Cape to Cape Challenge – 18.000km in 75 days
On 8th September 2019, I set off at Cape North in Norway to cycle 18.000 km to Capetown at the Southern end of Africa. I’m cycling together with photograph and ultracyclist Philipp Hympendahl riding completely unsupported, pushing to arrive in less than 75 days.
While we will be racing to break the record, we also want to have a great adventure and explore the scenery that our route offers. After a start in the Arctic and the endless motorways of Russia, the Middle East will be a foremost logistical challenge. Halfway through the ride, the real highlight starts: Africa, a continent where already the name can leave you dreaming of adventures.
The current World Record stands at 102 days, a time we will beat by a month.
Life tracker, diary and constant updates below and on Social Media.
Diary of Cape to Cape
In the morning we ride into Voronezh to get Philipps phone fixed and get some bike maintanance. Its a large industrial town and we loose plenty of time to cross. At 1pm we are finally back on the highway and push nonstop until we reach Pawlows at last light. We still feel strong and would have wasily pushed further but its too dangerous. 1.000 km more and we are out of Russia and up to speed.
We set off at sunrise for another long day on the shoulder of a high speed highway. We face strong crosswind and hills all morning until the road turns a bit east and Wind gets better. There are metal parts and dirt from trucks in the shoulder that get into the drive train and tyres. At lunch I take 3 wires out of my Tubes that my tubeless milk miracoulously sealed. Philipp drops his phone during a little repair. We hope that we can fix that tomorrow. In the afternoon heavy rain Starts again five days now and I barely remember how it feels to cycle with dry shoes. In the evening we approach Voronezh, a big industrial town. We had planned to sleep there but traffic gets very bad and we decide its not wise to ride in at night. Struggling to keep up our speed in these conditions…4 more days and we are finally out of Russia.
We set off on the 10 lane ringroad out of Moscow. After 10km we turn onto the highway towards the Black sea and traffic immediately get less. There is a wide shoulder and smooth tarmac, the best condition we had since Finland. We average 35 km/h until we reach a crossing at noon and turn towards Volgograd. The road is narrow with no shoulder and heavy trucks passing at full speed. We wanted to stay on this road for 900 km but after 20 km we decide that it is too dangerous and turn back to the Black Sea Highway. We will now follow that route to Rostov and then merge our old route again in Chechnya.
We continue along the highway in heavy rain until we find a roadside Motel at night.
We start into Moscow in heavy rain. The six lane highway has only 30 cm of shoulder and the trucks pass at full speed. At noon the sidemirror of a truck hits my shoulder. I am unharmed but its hard to focus when you escaped by just a few cm.
In the City Dennis, a local cyclist meets us and guides us along the best lanes on the 10 lane speedways towards Red Square. We stop at Kremlin for a few pictures and at a bike shop for maintenance as Philipps deraileur had some issues and then ride out of the City at night . In the outskirts we stop at Burger King and find a hotel.
The terrible conditions from yesterday continue but at least a tailwind. I feel a bit sick after the cold from yesterday and Philipp has been suffering for the past week. We push hard till noon before stopping for lunch and a quick break to get warm. It feels good to be off the road for a few minutes as the constant traffic is tough to take. A lot of people have asked me before the journey if I am afraid of the post war countries we are riding through and I always had answered that Russian Highways are my biggest concern. So far I was right. In the heavy rain we push into the dark and find a quiet hotel – in a good distance to make it across Moscow tomorrow.
Terrible day on the bike. Constant heavy rain, headwind and cold along Russia ’s busiest highway. We followed the road to Moscow as there simply is no alternative. Trucks and cars pass as constantly at close distance and high speed. The noise and constant tension due to the danger are mentally tough. After 200 km we take an early stop in a hotel as the risk of getting sick is simply very high. Now we are 450 km from Moscow, looking forward to quieter and warmer times.
A late start at 7:30 since we are tried from the late arrival and dont want to miss the hotel breakfast. The first 40 km go along a small road with one road construction after another. Constant stop and go and gravel. However, once we reach the main road we get perfect conditions. Smooth tarmac, sunny 15 degrees and a stro g tailwind that pushes us with 40 kmh towards St. Petersburg. I was concerned about the City crossing but it turns out to be super easy. Careful drivers, smooth roads and good cycling passes. This is definetely different from the cities I know from crossing Siberia two years ago. On the way out of St. Petersburg we quickly stop at the Office of my Tool sponsor the Hoffmann Group. They have prepared a great receptionand 20 people came on a saturday evening. Thanks!
We still continue riding another 60 km and stop at a hotel. Looking for food we get dragged into a birthday party. Russian really now how to celebrate but after an hour we say goodbye to get some much needed sleep.
We start at 6am into a cold and rainy morning. Quickly the road turns into gravel and makes progress slower. We have now reached the Finish lake district and there is one Big lake after another. In the afternoon the eind finally turns and we have the First tailwind since Cape North. We continue pushing into the dark to get into Russia and reach the border at 10pm. Luckily border crossing is fast and directly behind we find a decent hotel in the industrial town of Svetogorsk. 298 km in over 12 hours on the bike.
A very early start and 60 km without breakfast to the next City. After breakfast it starts raining heavily with strong headwind. We push for a few hours until we find a gas Station. Philipp is suffering from the conditions and needs to get warm. We continue into the rain for another 60 km to the small town of Juuka where we find a roof in Front of a shop and sleep under it. Its 290 km from Russia now and we are hoping for better conditions tomorrow to make a push to Svetogorsk.
A late start at 8am as we have been supertired after the late arrival the day before. We say goodbye to our filmmaker Pål who had been with us the First three days. At noon we turn off the Main road to take a shortcut. I had looked at all Finish roads on maps before to ensure they are paved but after 10 km it turns into gravel. Slower progress but a beautiful road through forrest and lakes. Due to the slow going we miss the closing time of the supermarket and arrive at 10pm in a small village. We cant find anything open but at the small hospital the night shift nurse invites us to the canteen a d brings some bread. Such a nice hospitality. Next to the hospital we find a Veranda of a warehouse building and sleep there.
The headwind continues as we are riding through endless hills. We are surprised by the t-shirt weather which make the wind more bearable. We both feel very strong and take turns in the wind. In the evening we cross the Arctic circle and reach Rovaniemi the only proper City in the North of Finnland. 290 km against the Wind, feels good to be on track.
We set off before 6 am and turn away from the coast. Rendeers constantly cross the road and we try for a long time to get a nice picture with them. The road now leads through complete wilderness. Endless forrests, lakes and rivers and very few people.
Before lunch we reach the border with Finland and immediately feel that the Finnish build roads a bit differently. They dont build curves but instead straight across the hills. Slow Progress but beautiful wilderness. At night we find a river and make a campfire on the beach.
A incredible start at Cape North. A perfect sky and not a Single Person as we checked the arrival times of the Tourist buses before. A bit of delay due to last minute issues so we set of at 9.45 am.
The Route went spectacularly along the Arctic Ocean with lots of hills and headwind. Only 186 km but a wonderful day on the bike.