Cairo to Cape Town in world record time: the halfway point

On 9 October 2015, 5 athletes from Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Egypt and the UK departed from Cairo, Egypt, in the shadow of the Giza Pyramids, towards Cape Town. This is the CAROCAP Time Trial, a race to set a new world record: the fastest human-powered crossing of the African continent.

 

The team’s plan was to cover an average of 300 to 350km per day, riding SwiftCarbon’s Ultravox Ti carbon road bikes — the same race proven bicycles ridden in major professional races around the world by teams like Drapac Professional Cycling. But nothing goes according to plan in Africa.

 

SwiftCarbon founder, Mark Blewett didn’t just opt to put the bikes’ reputation (along with the brand and the company’s) at stake by sponsoring all the frames, he’s riding the event too. “We’re confident enough to put our bikes on the line here—this is a true reliability test. When we’re done, we know they’ll survive anything.”

 

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As if to foreshadow the team’s mammoth undertaking, Stage 1 kicked off with a little bump in the road: no support vehicles – they only cleared customs in Alexandria at 22:00 the night before. So with the bikes having to be built in a car park and, along with an Egyptian sandstorm blanketing Cairo, the decision was made to postpone the start by one day.

 

Undeterred, the postponed start on Friday saw the CAROCAP team put in a massive first day effort averaging 40km/h for roughly 313km and burning a total over 10 500 calories a piece.

 

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After making good progress on the 1st and 2nd days, the team were forced to take a shorter day 3 — well, relatively shorter at 170 km — as they were not permitted to camp on the side of the road in Egypt. They reached Luxor after cycling from the great pyramids of Giza and down, skirting the Red Sea, then turning back into the desert and braving piping-hot headwinds. No mean feat, to be sure.

 

Finally out of the heat of the desert, the CAROCAP guys were faced with some new challenges: even hotter temperatures! A 4:30am wake-up call and dreadful road surfaces as they exited Egypt set the scene as they pedalled 298km on through to the Nubian Desert.

 

The end of day 6 saw Mark and the team reach Northern Sudan after having gone hard and fast, clocking in 285km and averaging 40km/h again. The team ended the long day passed out solidly under that stars—a smart move, considering the mercury registered 42 degrees at 7 in the evening. “Carocap is a bit like doing a Paris-Roubaix, for 35 days straight,” said Mark, before his body shut down for the night.

 

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Just north of Khartoum, Sudan, they had to contend with yet another bump in the road: Mark fell ill and the team stood in solidarity, electing to wait for his recovery as they do not want him to leave the race. This will ultimately put great pressure on the team later on as they aim to reach their final destination in Cape Town in record-breaking time. At this point, they were already running approximately 350km behind schedule as a result of their troubles in Egypt, as well as a route alteration due to the extremely high temperatures. On the upside, the farther South they ride, the cooler it gets —or so we hoped.

 

The team left the Sudan and crossed the border into Ethiopia on Monday, 19th October, barely making it in time before the border post closed. They had battled a relentless headwind for over 240km, riding 9 hours on a journey that had already seen them cycling in 40+ degree heat (Celsius) for days.

 

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As the temperatures dropped, the climbing started and the team headed into the mountains: the highlands of Ethiopia. The inordinate beauty of the surroundings, described by the team as ‘Alpine-like’ came at a price: arguably the most treacherous roads they had yet encountered. “This was categorically the most dangerous, hectic descent of my life. Rutted roads, trucks, kids, donkeys, heat, huge potholes. And the climb out was 19km,” said Blewett.

 

They had been rising and falling (over 3000m of climbing each day) on a magically scenic road that took them into the Nile Gorge and saw them camp under the stars at night overlooking the Rift Valley. Although incredibly beautiful, the team was glad that the harsh highlands was almost behind them.

 

However, nothing could prepare them for what was to come. The stage to Hawasa, Ethiopia had to be cut short because after 285 km they had hit what can only be describe as barely-rideable. A day where they had hoped to cover 350km ended at the 316km Mark as the riders simply had had enough. “It was brutal.”

