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Jonathan Parker from Herne Bay to cycle across the Taklamakan Desert in China

By Jack Dyson

A high-flying barrister is aiming to set a world record by cycling across the so-called “Sea of Death” in less than a day.

Jonathan Parker is expecting to encounter temperatures ranging from a freezing -30C to a sweltering 40C, sandstorms and 100mph winds when he traverses the Taklamakan Desert in China this spring.

The father-of-one is aiming to complete the ride in 20 hours – eight hours faster than the current record, which is held by TV and bike-racing personality Guy Martin.

Jonathan Parker is hoping to cycle across the Taklamakan Desert in China in 20 hours
Jonathan Parker is hoping to cycle across the Taklamakan Desert in China in 20 hours

“I might get off the bike for a few minutes, but there won’t be any sleep or any proper rest,” said the 42-year-old.

“Apparently you can’t actually see the Great Wall of China from space, but you can see the Taklamakan Desert because it’s so huge. The first two guys I’m aware of who cycled across it did it in about 48 hours and in the middle of that they stopped for four hours sleep, during which one their masks froze to their beard. The temperature didn’t get high enough afterwards for it to come off so he couldn’t eat for hours.”

Mr Parker, who is living between Albany Drive in Herne Bay and Doha, already holds a world record for the fastest cycle from London to Paris, which he set in 2016.

But a skiing accident, in which he broke a shoulder blade, in 2017 almost ended any hopes of him riding a bike again.

“There are 15 screws holding my back together,” he added.

“I couldn’t cycle at all for a while after the accident and I didn’t know if I’d be doing the time trials again because it’s quite a contorted position to be in on those bikes.

The Taklamakan Desert
The Taklamakan Desert

“It was only six or so months ago when I thought I had enough strength in the shoulder to train again.”

In preparation for the 550km cycle, which is expected to take place in March or April, Mr Parker has been doing six-hour rides in Qatar, England and Belgium.

Because of the extreme conditions he could be exposed to in the desert, he will have a team of people, including a medic, following him in a support car.

Mr Parker will also fly his own food out to China to fuel him. He is expecting to burn about 900 calories per hour while on the bicycle.

“There’s also going to be a certain level of unpredictability in the temperatures out there,” he added.

“I’ll be taking a cycling kit that I’ve used in the UK. It’s quite tight-fitting and in that I’d be all right riding at about -5C, but if it gets colder, I’ll be wearing things like skiing jackets and trousers.”

Jonathan Parker has been practising in Qatar (6740611)
Jonathan Parker has been practising in Qatar (6740611)

However, the variable weather conditions do not scare him most.

Instead, he is wariest of the pain the metal screws in his shoulder, femur and leg from an earlier operation could cause in the freezing temperatures.

“I can’t really prepare for that,” continued Mr Parker. “I’ll just have to get out there, grit my teeth and go as quickly as I can.

“I’ll be in a constant fight with the desire to stop and get off the bike. Being able to keep motivated enough to keep going will be really hard.”

He is hoping the ride will help him raise £10,000 for Cyclists Fighting Cancer.

To donate, click here.

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