riding just to finish, the simplicity of racing the length of a country is a compelling challenge to anyone bold enough to enter.
It’s the superhuman efforts of those top-level riders that have led to Cumbria’s George Bramwell, GBDURO’s youngest ever competitor, to enter this year’s edition.
A reason to ride
After seeing the film of Lachlan Morton’s GBDURO attempt, I just thought: That looks stupid, why not give it a bash? I entered in November 2020 thinking I’ll never get on to the race… When I received an email in January saying I was racing it… I thought, now I have to do this stupid thing… Now, I can’t wait to get going!
But, as a rider for Lancaster based U23 team CogSet Papyrus, George is riding for something bigger than pride. The team is partnered with Papyrus, a charity that works to prevent youth suicide, after a member of the team, Kyle Lewis, tragically took his own life in 2016.
Not only am I doing this race to push my own limits, but I would also like to raise as much money as I possibly can for Papyrus. I feel that every time I put on my Papyrus cycling kit, it is making everyone aware of the help that is available to combat youth suicide. Even if it’s only one person that sees my Papyrus jersey, it could make a difference.
George plans to raise £1 for every Kilometre cycled in GBDURO, bringing the size of his effort into a totally new, tangible light. All this aside, his focus is still on completing the race, whilst enjoying as many of the 2000km (and 27,000m of hills) as possible.
If the weather is good, then I can’t wait to see all the different parts of the country that I haven’t been to yet. I’m looking forward to getting to the middle of nowhere in Scotland as I think the scenery will be amazing! Everywhere will be a new place to ride, apart from going over the Coal Road near Hawes. I can’t wait to see so many new places.
Even the practicality of sleeping outside doesn’t faze him, you could even say he’s excited by the prospect of roughing it for 10 days.
I really like being outdoors and do a lot of camping in the fells around where I live. So I’m looking forward to that part of the race as much as I am the riding.
When asked about his strategy and concerns for the event, George’s almost casual optimism is infectious. It’s easy to forget he’s going to be riding Land’s End to John O’Groats in just 10 days. Something that takes mere mortals 2 weeks by the most direct route.
I don’t really have a strategy… Just eat as much as I can and see how I feel as I go along. I only hope that the Severn Bridge is open, so I don’t have to walk across!
He’s certainly not underestimating the scale of the task, though. At 19, he’s the youngest ever GBDURO competitor, and George is well aware of the quality and experience of the field around him.
I think it’s cool being the youngest person to do the event, but you can’t escape the fact that I’m very inexperienced when it comes to ultra-racing. It’s going to be a massive challenge for me. I hope I can learn a lot from the experience and from the other people doing the race. Mark Beaumont is riding this year and he’s got so much knowledge; I’d love to learn from someone like him.
To support the young rider going the distance, Ribble has supplied George with the highly capable and versatile Gravel SL. Specced out with Shimano’s GRX 812 groupset, Level carbon wheels and Schwalbe G-One tyres. The bike is the perfect tool for the mix of roads, gravel tracks, bridleways and single-track he’ll be encountering along the length of the British Isles.
The bike is an absolute weapon. I’ve used it a bit with road tyres on for training, just to get the miles in, and it feels just like my road bike. But with a set of 45mm tyres on, it really makes the difference off-road. The head angle is just right, not too slack so it feels sloppy but not so steep that you’ll feel every bump on the track. It’s a gravel mile muncher.
With all of the prep done, it’s now down to George to let his legs do the talking. Although that hasn’t stopped him thinking about how he’s going to celebrate at the end of the ride, in 10 days time.
I’ll probably eat a steak and ale pie then hit the deck for a sleep. I don’t think it’ll matter where I sleep at that point.
To learn more about GBDURO and see George’s progress in real-time visit: www.theracingcollective.com/gbduro
If you would like to support Papyrus: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/george-bramwell-gbduro
And for information on Papyrus and their work: www.papyrus-uk.org
Good luck, George!
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