Mark Beaumont: Why not have more former pros go for the Round the World record?

Mark Beaumont talks about ultra-endurance as he prepares himself to take on his latest challenge, a pair of records at Race Across America.

The 39-year-old is not fickle, but when you build a career that spends months cycling around the world, time should look different.  It takes months, weeks, days, even after an hour of nonstop discussion on all things race across America, and ultra-endurance, as fresh as a 10-second conversation with a postman.

Although RAAM is a shorter race than they are accustomed to, Beaumont doesnโ€™t think it will be easy.  Long runs and record-setting efforts are justifiable but with RAAM “you are going at a speed that you cannot continue indefinitely”.

“Now that’s an interesting point in terms of psychology,” Beaumont reckons.  Scott rides alongside Jonathan Schubert for GCN (they are four-day soloists) and tries to beat the two-person record of six days, 11 hours and 24 minutes established in 2006.

โ€œYet I have been given 10,000 kilometres of Africa,โ€ he continues.  โ€œSo RAAM is smaller than that, but it is the most traditional ultra-endurance road race in the world. My whole life has been an expedition ride. I have never stood at the start line until the GB Duro last year.  The start line is up and RAAM is heading into its 40th year. Correct me if I’m wrong, but no Brit won it so it’s a pretty exciting prize.

When racing around the world, Beaumont averaged 25 km / h for 16 hours a day in 4 x 4-hour sets.  Now, for RAAM, they will have someone else to help cover the distance but they will be on time trial bikes, which Beaumont believes are “horses for courses.”  He comfortably averaged 32km / h on a recent 1000-mile training ride.  “If we could hold that ground we would be absolutely equal to the current record,” he estimates.

In preparation, Beaumont has modified the manner he trains.  Previously, he was a classic solo ultra-endurance athlete, able to sit at 200-220 watts all day.  But now that he has built his top end, he is now able to sit happily at 260-270 watts for one or two-hour towing.  “Oddly,” he says, “I’m a stronger athlete than I was five years ago.”

Part of Beaumont’s secret to success is that while he is an exceptional athlete on the inside, he is your garden variety 39 year old man.  Measured in temperament, blessed with a gentle Scottish accent, and capable in his various documented superhuman athletic efforts to make humanity pour out of him.  To show you the emotions you probably feel if placed in a similar situation.

I’m not the best bike rider in Edinburgh, leave the world.  And yet, the ability to break records with my teams and win races is a process because of how we all work together, โ€he explains.  “It’s not because of my FTP. It’s incredibly earnest about how you survive these endeavours and ultimately enjoy it. I’m really proud to be a team. There’s a real sense of humour, it’s a good thing to be in the dark and go ‘. It’s really life.  “We’re creating so many memories together. You are in this environment where you can see the absolute best people and it’s so much fun. It’s a lot of stress.”

“The main motivation for me? I’m still a homeschool kid who loves adventures

Beaumont says he is often asked if he misses the point of embarking on these epic adventures, but sees much of the world but goes too fast all the time.  It is a balancing act between becoming an athlete and taking the time to enjoy “the beauty of life and the beauty of bicycle riding,” he says.

โ€œI’ve pedalled around the planet twice.  I have travelled to 130 countries.  I have no interest in entering the same race every year, and my motivation was never to push myself as an athlete trying to beat the person next to me, โ€he says.


Beaumont took the Penny Farthing Hour record

“The main motivation for me? I’m still a homeschooling kid who loves to do stunts. And I think my career is a good balance between performance and over the years it’s become more about high performance and I still want to go out there and do great stunts in wild places. And you can do both.  Both can be done perfectly.

“Going around the world, we’ve gone 1000 miles every four days. It’s a very tempting way to experience the planet. And I’m lucky to have seen it elsewhere.  Of course there is wandering and its adventure, otherwise, I would stay in the UK and race in circles like many other racers.

