Another windy but amazing Argus Cycle Tour

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Having survived another very windy Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, I am relieved to say the least, but I have to confess I am still hoping for one of those peachy windless days for the race in 2011 or 2012. It is just so much tougher mentally and physically to grind it out all the way around the peninsula against a strong gusting frothing southeaster. And just when you think its all downwind from the halfway mark at Cape Point, it is so not. It curls around and hits you again at Kommetjie and even along the 12 Apostles, where a couple of times the swirling contour winds stopped me in my tracks. So it goes in Cape Town. Us locals should be used to it by now, but one always dreams of the balmy day for the Cycle Tour.

Cycle Tour Start

lead pack

start2

That said, with lessons learned from last year in gale force conditions, it all went according to plan, apart from minor injuries here and there. I must say that the Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour certainly is quite an incredible event. The detail and the organization is seriously impressive, making it such a seamless and pleasant experience all round: from the entry process to the expo, the race start handling 30 000 plus people without a hitch, the route with all its markings, marshals and more. Wow! Well done to the team at the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust.

I also had the pleasure of doing some training last week with some international entrants, who were out here for a conference that coincided the Cycle Tour nicely. They all said that they enjoyed it immensely, some just cruising on hybrid bikes that they rented from us, others on their own bikes they brought all the way from Europe. Quite hard to not enjoy such a spectacle if one is vaguely intrigued by cycling. Especially considering the vibe on the day, from the legendary breakdancing crew on the startline (wow!) to the droves of supporters all along the route, especially on Edinburgh Drive, Simonstown, Ocean View, Noordhoek and Suikerbossie hill.

Argus kids

Argus late afternoon

Argus 063

As usual the skottel braais were serving up the tantalizing smells of boerewors, fried eggs and the like (kills me every time). One of my favourite spectators was the lady on the spinning bike at the top of Suikerbossie. Then to the competitors, their bikes, and their outfits: where to start? There was everything you can imagine: old classics like 80′s helmets, single speed fixie bikes, unicycles with 2m high wheel (imagine balancing on that into the southeaster), clowns, school uniform (including blazer), ladybirds, lion kings, fairies, and and. It was all happening on the Cape Peninsula yesterday. An all day show. And hats off to the local supporters who were out there all day, shouting, blowing Vuvuzelas, clanging cowbells and shouting till they were hoarse. Awesome stuff!

Argus supporters

Argus supporters 2

More support

Why do the cyclists do it? A variety of reasons. It has become a bit of a thing that one just does if you live in Cape Town. And even if you don’t live here, the attraction has grown strong, especially since the popularity of the race has grown. Some ride for times (sub 3/4/5 hours), others ride for fun, and some ride for charities. Riders raise money for any good causes: Lance for cancer, Sabrina Love for physically disabled kids, Starfish Foundation for AIDS orphans, and many others. After I finished I headed to find my people who were hanging out with the support crew of the riders raising money for the David Rattray Foundation, who had traveled all the way from deepest KZN to be here. They stoically sat on the roadside from dawn until almost dusk, waiting for their riders to emerge from the never ending line of cyclists whizzing by, with just 5kms to go. We had a few beers and a few snacks. And the visual entertainment of the constant stream is endless.

One classic supporter chirp that I heard kind of sums it up: “Go for it man, Lance is just around the corner with a puncture!”

Chapmans Peak

Chapmans Peak Drive Finish

This report from IOL online:
“Cyclists and organisers have lauded this year’s 33rd Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour as one of the best ever. Sunday’s Cycle Tour proved to be kinder to cyclists than last year’s race, although the dreaded south-easter threatened briefly. About 30 500 cyclists, including high-profile international riders, set out in conditions that at first threatened a repeat of last year, which saw several cyclists swept off their bikes by gale force winds. But many riders were pleasantly surprised as the day progressed and the wind subsided.

Stephen Hayward, chairman of the Pedal Power Association, said that the event had been “fantastically organised”. Hayward, who took part in the race, said there were “a few scares” that the construction and road works at the start and finish lines would not be completed in time, and that the winds would be problematic.”But just from mingling with cyclists at the start line, people were asking how they could manage to pull off an event like this.” Hayward said that he had spoken to an Italian cyclist who praised the event. “She was saying that there was no way they could pull off such a huge event in Italy. You couldn’t even get the roads closed for an event like this there,” he said. She also said the views were wonderful.

Co-director of the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust David Bellairs said the event’s success was a result of the “incredible team work”, and because of the fact that the residents of Cape Town who lived along the route had come out in support of the cyclists.

It was a morning of high drama as the first group of elite pro-riders set out from Hertzog Boulevard, with cycling legend and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong among the early pacesetters. Armstrong set off at a good pace, supporting his teammate South African Daryl Impey. The race gained momentum when the pair formed part of a breakaway group of 12 riders around Misty Cliffs, where strong winds gave the group an advantage.

Keeping a constant pace in the breakaway group, Malcolm Lange timed his sprint perfectly, taking the gap about 150m from of the finish line to win the race. Lange, 36, from Joburg, riding for Team Medscheme, finished in two hours 39 minutes and 55 seconds. Lange was followed by Christoff van Heerden, 25, from Benoni and Impey, 25, who hails from Johannesburg. Armstrong finished in ninth position. For Lange, competing against Armstrong had made this Cycle Tour memorable. He said he considered it to be one of his best races. “It was Lance, Lance all the way… I’ve never seen so many people on the route before so maybe he should come out every year,” said Lange.

Anriette Schoeman, 32, came out tops in the women’s elite riders, followed by Robyn de Groot and Catherine Williamson.

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