An extraordinary race with a bizarre twist in the final stage gives GBDURO victory to the Around-the-World record holder in his first-ever race
Despite a career of world-firsts in endurance cycling expeditions, Mark Beaumont, the current round-the-world record holder, had never competed in anything other than what amounts to very extreme solo time trials. This summer though, for the first time in his career, he entered a race. And not just any race, arguably the toughest endurance race in the UK, GBDURO. The drama was captured in a new Shimano video called MAIDEN RACE.
With encouragement from Shimano, Komoot, Argon18 and Schwalbe UK, Mark Beaumont found himself on the start line at Land’s End in August 2021 with a daunting task:
To ride 2000km of gravel and road to the other end of the UK at John O’Groats, in 4 massive stages of approximately 500km each, reminiscent of early editions of the Tour de France, where racers rode huge non-stop stages, before regrouping for the next mass start.
No stranger to sleep deprivation and turning himself inside-out on a road bike, Beaumont was confident he had the engine, but it was the technical riding across the Snowdonia National Park, the Yorkshire Dales and the Scottish Highlands that would prove to be the real test. Did he have the skills to get to the finish line in John O’Groats? Would his Argon 18 with SHIMANO GRX drivetrain be up to the challenge?
To demonstrate both the interest and the demanding nature of the event, 250 hopeful competitors applied for only 60 places. Yet by the time the racers left Wales on stage 2, over half the field had given up. By the finish post in the very north of Scotland, only 14 racers survived.
Angus Young, who finished 2nd in 2018 and scratched whilst leading in 2019, was desperately unlucky for a third time. He was the clear winner for the first 3 stages, but with 200km from the finish, disaster struck with a terminal mechanical issue, handing victory to Mark who had consistently ridden into second during each stage.
This story, plus the wider GBDURO ethos of no flying, leave no trace and no outside assistance, is told through MAIDEN RACE, a beautiful 20-minute documentary shot by film-maker Markus Stitz and narrated by Mark Beaumont.
Mark Beaumont, GBDURO21 race winner:
“This is truly one of the most punishing rides on bike, body and mind. There were no easy miles across such relentless terrain. Just finishing was a victory because the person you are really racing is yourself. And to finish first? First you must finish.
The film itself shows the wonderful culture of gravel and ultra-endurance racing. I loved how the youngest competitor was 19 and the oldest 59, that five of the top ten finishers were women and everyone, regardless of their day job, their background or their ability level, was taking on a magnificently difficult race as a way of exploring, pushing their boundaries, and ultimately creating timeless memories. Almost anyone can take on this kind of mad adventure, and I want to encourage more people to do so.”
Markus Stitz, film-maker:
“I wanted this documentary to show the beauty and diversity of bikepacking racing. The gritty moments when the going gets almost impossible, but also the grandeur of being outside in occasions that make up for the hard work. The early morning sunrise, the rides into the sunset, the anguish of wondering whether to stop for a few hours. The best moments happened in the most remote places, and those moments are captured here to tell the story of GBDURO 2021.”
Ed Wolstenholme, The Racing Collective, organiser of GBDURO:
“Maiden Race showcases all that we love about GBDURO; the landscapes, the physical and emotional challenges and the bittersweet joy of the finish. More importantly though it demonstrates that there is a sustainable future for cycle sport which is better for us and our planet.”
The full MAIDEN RACE documentary is available on Shimano’s Youtube channel here.