Saturday, February 16, 2008

Cyclist’s circumambulation

Cyclist’s circumambulation

Cathy Heffernan

Scotsman goes round the world in record 195 days, six hours
A Scottish man on Friday became the fastest to cycle around the world when he arrived in Paris after nearly seven months on the road. Mark Beaumont, 25, completed the trip in 195 days and six hours — beating the current record of 276 days. (He passed through India in late-2007.)

After months of dodging drivers, sleeping rough and struggling to get enough to eat, he is expected to enter the Guinness Book of Records once the feat is verified.

Carrying 80 kg of gear, including a tent, on a £2,500 road bike, Mr. Beaumont beat the previous record by 81 days. He said the last two days on the road had been hard, but “about 40 km from Paris the adrenaline kicked in and I flew up the last hills.”

His trip took him through 20 countries on a route which included Pakistan, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Holland last August took four hours; Germany three days. He endured floods and road rage and was knocked off his bike in Louisiana in the U.S. by a motorist who drove through a red light.

At one point in the U.S., he found himself at a motel that was full of crack addicts, who stole his wallet and BBC camera. Back in the saddle, he cycled through the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida in two days.

He kept a Web diary, allowing fans to follow his journey, and the small crowd that saw him off at the Arc de Triomphe on August 5 last year had grown into a huge one, that included the British Ambassador to France and a media scrum, when he completed the trip. “I could hardly get over the finishing line because so many people turned out,” he remarked.

Mr. Beaumont, a vegetarian, had to consume 6,000 calories a day to sustain energy levels. This meant he sometimes had to eat meat to rack up the count. In the outback in Australia he relied on Mars bars and tins of baked beans in an area where petrol stations and shops only crop up every few hundred miles.

En route to Lahore he came down with food poisoning, and had a stomach like “a tumble drier.” He said the trip could have gone faster if it had not been for the junk food he had had to eat in Australia and the U.S. “There were no healthy options — and it had a massive effect on my mental focus and body strength.”

Terrifying experiences included cycling in Istanbul, a city of 15 million people, which “without comparison is the scariest cycling I have ever done.” He changed routes to avoid the insurgency in southern Thailand when crossing into Malaysia.

The Glasgow University graduate hopes to have raised £18,000 for charities.

Mr. Beaumont started the Artemis World Cycle Challenge with the aim of beating the record of 276 days, 19 hours and 15 minutes, held by Steven Strange from Devon. His first long-distance bike ride was at the age of 12.

Guinness World Records spokeswoman Amarilis Espinoza said they would review the attempt: “Our researchers will go through the paperwork, but it has been logged as an official attempt and it seems everything is in order.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2008