Undoubtedly the world’s most beautiful race, strung out along both coastlines of Cape Town, where Table Mountain serves up a breath taking view to the start of the mountain range running down to the Cape Peninsula. The Cape Argus Cycle race skirts along the eastern side of this range before turning back along some of the most spectacular views on the west coast.
Bays of white sand are lapped at by the blue sea, rugged rock faces rise above and plunge below the road encasing the rider in views so breath taking you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the reason you’re out of breath and not the fact that the steady climb up Chapman’s Peak is taking its toll. Especially when packed into the racing end of the event with a deadline to make it back before the last group starts on the road.
Essentially that was what a handful of riders were chasing – the opportunity to ride a double lap of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour, a 110km timed ride on closed roads. Attracting the largest number of participants in the world, close to 35,000 start the ride in waves, thus needing over 3.5hrs to send everyone off. This was our deadline to be back at the start to take advantage of the closed roads and the chance to soak up the spectacular views a second time.
Garnering the nickname “Cape of Storms,” there’s a 50/50 chance of good weather on the day, something I was half dreading given we were in the throws of winter back in the UK and melting into the tarmac was not something I was keen on. Thankfully the weather gods delivered a 60km SE wind accompanied by a bearable 26 degree maximum, weather I could just about relate to, but more importantly a wind direction which benefited my race strategy perfectly.
As spur of the moment decisions go, this has to be one of my top contenders. Surfing social media late one Tuesday evening, up pings an invite from a good friend in Cape Town to attend a charity function with Eddie Merckx on the same weekend as the Cape Argus, just 10 days away! “Let me sleep on it” I say without realising that the land of nod was not to be an option until I had investigated the possibility. At 2am I thought what the heck how often do you go to an event where Eddie Merckx is signing jerseys? I could hear Peter Kay’s voice in my head in one of his skits where he was shopping for holidays on TellyText (yes them were the days) “Booked it, packed it, fooked off”. So there I was booked to fly a week later with an entry to the Womans’ Elite Race and a pass to ride a second time.
Race training is not on the plan for this year – long, slow, steady with cake stops about sum up my efforts for this years training to race the 6,800km TransAm Bike Race across America. Fast and hard are about as alien as a Penny Farthing winning the Tour de France. All I needed was to hide in a fast group until the first big climb after which I would have a tailwind all the way to the finish (thus being grateful for the South Easter that was blowing on the day).
I am happy to say, the plan came together and while I was not in contention to place anywhere near the top of the womans’ race, I hammered out an average of 34kph to make it round on “Lap 1” in 3h13 (a PB), thus getting me back to the start-line for Lap 2. I can safely say I did not notice any scenery on Lap 1.
Picking up Amy who was struggling on her own having raced with me on Lap 1, we collected a goodie bag from my sister on route, which included my Contour camera and proceeded to do a two up TT into the headwind out to Cape Point. Amy was pedalling round to where she was staying and we were equally gratefully for being able to work together into the wind and of course to give a wheel to several riders trying to hide from the wind.
Now was the chance to absorb the views and to record some of the route and riders. Panning shots of the scenery as we cruised along the sea front, capturing riders in fancy dress or the sheer numbers going up some of the climbs. I was looking forward to showing off the Cape Argus in all its glory, showing the essence of the ride – where no matter what bike you’re on or what shape you’re in, everyone can ride the Cape Argus. What I hadn’t accounted for was the small blob of food which had adhered to the lens when I put it into my goodie bag.
So not being able to backup my claim to this being the most beautiful race in the world – you’ll just have to get out there and experience it for yourself.
My experience was topped off with ViP hospitality from Tsonga Sun, where I had checked my sister in as a guest and arrived to find her ensconced with all the lovely folk from Hotchillee, quaffing bubbly (as one should) and well and truly adopted as part of the family. Starting with Oxtail ravioli, I moved onto a dinner sized plate of salad before wolfing down a Fillet Mignon with risotto and finished up by punctuating the feeding frenzy with some little cake type things. Of course the heat had dehydrated me somewhat and the Pongratz (a great South African bubbly) did wonders to quench my thirst and numb the soreness in my legs. So a huge thanks to David Bellairs (the incredible organiser) for sorting my last minute, double entry with hospitality and to my wonderful sister Sam, who drops everything to run around making a trip back to the Cape truly worthwhile.
Lap 1: 3h13
Lap 2: 4h15 (with a tea and cake stop)
Placing: 22nd womans’ elite race, 38/5800 woman, 4th in age group.
Total ride time on Garmin: 7h26
Strava QOM: Llandudno to Sea Point