LANDS End to John O’Groats is so yesterday. Falmouth to Stromness in Orkney is the ultimate challenge for cyclists in 2012. At the end of March, observer Lt Edwin ‘Coops’ Cooper of 824 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose sets off on the ‘home to home’ challenge: from his home in Falmouth, to the family home in the windswept Scottish islands.
Coops will cover the 1000-mile distance in seven days with no backup drivers with the goal of raising £2,000 for the ‘Home to Home for Help for Heroes’ ride. The 33-year-old Merlin flier is a keen endurance athlete and cyclist but in addition to the mileage involved Edwin reckons he’ll have to climb 62,000 ft – more than twice the height of Everest – on the roads of England and Scotland to reach his goal.
The more usual Lands End-John O’Groats ride beloved by fundraising military cyclists is a near-identical distance, but cyclists typically set aside two weeks for the journey and are normally accompanied by a back-up van to support them. In Coop’s case he’ll carry minimal stores and supplies – the bare essentials of clothing, food and bike maintenance kit – but post additional stores, in particular protein bars (he’ll burn an estimated 8,000 calories each day of his ride) to the B&Bs where he’ll be staying on the way north.
If all goes according to plan, he’ll spend the end of the first day in Tiverton, the second night in the Cotswolds, the third in the Manchester area, night four in Lockerbie, then Loch Lomond and Inverness, before the seventh night in the Cooper family home on the Orkneys.
Lieutenant Cooper has recently been instructing student Merlin observers aboard RFA Argus off the Cornish coast, but shipped his bike on board to keep up his training regime. He said: “Endurance sports are all about setting yourself short-term goals – you just keep on hitting those little goals. Most people think the Highlands will be the worst, but Cornwall and Devon are probably the toughest counties, I have to climb 12,000ft to get out of them.
He continued: “After each of the previous events, I say to my wife: ‘That’s the last one I’ll do for a while.’ But I’m determined to push myself and Help for Heroes is a charity which is so close to everyone in the Forces.”
So far around £500 has been donated to the cause. You can support Edwin – and follow his progress – at www.bmycharity.com/h2hforh4h (copy and paste the URL into your browser address bar).
MOD Copyright by PA(Phot) Dave Sterratt