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Two men race to beat 76-year-old mileage record

Interest in the Highest Annual Mileage Record has been revived, and two riders are trying to ride more than 75,000 miles in a single year

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Few individuals are able to ride 75,065 miles on a bike in their lifetime, let alone in 365 days. But this year, two men are trying to do just that.

The Ultra Marathon Cycling Association has decided to bring back a record with a long history — the Highest Annual Mileage Record (HAM’R). The number to beat: 75,065 miles in 365 days, an average of about 205 miles per day.

Two men have been battling toward the record since January, but just recently the race became a bit more interesting. The contenders are 41-year-old Englishman Steven Abraham, who set out to beat the record on January 1, and 52-year-old American Kurt Searvogel — better known as “Tarzan” — who started his attempt shortly after, on January 10.

Unfortunately, on March 29, Abraham was involved in a collision with a suspected drunk moped driver and broke two bones in his ankle, forcing him to have surgery. For him, quitting the race three months and 17,000 miles in was not an option. Steven and his team have decided to keep going with his current record attempt — on a recumbent tricycle — and possibly run a concurrent record after he makes a full recovery in August.

Chris Hopkinson, Abraham’s route manager, released a formal statement via Facebook on April 3.

“Riding a recumbent trike will mean that he can sit in an ideal position for recovery from his injuries, with the ankle raised. So as far as the injured ankle is concerned, it should be no different to sitting on his couch at home,” the statement reads. “Being outdoors will also give the benefit of extra vitamin D, which is very good for his bones.”

The record was started in 1911 by a weekly cycling magazine. The first ever record was set by Marcel Plaines at 34,666 miles. His record stood until the 1930s, when it was broken six times in quick succession.

In 1939, three Englishmen set out to beat the mark as it stood at 62,657 miles. One crashed, and the race was down to two: Bernard Bennett and Tommy Godwin, who was 1,000 miles behind. Godwin set the record on a heavy, steel-framed bike with only four gears on the cold and unkempt streets of England at 75,065 miles — a distance equivalent to 25 editions of the Race Across America.

After Godwin set the record on December 31, he decided he wanted to try to ride 100,000 miles in the fewest days possible. He rode until May and hit his 100,000-mile goal in exactly 500 days. Tommy’s record has stood unchallenged until this year.

As of now, “Tarzan” is still going strong and has high hopes for the longer summer days.

“My goal is to start out riding 10 hours a day the first week on my long rides and then add 10 minutes to the time ridden each week as I get more daylight and better weather,” he wrote on his website. “I plan to increase my time on the bike to 14-15 hours during the summer and then taper it back down to about 10 hours a day by the end of 2015.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.