Lael Wilcox aims to circumnavigate the planet in just 110 days

Lael Wilcox aims to circumnavigate the planet in just 110 days

On May 26, ultra-endurance legend Lael Wilcox will begin the biggest challenge of her career when she sets off from Chicago, USA, with the aim of smashing the women’s world record for cycling around the globe.

Revealing what inspired her to undertake this epic adventure, the American Lael Wilcox appeared on Red Bull’s ‘Just Ride’ podcast where she also extended an open invitation for cyclists around the world to join her for a mile or two.

Despite barely riding a bike before the age of 20, Wilcox is no stranger to completing some truly remarkable feats on two wheels. The 37-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska, has set records and triumphed in virtually all of the world’s biggest endurance races and trails.

She holds the women’s course record for the Tour Divide, covering the 4,418km course in 16 days, 20 hours and 17 minutes; has the fastest known time on the 1,330km Arizona Trail; claimed first place in the 6,800km Trans Am race; and even won the 563km Unbound XL race in 2021 after riding her bike 965km just to reach the start line.

In order to achieve these incredible results, Wilcox often rides for 22 hours a day, consumes the majority of her calories while on the bike and has to deal with temperatures that range from minus 30 degrees Celsius to 40 °C.

“When I won the Trans Am race in 2016, which is a historic route across America, for the final three nights I slept a total of six hours. I was riding for 22 hours and I was sunburnt and blistering. I had a crack down my lip and at one point I got a flat tyre. I’ve even done a couple of rides where I cycled for 48 hours straight,” Wilcox tells the Just Ride podcast.

During these brutal tests of endurance, Wilcox reveals that she has often found herself hallucinating, has had to deal with crashes and even pushed herself when suffering from sickness bugs caused by drinking contaminated water.

It takes remarkable strength of mind and body to overcome these challenges and Wilcox’s unique mental approach is another topic of major discussion during the podcast.

“There are moments when the darkness comes back, but I am able to tell myself that I just need to keep doing my best. Everything hurts, but I know that in an hour I’ll probably feel better or maybe not. But I always know that I will come out the other side and I keep plugging away until I feel better and can go faster.”

Having initially started on the bike as a way to commute to work and then tested her ability by riding more than 80km to visit her sister, Wilcox now hopes to secure a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by eclipsing Jenny Graham’s record of covering 29,600km in 24 days and 11 hours.

Wilcox plans to achieve this with no support team in place but hopes that riders around the world will come out and join her for a mile or two.

“For me, it’s like a party on a bike and I hope people can come and ride with me along the way. I’m not doing this to be alone, I want to see these places and meet people. I’ll publish my route and I have an open invite for people to come and ride next to me and have a conversation.”

Header image: Lael Wilcox preparing for Paris-Roubaix 2024 in Roubaix in 2024. Credit: Rugile Kaladyte / Red Bull Content Pool

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