Around-the-world bicycle race rolls out of London next year

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Any argument over which is the “most epic” bicycle race should end in February 2012.

That's when about 20 cyclists will roll out of London on the 18,000-mile Global Bicycle Race.

They're aiming to beat the time of Englishman Vin Cox, left, who set the current Guinness World Record of 163 days, 6 hours and 58 minutes in 2010.

Cox is organizing this around-the-world bicycle race, set to start on Feb. 18. That date was picked so the winner and new record-holder will be showing up in London just as the 2012 Summer Olympics gets underway.

I don't use the term epic lightly, but this bicycle race certainly qualifies.


The cyclists are free to choose their own routes. Guinness rules, however, state that the winner travel at least 24,900 miles (the distance around the equator) of which 18,000 miles must be on a bicycle. The competitors need to pass two opposite points on the globe, such as Spain and New Zealand, and they need to generally travel in one direction.

Although Cox and previous around-the-world record holders all traveled without any support, Cox is trying to convince Guinness to allow a separate record for cyclist with full support.

Think the Tour Divide and Race Across America (RAAM).

Whether they're competing with or without support, the solo cyclists will carry GPS so their locations can be plotted on a map. They'll be required to file weekly text messages on their status and mileage.

Also, they cannot change bicycles. They can replace broken or worn out parts, but they have to ride the same bike throughout the race.


Lately, I've been reading “The Man Who Cycled the World,” by Mark Beaumont. He completed a global tour in 194 days in 2008, smashing the standing record at the time by 80 days.

His book should be required reading for every competitor. Often, Beaumont's target of riding a century every day wasn't his biggest challenge.

The Scotsman had to overcome language barriers to find routes through cities and safe shelter every night. A long-time vegetarian, he succumbed to eating unidentifiable meat products in dishes, sometimes resulting in food poisoning.

What seems worse to me was his isolation. He had to pass through different countries and cultures without stopping for a look around. More than once he remarks about how he'd like to learn more about a region, but has to press on.

Previous records

Several cyclists have broken the around-the-world record since Beaumont. James Bowthorpe completed a global route in 175 days in 2009, and Julian Sayarer in 2010.

Cox, the current record holder, seems interested in finding someone to break his record. He even posts 20 days of delays that he says other competitors can avoid.

Nineteen cyclists are identified as potential competitors in the around-the-world race. Most are from the UK, but one, David Goldberg, is from the US.

We wish them all luck in their preparation for this race.

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