 

Attached Image: CAROCAP 5.jpg

 

Unfortunately, the road still had to be ridden and so day 16 dawned and saw the team spend over 5 hours on getting through only the first 100 km. They had stones hurled at them and were punched by people on the side of the road as they cycled by. This is the African pavé!

 

Into week 3 of CAROCAP and the team battled through the last day of the Ethiopian leg, with roads so bad they were almost impassible. Day upon day, Ethiopia had delivered the harshest conditions imaginable and morale was at a low point. They all breathed a sigh of relief as they crossed the border into Kenya.

 

“Ethiopia. Nice in a white, air-conditioned UN Land Cruiser, but different on a road bike!” Said Blewett.

 

Though the Kenyan roads now allowed them to get back into a rhythm and claw back some of the time lost at the start of the race (when logistical issues delayed their progress), Kenya still presented them with some challenges.

 

They needed armed support getting through Northern Kenya due to heavy bandit activity. The roads literally came to an end in places and the team was forced to ride ‘off-road’ in order to progress.

 

But, all in all, the ride through Kenya was smashed in just 3 days! The team rode 940km, crossing desert, through the Samburu, up to the highlands and finally descending to the foothills of Kilimanjaro.

 

Of course, nothing is ever easy in an untamed Africa and their hard 300km days through Kenya were cut abruptly in half as they crossed into Tanzania and back again to sandy, rutted roads washed away by the elements and time.

 

“Day 23 and 24 have been absolutely savage. Rough rocky sandy loose roads on road bikes has knocked the hell out of us. We have done way fewer miles but have got through the worst that has been thrown at us so far. It’s a tough place southern Tanzania but one step closer after getting through the worst of it,” Mark Blewett said.

 

Attached Image: CAROCAP 6.jpg

 

On day 25, the riders covered a massive 375km, in a move to scrape back some lost time and deficit kilometres. It was a record distance for all four of them, even though they’ve competed at an international level. 375km is a big day out in anyone’s cycling career, let alone after three and a half weeks and 6000km. A Facebook post by Mark said it all, “This day will last forever in my memory. We fought our heart out for this and we got to the point we needed to be at. I just don't know how to describe the emotion that went into this effort but it's done. No words really… We left at 5.30am and finished at 8.45pm in Northern Zambia. Headwinds, rain and rough roads all day. Some hectic accidents and some tendinitis to go along with it. Not surprising when you have ridden 2 Tours de France in 25 days.”

 

On the bright side, the SwiftCarbon Ultravox Ti bikes are holding up to the harsh conditions extremely well. These are the very same bikes you can purchase at SwiftCarbon Concept Stores and dealers, not modified in any way except for the custom CAROCAP green paint. The team has opted for Vittoria Pavé 27C tyres to deal with the unpredictable and varied road surface conditions in Africa.

 

Keep up to date with all CAROCAP happenings with SwiftCarbon on the web and on social media:

 

www.carocaprace.com
www.facebook.com/SwiftCarbonBikes
www.twitter.com/swiftbike
www.facebook.com/markthomas.blewett






27 Comments

Comments

rock, Nov 05 2015 03:13

unreal. tough guys these.

'Dale, Nov 05 2015 08:52

Just amazing Wow!

TALUS, Nov 06 2015 06:36

I am very impressed. Will follow this.

shova1, Nov 06 2015 07:37

Doesn't get tougher than this.

Chro Mo, Nov 06 2015 12:31

Stones hurled, riders punched....jeez!

 

Tough bunch, these people.

LOSMEICHERIE, Nov 07 2015 07:04

This is hectic , may God be with them all the way.

ibruegge, Nov 08 2015 12:42

These guys just rolled into Vic Falls, after a 402km stage at 35km/h average today. Unreal.
Mark and his mates (sorry didn't get their names) seem in much better spirits than I would have been after a double double century.

