Tag Archives: Cape Town

Winter

It has been a strange day. I planned a ride this morning, but have been working and trying to put the horrid winter out of my head. Having my summer holiday at the end of November has thrown me completely. I certainly don’t feel like the year is drawing to a close! The cold and wet in England after the gloreous weather of Cape Town is depressing me. It didn’t help, of course, that for the entire day I have been reminded of it. I listen to BBC Radio Five Live on a digital radio a lot. The Pretty One works there, so it was a loyalty thing, but actually it is rather good and I like the company when working from home :-). Well, the World Cup Football draw is in Cape Town. They broadcast from my haunts of two weeks ago. Oh, the aching!

I had to ride the bike to clear my head!

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Die Burger Tour – Race

There was a cry, and a sudden bunching.  People swerved, but with nowhere to go.  A front wheel was taken out, and to my left there was a domino effect as riders and bikes tumbled.  There was the sound of medal against asphalt, sliding at 40 km/h, and the dull thud of bodies hitting the road.

My final day in South Africa is one that I will remember.  Alex, my friend, has set himself a number of sporting challenges, including riding the Cape Argus in March.  It is the biggest mass participation cycling race / event worldwide.  Because of the sheer size of it, and its London Marathon-esque appeal, there are starting blocks.  If you are a ‘charity’ rider, riding only for this event, you start at the back.  To make your way forward you need to qualify to get a better start position.  By collecting points at other events, you can get a better start at the Argus.  For this reason, and owing to the very same system, here I was, stood with him in start block R at Die Burger Tour (it starts at A and goes through to U as far as I could tell) waiting to start our race at 6.58am.  On the day I fly home.

The event is, by comparison to the Cape Argus, relatively small, but is still rumoured to be the second largest one in South Africa.  With 3,350 entrants, I can well believe it.  Now, depending on your point of view, this was either the fourth of fifth Sportif which I have done on the road, or my first ever road race.  Alex and I had actually decided to race it.  We had set a target of three hours for the distance, and wanted to finish relatively fresh.  Being unable to do anything for the rest of the day is not a good idea when you still have to pack and make it to the airport.

On the start line, we eyed up the other people in our group.  With one or two exceptions, it was obvious that we didn’t belong this far back.  We chatted to another rider, on a very nice Cervelo, and established similar goals.  Once out of the neutralised start, Cervelo guy, Alex and myself lead our little group, together with some of the other faster riders and formed the train to chase down the pack in front, who started with the other groups.  It worked well, although there were a lot of people who were happy to sit on our wheels.  That makes them clever and us stupid though, doesn’t it?!  All the same, we reeled in rider after rider, with the pace barely dropping below 45km/h for the first 30km, or at least anywhere where we were able to force it that high.  The sheer number of riders made this difficult, and passing so many all the time, also kept us from riding the pace we wanted.  Concentration and alertness was the name of the game.  I don’t mind inexperienced riders in a group, but I try to keep myself on the outside or near the front when they are around.  Alex adopted this tactic too, but it was me who found myself trapped after about 25km with a very nervously responding pack around me.  I rode for about 1.5km trying to make my way into a better position, thinking that it was too tightly wound, and the spring would break any minute.  I kept looking around, trying to find the gap in the riders to move to the outside of the pack.  Slowly, but surely, I got myself into a good position.  The danger had passed.  I was safe….  I rode on for another km or so, and then it happened.  Suddenly I had to avoid rapidly decelerating bikes, and confusion in the pack.  The bike in front of me had their front wheel taken out.  The yell, as they went down.  I moved to avoid them as they slid across the road, making the minimal adjustment that I dared, so as not to take out anyone behind me.  Stay upright.  Avoid their limbs.  Ignore their cries.  Stay upright.  I could feel something on the inside of my arm.  The top of someone else’s brake hood.  Accelerate, separate.  Ride on.  We both survived.  I checked behind me, to see a scene like one of those mass crashes in the Tour de France.  There was no escape, no-one had anywhere to go, and were just piling into each other.

