On 26th Sept 2018 Leigh Timmis rode up to the railway station in Ufa, Russia just 16 days, 10 hours and 45 minutes after he left Cabo da Roca in Portugal; in doing so he became the fastest person ever to cycle across Europe. We were proud to be the headline sponsor for this record-breaking achievement, but we went on to become an important part of the operations team that supported it.
Leigh’s bid for the world record was to be the first fully supported attempt. Previous record holders had ridden alone and carried all their kit themselves. Leigh would have a 3 person road team travelling with him that would look after all his operational and physical requirements while he concentrated on the cycling.
We quickly realised that we could bring a lot more than just money to the project. Although cycling across Europe sounds like a relatively simple concept (in operational terms at least!) it required an enormous of planning. Since our expertise lies in moving things quickly and efficiently we took on responsibility for ensuring that the support vehicles and equipment were in the right places at exactly the right time. As Leigh himself said:
“Achieving the ambitious target that we set for ourselves relied on a time-critical strategy. Ace Sameday Couriers went beyond their role as sponsors, becoming an intrinsic part of the operations team; preparing and executing a precise logistics plan that ensured that we could focus on delivering our greatest performance”.
The plan for locating and retrieving the support vehicles went through several rethinks. Initially the plan was to follow the route taken by the existing record holder, Sean Conway. He rode solo and took a southern route through Europe, entering Russia via Ukraine. However, with no UK insurers willing to cover the support vehicle in either Russia or Ukraine we were forced to look at other options. Hiring a second motorhome in Russia was now required but the insurance issue with the Ukraine remained. Crossing into and out of Russia via the Byelorussian border was not an option for foreigners so that left Latvia as the optimum point of entry. This meant a major re-routing of Leigh’s ride that would see him heading north through Germany, Poland and Lithuania before crossing Latvia and entering onto Russian soil. This route would be slightly longer than originally planned but, crucially, was significantly flatter.
So, the final plan was that we would drive the first support vehicle (a 6 berth motorhome generously lent by a cycling enthusiast in Derby) containing the bike and all the food, tools, massage table etc to Portugal and meet Leigh and his team at Lisbon airport. We would then fly to Moscow to hire a second motorhome there which would then be driven to Latvia to meet Leigh as he approached Russia. A vehicle swap would then take place with all the equipment transferred from one van to the other and we would drive the original motorhome back to the UK.
A considerable amount of work was done checking local driving regulations and documentation requirements, organising insurances, breakdown cover, booking flights and ferries etc. Every detail was checked and re-checked. There was no margin for error because the plan was mission-critical; delays or failures were unthinkable.
It all worked perfectly. The support vehicle was waiting as the team emerged from Lisbon airport and the Russian motorhome was sitting in a layby as Leigh powered through Lithuania (minor adjustment to the plan as we were running ahead of schedule!). So as Leigh pedalled off towards the Russian border we headed back in the direction of England. And the rest, as they say, is history. Leigh secured the record in a remarkable time, setting the bar extremely high for anyone else thinking of attempting it. He was justifiably proud of his achievement and we were privileged to have played a part in making it happen.