Nic Bourne and Carocap: a rare African double

Few can claim to have crossed Africa, the world’s second-largest continent, using only muscle power. But Briton Nicholas Bourne has done it twice, bottom to top, and top to bottom, using different methods of locomotion. His latest attempt was raising funds for World Bicycle Relief UK, with a Guinness World Record attempt called Carocap.

 The Carocap team in Egypt on their third day with a local shop owner. Photo: SwiftCarbon

The Carocap team in Egypt on their third day with a local shop owner. Photo: SwiftCarbon

The brave attempt commenced on 9 October 2015, with Bourne and four other cyclists departing from Cairo under the shadow of the Great Pyramids at Giza.

Their aim: to establish a new world record – the fastest crossing of the length of the African continent from Cairo to Cape Town by bicycle. Their target was to eclipse Mark Beaumont’s mind-blowing record of 41 days, 10 hours, and 22 minutes.

And 10,300km (6,400 miles) and 38 days later (beating the previous record by four days), three weary riders crossed the finishing line in Cape Town on 15 November. They were Mark Blewett (South Africa, founder of SwiftCarbon bikes), David Martin (Zimbabwe, President of Zimbabwean Road Cycling Association) and Nicholas Bourne (Britain, record holder for running Cape Town to Cairo and founder of Pendragon Sports).

Slotted in a tight paceline through the Egyptian sand dunes on Day 3. Photo: SwiftCarbon

Slotted in a tight paceline through the Egyptian sand dunes on Day 3. Photo: Chris Giles


Sadly, they could not share their moment of triumph with the two riders who had abandoned just 10 days away from the finish in Cape Town, including David Kinja (Kenyan cycling team captain).


Riding through an Egyptian village on Day 3 with the local election banners on display. Photo: SwiftCarbon

Riding through an Egyptian village on Day 3 with the local election banners on display. Photo: Chris Giles


Interview with Nicholas Bourne 

Nick is no stranger to traversing Africa. He’s held another Guinness World record, for the fastest crossing of Africa on foot. He started in Cape Town on 21 January 1998 and finished in Cairo on 5 December 1998, taking 318 days, covering over 12,069km (7,500 miles) and passing through Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan.


The team encounters some road works in Kenya and has to take up cyclocross! Photo: SwiftCarbon

During the run he went through 30 pairs of running shoes, covering more than 67km (42 miles) a day; reaching altitudes of 3,657 m (12,000 ft), and raising one million pounds for the Born Free Foundation and Save The Children. Now 17 years later, he has a second record for the fastest crossing of Africa, this time north to south, on a bicycle. We asked Nick some questions on his latest achievement.

What was it like to take on the length of the African continent again, this time on a bike?

A lot harder, given that the schedule was a shorter and we were chasing an existing record. Riding as a team also means that if a rider is ill or injured, calculations are harder to make in terms of contribution versus time lost. Because we rode every day and were in the saddle for 10-12 hours, we had very little time to explore or interact with people en route.

Such an amazing achievement takes a lot of preparation. What did you and the team do to mentally and physically prepare for the Carocap?

The mental preparation is obtained as a result of the physical preparation – a confidence in your physical ability to complete the task and to have in the back of your mind that there will be a requirement to continue even if you feel you have reached your limit of physical capability. We should not underestimate the power of the mind to go beyond the possible into the seemingly impossible.


Mark Blewett taking a much needed break in Tanzania. Photo: SwiftCarbon

Through all the stresses and strains, what was the lowest point on the trip?

We each had low points which were results of illness, (and heat stroke in my case), when the possibility arose that we simply could not continue. My core body temperature rose to 41oC in Botswana.

Mark had a severe gastric illness in Sudan, and David Martin had the same for the final three days. We also suffered various colds and severe saddle sores. Unfortunately, David Kinjah withdrew due to a combination of sleep deprivation, illness, and saddle sores.

What was the most interesting experience for you?

Riding at dust through game parks in Botswana and encountering elephant, lion, giraffe, zebra, buffalo, Impala, kudu and oryx just a few metres from where we were riding.

Africa can be a scary place. What was the scariest moment you experienced on the Carocap?

Nearly being hit by an overtaking truck!

Anyone who has ridden a bike knows about the painful effects of time in the saddle.

The painful effects for us were contact points, especially bum and hands. The skin is just worn away and as you lose weight, the sit bones become ever more painful. I started taking painkillers after a crash and found these helped with the saddle sores as well. Heart burn/indigestion was managed by antacids.


Mark, David and Nick make it! The emotional finish at the Cullinan Hotel in Cape town. Exhausted, relieved and reunited with friends and family. Photo: SwiftCarbon

With the speeds and distances you were covering, how did you manage nutrition and hydration?

Nutrition and hydration varied massively depending on the temperature. It ranged from 6-18 litres, and the further we got into the ride, the more adapted we became consuming more calories from solid food rather than relying on sports drinks. We also took Bimuno, a prebiotic, as a supplement to maintain a healthy gut and immune system.

How many calories did you burn every day?

About 10,000 calories each a day. I lost 6kg, David Martin 2kg and Mark 5kg. I was the heaviest, weighing 83kg at the start.

How long do you think the record will stand? 

Until the road surfaces improve in about three year’s time!

You rode Swift Carbon road bike frames. What bike setup did you use?

We used standard 39/53 chainrings with 12/27 cassettes. Everything else was standard: road bike bars, seat post and stem from Ritchey, and saddles from Selle San Marco. David and I had clip-on tri-bars which gave us about an extra 1.3km/h for the same power output.

Where to from here?

I fly back to the UK and will be straight to work at organising the Tour of Wessex, a three-stage 335 mile Cyclosportive my company organises each Spring bank holiday.

Reach out

Nick Bourne Twitter @NickBourne_velo

Facebook carocaprace #carocaprace

Twitter @Carocaprace #carocap and @swiftbike

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