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Charity cyclist Harry Lidgley was on the road to success when a spoke in his wheel threatened to send him off track until a Glenbarr man came to the rescue.
More than two weeks into a 7,000-kilometre charity cycle around Great Britain, the 23-year-old aspiring endurance and adventure athlete’s challenge came to a halt.
Having set off from the RNLI’s headquarters in Poole, in the south of England, on Saturday May 1, the Hampshire man’s aim was to cycle to all 168 lifeboat stations in mainland UK to raise awareness and funds for the charity that saves lives at sea.
Equivalent to cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats five times or climbing more than seven times the height of Mount Everest, the Great British Lifeboat Challenge is no mean feat and it almost came to an end 17 days in, on Monday, when Harry’s spokes pulled through the rim of his back wheel near Glenbarr.
Thankfully, the breakdown – his first major set-back so far – happened less than one kilometre from the home of Kintyre Wheelers Cycling Club chairman Robbie Semple, who happened to have a suitable spare wheel.
Harry was soon back on the road, arriving at Campbeltown Lifeboat Station at about 6.30pm on Monday evening, just behind schedule.
Robbie has undertaken a few of his own charity cycles, including riding from Perth to Passchendaele in France in 2017; joining world endurance mountain biker Richard Rothwell on a ride from Greenock to Shieldaig in Sutherland in 2018; and cycling from Argyll to Aberdeen in one day in 2019, meaning he was particularly sympathetic to Harry’s plight.
Robbie said: ‘A guy named Al Gow from Wheelcraft, a bike shop in Clachan of Campsie, gave me a set of wheels in case I needed to help anyone out in an emergency.
‘I’ve helped about four or five people from those initial wheels, recycling them as I go, but I think this is the end of the road for Harry’s wheel.’
Harry added: ‘Thanks to a miraculous turn of events, I made it to the lifeboat station in Campbeltown. Scotland has been treating me very well so far.
‘I’ve had the best weather here, which is not what I expected, and good weather really helps on an endurance challenge.’
Harry read Classics at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, gaining a BA, before completing an MA in Environment and Development at King’s College London last year.
He was part of the Exe Endurow team that rowed around the British coast in 2020, breaking a world record for being the youngest team to complete the challenge.
He hopes to finish his cycling challenge within 42 days to beat the time it took the rowing team to circumnavigate the coastline.
To meet this target, he has to endure long days in the saddle, carrying with him everything he needs, including light-weight camping equipment and army-style rations to help him achieve the 7,000 calories he needs each day to keep his body fuelled.
As well as coming to the rescue with a spare wheel, Robbie offered Harry a safe space in his garden to pitch his tent on Monday night before he continued north on Tuesday morning.
Asked why he chose to support the RNLI, Harry said: ‘It is an incredible institution so it needs little justification but my family has a sailing background and, last year, when I was part of a team rowing round Britain, the RNLI was an enormously reassuring presence although, thankfully, we didn’t require their assistance.’
He added: ‘It just made sense to support the RNLI when taking on my next challenge.’
Harry’s progress can be tracked on his website at www.gblifeboatcycle.com and he is providing daily updates on the Instagram account @gblifeboatcycle.
Visit justgiving.com/fundraising/gblifeboatcycle to donate to the challenge’s online RNLI fundraising page.