I completed my fourth Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour on Sunday (14 March). I rode a PB (personal best) and felt strong at the end but no medal for me. Just regular taunts of “you’re cheating” on route and then a final insult when I wasn’t allowed to cross the finish line. No glory for me, instead I was ushered into a side road for motorised vehicles. I don’t take it too personally but it might have something to do with my first Cycle Tour when I raced some back markers to the finish, almost falling off my scooter as I raised my hands and crossed the finish line just in front of them, poring scorn and exhaust fumes on them in the process.
O.k, so I was on my scooter, my trusty Vuka 110, doing its fourth tour and still going strong. Scooters and motorbikes don’t get to cross the finish line and the cries of cheat are good natured, but as much as the idea of cycling 110km with 35 000 other cyclists doesn’t appeal to me, this is a special event and I think it might be fun to do a slow cycle around the peninsula, it is a stunning route after all. This is the one day of the year that cyclists rule the roads in Cape Town and get to circumnavigate the entire peninsula without having to dodge cars, busses and manic taxi drivers. All they need to worry about is one dodgy photographer on a scooter.
I might not have cycled the whole route but I still completed it, stopping every few minutes to take pics of the on route branding for the organisers. Despite my efforts and managing to stay upright the entire route, not easy when surrounded by a bunch of wobbly cyclists, I still didn’t get to finish with respect, no they leave that to the cyclists.
I had left home at about 5.30am hoping for two things; a wind free ride and some pics of Lance Armstrong, who would be riding his first tour. My wobbly ride to the start put paid to the wind free idea but getting some pics of Armstrong proved relatively easy despite the “media frenzy” that surrounded him. Imagine the world’s biggest cycling superstar at the world’s largest cycle race and you get the picture, or at least I did. One out of two aint bad.
Once the leading group had gone off I spent the next couple of hours (I can only enter the route after 8am) taking pics of the start and searching desperately for the Pick n Pay tent which in earlier years provided an early morning snack and juice for hungry cyclists and photographers. But the wind, or the recession, put paid to that. The wind also put paid to most of the branding that usually decorates the start area. The consoling factor for most, especially those who rode last year’s tour was that compared to the gale force winds of 2009 this year’s southeaster seemed like a breeze.
I finally hit the route and played chicken with the southeaster every time I got off to take some pics. The spectators weren’t daunted by the south ester, hardy folk the Capetonians who come out each year to support and the thousands of friends and family who travelled down south to cheer on their kids, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, lovers and others. Most set up camp on route, be it on couches, the back of a bakkie, a beer tent, a trailer or deck chair, they get comfortable and make a day of it. They’re out there stocked up with a days worth of picnicking and they essentially make the event what it is. 35 000 cyclists cycling 110km around the Cape Peninsula, and thousands more showing their appreciation and having fun at the same time.
I particularly enjoyed the Kalk Bay Main Road, which was closed to most traffic. Cyclists went over Boyes Drive while I was diverted to the Main Road. The kids had taken over with their skateboards, bikes and roller blades reminding me of Israel on the their day of atonement, when most Israelis stay off the usually manic streets, leaving it clear for the kids to take over with their unmotorised means of transport.
Back to the route and besides dodging a baboon nonchalantly crossing the road near Cape Point I enjoyed a leisurely ride to the finish, stopping regularly to photograph and enjoy the views which I never tire of. Maybe I’ll dust off my bike one day.