Scottish adventurer Mark Beaumont has smashed the 6,750 mile Cairo to Cape Town solo cycling world record, completing the trip in just 41 days and beating the previous best time by more than two weeks.
Mark’s impressive feat has seen him take an astonishing 18 days off the existing world record of 59 days and eight hours set by the South African rider, Keegan Longueira, earlier this year.
Mark’s record-breaking Africa Solo time beat even his personal target of 50 days for the epic trek along the iconic African route. He finished in 41 days 10 hours and 22 minutes.
The long-distance, unsupported cycling feat is all the more remarkable given that he faced numerous problems with his bike, was forced to fight off an attempted mugging and described the challenge as his “toughest bike ride yet”. See my previous blog.
After finishing in Cape Town yesterday, Mark told me: “This has been the hardest bike ride of my life, by far. I have averaged 160 miles each day and cycled through some extreme conditions and situations.
“There has been the difficulties of road surfaces, unpredictable weather, finding enough food, searching out a place to sleep each night and just the sheer hard work both mentally and physically of such long days in the saddle.
“But I am absolutely thrilled to have completed the Africa Solo challenge in a time that was beyond even my own expectations. It’s been an incredible journey and I’ll never forget all that I’ve seen and experienced along the way.”
Mark left Cairo in Egypt on April 10 and arrived in Cape Town yesterday. He rode through Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana before reaching South Africa.
Africa Solo represented Mark’s latest endurance cycling challenge, having previously completed an 18,000 mile round-the-world bike race in 2008, which saw him smash the previous world record for that trip by a staggering 82 days.
He also set a record for cycling the Americas for a BBC documentary in 2010, and last year followed the Queen’s Baton Relay around 70 Commonwealth nations and territories in the build up to the Games in Glasgow.
Mark described the first half of the ride as the toughest because of the African environment and the final 10 days as the hardest in terms of physical and mental motivation.
Mark, 32, told me: “The world around me, the environment, in the northern countries of Africa really tested me in the first part of the journey. Ethiopia was particularly difficult. The unpaved roads, the less than welcoming people in some places, the stone throwing and the difficulties of finding food and accommodation. It is Africa, after all.
“After half-way the environment was more forgiving and I could find more food and the actual world around me was easier. But it was then that the riding became tough because I had been on the go for so long and I had to push myself to keep going.
“I’d held back on pushing to my limits in the first stages because I didn’t want to risk injury but in the last 10 days I gave it my all. I was in the saddle from 5am to 9pm. It was physically demanding.
“The mental side was tough, too. I missed my wife and daughter and when you wake up at 4am each day and know that you will be back on the bike all day long it is difficult to overcome the desire to not bother.
“But I did it and I knew that if I kept pushing on I would nail the record. I just didn’t expect to be so fast. It feels amazing.”
Mark’s highlights, apart from reaching Cape Town and his wife Nicci and 20-month-old daughter Harriet who had travelled from Scotland to greet him, included the “fabulous country of Sudan” and a night ride in northern Botswana where he was accompanied by wild elephants and giraffes. “It was one of the most incredible sections of the ride,” he said.
Now reunited with his family, Mark will spend some time recovering in Cape Town. He said: “I can’t just stop cycling after so many days of hard cycling. I have to train down.”
Mark, who is corporate ambassador of leading mid-market private equity firm, LDC, was also sponsored by the Drum Property Group, Martin Currie, the Wood Foundation, the Weir Group and Endura, as he raised money for humanitarian design organisation, Orkidstudio, for whom he has been patron since 2010. The expedition has already raised over £30,000 for Orkidstudio’s projects.
Mark said: “I’m doubly pleased to have raised money for Orkidstudio, and having seen so many of the regions and communities it supports, it’s clear that they do invaluable work to help people throughout Africa. I hope that my journey will inspire people to raise much needed funds for the charity.”
See Africa Solo.