The 2021 edition of GB Duro, a gravel race the length of the United Kingdom, is underway, with round-the-world record holder Mark Beaumont taking part this year.
The Scotsman, who holds the record for the fastest time to ride around the world, taking less than 79 days, isn't just making up the numbers, however, as he was the second rider to reach the first checkpoint in Wales.
Angus Young was the first to reach the first of three checkpoints, in a time of 35 hours and 40 minutes, Beaumont then arriving nine hours and eight minutes later, the pair currently the only two riders to have arrived at the checkpoint at the time of writing.
"There's a lot of excitement, nervous energy. 2,000km, the length of Britain, a lot of gravel, off-road, at the most southwesterly point of the British Isles," Beaumont said before the start. "The idea of doing a gravel adventure all the way to the north-east of Scotland feels a lot harder than anything I've done recently because while I know Land's End from road cycling, unsupported gravel racing...this is going to be next level."
Beaumont reached the 100km mark in five hours, making his way out of Cornwall, with the public able to 'dotwatch' and follow along with all riders' progress here.
"I'm five hours in, just over 100km done, and it's the first decent flat track that I could film on for a long time. Cornwall has not disappointed it's been tough, tough riding this morning.
Day 1 of #gbduro21 in pictures. You can follow my progress here https://t.co/pq5IwLVRyx #maidenrace #shimanogravel #thisismyride pic.twitter.com/IExNN0qxy1August 14, 2021
"Stage one is 630km to the middle of Wales, I've got no real game plan, I'll sleep when I need to, and just keep going. I feel good so far but it was a baptism of fire the first 90 minutes, tested my mountain biking skills, pretty tough after leaving Land's End, the field scattered immediately, I think I'm in the top five but it's hard to tell. The bike feels good. Long, long way to go. 1900km."
Even though this is Beaumont's first proper race, he is of course no stranger to endurance efforts of this magnitude, the 38-year-old riding an 18,000-mile route around the world in less than 79 days in 2017.
"Start of day two and I've just come over the Mendips, that's 24 hours on the road, about 6,000m of climbing, 360km ridden. Some pretty tough riding in the night coming over Exmoor, and I got about three hours sleep, didn't put my tent up, just laid down in my sleeping bag for a few hours. Feel good, can't wait to get to breakfast. Sunday morning there's been nothing open so far and I've already been riding for four hours," Beaumont said after his first night of riding.
"I've just crossed the Severn Bridge, was going to film on the bridge but it was too windy," he continued later that day. "430km done and 6,500m of climbing coming across Exmoor, in fact all of Devon, Somerset and the Mendips. Really, really tough riding. Feel okay after three hours sleep last night, might seem a bit luxurious for a gravel race like this but don't want to burn all of my matches on the first day and be in zombie mode. Bike's going well, a few little adjustments, looking forward to getting stuck into Wales, this is a bit of the country I don't know at all."
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