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Wheels in motion for York cyclist Greg Melia
9:59am Wednesday 20th July 2011 in Cycling
FOR one York cyclist the Tour de France is not the only two-wheeled test of endurance happening this summer.
Research student Greg Melia, 26, is undertaking the prestigious Paris-Brest-Paris Audax event which sees riders cycle 1,230 kilometres in only three days and eight hours.
The prestigious event has been running since 1891 and now attracts around 5,000 riders each year.
The standard is high and competitors have to prove their calibre over a series of distances ranging between 125 and 375 miles before the event.
Melia has also included arduous 12 and 24-hour time trials in his training and is now a highly proficient road cyclist after making the switch to tarmac from mountain biking.
Audax events, which are non- competitive and are defined by riders cycling a certain distance in a pre-ordained time, are becoming increasingly popular and the British national association boasts more than 5,000 members.
The race officially has no winner, with emphasis instead placed on the determination of the field to finish the demanding course, but Melia will still be cheered on by the thousands of spectators that line the road to watch each year.
Despite that encouragement, Melia admits to some nerves entering in to the race. “I’m a bit nervous, since I’ve entered a faster group,” he said. “But I’m fairly confident in my ability, so I feel happy and I’m looking forward to it.”
It will be a far cry from where it all began for the York resident – on the streets of a 100km Audax event starting in Wigginton.
That event was organised by York’s Anne Benton, who will become the oldest British woman to ride the Paris-Brest-Paris in the year she turns 70.
Melia’s biggest inspirations, he says, are “the people who do events like this and aren’t super athletes – they are just normal people with wobbly bits”.
“In 2009, I worked at the race control for the London-Edinburgh-London event that is the British equivalent of the PBP. I watched determined middle aged men complete it and though to myself if they can do it so can I.”
Happily for Melia, essential preparations to take on the formidable course are going well.
“So far everything is going according to plan,” he said. “I have just signed up to do another 12-hour time trial and if I keep up the current level of riding then I should be fine.
“This is the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far both in terms of distance and the number of competitors involved so it is an exciting prospect.”
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