Matt Downie breaks Mark Beaumont’s North Coast 500 record by over a hour

Matt Downie breaks the ultra-distance legend's record with a lightning fast time around Scotland's northern edge

Clock19:24, Friday 29th September 2023
Matt Downie (second to the right) and his support crew

Image credit: Matt Downie

Matt Downie (second to the right) and his support crew

The North Coast 500 has a new boss after Matt Downie beat the previous record set by Mark Beaumont by over an hour.

The North Coast 500 is a 516 mile route along the Northern coast of Scotland and takes on many of the most arduous riding in all of Scotland. Downie is the first rider to do the route in under 28 hours.

His record of 27 hours, 30 minutes exactly, still needs to be ratified by the World Ultra Cycling Association (WUCA), but when it is his time looks to be a high benchmark for other riders hoping to set a new record in the future.

"After the ride I was so glad it was done, there was a massive sense of relief," Downie told Cycling Weekly.

"I couldn't believe I had done it, the wind conditions and everything, it was so difficult. I appreciate and respect Mark and Robbie Mitchell's efforts, I gained a lot of respect for both of them. Now it has settled in, it's quite an amazing thing to have the world record.”

"I went into it thinking I would break it. But there was no pressure on me, it would still have been amazing. It was by far the hardest ride I've ever done. I'm not expecting to be back on the bike for another week or so."

Reflecting on his ride, the main challenge that Downie identified with the North Coast 500 revolved around the wind.

"The hardest bit was the last 200km I think, when the sun started rising," Downie said. "I was going up a 2% incline doing 270 watts, into a block headwind at 20km/h. I wasn't going anywhere.

"My knee flared up too, and if I stopped pedalling it was absolute agony. That was the worst part. With 90km to go, I was on my TT bike in a howling headwind, and I thought about giving up, but I kept pushing through it."

The North coast 500 is one of the most well-known tests in ultra-endurance riding and has been the subject of a couple of GCN projects. FIrst, Si Richardson went to Scotland a couple of years ago and rode the route as a bikepack, before we made a documentary of Beaumont’s record last year, which you can stream on GCN+ right now.

Beaumont’s last attempt was in response to a rider breaking his 2015 record, so, if history is anything to go off of, he could be back to make a run at Downie’s record sooner rather than later.

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