Doctors Riding Tandem Around The World Face Off With Bear And Knife-Wielding Robber
When describing the size of a Russian brown bear, Encyclopaedia Britannica uses the term "exceptionally large" -- weighing in at around 360kg.
With this in mind, you can imagine the concern of Lloyd Collier and Louis Snellgrove when on the side of the road they were cycling down on a tandem bike, a "big brown mass" in the distance suddenly stood up on its hind legs.
"Honestly, it was easily one of the best and worst, scariest moments of my life," Collier said.
On Thursday, the two Aussie-based British doctors finished a nine month cycling adventure -- to break a Guinness World Record and raise funds for neurology research.
Upon crossing the finish line in Adelaide on Thursday -- where they had set off 283 days earlier -- they reflected on their tandem trials and tribulations.
Enter, enormous bear.
"We came to a halt about 10 metres in front of it and he stares at us and we stare at him, and it felt like four hours but it was more like four seconds, and we just completely froze."
Thankfully, the grizzly took little interest in the duo and shuffled back into the treeline, not far from Russia's Lake Baikal.
"We were so scared after we saw it we didn't have the courage to pitch up our tent, we slept in the trans-Siberian railway station.
We told the guard and he didn't show any emotion at all. It was like 'you're cycling through Siberia at dusk, of course, you saw a bear'," Collier told 10 daily.
Collier and Snellgrove are emergency doctors working at Townsville Hospital and no, they weren't on a tandem bike in the middle of the Siberian wilderness for nothing.
The duo wanted to break the world record for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe on a tandem bike -- in what Snellgrove described as an "old-school adventure".
"It sounds mental doesn't it," Collier said about pedaling 29,000 kilometres through 24 countries in 283 days.
And it turned out there were a few 'mental' moments.
The bear wasn't the only obstacle. At one point, the bike carrying them from east to west froze in the Siberian cold.
The trip's low point came after setting up camp in Mongolia's Gobi Desert in September, the men were robbed at knife point by a passing motorist.
"I was standing nearest him and he started thrusting the knife at me to show me what he'd do if we didn't give him any money," Collier recalled.
After handing over a collection of their smaller notes, the men decided they had to move, fearful the thief might return during the night.
"It was probably the worst 24 hours of the trip. It's moments like that I thought about my uncle and what he went through," he said.
Collier's uncle became paralysed after a work accident.
"Uncle Alun was put in a wheelchair when he was 29, which is how old I am now.
I watched this man who I adored achieving more whilst in a wheelchair than most full-bodied people achieve in a lifetime and it had a massive impact on me." he said.
He said thinking about his uncle gave him the strength to finish to race despite the knifepoint robbing and bear confrontation.
"This was easily the toughest thing I've ever had to do but it's nothing compared to being told at the age of 29 that you'll never walk again," Collier said.
The doctor duo were remarkably chipper and bright-eyed for men who had spent the better half of the past year sleeping in a tent, living out of four bags of essentials, and cycling through monsoon rains and into headwinds.
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To date, the trip has raised nearly $30,000 for the Brain Foundation in Australia and Spinal Research in the U.K.
"The brain and spine can result in injuries that are so devastating and life-changing. We need to put more research into it, it's always going to need more money," Collier said.
Though Guinness Book of Records officials will have to review the evidence before it is made official, the pair beat the previous record by seven days.
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