Tegan Phillips is cycling 11 000 kilometres from Cairo to Cape Town with the goal of setting the first ever women’s world record for the route, and possibly breaking the men’s in the process.
The Cairo to Cape Town route that Tegan has chosen to cycle is 10 800km long. She will ride through 8 countries, climb 56 vertical kilometres and hopefully achieve 14 hours of riding each day at an average speed of 22kph. There is currently no official women’s Guinness World Record for the Cairo to Cape Town route, and Tegan wants to change that.
The current men’s Guinness World Record us held by Scottish cyclist Mark Beaumont and is 41 days 10 hours and 22 minutes. Guinness has specified that Tegan’s ride must be less than 75 days to qualify as the women’s record. If Tegan manages her goal of 14 hours per day at 22kph, she should finish in approximately 36 days. That’s an ambitious target but Tegan Phillips specialises in hitting ambitious targets, particularly the endurance kind. She has said that she’s trying not to think too much about Mark’s record but rather focus on enjoying the journey and setting an official women’s world record.
Tegan’s route is very similar to that of current record holder Mark Beaumont’s. She begins her ride in Egypt (1512km) and will cross through Sudan (1382km), Ethiopia (1749km), Kenya (886km), Tanzania (1453km), Zambia (1763km), Botswana (483km) and finally enter South Africa (1371km) at Mahikeng, finishing in Cape Town.
That is one enormous ride and you can get a little more insight into each country that Tegan will be passing through here.
You could imagine that cycling through Africa is a logistical nightmare as much as it is a physical challenge. Tegan has a support crew with her to make the ride go a smoothly as it could. One of their jobs will be to get to border posts ahead of Tegan and make sure that she spends a little time sitting there as possible and is able to keep moving along the route. Speaking of this crew, let’s get to know them a little better!
The Support Crew
Experience cycling sections of the route. Accomplished endurance athlete. Logistical champion.
Previously cycled the Cairo to Cape Town route. Accomplished endurance athlete. Mechanical knowledge for bike repairs.
Driver and general support.
Paige Fiddes & Schalk Hanekom
Photography and videography. Documenting the journey.
Dr. Tracy Sanders
The Journey Begins
Tegan’s great journey got underway at 6:03am in Cairo. She headed East towards the Nile river where she turned South and started ticking away the kilometres to the Sudanese border. Her departure from Egypt was delayed by a few weeks as they were awaiting security clearances for the support vehicles but they were received on November 7th and the party could thus commence their great journey south to Cape Town on November 8th.
We got a quick comment from each of the crew members today as they got on the road. They shared some insight on the journey ahead and how Tegan’s approach has impacted them!
WA: Lauren, what are the specific roles and duties of the support crew? How involved are all of you?
Lauren: Each of us have specific roles and duties to perform. For example, Tracey as the doctor is in charge of anything medical related, Paige is taking photos and videos, Cally is part of the crew driving up and is helping with social media, Robbie has done the route before and is a great help with anything bike related and I’m also part of the crew driving up and helping out where I can. Although we all have some specific roles, our main duty is to make sure all Tegan’s needs are met, whether it be driving the car, making sure she is well rested or handing her snacks and salt. We are all here to help out where we can.
WA: Paige, experiencing Tegan’s preparation, logistically and mentally, from behind the Lens, what has been most notable for you about her approach to this challenge?
Paige: I think what is the most notable about Tegan’s approach is her absolute pure determination to do this, logistically and mentally. I’m sure many people would get discouraged by the mountain of administration an expedition like this takes – we’re talking years of preparation as well as many disappointments and challenges along the way. Tegan has this unwavering, incredibly positive attitude of “Cool, things are stressful but this is something I have to do”. Now here she is. Doing it.
WA: Robbie you’ve done this ride yourself, what do you think is the biggest challenge that Tegan will face between Cairo and Cape Town?
