For some intrepid cyclists the Rapha #Festive500 | Rapha is a daunting mid-winter challenge. 500 kilometres. Eight days. Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. Riders are faced with poor weather conditions, sub zero temperatures, all whilst others are warm and dry enjoying the many festive treats on offer.

So what happens if you decided to attempt this in just one (very) long day, keeping to the original spirit doing this outside and on your own? (note: this was done when Covid rules allowed).

I spoke with Ollie Beresford who completed the Festive 500km challenge in a single day and was kind enough to answer questions with the aim to inspire and motivate other riders to take on their own endurance challenge in 2021.

Ollie has been coached by The Endurance Habit since 2017 as part of VC Venta – Winchester Cycling Club coaching program for developing promising U23 riders. Over this period Ollie has built his endurance, stamina and mental capacity deservedly gaining his 2nd category race licence in 2018. His responses to my questions below hide the hard work and hours of training he has done.

What made you decide to attempt the Rapha Festive 500km in a day instead of the usual 8 day period?

I guess I just love an adventure 😆. Over the years I have built up long distance rides starting with touring trips to bike packing. This was the next escalation. I love the opportunity to develop as an all-round person and rides like this provide the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, learn about myself and develop mentally. So the idea of festive 500 in a day provided a good excuse to do the next adventure.

How much training did you do in advance?

I didn’t train for it specifically but have been riding regularly for the last 5 years with good consistency and structured focus in the last 3 years. I have just been training for the 2021 season on around 10-16 hours a week mainly endurance/strength stuff. I think mental training is probably more important than the physical!

Route: Winchester to Cambridge and back

Distance: 500.1km

Time: Moving 17:40:59 hours

Average Speed: 28.3kmh

Elapsed time: 19:26:01 hours

Stopped: 01:43:01 hours only!

Elevation gained: 3,554m

NP: 199w

Average Power: 172w

IF: 0.6 VI: 1.16

Average temperature: -1°, -5° min

Strava link: Hustle | Ride | Strava

What was your planned intensity level? How did you manage to stay on target?

I kept it simple and just aimed for 200 watts or under as through experience this is the level I know I can sustain all day. Going over this for any small time was only going to hurt me at the end of the ride… I think you only learn that from experience!  I asked Ollie about this point, as he had only 3% of his time above zone 1 or zone 2. Amazing intensity discipline. It also turns out he had a nagging muscle injury that prevented him from standing up!

It was on average -2 degrees, how did you keep warm?

Luckily I’m the sweatiest bloke on the planet and therefore don’t usually struggle to keep warm… Kit wise I made sure I had all my favourite bits for the ride, with my Gabba being the essential item. Oh and my “the endurance habit” buff of course. If I got cold I would push a little harder up the next hill to get warmer again.

You rode up to Cambridge and back, was that a planned route to avoid hills or a favourite route?

Definitely a planned route! When the goal is distance, there’s no point making it harder for yourself! Nice and flat with good roads.

If you did it again what would you do differently?

I only had 8 hours of sunlight so maybe a different time of year, although I don’t mind the dark. I actually can’t think of anything for this one, it sounds a silly but it was pretty perfect.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to attempt a long distance challenge like this?

It’s a lot easier if you really want to do it at the start. I usually mentally prepare a week in advance so that by the evening before I can’t wait to get started. Acceptance is probably the most important skill. Things will go wrong and you’ll get niggles. Accepting they’re there and putting them to the back of your mind is pretty important otherwise they’ll just eat away at you and you’ll never finish. Don’t look at distance/time on your Garmin/wahoo the whole time. Give yourself smaller mile stones. I usually go for a big town around a third of the way, then one at halfway and then another town at ¾ of the way. You get little victories each time one is achieved. (But don’t focus too much on the half the distance one otherwise you will crack when you get there and realise you’ve got to do it all over again!)

Thanks to Ollie for his answers. Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss a challenge that excites you for 2021.  Toby Leyland. Coach.