A Larne school principal has pedalled his way into the history books this week, after smashing a cycling record set over 50 years ago.
John Madden, headteacher at Roddensvale School in the town, had trained for months to try to beat the record set by Maurice Foster, MBE, who completed the journey from Londonderry to Belfast in two hours and 48 minutes back in 1963.
And not only did 49-year-old John manage to break the long-standing record, he also beat his friend Peter Jack, who made the same journey by train.
When John arrived in Belfast at the end of his epic trip – having broken the record by 11 minutes – he was greeted by former record-holder Maurice.
John, who rides for Dig Deep Coaching, set his sights on the Londonderry to Belfast record less than a year ago and trained extensively for the challenge, even cycling to work in Larne from his home in Ballycastle.
John was delighted with his record ride and is now relishing the prospect of spending time with his wife Joanne and two young children.
He said: “Obviously I am honoured to take the record from my good friend Maurice Foster, who is a legend in Irish cycling.
“I have trained for this specific event for a long time and I’m so relieved at finally cracking this long-standing record.
“I’m very grateful to those who helped me before the event and on race day, including my coach Stephen Gallagher of Dig Deep Coaching, Maurice McAllister, Gordon Parker, Alicja Cernak, Philip McAllister, Stephen McKenzie of North Coast Leisure, Stuart Tosh and his fellow motor bike marshals, the PSNI and everybody else who made it as smooth as possible.
“They took care of all the logistics – all I had to do was turn up and ride.”
John averaged over 26 miles an hour for the trip, and his fastest speed was recorded as 52mph on the Glenshane Pass.
The cavalcade, which was spearheaded by John on his beloved Cervelo, hammered through Randalstown and Antrim and then down the Antrim Road into Belfast, which lead to some tricky traffic conditions and congestion on a Sunday morning.
John’s achievement now has to be ratified by Cycling Ireland to make his record official.
His friend Peter, who made the same trip on a train,said: “John’s performance is truly exceptional and is a testament to his dedication and ability to suffer for a sustained length of time.
“John should be extremely proud of his record effort. It does highlight however the extremely poor infrastructure of public transport in this country.
“Not only do we not have a dual carriageway linking our two main cities but we also have a train service which is so slow and so meandering that a man on a bicycle can beat the train over a 71.6 mile course.”