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After finishing 75,000-mile bike ride in Hillsborough, record-setter sleeps in

Kurt Searvogel takes off down the bike path at Flatwoods Park north of Tampa Tuesday. Searvogel and his wife have been traveling around the country as he breaks the record for the number of miles ridden on a bicycle in one year. Kurt broke the record Monday which was originally set in 1939. As of this brief stop he had ridden 75,240 miles and he still has four more days left for his quest. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Jan. 6, 2016

THONOTOSASSA — Tarzan slept in on Tuesday.

After breaking a world record Monday by riding his bike more than 75,065 miles in a year, Kurt "Tarzan" Searvogel figured he deserved it. So instead of slinging a leg over his bike at 6 a.m. like he usually does, the 52-year-old started his ride at Flatwoods Wilderness Park two hours later, even though he has four more days to add to his overall mileage.

"It's done. It's broken," he said during a break in the ride. "Everything now is just padding and making it harder for someone else to beat."

With friends and wife cheering him on, the "ultracyclist" from Little Rock, Ark., rolled past a 76-year-old record for the most miles ridden in one year. It was previously held by Tommy Godwin, a British cyclist who rode 75,065 miles in 1939.

Searvogel's 365-day odyssey, which is being tracked and certified by the UltraMarathon Cycling Association, began last January at an annual long-distance ride in Jupiter, and it will end there Saturday. But the record fell at Flatwoods Park.

Along the way, the chiseled software engineer with the shock of blond hair and goatee rode in eight states, collided with two cars, trashed a few bikes, got married, was diagnosed with asthma, got a scare from an irregular heartbeat, burned about 4 million calories and made many friends.

By the end of the day Monday, he'd ridden 75,117 miles and will probably hit 76,000 by the time he's done. That's an average of 200 miles per day and between 12 to 14 hours a day in the saddle.

That's three times around the earth. It's Miami to Jacksonville 217 times, or Miami to Seattle, Wash., 22 times. It's more than some cycling enthusiasts will ride in a lifetime.

Godwin was a vegetarian who rode a three-speed steel bike and had to contend with food rationing and blackout restrictions prompted by Great Britain declaring war on Germany. Still, some called it an unbreakable record.

Searvogel, who got his nickname for the way he swung from stairways in his college dorm, says that's why he did it. He was already an accomplished long-distance cyclist, riding events such as the Race Across America, or RAAM. He'd broken his local club's year record, a mere 23,000 miles.

"It had to be broken," he said of Godwin's feat. "I just knew I was meant to break it."

In fact, his girlfriend-turned-wife Alicia Searvogel deserves the credit for convincing him to commit to the effort and helping make it happen.

They met during the 2014 RAAM while she was working as a support driver for the racers. He was cocky and competitive, but kind, Alicia said. They had a lot in common— a love of yoga and cycling, and a shared philosophy: if you really want to do something, you can.

"He knew he could do this, but he was worried he would be throwing a year of his life away," said Alicia, a professional artist.

For the last year, Alicia served as a crew of one, handling nearly every aspect of life on the road so Tarzan could focus on three things: eating, sleeping and riding. She drove their RV, bought groceries, hustled to the laundromat and prepared meals and nutrient-packed smoothies to replace the 8,000 to 12,000 calories he burned each day, all while tracking Tarzan with a GPS system.

"Alicia kept me going on days when I didn't want to go," he said. "She kept it fun."

Tarzan alternated his time between an upright bicycle — his favorite is an Italian-made Pinarello P2 — and a recumbent bike. They budgeted about $1 per mile and estimate they'll spend a little more.

They rode in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Illinois, but spent the most time in Florida for its mild winter weather and flat roads. Tarzan had run-ins with cars in Inverness and Miami, but nothing serious. Locally, they rode the Suncoast Parkway and Withlacoochee trails. But the Flatwoods loop was ideal, protected from traffic and wind and close to a hotel and a tightknit and supportive cycling community.

Here and throughout the rest of the trip, cyclists came to ride along and share a piece of history. Asked what he'll remember about the trip, Tarzan is quick to reply:

"The people."

Contact Tony Marrero at tmarrero@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

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