Cape Town - Trailblazing cyclist Tegan Phillips will attempt to enter the glorious Guinness Book of World Records with a solo 10 600km ride on the iconic Cairo to Cape Town route in October.
In the past women have completed the trans-continental ride in Africa from north to south but none have accomplished the feat worthy of recognition from Guinness.
Phillips' quest for Guinness glory was inspired by the feat of Brit Mark Beaumont who set the Guinness men’s record for the Cairo to Cape Town ride in 2015. He completed the solo ride in 41 days, 10 hours and 22 minutes.
Soon afterwards, the Cape Town-based Phillips, a confessed cycling nut, approached Guinness out of curiosity about the details of the women's record for the African ride. She was taken aback when told there is no record, and that she should consider setting the benchwork for women's cycling.
"How can there not be a women's record?" Phillips, an accomplished artist, and motivational speaker remarked during a recent interview. "There has to be a women's record."
After making contact with Guinness to enquire about requirements and regulations, Phillips said: "Guinness stipulated on my application that a women’s record should be under 70 days, but naturally I want to go as far under that as I can.
"I will aim to ride between 10-13 hours a day, without a rest day."
Daily training has already started many months ago. A fortnight ago, Phillips set off on a return trip from Cape Town to neighbouring Namibia in five days.
The Namibian trip was intense," said Phillips. "I did it with three friends who took turns to ride with me for some parts and drive the support vehicle for some parts, so it wasn’t solo riding.
"We started the first day (325km) at 6am, and each day started earlier and earlier because it was so hot in the day and so nice to ride at night, so by the last day, which was also 325km, we started at around 2am, after only getting to bed at 11pm.
"For that trip, we averaged around 28km/hr for the trip, so the days were shorter (about 8/9 hours of riding, about 4-6 hours of sleeping).
"For Cairo, I will go much slower (around 22km/hr) to minimise accumulated fatigue and muscle strain, so the days will be a fair bit longer for similar distances, but hopefully with more than five hours of sleep each night."
This week Phillips will be flying out to the United States to fine-tune her preparations with intensive training.
"For the next three months, I’ll be staying at a women’s cycling facility in Tucson, Arizona called The Homestretch Foundation' and the final test run will be around June 15 to 30," said Phillips. "I’ll test all of my gear and nutrition strategies.
"I have enough time afterwards to tweak my strategy based on what I find. Originally the test run was going to be a self-supported bike-packing trip to either California or Boulder (Colorado) but I think it might be best to keep it in one place.
"Hence I will be doing the same 250-300km route in Tucson (in Arizona) every day for two weeks so that I can properly focus on the riding, nutrition and equipment strategies as opposed to having to worry about finding places to sleep and charge devices.
"For the Cairo trip, I will have a support crew who will oversee those details.
"I also have a thing for riding laps; during the lockdown, I did two long rides (400km + 500km) in laps around a 10km loop in the Southern Suburbs. I love to ride without having to think too much."
Phillips is committed to growing the sport of women's cycling. She hopes that after she sets the benchmark, other cyclists will be inspired to break the record.
"My goal with this ride is to start planting some seeds in their (women) minds to come and smash the record," said Phillips. "I want local and international women to cycle in Africa.
"I want there to be more stories of women cyclists. I also want women to feel encouraged to try things that they haven’t seen other women do and to be confident to take risks including the risk of public failure.
"I’m hoping lots of women will see this and think 'well, I’m faster than her, so maybe I should take on this record'.”
Phillips is no stranger to riding in Africa. She and her family have already completed an 11 000km journey in Africa.
"In 2015, my parents and my sister and I all took a sabbatical and spent a year cycling through Africa," said Phillips. "
"Over the year, we cycled from our home in Cape Town, all the way through Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. Then it was back to Tanzania, Zambia and then home through Namibia down the west coast back to finish back in CT.
"We carried everything on our heavy steel bikes (tents, food, even a pot plant as a ‘pet’) and slept wherever we could find, often in villages or sometimes even under highway bridges.
"During that ride is when I became interested in the Cairo2CT record, as it was the year that Keegan Longuiera (SA) set the record and then Mark Beaumont broke it.
"I started chatting to Keegan then already about planning for a women’s record. This has been a dream for a long time."
With this ride Phillips will raise funds to donate bicycles to women in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
MatchKit will accept crowdfunding payments on behalf of Phillips and details are available on https://matchkit.co/tegan/crowdfund/