The Tortoise and the Hare - Cape Argus Cycle Tour

It was with great excitement and only a little trepidation that the Exodus duo of Andy Ross and Andrew Appleyard set off to Cape Town for the 37th Cape Argus Cycle Tour. This annual tour is the world’s largest timed cycle event, with as many as 35,000 riders challenging themselves on the hilly 109km route. Although both experienced cyclists, Andy and Andrew had very different goals for the event…

Andy Ross – the hare

Just to be clear, I am ‘the hare’, the supposed expert, and after a few fantastic reconnaissance rides I felt well prepared. The night before the event I took care of all of the final details; checked my bike, pumped up tyres, selected my chosen energy bars and gels and put everything out ready to pack in the morning. I even had the foresight to chill my two water bottles in the fridge, convinced that this could give me that extra edge over the competition.

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Next morning was an early start in order to shower, eat breakfast and ride the 5km down to the start line for my 6:24am start. It’s a good job I had been so well organised the night before – or so I thought. Just before entering the start pen I reached down for a drink, but all that I felt was an empty void in the bottle cage – disaster! Where were my nicely chilled bottles that were going to be the key to my success today? Still sat in the hotel fridge 5km away. In a panic I raced back to the hotel to retrieve them, weaving my way through the 35,000 other riders, all headed in the opposite direction. By some miracle, I covered the 10km round trip in record speed and was allowed into the start pen with less than 1 minute to go.

Despite the setbacks, once the race started I felt good. I was already well warmed up! In fact, I felt better than I had at any other similar event that I had ever taken part in – just maybe there is something in the way that the pros prepare themselves before every race. My day continued to get better and better, and not just because of the presence of my extra-chilled bottles. My supremely prepped muscles left me in a strange state of nirvana - the usual suffering just wasn’t there. Now, there were clearly other influences going on here. The route follows some of the world’s most beautiful coastline and I can safely say that it was the most scenic cycle ride I have ever been on. Far from detracting from this, the mass of other riders only made the experience more powerful and the atmosphere of the huge crowd lining the entire route constantly spurred me on.

Cape Argus Cycle Tour 2013_286_Photo Sam Clark_CTCTT

I felt proud to finish well up the field in a time of 2:52:55, which I’m told is respectable. But the overwhelming feeling was of satisfaction to have shared such a unique experience with so many other cyclists! Why not get training and sign up for our 2015 trip? When you get there just remember not to lose your bottle!

Andrew Appleyard – the tortoise

The wind is coming in from the Atlantic Ocean and appears to be gathering speed, I have to confess, I am beginning to get a little nervous about taking on the 109km circuit round the Cape in the morning. After a restless night, I immediately step outside and am relieved to see that the wind has abated. It’s a glorious day.  I haven’t set myself a target time for the event, arming myself with nothing but the desire to have an amazing day with 35,000 other riders, to really soak up the atmosphere around the course and to finish before I am swept up by the support vehicles. I meander through the streets of Cape Town with hundreds of others to our appointed pens and time slots. The organisation behind the scenes for such an event is immense and the roads are closed for the day with numerous volunteers from the Rotary Club acting as marshals. I think to myself that my colleague Andy Ross has probably already covered 30km of the course before I get out of the starting gate.

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The first part of the course to negotiate is Hospital Bend. I have been advised to take it nice and slowly as serious accidents happen every year. I am suddenly jolted from my thoughts by a series of loud bangs as a bike’s tyres explode right in front of me; the moral of this tale is not to over-pump your tyres! I measuredly negotiate Hospital Bend and am pleased to be on my way. Despite starting off with 2,000 other riders, we are quickly dispersed over the course.

The Cape is notorious for strong winds and I later learn that it was a 51km headwind for the first 40km, but thankfully I have tucked in with a gentle group and some tandems and we take turns at the front. I stop to take photos of the event and the scenery, and check that the ‘Go Pro’ camera I am using for the first time is working properly. There are regular drink stations and plates of cookies around the course. I naturally take advantage of all. As we finally approach the turn for home, the wind suddenly dies, but there is still 57km to go and a few climbs to negotiate. I am blown away by the awesome scenery and the waves crashing in and the realisation that, having just ridden parallel to the Indian Ocean, I am now looking at the Atlantic.

Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour 2013

I am determined to stay in the saddle on the hills and actually enjoy Chapman’s Peak in a sadistic kind of way. The same cannot be said for Suikerbossie, which has many false summits. I check my watch, mindful of the 4.15pm cut-off time. I’m pleasantly surprised by the time I’m making. Cresting the summit with just 16km to go, I pass through the little town of Camps Bay, noting the locations of some great restaurants, before finally arriving at the seafront, with the World Cup stadium in the distance and the finish line even nearer. After 6hrs and 59mins I have finished, and collect my medal and celebrate with the thousands of other happy riders. Our group has been invited to the Tsogo Sun hospitality tent, with the promise of a cold beer or three ahead. I’m not surprised to be one of the last to finish, but I am thrilled that everyone has made it round safely. Andy congratulates me – he made it round in an amazing 2 hours 53 minutes. I wonder, as the day ends, would I do it again? Well, the flights are booked, the training has started and I can hardly wait until next year.

Why not join us for the greatest timed sport event in the world? You won't regret it.

Check out the trip here.

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