Hugo and dad Haydn complete an ultimate cycling challenge

Haydn, Mariko and Hugo ready for the challenge


Hugo Boyce was brought up joining his parents Haydn and Mariko as they continued their love of running and cycling so that when he was a nipper he went along with them, initially in his pram and then a child seat so that even when mum and dad took on the challenge in two of the components of the Long Course Weekend in Tenby then Hugo joined them. (They actually pushed Hugo in his running pram to complete the Wales Marathon, and he was in the child seat on Haydn’s bike for the Wales Sportive!)
So when Haydn decided it was time to undertake a new challenge, he came around to the idea that with his love of real tests that the cycling marathon from Lands End to John O’Groats might be worth considering and asked his son Hugo if he would like to join him on the 900-mile plus journey – and after giving it due consideration he decided that he would join his father on the challenge.

Planning a vital part of the journey

It was agreed they would start preparing for such a mammoth task, with mum Mariko fulfilling the vital role of being team manager, nutritionist, chef, support car driver, hotel booker and a whole lot more besides.
It was important to consider safety and avoid motorways or major roads through cities and to that end they contacted ‘Ride Across Britain’ for the most suitable route, which was divided into nine consecutive days of cycling, with most of the days needing 100+ miles of real graft.
Like his parents, Hugo was a very keen cyclist and had actually completed his first 100-mile ride, along the flat areas of Norfolk, when he was still attending Neyland Primary School – and his since undertaken the ‘Carten 100’ (104 miles between Cardiff and Tenby) and achieved a faster time than one of his teachers!

Hugo as a passenger when he was much younger . . .

Training regime done – and time to start their adventure

. . . And being pushed by mum and dadAlthough even more challenging was perhaps cycling up some of the steep climbs they undertook whilst taking on French Cols (Hugo has ticked off the Col du Galibier, Alpe d’Huez and Mont Ventoux among others) on holidays so it was from that background Hugo and Haydn set out on a 16-week training regime, already knowing the importance of being well prepared, undertaking rides of between 40 and 65 miles, often in bad weather [the wettest spring in recent memory], to ‘toughen up those legs’!
Mariko was also kept busy with preparation in the knowledge that her menfolk would need around 6,000 calories daily, with most of it provided from her makeshift ‘kitchen’ set up in the back of their car, which was basically a portable gas cooker and space to put the food. She cleverly took reference from how professional cycling teams fuel their athletes on the road (e.g with mobile kitchen trucks, dedicated chefs, freshly prepared food from natural ingredients to ensure quality and balance of nutrition) – and used a lot of recipes from “the Cycling Chef” and Nigel Mitchel (former Team Sky nutritionist).
Mariko readily admits that trying to emulate this in the back of an estate car took some doing but all food was freshly prepared from fresh ingredients with little to no use of shop-bought energy supplements, with 2kg of oats and 2kg of rice, and around 6kg of meat, plus an array of fresh vegetables and fruit for 9 days
And before they knew it, the intrepid Boyce trio was on the way to the southernmost tip of the UK knowing that in front of them was a journey of nine days before they reached their destination on the northernmost point of mainland Great Britain.

One of the many food stops en route

The challenge begins in earnest

They set out each day at 8am and aimed at reaching their target at about 6pm, before Mariko fed them the first part of their high-calorie diet (before often having another major meal at an hotel or restaurant), having kept them going with loads of grub whenever they stopped for a break during the day.
Their first day took them to Okehampton, in Devon, and it says much for Hugo’s resolve that when he came off the bike and sustained a grazed hip there were no histrionics and he was soon back in the saddle with dad.  They knew that the second day was something of a challenge since it was over 126 miles, the longest of the sessions as they finished just north of Bath. There was also the risk of the unexpected, like finding a road blocked near Cheddar Gorge and having to reroute – and another occasion where a road was flooded, which meant they had to remove their shoes and socks, wade through the water whilst carrying their bikes  and then put them back on to cycle northwards!  
Mercifully, the third day was the shortest at 84 miles before they reached Ludlow – and they began to feel they were making real headway when they arrived in Manchester at the end of day four.
The weather took a rather nasty turn to torrential rain on day five from Manchester to Carlisle so much so even the gortex wet-weather gear was not remaining dry and an emergency stop in Preston for new gloves and shoes was needed as all the spare clothes were soaked through and cold was becoming an issue.  They cycled via Kendall (but with no time to stop for Mint Cake) that would have been nice whilst climbing up Shap Fell!
The rain continued for three days and clothes were being frantically dried each night, including hair drying the shoes to try and dry them, and having to dry the many pairs of wet socks each day on the dash of the car, which was very unpleasant for Mariko to drive with daily.
In typical fashion, Mariko, who already had enough to deal with, also found an injured Crow in the middle of the road on day 6 which involved a detour to a vets to seek help before having to chase back to the boys to continue being the support crew!

Hugo tackles one of the many hilly climbs

Into Scotland – and lots of climbing

Then it was over the border at Gretna and on to Edinburgh to end day six, with dad finding saddle-soreness a little more than his son, but both in good spirits with terrific support from Mariko as she provided flapjacks aplenty, plus lots of avocado and rice alongside their main meals.
From there they cycled on to Ballater, a town on Royal Deeside, which is east of the Cairngorms but already beginning to test the Boyce’s stamina on hill climbs so late in the nine days before they reached Golspie, a village in Sutherland which is famous for its beaches.
It meant their target was now within reach so that although they had faced lots of climbs over 2,000 feet (passing Glenshee ski centre on day 7, and Lecht ski centre on day 8) But thankfully the weather improved as they came out of the mountains and back to the coast for the final two days,  with the final day being really nice and allowing for a few hours sightseeing at the finish line, just relaxing and soaking up some sun.
On the road to the finish, it was a very tired but understandably-elated Boyce trio who reached the destination and were able to celebrate the end of a unique experience in the shadow of the sign post signifying they had arrived at their destination - and could see the arrow pointing all the way back to Land’s End!
Over the 9 days there were 935.7 miles cycled in a total time of 79.35 hours on the bike and 17270m / 56660ft of climbing -  the equivalent of cycling up mount Everest twice !!! 

Welcome to Scotland


A nice mention from Geraint and Mark

A little later they received a mention on the podcast of Geraint Thomas, the only Welshman ever to win the Tour de France, when he was racing in the Giro D’Italia race whilst they were on holiday in the country and cycled to the top of the Mount Etna stage – only to find he had crashed earlier and eventually arrived very late and cut to ribbons! (Also, Mark Beaumont (Cyclist, TV presenter, and current record holder for cycling around the world) sent Hugo a message of congratulations!)
Hugo is also involved in other sports as he plays football in defence for his age group with Milford Athletic, who are coached by Andrew Barcoe and doing quite well – and trains twice-weekly with Stuart Tyrie in the martial art of Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. Hugo also enjoys running and it is typical that only three days after the long trek back home (almost two days) that he insisted in fulfilling his place in running for Pembrokeshire in the Dyfed  1,500 metres race in Carmarthenshire, and being disappointed that tiredness had caught up with him!

We have done it

And finally . . .

So what is likely to be the next challenge for this intrepid family trio now that this mammoth feat has been achieved?
At the moment all three seem agreed that there has to be time to recover properly and relax a little from their strict regime over recent months – but can only congratulate them on achieving their goal, with a focus that is a credit to them.
And we wait to discover when Hugo and his parents will be creating more great sporting news that this county of ours can be supremely proud of!