At the end of May, MD of Azure Perry Newton joined his son and two Azure colleagues on an 8-day endurance biking raid through five countries, known in the classical era as Illyria. We caught up with the team recently for a quick-fire Q&A session about their adventure.
Q: Who came up with the idea of doing The Illyria Raid?
PN (Perry Newton): Ok, so it was my bright idea. I thought it would be great to see these Balkan countries [Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia] and only rallies get you into the best parts—areas few people can access. And it was incredible.
Q: Have you participated in any other rallies like this?
PN: Yes, in Morocco, Spain, Dakar and the Hellas Rally in Greece.
GD (Gavin Dickinson): First for me, a baptism of fire.
Q: How do rallies help you improve team spirit at work?
PN: Rallies are unique. You are totally outside your comfort zone. You never know what obstacle you will come across: mountain, river, sand or snow. You have large distances to cover and navigation can become lonely, confusing and frustrating. Over days, there’s always a crisis or three, which only real teamwork will solve. Whether it’s a mental or physical challenge, or something completely out of your control, you must adapt and overcome. This isn’t a fluffy lovey-dovey team bonding event, this is real!
Q: Were there times you wanted to kill each other?
PN: The guys were doing a pretty good job of trying to take their own lives. If they weren’t falling off mountains, they were attempting to drown themselves in rivers.
GD: Oh yes, [Alex] Collyer can be infuriating!
Q: Describe your experience at the rally in a few words.
PN: Exhilarating and totally exhausting. Very satisfying on many fronts.
Q: What was the single hardest day of the rally? How about the best?
GD: Hardest day was the Wednesday on the Croatia to Bosnia leg when Brad [Newton] and I got lost, ran out of fuel and then did the hardest day’s riding you can imagine. This also made it the best day, because it was a real achievement.
PN: Hardest day was different for all and for some every day was the hardest day. The endless rocky mountain climbs were my personal favourite hate, as I felt like they could go on forever. But at least I am totally de-sensitised to large rocks and boulders.
Q: Who’s the best rider? Who needs to polish his skills a bit?
PN: Everyone did an awesome job, no one person was at the same level as another but, in a way, that made it all the more satisfying as everyone mucked in.
GD: Best is Perry. Worst is Gavin.
Q: What were your expectations for this rally?
PN: I expected it to be far less technical and demanding and I really thought the weather would be a lot milder, but then again we were at high altitude for a lot of it.
GD: To really test myself—and the rally really, really did that.
Q: What did your friends/family say when they found out about you going on
PN: As usual they think you are bonkers but are also excited for you for you. They usually just want you to have a good time and be safe.
GD: They thought I was mad. They were very proud when I finished it though!
Q: How did you prepare for this rally?
GD: Cycling 60kms a week and doing exercises and stretches to loosen up.
PN: I’ve tried lots of stuff before, so this time I made it simpler, and it worked for me better. I did navigation training in the UK and generally rode my bike as much as possible to be ‘bike fit’, which is not like any other fitness. Gym work consisted of mainly deadlifts, squats and sled pushes—I have a very heavy race bike so this kind of prep is invaluable
Are you going to do more rallies?
GD: Yes, already have three more planned.
PN: Yes, thinking about the BAJA Rally in Mexico, which is a big deal and a great event with awesome support.