The only person heโ€™s really pushing is himself.  He was on the farm for the first 12 years of his life, working with his two sisters.  This meant that he was physically competent and instilled in him a good work ethic, comfortable in his own space and going out into the wilderness.  He didn’t play on the playground or in football or rugby until he was a teenager.  At first he really struggled with it.  He was a kid riding his bicycle (he first rode across Scotland when he was 12), horseback riding and skiing.

I participate in sports because the organisers ask me to be an ambassador and you can see everyone going โ€˜Oh letโ€™s beat Mark Beaumontโ€™.  And I was like, ‘You got this’, I know very well that I don’t like direct competition.  I know this is from my childhood, which is totally contrary to the fact that my life is trying to push me and break records.

“Why don’t more ex-pros or RAAM riders go out into the world?  This is the biggest prize out there

So how did they keep it up all these years?  How can he be the only person who is ever racing to find things for himself to illuminate his competitive spark?

“If you ask me after 22, ‘How do you stay busy for the next 20, 30 years?’ Organic, โ€he begins.

“When I first went around the world I swore I would never go around the world twice. And a lot has been modified in the past 10 years. Both in phrases of the document and my experience. Going back and doing it is absolutely okay, and it’s a completely different event at the end of the day.

โ€œIn 80 days around the world, I thought it was my Everest, and I thought it was a tough thing.  Nothing bigger than the world.  When I was a teenager, Ellen MacArthur was inspired by sailing around the world.  I don’t know why more people don’t go to the circulation [record], it’s the end, it’s the world.  Do you know how fast you can move Planet Earth?  Why don’t more ex-pros or RAAM riders go to the world record?  This is the biggest prize out there.  Very few people do that.  โ€

โ€œSo, after that, Iโ€™m trying to take part in some of the worldโ€™s ultra-tolerant events. I have two young daughters now. They are eight and five. I do not mainly need to be away for 1/2 of a 12 months at a time.  I want to take on one or two big projects a year and I want to train consistently, and I love diversity.  There are so many challenges, there is such a variety of discipline, it’s not like I am doing a job. There is no shortage of opportunities.

For a man as busy as Beaumont, he cannot understand why the other challengers have not arrived and how their records are still standing.  He really wants to see them broken.  Is it just for the sake of disciplinary advancement or for him to aim for something new?  Who should say.

“I would love to see it.  I hope they do.  I really do, โ€he says of whether to take Lachlan Mortonโ€™s circulation record.

โ€œAnd there is no bone of jealousy in my body.  I am waiting to see people go for these records.  Maybe it’s because I don’t feel like I’m racing anyone.  I love what has happened in the last 20 years of Ultra Endurance.  Bikes are not much better, physically we are unable to do much, and yet what people believe is possible has changed markedly.  So who’s going to take it forward?  Who will break these records?  The final hat trick for me, the big three, the circulation, the length of Africa, and America.  That is you crossing the inhabited continents of the world. Why failed to have greater human beings pass for the African document? It is the most beautiful continent I have ever ridden on a bicycle.  That and the Americans are not as competitive as the 80 days around the planet.

“Experienced athletes on a mission don’t run for miles because it’s just a unique set of strengths,” he explains.  โ€œWith all the credit score of being a World Tour rider, I couldn’t do what they did, but I think they can be hard to do. You can’t just pedal around the planet naturally, you really want to do these things. I do not #I do not have the world’s excellent FTP, VO2 Max,

And I’m not 70kg, but if my X factor is one, I think two is probably, just ruthlessness and the ability to suffer on the mental side.  More and more clearly, they have the ability to do that, and look at what happens in the next generation.  It remains to be seen whether de-racers will be attracted to ultra-endurance racing.  I would love to see it happen.  โ€

Was Thomas de Gendt trying to beat the circulation record?  Sign me up to watch it.

Mark Beaumont is participating in Race Across America, aimed at breaking the pair’s record with an attempt to shoot for a new documentary on GCN.  His latest film, ‘Around Britain’, is now available for streaming on GCN, after riding the mark around Britain’s coast for a world record.

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