Next weekend seven women will embark upon a 500 mile time trial of the North Coast, aiming to complete the ride in under 36 hours. Their goal: to spread the word about a new group that exists to inspire women to reach their own targets.
The North Highlands don’t present the easiest of riding terrain, in fact the route covers over 10,000 metres of climbing. The clock will be ticking noisily, though, as the group want to beat the time recorded by endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont.
The ride on 14 and 15 May will mark the launch of the Adventure Syndicate, a new cycling organisation that aims to encourage women to achieve goals they did not believe possible.
The Adventure Syndicate was an idea that sprung from the brain of former Scottish and UK mountain bike champion, Lee Craigie. Though she spent many years in competition, she wants to harness the passions of women all over the world – celebrating endurance, cooperation, and collaboration above all.
"All too often, the physical appearance of a female athlete is the first thing that is considered, rather than her skill and ability." - Lee Craigie
Explaining her motivations, she said: “We feel it is time to present women in cycling in a different light. All too often, the physical appearance of a female athlete is the first thing that is considered, rather than her skill and ability. Less combative approaches to triumphing over challenges are rarely celebrated in the sporting world, or the world in general. It’s time these things changed."
Joining Craigie on the ride will be ex-cycle courier and adventurer Emily Chappell, British 24 Hour Mountain Bike Champion Rickie Cotter, Transcontinental veteran Gaby Leveridge, Commonwealth Games athlete Anne Ewing, plus Zara Mair and Jo Thom. The group are also appealing for riders to get involved and meet them along the way.
Writing about the ride on the groups new website, Chappell explains that as well as following progress online, you can also get involved physically – saying: “If you live along the route, or fancy a weekend in Scotland, get on your bike and come and ride with us for a while. We’ll be aiming for an average speed of around 13mph, which will be hard for us to keep up all weekend, but perfectly reasonable for a couple of hours of your Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning."
"As The Adventure Syndicate we’ll be sharing our adventures on our website as they take place – and showing you how it works from the inside: the fear and boredom and doubt and mild discomfort that run alongside the power and the beauty." - Emily Chappell
Discussing the overall aims of the group, she adds: “It’s no good portraying a gang of muscular heroes confidently overcoming every obstacle. As I’ve discovered writing… over the years, people relate to you a lot more when you show them your doubts and fears, your weaknesses and failures – as well as the glow of triumph and faint disbelief when you get to the end of a journey you never thought you’d complete, and scale heights you never thought you’d reach. So as The Adventure Syndicate we’ll be sharing our adventures on our website as they take place – and showing you how it works from the inside: the fear and boredom and doubt and mild discomfort that run alongside the power and the beauty."
Chappell goes on to describe her own self-doubts in the past, sharing her father's response to previous bouts of concern - she reports that he told her: “Oh come on, this is what you do! You should know that by now. You start off thinking ‘oh I’m so scared, I don’t know if I can do it’ – and then you take the world by storm. It always happens that way."
Far from alone in feeling concern over physical and mental ability, Chappell hopes this ride and others will inspire onlookers to realise that they too can take the world by storm.
- There will be a steady stream of live online updates of the record attempt on the Adventure Syndicate website.
- The seven riders will set off at 6am on May 14, from Inverness Castle, and will ride non-stop for the 516 miles of the North Coast 500 route, up round the top of Scotland along the coast of Easter Ross, Caithness, Sutherland and through Wester Ross.
- Four riders must stay on their bikes the whole time, but it is intended that all seven will complete the ride.
- The group expect to finish late afternoon on Sunday May 15, back at Inverness Castle, and will stay together from start to finish, encouraging one another along the way.