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France

British cyclist goes around the world in less than 80 days

media Scottish cyclist Mark Beaumont goes around the world Scottish cyclist Mark Beaumont goes around the world Wikimedia Commons

It took Phileas Fogg 80 days, but Scottish cyclist Mark Beaumont is on course to go around the world in just 79. And he has done it all by bicycle.

The 34-year-old Scotsman hopes to set a new world record for circumnavigating the globe on a bike when he arrives at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Monday night, 79 days after setting out from the landmark in the centre of the French capital.

Fogg took 80 days to complete his voyage by train, ship and balloon in Jules Verne's classic 1873 novel, "Around the World in 80 Days".

Although Beaumont has been able to fly over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, he has done the rest with his own muscle power.

He spent 16 hours a day in the saddle for 76 days to cover the 29,000 kilometres (18,000 miles), getting up at 3.30 am every morning. This is an average of 382 kilometres per day. The three remaining days were spent on flights.

"I am quite looking forward to not getting up at half past three every morning," Beaumont joked as set out in the dark on the 180-kilometre final stretch from his support team's camper van parked near Tours in the Loire valley southwest of Paris.

"I hope today there will be a moment when I can stop and think about what is going on because this had been a couple of years in the planning."

He will be met in Paris by an inspector from the Guinness Book of Records who will do the final checks to determine whether he has set a new record.

Childhood dream

Beaumont set out from Paris on July 2 and crossed Europe, Russia and Mongolia before arriving in Beijing.

From there he flew to Perth in western Australia and crossed the country as well as neighbouring New Zealand before flying on to Anchorage in Alaska. His trans-American journey ended in Halifax in Canada, where he boarded a flight for Lisbon.

Beaumont said being the fastest man to cycle round the world has been his dream since childhood.

This is "the culmination of me as a 12-year-old boy pedalling across Scotland 22 years ago and going on lots of adventures, going further every time," he told his followers on Twitter.

"But this has been my ultimate dream. It has always been about the circumnavigation and the world record. It won't feel real until I get to stop and get a different perspective on it all."

Second world record

Beaumont first set a world record in 2008 when he cycled around the world unsupported in just short of 195 days. That feat has since been bettered, with New Zealander Andrew Nicholson doing it in 123 days two years ago.

In the meantime Beaumont had taken on other adventures, and was part of a team who tried to break the record for rowing across the Atlantic in 2012, only to capsize after 27 days.

Although his latest escapade has not been so obviously dangerous, spending so long in the saddle has taken its toll, with Beaumont telling reporters that even walking up airport stairs "really hurt".

Amateur dentistry

It has also not been without incident. Beaumont crashed into a pothole in Russia, causing a hairline fracture in his left arm that has restricted his movement ever since. And he chipped his tooth requiring his performance manager Laura Penhaul to perform an emergency operation to refill the tooth with dental resin, using instructions emailed to her by a dentist.

There was another incident that could have ended it all. Beaumont was cycling in Melbourne when a car drove into the back of the support vehicle. Beaumont was about a metre away from it at the time. If he had been closer, he could have been killed.

And the weather has also provided some challenges. He has gone from the heat of the European summer sun as he set off from France, where it was 24 degrees Celsius, to the winter temperatures of New Zealand, where it dropped below ten.

The first

Beaumont has predicted that his record may not last forever.

"I'm 6 foot 3 inches (1.9 metres) tall and 90 kilos (14 stone). Someone who is 75 kilos and a 'proper' cyclist might do it faster. We shall see," he said.

"But I'll always be the first who did it [in under 80 days]. No one remembers who was second up Everest.

- with AFP

 
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