Cycling From Lands End to John O'Groats: Dave Yates



You may know him from the Daily Mirror as Chief Horse Racing Correspondent, but Dave Yates has an exciting challenge coming that you may not be aware of! Yates has been in the horse racing industry for over 24 years and although did not have any horse background, he developed an interest from afar. He was interested in those who had a talent for working with unpredictable horses, thus progressing into a career in writing.

Now David is taking on a challenge of a lifetime. He is cycling the 525 miles from Lands End to John O'Groats, otherwise known as LEJO. We spoke to him on the eve of his departure and got an insight into how he prepared for such a tough challenge.


So, Dave why LEJO?

It is iconic. In Britain it is one of the most iconic things to do in terms of cycling and is a great challenge. Although thousands have done it and have cycled the route from Lands End to John O'Groats, it is hard yet manageable. It is often the one thing that when you start cycling you want to do. I'm taking two weeks off of work and hope to finish the route in 11 days, leaving myself a few days to recover before a busy horse racing schedule starts up again. Like I said, it is iconic. Being able to go from one end of the country to the other purely under your own steam is a fantastic opportunity and achievement.

That is great and it is lovely to hear someone speak so passionately about their challenge!
Your training must be quite difficult, especially with a full time job. Have you done anything similar to this before?

Well, last year I cycled from Lands End to Carlisle and so that was good training to reassure myself that I would be able to deal with LEJO. I thought to myself, that when I got to Carlisle, I'd have an idea how I'd cope and it would end in three possible outcomes. I'd either throw my bike in a river somewhere around Gloucester, throw my bike in a river when I got to Carlisle or I'd get to Carlisle and think “Hey that wasn't too bad”. Thankfully it was the latter and so I decided to do LEJO next year.

Has the training changed much from last year’s challenge? Do you train weekly or daily?

What I find important with training is that you back-up big days. It isn't always easy to do, especially if you are cycling 80 to 90 miles per day. You want a rest, you will want to have a day off, but it is important to have endurance and to be able to get back on the saddle the next day. I cycle every day since last year’s challenge, ticking over 30 to 50 miles a day. I keep it steady so that it isn't a shock for my body when it comes to it.

That is endurance! What are some of your biggest worries about keeping up the cycling every day?

Honestly? My biggest worry is my backside!
Other than that I am not too worried. I am good at starting at one point in the morning and thinking that I will get there by the time I finish for the day. I can imagine a small dot across a map, like a radar, it may not look like it is moving, but it is slowly and it helps to imagine that when cycling.

Are you going to be doing the LEJO on your own, will that be difficult?

I've found that the older you get, the more tolerant of your own company you get. However, I will be having other people join me on various stages throughout the week. This will break it up and will also help with certain areas I'm not sure of. For example I have someone local to Edinburgh who will be great to help navigate the cycle routes. On my website I'm also looking for people to join me if they want!

That is great! So what bike do you ride?

I have two bikes. One is a 800 steel Ridgeback which I got when I returned to cycling four years ago. I also have a handmade bike in Lincolnshire, with all the extras it cost around £3200 and is great for touring.

What about food? All that cycling how do you keep your energy levels up?

I'm definitely not scientific about what I eat. In the morning I eat everything! Usually I stay at a Bed and Breakfast and so in the morning I stock up on a good breakfast. I don't eat red or white meat and so I eat fish, cheese and eggs and lots of toast. I load up on jam too, as this is great for immediate sugar. After breakfast I try and do the most of my cycling in the morning, around 50 to 60 miles. Then after lunch around 20 miles. During the day I'll stop off at an afternoon roadside cafe and have bread, eggs and cheese and eat about two bananas throughout the day. I have some gels in my bag, but haven't had to use them yet.

How do you juggle your job and training?

I'm very lucky because I work from home and at the racecourse. I'll ring the office in the morning then will be able to get two to three hours of cycling done during the day which is about 30 to 40 miles. Then in the summer months when I am finishing at about 6pm or 7pm, I can go out for a summer ride after work. I am very lucky that I don't have a typical nine to five job so that I can fit my training in with my work.

Do you have any advice for people who are working nine to five and want to squeeze in a challenge like this one?

I actually don't know anyone who is training for the LEJO who is working those hours. Online and on forums, most people that I speak to about the ride are able to be flexible with their work. It can get stressful though, especially when you're counting down to it. I am very lucky in this respect.

The charity you are riding for is Racing Welfare, why this one?

It is great! It is a charity that looks after people who work in the thoroughbred industry. It is an umbrella charity really, as it isn't just about injuries caused by horses, but also illnesses that aren't related to their work. It also works with people suffering with bereavement, relationship issues, addiction, depression and debt. You can donate on my website for the charity and to sponsor me.

Do you have any plans for the future?

I want to do another challenge. The length of Italy is something that I would be really interested in. I've visited many times on my holidays and there is practically a cycle route from the very top of Italy, in the mountains, all the way down to Sicily. I would also like to raise money for a cancer charity and for heart disease; we are all connected and affected by these illnesses and it would be good to raise money for them.

Thank you to Dave for a great insight into his preparation for LEJO. By now his backside is probably getting rather sore and we shall be catching up with him at the end of the challenge to see how he got on!

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