The finish line
Eight months after setting off from Bolton on a 15,500km cycle ride across the world with almost no training, Andrew Crompton finally reaches the Melbourne finish line on Sunday 26 March.
The insurance broker, aged 58, took on the challenge last July to raise money for charities Carers Trust and Bolton Lads and Girls Club. His epic journey has seen him break a wrist, get chased by wild dogs in Turkey, brave Saudi Arabian sandstorms and be yelled at by a room full of naked Germans after disturbing their sauna ceremony.
On 26 March he will arrive at Yarra Yarra Rowing Club in Melbourne and complete a mammoth trip that has passed through 18 countries.
The Australian leg has been the longest of his journey so far and in many ways the most gruelling, with Andrew cycling in 100% humidity and 35°C temperatures along a busy highway, surviving huge trucks passing just centimetres from his bike. He also had to cycle 600km up and down “killer hills”, climbing 4,000 to 5,000ft every day. Along the way he has been accompanied by his best friend from the local pub, John “Millsie” Mills, who has been driving a support vehicle.
Andrew said: “I have got to say this last 600km has taken its toll I am getting to the point where I'm waking up in the morning, and I’m feeling it in my hips, my knees. So, it's time to finish.
“I have really mixed emotions because it's now become a way of life of living out of a suitcase with a different bed every night. Me and Millsie have got a routine where we get up, he jumps in the car, I jump on the bike and away we go. And I sat there this morning thinking here I am in Australia we have a morning cycling, doing what I love, it doesn’t get much better and it will all be over I a few days. So I think I'll really be sad, I will miss it, but I also think it will be tempered with relief because I'll be thankful."
After he finishes, Andrew will celebrate with friends and family including his two-year-old granddaughter Sienna, whose parents live in Melbourne. He will then spend a week in Australia before heading back for a celebration in Bolton.
When Andrew first set off with minimal training from his hometown of Bolton on 29 July, he encountered a man who was running 31 marathons in 31 days who told him: “You’d be surprised what you can actually do and what your body will take.”
Andrew said: “At the time I was thinking of all those 200 rides and 15,000 kilometres in front of me so it just didn't quite sink in. But I've got to say it has done now. There’s only been one point in the desert where I really questioned it and that was 7 November, I’ll never forget it. I’d finished that day and there’s a picture where I've got this look of agony on my face and I'm thinking ‘God this is this is too hard’. But that’s the only moment of real self-doubt I had through the whole journey.”
He added: “We had all these people telling us about nutrition beforehand and training and carbing up and psychological preparation. But you know what, we get up in the morning, we have a cup of tea. I don't stretch, I get on the bike, we do 50km, we have an egg and bacon butty most mornings, a bit of water, I jump back on my bike, we have another cup of tea before we finish and then we get to the end. I have a little rest for an hour, sort my washing out, sort social media and everything else, and then we go for a beer.
Andrew admitted, however, he should probably have done more training before setting off. Ahead of the journey, he was doing three rides a week of no more than 50km but now he’s riding 600km every week.
He said: “What you really want as a cyclist is big, strapping massive, strong legs and to be as slim as you can be on top and I wasn’t. That was tough but I think I did ride it off and I did ride myself fit. I’m a bit thinner and the seats are too, so I do think I got that wrong. So I definitely got that wrong, but it’s all worked out.”
Most importantly, Andrew said the support from people who have donated so generously and those he met along the way has been “staggering”.
He said: “The response we’ve had is incredible, it really does restore your faith in humankind. I can't tell you how warm a welcome we've had across the world.”
Bolton Lads and Girls Club is a children and young people’s charity. They provide opportunities to improve the lives of 4,000 active members through universal open-access play, youth and sport provision together with bespoke targeted services, supporting the most vulnerable.
Carers Trust is a major charity that is for, with and about unpaid carers. With support services at breaking point and the country coping with the soaring cost-of-living, carers are at crisis point and need help more than ever.
Both charities are hugely grateful to Andrew for taking on such an enormous challenge to raise funds for them.
To donate to Andrew’s Just Giving, visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/manchestertomelbourne
To follow Andrew’s journey, follow him on Instagram: Manchester to Melbourne Cycle For Carers (@manc2melb)