The Brazilian World Cup will be one to capture the attention of millions upon millions of football fans around the globe as the elite fight for the greatest prize in football. Tickets will of course be hard to come by but one man we know that will be heading off to Brazil is 35-year-old Andy Smith. The man from Watford, Hertfordshire is planning to cycle 5,500 miles around Brazil in just five months. He will be visiting every stadium lucky enough to host a game in this summer’s tournament and it all starts on the 18th of January. We speak to the man who cycled around Vicarage Road on Saturday about himself and his incredible journey.
Hello Andy, obviously what you are doing is a huge task! What inspired you to do this?
“I’d had a nagging feeling for a while that I wanted, no needed, to go on an adventure, so having loved a charity cycle from Munich (Germany) to Trieste (Italy) in May 2013 I was inspired to resign from my job (which had enabled me to save some money) in order to plan and do this trip.”
The plan is to cycle stadium to stadium, which one are you looking forward to visiting the most?
“It has to be The Maracana in Rio, it’s legendary, not least for the John Barnes wonder goal in 1984 when he was a Watford player!”
There is obviously a lot of commotion about whether the English players can adjust to the difficult climate, are you worried about how the heat may affect your journey? What type of training have you been undertaking in order to prepare yourself?
“I like warm weather, I much prefer summer to winter, and bear in mind that I start in southern Brazil during their summer and end in the North/Amazon during their winter, so effectively I transition between seasons at what I expect to be about 25 degrees Celsius all the way on average. I’ve been doing spin classes, pilates and plenty of riding my touring bike. Admittedly none of that is in the heat at this time of year but my overall fitness is good so that’s what matters most.”
You are also selflessly using this as a way to fundraise for charity. Laureus Sport For Good Foundation and Watford FC’s Community Sport and Education Trust are your chosen charities, can you explain why you have chosen these two and what the money raised will do?
“If you read my blog post "The Story So Far" you’ll see that I first discovered Laureus and saw for myself the amazing impact that the opportunity to take part in sport can have on disadvantaged kids when in early 2012 I spent time volunteering in Sri Lanka at an incredible local charity called the Foundation of Goodness which was set up to support the local community in the aftermath of the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. I then met several lovely and inspirational people who work for Laureus when I took part in Chance to Ride in Sept 2013 and on further investigation discovered that the charity supports sporting projects in both the UK and Brazil, so to my mind it’s a perfect fit. Then I also wanted to support a charity in my hometown of Watford and what better choice than Watford FC’s own charity which does a similar type of sports-based work to Laureus but in the local communities in Hertfordshire and nearby London Boroughs.”
You mention on your website that you’ve had some experience of long cycling trips but how do you feel you’ll be able to cope with the physical and mental aspect of cycling during which must surely be your longest ever distance?
“Oh yes it‘ll be by far the longest cycle tour I’ve done. My current Personal Best is 5 days, let alone 5 months! I’m happy spending time on my own, and expect to meet locals often along the route. I know I’ve got lots of solo cycling to do, so I’ll deal with it.”
You appeared at Vicarage Road on Saturday when Watford, your boyhood team, suffered a 1-0 defeat against Reading. What were your emotions when you learned the club were allowing you to do this?
“I actually had the idea myself and asked them if I could do it, but wasn’t expecting them to say yes! I’ve had great support from Andrea Viglieno at the Watford Football Club Community Sport and Education Trust so he made it happen for me.”
Who is your favourite to lift the world famous trophy?
“It has to be Brazil, the 5 time winners and hosts, who laid down a great marker at the Confederations Cup last summer. Oh yes, and I’ll be in Rio for the last few weeks of the World Cup so it’ll be an extra amazing carnival if Brazil go all the way! But I expect it’ll be a massive party regardless!”