Endurance cyclist Mark Beaumont is expected to arrive in Paris on Monday 18 September, 79 days after setting off on his attempt to cycle around the world in 80 days.
The Guardian joined Beaumont in Lisbon on Wednesday, where he arrived on an overnight flight from Halifax in Canada to start the final leg of his record-breaking challenge. Despite cycling an average of 240 miles over 16 hours every day since 2 July, he looked fresh and sounded upbeat as we ticked off more miles on our way to the Spanish border. Yet he admitted the ride has taken its toll on him, both mentally and physically.
“I’ve been to some very low places and it’s reduced me to tears on four occasions, which has never happened on any of my other expeditions,” said Beaumont, who started his long-distance cycling exploits at the age of 11 when he rode 145 miles across Scotland.
“It’s taken me to some strange places mentally,” he said. “I didn’t want to have any excuses to fail, that’s why I made the rule that I would ride four blocks of four hours every day without any breaks during them. It makes life a lot simpler when you don’t have any exit doors like that.”
Barring disaster, Beaumont will smash the previous record of 123 days set by New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, but still grapples with doubts about how he is viewed by the “mainstream cycling” fraternity.
“I’m still not sure it has accepted me,” he says. “I know that my main fanbase is 40-year-old males in lycra and that’s great, but I still get complaints that I’ve sold out with all my corporate sponsorship, or that I’m not doing it in the proper spirit because I’ve got two support vehicles and am racing through at 240 miles a day.
“But when I originally cycled around the world unsupported 10 years ago [setting a then-record of 194 days], I described myself as an adventurer. These days I’m an athlete. It’s all about the performance, it’s about making a livelihood from what I do and…