Mark Beaumont to target 29-hour North Coast 500 record

Long-distance rider to tackle 516 mile route this weekend

Mark Beaumont
Mark Beaumont rides the NC500 on his first record-breaking ride in 2015
(Image credit: Johny Cook)

Seven years after he set the inaugural record on the North Coast 500, the route that takes in the north coast of Scotland, Mark Beaumont is set to tackle the route again, attempting to break the current 29 hour record.

The long-distance cyclist will ride the 516 miles that make up the NC500 on Saturday, attempting to break the time of 29 hours, five minutes and 42 seconds that was set by Robbie Mitchell last year.

In August 2015, Beaumont set a time of 37 hours, 56 minutes and 44 seconds on the course, a benchmark that he will look to beat by at least eight hours this weekend.

He has previously broken the world record for circumnavigating the globe, which he did in 79 days, in 2017, and in 2015, also broke the world record for fastest solo ride for the length of Africa by finishing in 42 days and 8 hours.

On that first attempt on the NC500, the 39-year-old recalls that he remembers "it being incredibly tough", with almost 10,000 metres of climbing across the 520 mile course, which starts and finishes in Inverness, via the west, north, and east coasts of Scotland.

"I've watched with interest and awe really as that record has tumbled over the years," Beaumont explained to Cycling Weekly last week. "Then Robbie Mitchell popped up last year, did it in 29 hours and six minutes. 

"Robbie is not a big name. He's not got a big public profile, you won't find him on social media, really, but I've discovered in recent weeks, he's quite well known in the time trial circuit. He's obviously a very strong lad, and it was pretty amazing what he put down last year."

He added: "I've trained incredibly hard over the last year for Race Across America this summer, which couldn't happen properly because of COVID. So my training now compared to seven years ago is completely different. Back then I was very much a wild man adventure rider, whereas now, I've been doing a lot time trial, high intensity efforts.

"I'm a more powerful rider. Even though I'm turning 40. I'm a more powerful rider than I was back then."

The route starts at Inverness and runs in a clockwise direction through Muir of Ord, Applecross, Gairloch, Ullapool, Scourie, Durness, Thurso, Castle of Mey, John o' Groats, Wick, Dunrobin Castle, Dingwall before heading back to Muir of Ord and then Inverness.

GCN+ will be filming the North Coast 500 record attempt with the resulting exclusive documentary due out by the end of this year.

Beaumont is looking forward to seeing how well he can go on the course, although he is quick to say that he is not over confident in his ability to break the record, and that he has respect for Mitchell and the other athletes who have broken his original time.

"I'm intrigued to know on what I feel is a home event, for deeply personal reasons, what I could now do," he said. "That idea of one all out effort. 520 miles. It's an incredible test of psychological and physiological endurance. 

"It's just shy of 10,000 metres of climbing. It's an absolutely brutal course. I feel in the shape of my life. It scares the hell out of me, but I'm excited to give it a crack. 

"I think the important thing to say is, this is not a slam dunk. I'm not going up there thinking 'oh, we're off to bag another record', you know, I'm going into it sort of humbled the the short history of it over the last seven, eight years. I'm interested to know how I've developed as an athlete, and feeling in good shape to leave it all out there."

Mark Beaumont

Mark Beaumont after his record-breaking ride around the world in 79 days, in 2017

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As for his priorities ahead of the weekend, which has been chosen due to the hope of good weather, Beaumont says he is keen to get the equipment right, as well as fuelling and conditioning. For the Scot, however, it is not all about watts and power, more how long he can stay in the appropriate time trial position to get the most out of himself.

"Gearing is going to be important, because the west coast in particular from Applecross to Durness is insanely hilly," he explained. "We have to think about weather routing. Originally, we left a couple of weather windows to be able to do it, we've now committed to next weekend because the long term forecast looks good. 

"Using technology like myWindsock, you take my CDA, you take  the weather forecast, you take clearly the weight of rider and bike, you take all the inputs that you can possibly create, and come out with a power output that I need to maintain to break the record."

"I know I'm a strong bike rider, but it really on a course like this comes down to conditioning," Beaumont continued. "Can I suffer that position? Yeah, you know, when I finished an eight hour time trial 10 effort last Saturday, my legs were fine, but my neck was sore. I think it's quite natural, especially on bumpy Scottish roads, on a super aggressive time trial bike like this, that it's things that cyclists never talk about. 

"It's your triceps, it's your neck, it's your back, it's your eyes because you're sort of looking down but sort of looking up into your skull to get a view on the road whilst keeping your head down in a teardrop helmet. Your legs are fine. As long as you keep glucose going in. It's really can you suffer that time on the bike and minimise time off it."

He will be aiming for six hours on, ten minutes off the bike, which will be time spent doing necessary things that can't be done while riding; eating, for example, will all be done on the bike.

"It's a nice way to sort of truncate your time and try not to think too far down the road," he argued. "Just ride the route in front of you six hours and then you get a short break."

Beaumont will aim to take on 110 grams of carbohydrate an hour, which should be enough to keep him going, supplied by support cars behind him. His bike is a Argon18 E-119 Tri+ bike, with a Hunt full disc rear wheel and a 7387 Aerodynamicist Ceramicspeed front wheel. For the attempt, he'll be wearing a NoPinz custom skinsuit, including shoe and calf covers.

The film will join a catalogue of exclusive GCN+ epic adventure and challenge films including Mark’s 'Around the World in 80 Days', the two-part documentary on his 'Race Across America' attempt alongside Jonathan Shubert, and Jenny Graham's unsupported solo cycling world record, 'Eastbound'.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.