Alex was alongside me.

“You okay?  Didn’t think you’d have gone down, was it near you?”

“It was right there, I have a scratch, nothing more.  I hope they’re okay, where is Cervelo man?”

“Up ahead, spoke to him as soon as it happened, he was looking for you too”.

I stomped on the pedals up to Cervelo guy, and used my adrenalin rush to pull for a bit.

Medal of honour

The rest of the ride was less eventful, thankfully, although on the first climb Alex found himself a pace guy and dropped me and we both dropped Cervelo guy.  Alex had to slow up later for me to get back on – not bad for a someone who has been riding for only four months!  In fairness, towards the end, his tiredness was showing, but his performance was outstanding for such a new rider.  For me, the main challenge was to try to spin out the two bottles that I had for the 97km.  With about 25km to go, I was dry, and had thrown my bottles to kids at the side of the course.  Alex however (who had larger bottles) still had one full one.  He donated it to the cause, and we shared it.  After a few mouthfuls, and a gel my energy reserves were reinvigorated.  At the next climb, Alex later told me, he looked up to see me about 40m away powering off.  I thought people were following, but they obviously weren’t, so I eased off, and waited for him to come back to me, and we continued to ride together.  We took it in turns with an older guy until on the final climb of the day, Alex dumped his chain.  He had to stop.  I slowed, soft pedalling, and waited for him.  Everyone passing encouraged me to keep going, not realising that I was waiting.   I felt a little bad when Alex was back on my wheel, and I turned catching his eye, and paced us past everyone who had just shown concern.  We got back to the older guy, and rode with him for a bit.  With 5km to go, Alex was fading, but it was downhill.  Rather than the normal finishing ‘eye balls out’ finish that I would normally do in a race, we rode together, crossing the line with the exact same time hands raised.

Our time.  3hr 3mins….. if only I hadn’t dithered on that climb, or Alex’s chain had not jumped off…..  Puts him in good standing for The Cape Argus though.   Quite tempted to go back to ride it myself!

Contrasts

I am extremely tired, and need to post about the last couple of days. I am now back in the UK, and yesterday I had a massive day. It started at 4am, and ended…. well it hasn’t ended yet. It involved a road race and a narrowly missed crash (will post about as soon as the images are made available), a 12 hour flight and now I am back in the UK sat at my desk. It is surreal at times that places are so near, and yet so far. The flight to Cape Town is only the aforementioned 12 hours, and that is nothing. It is so close, and at the same time, that is a massive distance.

In Cape Town yesterday it was 30 degrees in the afternoon. Landing at Heathrow, and returning to home brought reality to me.

On a side note, has anyone seen the film ‘Stay’? Can you explain it to me? Perhaps I was over tired, but was he in fact projecting everything onto other people? hmmm…..  Whatever, I didn’t really like it!

Just a thought.

I would like to write an entry for today. I would like to write something about South Africa that sums up my experience here, my feelings for the place, the reason why I am ready to leave, and the reason why I feel at some point that I must return.

I don’t usually get involved with my holiday plans. I mean, I usually leave it to The Pretty One to organise everything. It is lazy of me, and I don’t excuse it. I also feel that I should be more proactive about where I go. I fly in and out of places and I am a stranger. I perhaps read a guide book, but my history is sadly lacking. My history and my geography. It is ignorance on my part, that I need to address. I excuse it by hiding behind the vale of business travel, but it is shameful.

In South Africa I have visited places which I heard about as a child. Places that perhaps I never thought I would visit. It was a country that wasn’t on my radar, and probably would have remained off it, were it not for my best friend being here. But South Africa is a wonderful country, with wonderful people. It is a contradiction. It is Africa, but not Africa. Soft Africa for me. I intend to return both here, and to the continent.

