Italian cycling adventure proves memorable experience for Leighn

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A Barcaldine cyclist who took on a 1,200 kilometre race from Mount Etna to Mount Vesuvius wearing his wife’s kit was knocked unconscious by flying fruit enroute and suffered six hours of memory loss before returning home to tell the tale.

North Argyll Cycle Club member Leighn Chambers hadn’t even entered The Two Volcano Sprint (2VS) which began at 5am on October 15 at Nicolosi in Italy.

His wife of two years, Carolyn, had been keen to tackle the epic event which features 26,000 metres of climbing. It was not to be however. Mrs Chambers was forced to pull out 15 days prior to the race due to a limb debilitating illness and having already invested quite a bit of money in it the couple decided Leighn should take her place.

‘I was hesitant at first but, fortunately, her parents stepped in to help and I was given the opportunity to compete, special thanks to them,’ said Leighn.

‘I felt bad taking her place, she had trained so hard. To compensate I decided to take her along in whatever way I could by riding her bike and wearing some of her clothes.

‘These items would serve as a reminder of who I was representing and inspire me to ride my best ride.’

Thankfully the majority of Carolyn’s stuff fitted her husband pretty well. He wore her favourite pink Rapha Jersey, leg and arm warmers, base layers and helmet.’

Taking in a good chunk of the southern Apennine mountain passes, 2VS riders have to follow a set route, completely unassisted, carrying and obtaining their own food and water and sleeping either using comercially available lodgings or by bringing their own equipment.

Eighty six riders lined up at the start with Leighn in amongst them.

‘I’ve never seen so many talented riders from all over the globe in one place,’ he said.

‘It was incredibly intimidating and I did not fancy my chances at a good result. Having had very little time to train, I opted to ride my own race. I chose to completely ignore everyone else, removing the pressures of competitive cycling.’

With some state of the art technology on the bike and a bag full of Marks and Spencers Percy Pigs, snicker bars, pizza and arancini to keep him fuelled Leighn got on his way.

The race started with two ascents of Mount Etna. The differences in altitude meant the temperatures were quite often a tale of two extremes. Not that it hindered Leighn who said he was perfectly climatised for the colder temperatures being resident in Argyll.

‘A lot of the riders suffered with the cold on the first night but I found it pleasant. I used this to my advantage and managed to press on through the night with no sleep.’

A freelance architect Leighn managed to build on his progress during the second day and night and had intended to keep the pace going into the third night when disaster struck.

He was hit in the face by a falling horse chestnut fruit which caused him to crash and completely knock himself out.

‘I must have gotten up at some point and moved myself off the road to a nearby builders yard. I didn’t know where I was, what I was doing or even who I was.’

Leighn eventually came to on the floor of a small shed with only limited recollections of what was going on. He found his bike and continued to follow the route which was still on the computer display.

‘The last 200km were by far the hardest. I haven’t a clue how I managed to get through the Amalfi Coast. I just told myself to press on and reminded myself that I was riding on behalf of my wife and she’s as tough as they come.’

An ascent and descent of Mount Vesuvius saw him to the finish line which he crossed with his arms lifted in the air and screaming for joy before passing out again.

Leighn finished in an impressive 13th place overall in a time of 84 hours and 37 mins.

Photograph (NO_T44_LeighnChambers2): Leighn Chambers completed the epic Two Volcanos endurance race in Italy recently and survived to tell the tale.