Meet The Special Forces Soldier Who Cycled The Length Of The Americas In Time To Get To A Royal Wedding

Dean Stott, 42, is a former British Special Forces soldier who left the military after a parachuting accident in 2011. He has since established himself as a distinguished private security operative with a reputation for taking on any job, no matter how dangerous.

In 2016, 18 months after taking up endurance cycling, he broke the Guinness World Record for the fastest cycle journey of the Pan-American Highway, riding the 14,000-mile length of the Americas, smashing the previous record by 17 days.

In the process he raised almost £1m for Prince Harry’s ‘Heads Together’ mental health charity, making it back just in time to attend the Prince’s wedding.

RSNG spoke to him exclusively to find out why talking is better than fighting, how he learnt from others’ mistakes to smash a world record, and why he’s going to attempt to be the first person to kayak the length of the River Nile…

RSNG Tell us about your life in the Special Boat Service? DEAN STOTT, EX-SPECIAL FORCES ‘The Official Secrets Act forbids me from revealing a huge amount about my time in the Special Forces, even now. I joined the army at 17 and later the SBS where I was deployed to overseas hostile environments, involved in Counter Terrorism operations and fought on some of the toughest places in the world.’

‘But in 2011 I suffered a severe knee injury parachuting from an aircraft. That took my career in a whole different direction.’

RSNG ‘You put the lessons you had learned in the military to use as a private security operative during the Arab uprising?’ DS ‘Yes. After 16 honourable years of service I continued to live by the Special Forces’ ethos of ‘The Unrelenting Pursuit Of Excellence’ and put my experience to use in the private security sector.’

‘Within 48 hours of leaving the army I was asked to assist in Benghazi, which turned to almost eight years of intense, highly dangerous military activity including the time I single-handedly evacuated the Canadian Embassy in Libya.’

I bought 30 weapons on the black market, buried them between Tunis and Egypt and wrote my own evacuation plan

RSNG Out of the frying pan and into a very hot fire? DS ‘Absolutely, though this was a different project. I flew into Libya and soon discovered that the Libyans didn’t want their country to turn into another Afghanistan with groups of armed private security firms wandering around with weapons. They needed private security for the oil and gas firms working there to provide crisis management and evacuation planning.’

RSNG How did you go about establishing yourself as a means of escape for others? DS ‘First, I bought 30 weapons on the black market. I buried them between Tunis and Egypt and I wrote my own evacuation plan – hoping that I would never need it.’

‘I then returned to London to do some security work around the 2012 Olympics, but I was back in Benghazi the night of September 11th that year when Islamic militants attacked the US Consulate and killed the ambassador.’

‘That night, a German oil company asked me to get their engineers safely back to Tripoli. I put into place my evacuation plan and got them out through a series of safe houses I had in place.’

RSNG But your secret weapons stash stayed hidden in the desert? DS ‘Yes, that was a successful mission where I didn’t need to use them. But I was then called back to Libya by the Canadian Embassy while I was working at the World Cup in Brazil.’

‘This time the Tripoli War, which is still ongoing, had erupted and the Canadians were left behind. I flew in and single-handedly got them out. Everyone has this perception of a Special Forces operative, that it’s all abseiling in through windows and yes, we can do that, but the majority of the stuff we do is hearts and minds.‘

RSNG So, it was a rescue mission that didn’t involve a shoot-out? DS ‘Yes. It was all about intelligence. There are 164 tribes in Libya, the demographics are incredibly complex so what I did was talk to the right people within the right tribe and then the doors would open.’

‘Being able to go in on my own, sit down face-to-face with these tribal leaders and negotiate a way out through the checkpoints has been my major means of success. My guns remain hidden with some money and some communications equipment out here in the desert.’

RSNG So, in that situation diplomacy was the better option?’ DS ‘Absolutely, a few days before the Canadian Embassy evacuation the British Embassy had been evacuated, but they got shot at while going through a road checkpoint.’

‘That's because they decided to try and drive right through without stopping. As a result of that the Canadians were a bit concerned! So I went and spoke to the militias and instead of shooting at us they escorted us through the town in their armoured vehicles.’

I did South America in 48 days, taking 10 days off the South American record

RSNG Did you have reason to call upon those skills when you rode through America? DS ‘Yes. There’s massive overlap. When I planned my ride I just took everything I‘d learned from Special Forces and dropped it into the cycle ride planning – the only subheading I didn’t need was ammunition, thankfully!’

‘That meticulous planning and military style execution made the record attempt the success it was. One of the things we do well in Special Forces is learn from our mistakes. I spoke to the previous record holders.’

‘They had all ridden from north to south and all their issues and problems had occurred in South America, during the later stages of the ride – border paperwork problems, language difficulties, getting spares for the bike.’

'That’s also where the hottest deserts and the highest mountains are. So for me, from a military perspective, I thought; why not get those issues out of the way first? So I rode up from the south to Central America, the USA and Canada.’

RSNG How exactly did military training help you get back in time for Prince Harry’s wedding? DS ‘Much like an expeditionary mission where you’re dropped into a country and there's not much in place, you just make it happen, so that’s how the ride was. You have an objective - in my case the 14,000 miles of cycling - but the plan changes all the time and it is how you adapt to those changes.’

‘I was aiming for 110 days (the record was 117 days) which would cover me for any set-backs. I actually rode the length of South America in 48 days, taking 10 days off the South American record.’

‘I was in a great position, thanks in part to a 2500km tailwind through Peru. So I got into North America 14 days ahead of the record. Then my wife called and told me we’d been invited to Prince Harry’s wedding. In order for me to get back in time for it, I’d have to change the plan completely.’

‘Suddenly I’d gone from being 14 days ahead of schedule before that phone call, to one day behind! I then rode through North America playing chess with Mother Nature, avoiding the hurricanes by doing the majority of my cycling at night.‘

RSNG You famously broke the record, made it back for the wedding and raised a million pounds in the process. Now you’re aiming for another record? DS ‘Yes. My USP seems to be finding a discipline or sport I’ve never done before, such as cycling, and finding the biggest challenge within it. So in March 2020 I'm planning to kayak the length of the River Nile, from its source to the sea.’

‘It’s never been done before and I’m doing it to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking. Unlike the cycling challenge, where I could train as part of a commute, kayaking is a different beast altogether.’

‘Right now I’m just grabbing time on the water and time on a rowing machine whenever I can. I’m doing some cross fit and building my upper body strength however I can. But with these endurance challenges I’ve learned that no matter how fit you are, the first 10 days are really hard.’

WHAT NEXT? Learn more about Dean Stott’s career as a soldier and transition the endurance cyclist…

Dean’s book Relentless is out on 3rd October and charts his move from SBS, to private security, then on to world record breaking cyclist. Headline £20