Leaving, I will take some new friendships with me. People who I hope to be able to stimulate and hope will be stimulated by me in the future. People with a different perspective, but one I now truly value. A South African friend who has experiences and an intellect that astounds me, and has perhaps seen more of the real world growing up here and in her time in the UK, having to swallow at times any sort of national pride, as well as her language to prevent her being a target of bigots putting everyone in the same boat. It is more real than I can ever hope to learn from my well meaning visits to historical tourist traps. I will write about these at a later date, because I am sure of their value, but I know, in my heart of hearts that a lot of it is appeasing the feeling of ‘needing’ to have a ‘real’ experience in the country. It is about ticking that box and moving on. In Cape Town, you have to go to the top of Table Mountain. In Cape Town you must go to Robben Island. I suppose a holiday is a holiday, but as intelligent people, perhaps we should challenge ourselves more than we do. Small bite-sized chunks of history, zoo type tours of less privileged areas is a disservice to yourself, those involved and history itself.

Just a thought.

Dropped

Today was the first day on the bike since the trip to Cape Point. I had climbed Table Mountain in the meantime, and this had given me majorly achey legs. This had been bugging me the last couple of days, and I knew that I had to get back on the bike and sort it out. The problem was though, that I knew that this was going to be far from fun.

We set off this morning, and my head was not in it at all. It was one of those rides where you know you need to ride, to pull yourself back into it. I was riding against myself, with no real want to do anything rather than complete what I had set out to do.

I was struggling.

Alex, on the other hand. Well today he flew. Good legs, and perhaps spurred by my (perhaps obvious) reluctance. He dropped me. Not once, but twice. On a day when I just wanted to get it over with, finding the will power to muster the energy to chase someone down didn’t come easy. In fact, by the time I had resolved to chase him, it was energy wasted, he was too far out.

Good on him I say. It will be remembered.

Where Oceans Meet

Today was the ride that I had been looking forward to.  The marvelous thing about having a bike on holiday is being able to do the normal tourist things, but not being one of those people to sit on a tour bus all day.  Or in a car for that matter.

We got up at 7.30am, and were out of the door by 8.10am.  We headed from Cape Town via Chapman’s Peak, to Simon’s Town and on to the Cape Point National Park.  It was Alex’s (my ride partner’s) longest ever ride, at 140km.  There was wind, 1700m of elevation and baboons.  Yes, you read that right…

What was especially great about this ride, is the fact that Alex only got into riding last year.  He bought a bike from me (which he destroyed, but that is a different story) and it got him hooked.  He now trains more than I do, and although I fared better than him throughout the ride today, that is only to do with muscle memory, and the fact that I have been doing this for years and years.  I also think there is a small element of fear too, when you go farther than you have before.  It wasn’t far off twice his previous max distance.  Towards the end of the ride the recovery that I have managed to build up throughout the years was apparent, as I was able to pull away on the climbs, recover and tuck in again.  What is true though is that his performance was impressive, and by March, when he leaves here, I am sure he will kick my arse on the bike.  I don’t think I will be able to train this much throughout the European winter.

The ride, and the scenery and being at the point of two oceans meet was a great experience.  Riding through the Cape Point National Park is almost like riding through a lunar landscape, well, okay, there is vegetation, and the sea, but a little imagination is all it takes.

Oh, and then there were baboons.  There are also quite a lot of warning signs saying how aggressive they can be and to keep your distance.  I think we were safe though.  Lycra is scary whatever!

A lazy day

Today was almost a write off. Last night involved lots of rum, and some fantastic conversation and something I really enjoy doing. I got to talk emotions with people. It might be to do with drunkenness, but I felt that there were some real connections made.

Today we went to a market in the morning. It was one of those ‘farmers’ type markets, for the middle classes. I am sure you know the sort. Anyway, had some great food, and took some more pictures.

Tomorrow is a long ride if the wind holds off. Camera will be coming with.