The challenge has received the backing of Little Britain star David Walliams, who donated £1,000 to start the team’s fundraising.
Ironman triathlete Mat and his three team mates are receiving support from his colleague Professor Andy Lane, who is a sports psychologist. Andy is looking at how the four cyclists cope with repeated bouts of hard exercise, and using strategies such as music to help them deal with the challenge.
Also in the team is Professor Greg Whyte, who masterminded David Walliams’s channel swim and supported the recent Sports Relief Cross-Continent Challenge for James Cracknell, and Alan Shearer and Adrian Chiles’ Big Ride.
Senior Lecturer in Sports Science Mat, who appeared as a consultant for Channel 4 and BBC on shows such as The Games, Too Big to Walk and The Challenge, said: “This race has huge personal and professional meaning to me. Firstly, the idea of cycling continuously for 3200 miles, 24hrs a day for six days sounds like pure fun! Secondly, I am taking Dr Shaun Gallloway, one of our PhD students and an MSc student with me to collect vital physiological and psychological data to gain a better understanding into the mental and physical costs of such an event. This truly is a University of Wolverhampton research project. ”
Professor Lane said: “We are looking at the riders’ mental toughness and how they cope with repeated bouts of hard exercise. Specifically, we are looking at strategies to help them cope better. One of those strategies is the use of appropriately selected music as music can be used as a ‘psyche up’ strategy and also a relaxation strategy.”
The Race Across America, known as the world’s toughest cycle ride, is 3,043 miles long and starts in Oceanside, California, on June 11, 2008. The four riders will be raising money for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), a charity close to Mat and Greg’s hearts as they both work for the charity for free, raising awareness of sudden cardiac death in young individuals.
The other two riders in the team are international modern pentathlete Richard Ball and triathlete and former professional footballer Clive Middleton. A number of other people from the University are supporting the team, including Dr Shaun Galloway, PhD student Hannah Twigg and MSc Ian Lahart.