Great Dunmow: Army veteran plans non-stop John O’Groats to Land’s End cycle

From left, Daniel Brindley, Gareth Sell, Margo Porteous-Cote and Matt Stephens.

From left, Daniel Brindley, Gareth Sell, Margo Porteous-Cote and Matt Stephens. - Credit: Archant

What inspires sane people who do seemingly mad things at weekends when they could be sitting at home with a cuppa?

A forty-eight hour, 1,000 mile bike ride without stopping or sleeping is the challenge former soldier and Afghanistan veteran Gareth Sell has set himself as he cycles to raise money for the international children’s charity, UNICEF.

Gareth, a scout leader from Margaret Roding, near Great Dunmow, with his support team Matt Stephens, 28, from Brentwood, Danny Brindley, 23, from Dartford and 22-year-old Margo Porteous-Cote from Bordeaux in southern France, set off from under the famous John O’Groats signpost in the Scottish Highlands at first light today (Friday, June 13).

They and hope to reach iconic Land’s End in Cornwall in time for breakfast on Sunday.

Gareth is no stranger to endurance cycling having completed the 5,000 kilometres from Sydney to Perth through some of Australia’s hottest and toughest terrains in 2012, and the 2,700 kilometres from Jyvaskyla in Finland to London in fourteen days last summer.

But he admits that attempting his latest two-wheeled exploit without stopping will serve up some unusual challenges.

“Doing such a long ride non-stop is a massive challenge both mentally and physically,” says Gareth.

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“Matt and Danny in the support vehicle will alternate sleeping and driving, but I will be awake and on the move all of the time – apart from road hold ups and traffic lights!

“I will be burning at least 500 calories an hour so will need to stock up on nutrients at regular intervals to help me keep my energy levels topped up.

“My diet for the ride will consist of cereal and chocolate bars as these are high in energy but low on waste: have you ever tried spending a penny whilst riding a bike? For fluids I’ll be taking in water and energy drinks.

“A major challenge in larger towns and cities will be ensuring I don’t get parted from the support vehicle which may be difficult in slow moving traffic when the bike will often move faster than the car.

“I’ve been training by putting in some heavy five and ten kilometre runs every evening and cycle on my days off, including what I call my ‘homing pigeon’ weekend cycles, where I hop on a train north and have to cycle home.”

The support team have also had to train for the event as co-driver and team medic Danny explains: “Training for the support drivers is actually quite important and we have to be prepared for everything including navigating and warning traffic behind us of the cyclist in front.

“My biggest fear for this challenge is the potential for injuries, and being the first aider I have been training to deal with major incidents such as broken bones.“

“We’ve also had to practice speedy repair routines including tyre changes and puncture repairs, which made us feel like the guys in the pits at formula one!”

Support team leader and sponsorship coordinator Matt is looking forward to the challenge – and to supporting the work of the international children’s charity UNICEF.

“Our fundraising target is £1,000 – that’s one pound for every mile pedalled. So please donate if you can to help us support the brilliant work of UNICEF which helps children across the globe, including currently in Syria where there is a massive humanitarian challenge.”

You can find out more about the epic bike ride challenge, including how to make a donation, at There will also be a live tracker online during the ride to follow the team’s progress.