Supporting Mark Beaumont riding ‘Around the world in 80 days’
A long road ahead. Not every day is as idyllic as this as Mark Beaumont takes on a truly unbelievable feat of human endurance. All just part of the Artemis world cycle supported by Alex Glasgow.
Mark Beaumont’s Artemis World Cycle supported by Alex Glasgow
The inimitable Alex Glasgow was the first guide we ever employed, and joined Euan on the first coast-to-coast adventure, way back when. Since those early days, Alex has been a regular fixture on our Scotland guide team, doing six or seven tours over the summer period, mostly the coast-to-coast and the Torridon + Skye tours, in the Scottish west coast where he lives. He has also helped to guide tours in Nepal, Spain and Slovenia – lucky lad!
However, this year Alex is largely missing from our Scotland team as he has other, exciting commitments, guiding a slightly different ‘cycle tour’; supporting Mark Beaumont in his truly epic bid to cycle round the world in 80 days, in the Artemis World Cycle.
Alex takes up the story…
Mark Beaumont is an endurance cyclist who sprang into the public eye back in 2008 when he cycled around the world in a record time of 194 days. Since then he has undertaken many huge challenges and adventures; riding the length of the Americas in 2010, rowing the Atlantic (nearly – the boat capsized as it neared the coast of Barbados and the crew had to be rescued), and most recently in 2015 breaking the Cairo to Cape Town World Record by completing the 10,000km in 42 days.
I met Mark in 2012 through a mutual friend, also an adventurer, who recommended he speak to me about his plan to mountain bike across Scotland in 12 hours. Aware of Mark’s pedigree I created a somewhat optimistic route of 230km, but Mark and I rode a hard day, with Euan supporting us from the public road where possible. 17 tough hours later Mark and I rolled into the west coast, exhausted but firm friends.
“back in 2008…he cycled around the world in a record time of 194 days”
Since then Mark and I have kept in touch and undertaken a number of small adventures together. Last summer he let me into his plans to revisit his Guinness World Cycle Record, which had since been broken. Guinness rules for the record have changed from unsupported to supported and the record has dropped to 123 days (Andrew Nicholson, New Zealand, 2015). Mark’s plan was to kick the record out of the park by completing the 18,000 mile route in a staggering 80 days. This would require 75 days of 240 miles on the bike and three days of flight, leaving two days contingency.
It would also require a dedicated and committed support team, allowing Mark to focus only on cycling, food, water and sleep. I was honoured when the request came through from Mark, and did not hesitate to accept the role of Mechanic for Stage 1, from Paris across Asia to Beijing, and Stage 4, the final run home from Lisbon back to Paris.
Putting together a project of this scale, as Mark will tell you, is no easy task and getting to the start line can be almost the greatest achievement! I was involved with specifying parts for the Koga bike, and drawing up a long and comprehensive list of spares, tools and kit, in order to ensure the bike keeps running optimally throughout its mighty ride.
Let’s be honest, there was never any chance Alex was just going to drive and be a mechanic. Whenever the chance arises he’s on the bike alongside Mark, providing light relief as the km’s tick by.
Tour of Britain
A ‘training ride’ in April of 3,400 miles in 14 days around the UK coastline helped gel the team members, gain experience and iron out quite a few details and niggles. It also revealed the scale of the task for Mark; the 14 days were exhausting and his training continued in earnest towards the main 80-day world challenge.
Artemis World Cycle
Start day. 2 July, 4am, Paris, everything was set, the team were well rested and raring to go. Nervous excitement – what is about to happen!? How will this play out? Can he do it?
Well, as I write, we are heading across the vast steppe plains of central Russia, approaching Omsk. After some hilly days through the Ural Mountains, Mark has just 290 metres of elevation change in the 240 miles planned for the day, and 220 metres tomorrow – it’s flat and straight. I’ve just been out of the van to hand him a peanut butter and banana covered chocolate rice cake sandwich (a fraction of his 8000 calories a day) and there is a slight tailwind. In Mark’s head, these two flat days are ‘recovery days’ if such a thing can exist within the context of 240 miles (386km)!
It is day 15. Things are going well, to plan. He is around 80km ahead of schedule on distance, and is sticking religiously to the planned 4 sets of 4 hours – 16 hours riding a day, 5 hours sleep and 2hrs 45 min breaks. With our eastbound progress we live on Challenge Time, our own independent time that has a day length of 23 hours 45 minutes to offset the eastwards advance through timezones. It’s confusing but it works. Mark is in good form, strong, disciplined, determined.
We were lucky in the first 6 days in Europe; gentle tailwinds and good weather, allowing Mark to keep to planned distance and time whilst still being able to ease his body into the shock of the effort. Navigation was our biggest stress through Europe; altering the Strava route to find roads less busy with trucks, and sorting out a few technical glitches. In these times, a simple bike ride is infused with technology – a GPS tracker, a Garmin and two back up Garmin watches, Mark’s phone and Ipods, the Di2, lights front and rear, flashing through the day for safety and identification in the traffic. I spend my life connecting USB cables!
Into Russia the Nav eased off, but the trucks did not. Systems and routines became settled and refined, things have relaxed a bit. But at the same time, the game is on – 80 days. The first week and the Russian border; a couple of the major question marks have been ticked without delay or incident. So Mark is focused and is driving on, mile by mile; the Arc de Triomphe a distant chequered flag.
It will be hard to leave the team in Beijing, where Mark and his Performance Manager Laura, and the film crew head on to Australia to meet the Stage 2 team, and on it goes. I will see them again mid-September in Lisbon for a final few days back to Paris. In the meantime, (as Mark will be powering his way across North America) I have my one H+I tour of the year to lead, a coast-to-coast Scotland. I’m looking forward to that too, I have missed the old familiar trails…
You can follow Mark and Alex’s progress around the world in 80 days on the Artemis World Cycle website.