Robbie: The big mountains in Ethiopia 🇪🇹 are quite something. I guess, though the biggest actual challenges are often surprises!
WA: Tracy, how involved are you going to be on the day to day riding? What are Tegan’s biggest concerns from a medical perspective on this ride and what preventative measures are you taking for them?
Tracy: I am working very closely with Tegs, covering all things linked to Teg’s physical performance and health! This includes any medical challenges, nutrition, niggles and rehab. Small things rapidly become big things when you spend that amount of time in the saddle. We are focusing on prevention of saddle sores with Wintergreen’s Friction Barrier Cream and a frequent change into fresh bib shorts. Tegs has had a niggly achilles and pain in her previously fractured forearm while in tri-position, but with some bike adjustments, strapping and massages she is looking incredibly strong, comfortable and ready. I am lucky to be part of an epic support crew, supporting the most dynamic woman and taking on each challenge as it comes!
WA: Cally, while you guys are awaiting Tegs in Kenya, what have you been able to do to help with logistics from there and what have you been doing to keep busy otherwise?
Cally: A big part of the drive up, besides getting the support vehicles safely to Kenya, was to assess the roads for the route back down. We’ve had to reroute a section of Zambia as the road north of Lusaka is super gnarly. It was stressful driving and I’m so grateful that our driving crew members all have a lekker sense of humour and that I won’t have experience that drive twice.
I recently cycled this way so it’s been so good to reconnect with people I met along the way and to secure some accommodation options for our return trip. It was also good to suss out the border crossings so that it will hopefully be easier and less time consuming on the way back (our longest border crossing was around 5 hours).
We reached Nairobi on the 21st October and managed a sneaky coastal mission before Rob and Bibs (the other drivers) had to head back to SA. Lauren and I spent a week in Kilifi, a couple of nights in Nairobi and we’re currently based at the base of Mount Kenya in a town called Nanyuki with my friend Nefty’s relatives, Sandra and Bren (the loveliest hosts). I have been working the entire trip so that keeps me busy but always keen to squeeze in some runs and exploring around my clients. I have also been helping out remotely with chatting to sponsors and setting up comms.
I cannot wait to meet up with Tegs and the team! Incredibly excited and grateful to be a part of this project.
With one day under the belt, the great adventure is well underway. We’ll be checking in every few days to get some updates from Tegan and the crew!
You choice in equipment for an adventure of the scale is, of course, paramount! You need the right tools that you can rely on and in their event of a failure, are easy to repair or replace. As such Tegan has chosen the following essentials.
Sling Cycles Tagati (Titanium). The bike is made in Johannesburg and has minimal proprietary elements which is helpful as adventure bike parts are relatively easy to replace.
Zipp Carbon 303s. Lightweight wheels are going to help reduce fatigue on the long days and when Tegs hits the big climbs in Ethiopia. The 303s balance that with good durability to withstand the forces of Africa and should be ready for a but of off-loading iff necessary. Tegan has 2 sets of wheels with her to accommodate different tire widths.
Tegs has taken an assortment of tires along for the ride, some 28mm and some 32mm to suit different road conditions.
Tri bars are a must for comfort and aerodynamics in a headwind scenario. “I modelled this bike cockpit off the standard ultra-cycling setup. It has clip-on tri-bars with 30mm spacers for extra height (i.e. extra comfort). I have two bike computers clipped directly onto the tri-bars, and I have a rechargeable Red-E light with a bolted fitting attached to the handlebars below.”
The most important pice of the puzzle? Quite possibly. Saddle choice could make or break this ride and Tegan has 2 in her arsenal. The nostalgic Brooks England B17 and the futuristic Selle SMP Pro which is designed for hours in the forward biased aero bar position. “I spent a year on my Brooks riding through Africa in 2015, without a single saddle sore” – Tegan
Learn more about Tegan’s gear choice here
How To Follow
We will be sharing updates every 4-5 days here on the WILD AIR Sports website as well as on the @wildairbike Instagram page.