by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, September 8, 2017
Mark Beaumont is poised to break the record for cycling around the world in 80 days, surpassing the existing holder by a month and a half.
He is currently on day 68 making his way across Canada and looks set to cross the Atlantic and cycle up through Portugal and Spain to finish in Paris in less than fortnight.
So, after about 17,000 miles and innumerous countries - including a 3,500-mile training ride around the coastline of the UK - where would the endurance cyclist recommend for a bike ride? He explains his top five choices...
1. Norway’s west coast
If you go from Trondheim and head north up to the Arctic Circle – you can go to the peninsula called the Lofoten Isles. It’s just staggering, you’ve got mountains that drop into the ocean and beautiful roads that follow the Fjords. It’s pretty remote stuff but if you go in the middle of summer you have 24-hour daylight. Your prize for venturing that far is some of the best scenery I’ve ever cycled through.
2. Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentina // Photo by OlgaCanals/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
They call Ushuaia the end of the world for a reason - it’s where the boats leave to go to Antarctica. It’s the most beautiful place.
Out of all the countries I’ve cycled through Iran was one of the most welcoming and interesting and beautiful. It has such a rich history - it’s the place that is most different from how I expected it to be. OK, it’s a little bit tricky to get in, you need to get a letter of invitation and sort your Visa out but once you’re in the people are extraordinarily welcoming and it’s just a place that’s worth seeing for yourself rather than what you read in the press. I slept in mosques most nights, it’s like cycling across England and knowing you can sleep in any church in the country.
The landscape gets more deserted and arid as you go south but as you cut down the south east border of Pakistan and Afghanistan it gets a bit more wild, though I wouldn’t recommend you cycle too close to those borders these days. Up in the north, it’s a bit more mountainous, then in the north west it’s green and rolling and lush.
4. Northern Scotland
A couple of years ago they branded the North coast 500 from Inverness to John O’Groats. The UK needed something different to Lands End – John O’Groats. I was asked a couple of years ago to ride the route and set a time on it. I rode the 520 miles in about 37 hours for a bit of a publicity stunt. It’s a punchy route, I wouldn’t necessarily try and do it non-stop, but it’s staggeringly beautiful.
In the Western Isles, you’re looking over to Skye and the Outer Hebrides and all those islands, and you get to pick off all the iconic landmarks like John O’Groats. They are some of the quietest roads in the UK, so ideal for cycling. Time and time again, the Applecross Pass has been voted as the UK’s best climb and you get to tick that off your list as well if you’re a keen cyclist.
5. The Apennines, Italy
One of my favourite rides as a teenager, I rode my bike from Sicily to Innsbruck, which basically meant riding the length of the Apennines - essentially riding the length of Italy. If you’re someone who likes their food, culture adventure, with two completely different climate zones on offer, Italy has got it all. Starting off riding around Etna, it’s all pretty hot, then you start climbing up through Tuscany and Monte Cassino and all these beautiful places and finish with a beautiful climb over the Great St Bernard path over into Austria, it’s a staggering country to do from toe to top.
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