A MEYSEY Hampton cyclist will attempt to ride 1200 km from Paris to Brest and back again this August on a fixed gear bike.

Richard Tofts is aiming to emulate French cyclist Pierre Griffard who first organised the extreme challenge in 1891 and is riding to raise money for the Fairford Hospital League of Friends and the Meysey Hampton playing field.

Back in 1891 people thought it impossible to cover such a distance on a bicycle. 400 riders entered the first time the challenge ran and nearly half of them had pulled out before the starting gun went off.

Over half of those gave up during the race and got the train home, but one hundred did finish. The winner completing in just under 72 hours, a very creditable time even by modern standards.

Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP) became a tradition that continues to this day, and it’s now one of the oldest amateur bicycling events in the world, running every four years.

It is no longer a race but has to be completed within a maximum 90-hour time limit. The course from Paris to Brest on the Atlantic coast of France is arduous with many hill climbs and pedalling around the clock.

Like Griffard, Richard will undertake the challenge on his old fixed gear bicycle, making the challenge even tougher.

He will leave Paris on August 16, aiming to be back in the French capital in under 90 hours, less than four days, later, which equates to riding about 200 miles a day.

He said: “Everyone who enters Paris-Brest-Paris has to have reached a reasonable standard of endurance cycling.

“So all have to have completed 200, 300, 400 and 600 kilometre qualifying rides on approved routes during the same year as their PBP ride.

“In the UK, the qualifiers are presided over by Audax UK, the long-distance cycling association.

“I completed these rides which have formed the basis of my training, but I've tried to maintain a reasonable level of fitness since then by cycling as much as I can during the weekends and also during the week when possible.

“In fact I did a dry run of the qualifiers last year, just to see what I was letting myself in for.

“The 600 kilometre ride I did in 2014 ran from Tewkesbury up into North Wales and back and involved a total of 9,500 metres of hill climbing, slightly more than the height differential between sea level and the summit of Everest.

“That was the toughest ride I've done so far, and I was up against the clock for much of the second half."

Richard is relishing the opportunity to take part in the PBP ride but is aware the challenges that lie ahead.

“It will certainly be tough, no doubt about that," he said.

“It's twice as far as I've ever cycled before in a single ride so I don't have any direct experience to go on.

 “The ride was originally set up to be a test of endurance and nothing has changed there, with riders having to cope with tiredness and sleep deprivation as a matter of course. There are some things I have control over.

“Making sure I keep eating and drinking enough, dealing with any minor niggles before they become painful blisters and so on. But much will depend on what the weather does and I'll just have to wait and see on that one.

“Hopefully it won't be too hot or windy.

“From what I've read there is a great sense of camaraderie between the riders who come from all over the world to participate and I'm looking forward to that, whatever the weather may do.

“I'm hoping to raise around £500 for the two charities I'm supporting. They're very local ones and their small size means they can easily get overlooked.”

To sponsor Richard, contact Graham Hewitt at graham.hewitt@yahoo.co.uk.