Mark Beaumont to take on The Orbis Cycle Challenge in Malawi 

Ahead of headlining the 2020 Orbis Cycle Challenge, part of our ’Sport with a Purpose’ expeditions, we caught up with Mark about what inspired him to get involved, what he is most looking forward to and about his passion for adventure in Africa.

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The Orbis Cycle Challenge - Sport with a Purpose, very exciting to have you on board! What first attracted you to take on this challenge for 2020?

I absolutely love Africa and have been looking for a reason to return since I cycled the length of the great continent in 2015.  Whilst Cairo to Cape Town took me near, but not through Malawi, I did get a chance to visit the country in 2014, during the build up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, where I filmed in Lilongwe and Lake Malawi.  Everyone who has ever visited this region and indeed Malawi itself will tell you about the friendship of strangers, the often chaotic but exciting pace of life and the wild landscapes, perfect for exploring on two wheels.  This time, I am looking forwards to going back with a team of cyclists, as last time I was cycling alone, and whilst the riding will be tough, there should be a bit more time to relax and soak up the culture.  

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Tell us a little bit more about who you want on your team for this incredible expedition and the level of fitness required?

Ideally I would like a team of cyclists who have a mixed ability - I don’t just want racers!  This will be a tough, but hopefully hugely enjoyable ride - so we need people who are resilient, who have a bit of life experience and who are going to look out for each other.  But on the ride, it doesn’t matter if there are different speeds, as we can buddy up and make sure everyone gets to ride the whole route.  There will be a mix of tarmac and dirt roads, so a decent level of bike handling will be important.  I am sure it will be a genuine adventure for all of us and I am more concerned about making sure everyone buys into the spirit of the trip, than has legs like Sir Chris Hoy!  Speaking of Chris, he has given us his best wishes, as the legacy from our trip will be to build a BMX track in Lilongwe. 

And for the uber competitive…are there any specific challenge points?! Anything a bit out of the box we will all be trying to achieve!?

Mid way through the week, there is a big climb up onto the plateau in Southern Malawi. This perhaps won’t be everyones idea of fun, but a real test for some. To quote Greg LeMond, ‘it doesn’t get any easier, you just get faster’ - and for those who have energy to burn, they are welcome to test themselves each day, there will be opportunity to push the pace on some sections, whilst on other sections I really hope that the strongest riders take it upon themselves to support the less experienced and more gentle paced riders!

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Pic Credit Venetia Norrington Travel

Sport with a Purpose is about creating a sporting challenge and embedding a purpose and cause at the heart of it. Tell us more about the ‘purpose’ behind your expedition in Malawi? 

We looked at all sorts of legacies that we could create - and I was clear that I wanted it to be about sport.  The bicycle is ubiquitous in Malawi, however it is often seen as a mode of transport, as opposed to a sport.  We felt that supporting an initiative in road cycling or mountain biking would ultimately be more cycling as a way of getting around. Whereas BMX is brilliant at building bike handling skills, is brilliantly sociable and is in a fixed location, so for children and adults, it would create a focus for training and competition. I would love to see the next generation of Commonwealth and Olympic athletes from Malawi having access to the BMX track. 

You are known as The Man That Cycled The World - is there something special about cycling through Africa that people signing up for The Orbis Cycle Challenge should expect?

I have been on adventures through 130 countries in my career - and despite having pedalled around the planet twice, I always say that the continent I would like to go back and explore more on a bicycle, is Africa. There is something so disarming and enjoyable about the welcome, food, and culture. Pedalling from the top in Cairo to the toe in Cape Town gave me a slideshow view of a vast and constantly changing continent. Malawi has long shared a strong connection with Scotland, which I helped celebrate with their Commonwealth Athletes - and I can’t wait to go back and join some of the Cycling Federation during our week long adventure. 

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A last word…Orbis Expeditions is so excited to be working with you and your passion and creativity has brought so much to this seed of an idea, we can’t wait for April 2020! Are there any last thoughts from you Mark?

It may be a long cold winter that lies ahead in Scotland, but I will be training hard so and can’t wait for some sunshine, adventurous cycling and great company in Malawi in April. 

Want to join Mark's Team? Apply here

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