An Inverness cyclist is already contemplating another North Coast 500 record-breaking attempt after enduring heroic failure in terrible weather.
Leaving at 8am last Saturday, gutsy amateur Gavin Dempster battled ferocious headwinds all the way west from Inverness Castle to Applecross, crossing the notorious Bealach na Bà hill.
He then defied several hours of freezing torrential rain while powering north past Ullapool and Lochinver.
As the 32-year-old Halfords worker pounded into the night, forecast tailwinds failed to materialise and the unusually calm conditions would prove his downfall.
Tackling the north coast past Tongue towards Caithness, he remained on course to beat the four-year-old record of 31 hours and 23 minutes set by former Commonwealth Games medallist James McCallum, but earlier defiance of the elements had taken a heavy toll.
As morning broke just west of Thurso, Mr Dempster and his 10-strong support team – faced with fresh storm warnings – were forced to concede defeat after nearly 23 hours and 360 miles of toil on the 516-mile route.
Frustratingly, the cyclist had already climbed 27,000ft of the total 33,000ft elevation, but would have had to average 25mph in dangerous headwinds over the last 156 miles to shatter the previous best.
However, Mr Dempster of Skibo Place, Inverness, insists there is a real possibility he will be back to try again.
He said: “It was gut-wrenching, but as we drove back south and saw the weather I realised it was the right decision.
“I’m absolutely destroyed and it will take me at least a couple of weeks to recover and ride again.
“We expected the headwind at the start, but didn’t plan on the rain being quite that bad for that long.
“I was soaked through and shaking with cold, and wasn’t eating or drinking right.
“We had our strategy. To keep on track, I needed that tailwind – and I got nothing. I’ve never seen it so still up there.
“Initially, you say never again, but the temptation is there, knowing I was within pace.
“I know myself well enough to say I’m likely to want another crack at it in the future.”
In August 2015, adventure cyclist Mark Beaumont established the first NC500 solo record of 37 hours and 58 minutes, broken a year later by Mr McCallum.
The NC500 has become recognised as one of the toughest endurance challenges in UK cycling, with remote roads and unforgiving gradients.
The cyclist’s team manager Doug Carruthers, who followed him in a support car, said: “We’re all absolutely gutted for Gav.
“I’ve never seen anyone ride through conditions like that, put themselves on
the line like he did for 24 hours.
“Probably 99 per cent of cyclists I know – myself included – would have chucked it during the downpour.
“He certainly has it within him and we’ll be there beside him if he wants to do it again.”
Mr Dempster’s record bid raised £1189 for Highland Hospice.
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