Attached Images

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DJR, Nov 08 2015 06:47

:clap:  :eek: Fantastic stuff. I hope we get a bit of warning of their Cape Town arrival to allow some of us to welcome them. Perhaps ride out and meet them at Blouberg?

Bizzmark, Nov 08 2015 07:20

Simply amazing. They are almost finished. Has there been any real publicity around their efforts?

I must have been working to hard or just a sleep..... First time I was even aware of the attempt. seems as if very little marketing was done or very little press coverage.

Maybe I am been naive , just wish that this was the stuff focused on in the news instead of all the politics, wars and high jinks of the Kardashians ....

Incredible human spirit and achievement so far, well done team carocap

ibruegge, Nov 08 2015 09:20

They aim to arrive in Cpt next Sunday. We should arrange a proper welcome!

Iwan Kemp, Nov 08 2015 10:51

I'll get some details tomorrow and post it here.

madbradd, Nov 09 2015 02:07

Nice going Team CaroCap.

 

I'm currently up in Samburu country, so know what it's like to ride here.... it's HOT!!! and DRY. a) I'm really not sure how you're even managing to ride as far as you are each day, and b) to do it in these conditions! Wow that's serious stuff!

Iwan Kemp, Nov 09 2015 02:26

To be 100% confirmed, but at this stage they will be rolling passed Melkbos late Sun afternoon. Will confirm details closer to the time.

DJR, Nov 09 2015 03:13

To be 100% confirmed, but at this stage they will be rolling passed Melkbos late Sun afternoon. Will confirm details closer to the time.

Aaaah no way.........I'll have to miss it as I'm riding To Hell and Back (although that pales against riding Cape To Kairo at 300+ km per day!)

GlockG4, Nov 09 2015 06:31

These peolpe are just simply AMAZING!!!!

EugeneS, Nov 09 2015 06:45

I'll get some details tomorrow and post it here.

It would be great if daily updates about their progress could be posted as soon as they cross the border in to S.A. Like most people I can't be in Slaapstad to welcome them but I'm sure cycling enthusiasts who find themselves near or on their route to CT would love to cheer them on.  

J∆kk∆ls, Nov 11 2015 12:00

Keep pushing guys! Im both envious and not! 

Sarge, Nov 11 2015 12:59

Hi all,
I think a real hero's welcome should be in order on their arrival down south.
Even if I was, and I'm not,I would not bother to meet them - I would not be able to keep up - 35km/hr wow. That is moving.
Well done to the "MEN"
Regards
Sarge

ibruegge, Nov 11 2015 03:49

 

Just crossed the border into SA!! Yes!! Was a bit emotional thinking of all the times I almost quit and what we have been through over the last month . This thing has been like the Hunger Games of cycling or a reality tv show .10 individuals never met before thrown together into such a pressurized environment and made to survive. Not done yet but on home turf now and smiling more today than I have in weeks.

'Dale, Nov 11 2015 05:41

Geeeeez
Amper stamper 🇿🇦

Wayne Potgieter, Nov 16 2015 01:16

Well done guys.

 

10,700km in 38 days.

 

You did it....the world record is yours.

 

:thumbup:  :thumbup:  :thumbup:  :thumbup:  :thumbup:

javadude, Nov 16 2015 05:18

Well done guys.

 

10,700km in 38 days.

 

You did it....the world record is yours.

 

:thumbup:  :thumbup:  :thumbup:  :thumbup:  :thumbup:

 

 

Makes me want to buy a Swift with Campagnolo Super Record.  :thumbup:

hikerbiker, Nov 16 2015 07:35

Awesome stuff https://m.facebook.c...338052&__tn__=E

'Dale, Nov 16 2015 07:42

Amazing 🇿🇦🇿🇦🇿🇦

stringbean, Nov 16 2015 08:17

Well done guys.
Does anyone know if there was anyone to meet them at the end point in Cape Town?
Seems like a bit of a anti climax.