A trio of record breakers had to deal with lions, elephants and 45 degree heat as they completed a journey along Africa in 38 days.
On November 15, the CAROCAP team of Nicholas Bourne, Mark Blewett and David Martin arrived in the South African city of Cape Town, having set off from Cairo, Egypt, more than a month previously.
Their time on the 10,300km route beats Mark Beaumont’s record of 41 days, 10 hours, set earlier this year.
The achievement of recording the fastest human powered journey from the top to the bottom of Africa has not quite sunk in for Bourne, who admitted that “it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Apart from the end, I can’t say I enjoyed any part of it.”
The original target was to complete the challenge in 34 days, but forced route deviations, weather, illness and losing two members of the team – including Chris Froome’s one-time coach David Kinjah – delayed the finish.
“We were pretty confident we would do it but the road conditions slowed us down,” Bourne, who said cycling the route was harder than when he ran it in 1998, told Cycling Weekly.
“There was unexpected road works that took us on massive deviations onto dirt roads and sand tracks that slowed us down; road conditions that you would ride with a full suspension mountain bike.
“We had a pretty bad headwind in South Africa and Botswana for 350km. That saps our confidence and slowed us right down. It felt like we were going nowhere, riding at 25km/h.
“There was days when we all thought ‘how will we ever get to the finish?’ Our bodies and minds were telling us to get off the bike but we had to keep muttering ‘do more pedal revolutions’.”
Cycling in landscapes rich with wildlife also brought about different experiences. “There was a lot of animals by the road,” Bourne, 45, added.
“In Botswana we came close to a lion and elephants that were eight metres away.
“The lion was ten metres away. It doesn’t scare you, but rather gives you an adrenaline boost. We were going at a pace so we didn’t feel under threat from the lion. But it was a ‘wow, this is real’ moment.”
Unlike Beaumont who completed the challenge solo and unsupported, the CAROCAP team had a support vehicle and crew who ensured that the ride would be completed in record-breaking time by dealing with logistics. Their longest ride in a day was 438km .
“We could be grumpy bastards so the support crew did immense to deal with us. Without them, it would have been impossible,” praised Bourne.
“We were going through deserts with the temperature at 45 degrees, drinking more than a litre of water an hour. It was so hot. The only way to cool down is to put water on your head, and without a support crew you don’t have litres upon litres of water.
“One day my body temperature reached 41 degrees so to counter the heat we rode at night on occasions.”
The sleep deprivation was shared by the support team, too. “With the time schedule we had, there was no day off,” the continued.
“We were having four to five hours sleep a night for over a month. By the time we had food, got ready and things it was 11pm when we got to bed and then we were up at 4am.
“The support team lived off 40 minutes to an hour’s sleep some nights.”
A film about the ride is to be released in due course. The team hope to raise over £130,000 for World Bicycle Relief Fund. To sponsor, click here.