Friday 18 March 2011

Posted by Velouria Posted on 11:22 | 1 comment

The Argus - 2011

The annual Cape Argus Cycle Tour is more than just a bike race, it is a Cape institution. Like pilgrims to Mecca, it attracts cyclists from all over  South Africa, and once a year cycling takes over the streets of Cape Town.

Often called the Fun Ride World Champs, it is the yardstick by which all cyclists are measured. Forget about the Tour de France, or Paris-Roubaix - win The Argus and you have a lifetime's worth of bragging rights. It's the one title seven times Tour De France winner and former World Champ Lance Armstrong so desperately wanted to win before retiring but could only manage a lowly 9th place. It's the one blemish in an otherwise outstanding palmar├Ęs.
Lance could only manage 9th place in 2010.
The Cape Argus isn't just a 110km bike ride - it's an experience that starts the previous week with Grape Escape and Argus Mountain Bike Challenge. With those out of the way, it's off to the Life Cycle Expo for registration, although registration is only a small part of what happens at the Good Hope Centre. The Expo caters for those last minute must have purchases, the impulse buys, the "ride you fastest Argus ever" supplements, and the "never to be seen again" discounts. It gives each cyclist the opportunity to suss out the competition, to show off their (freshly) shaved legs, and to be the center of attention for 30 seconds as they receive their race pack. For one week, it is all about the bike.
The secret is out.
The 13th of March dawned - Race Day, and after two years of rather atrocious weather, we were greeted with possibly the best cycling weather the Cape has seen in months. While this is great for cycling 110kms around the Cape peninsula, us locals feel a little hard done by. We've had to endure months and months of howling South Easters, and now all the visitors to the Cape think we have perfect weather all the time, and that we live in a cycling Utopia. Well, we don't, and we've certainly had to pay our dues to the cycling gods.
Our puncture competition opposition dishing out the pain.
From I-FELT-the-FORCE on the Hub.
From our usual parking spot near the SARS building (they are open at 5:30 in the morning, and will let you use the toilet - our tax money hard at work) we got ready for what would be our 15th Argus in a row. While the nerves might be a little calmer than they were in 1997, several nervous visits to the SARS building were required before I headed off to line to join the Not-So-Young-Racing-Snakes category, who this year had the honour of riding with the racing ladies. The air was crisp and smelled of the sea, punctuated by the smell of the Porta Potty's and excessive deodorant. I'm pretty sure several Sub Vet riders saw this as an opportunity to pick up a hot racing lady. The only catch being that many of the racing ladies were probably faster than most of the Sub Vets.
Another Argus start.
At 6:24 we were off, and at roughly 6:32 we had our first crash in the bunch. Nothing serious, but enough for the air to be filled with the smell of brakes, melting rubber and bruised egos. Twenty minutes later we had another crash on the Blue Route and the smell of rotting garden waste from a nearby tip was blended with grazed skin and testosterone, but thankfully no one was seriously hurt. This would be the pattern in an otherwise uneventful circuit around the Peninsula - everyone watching everyone else, and the rest of us only too grateful to still be in the bunch.
When roadies crash, they crash properly.
We rode up Chapman's Peak like it was flat, the fresh sea smells mixing nicely with the body odour of the rider in front of me and before we knew it we were on the lower slopes of the dreaded Suikerbossie. A haze of bacon and eggs and boerewors rolls hung in the air as we rudely whizzed past the spectators enjoying their breakfast. With the usual suspects all around me - Craig, Marius, Zayin - we made it over the top after a brief 30 second scare as we scrambled to get onto the wheels ahead of us, but we needn't worried - the race was going to go down to a sprint finish 14kms away in front of Cape Town Stadium.
The Sub Vets and Ladies sprint finish
As the dedicated riders that we are, Craig and I decided to get some TV time for our sponsors by going to the front and taking a turn. It sounded like a great plan until we actually got to the front and realised just how much effort was required, and also noticed that the TV cameraman was more interested in filming the scenery of the coastline than the two 5339 riders on the front. Our turn done we disappeared back into the obscurity of the bunch, now just interested in getting to the line in one piece. Just when we thought there was nothing more to worry about, Craig had a slight tumble, safely falling on top of a hay bale and another rider. A short scramble later we were back in the bunch and crossing the finish line in a time of 2h49:59.
Apparently he didn't lose a bet!
The Dulux ladies had been rather coy about their target time, downplaying any suggestions of a personal best. A quick two-women time trial later they managed to cross the line in an amazing time of 3h30, convincingly beating most of the names on their list of nemeses (Nadine, The Runner, and Lexi).
The Famous Argus Cool Down Beer Run.
Craig and I embarked on our post Argus cool down, which entails having a beer in Kalk Bay, another in Glen Cairn, lunch and a beer in Noordhoek, pushing some struggling cyclists up Chapman's Peak, one last beer in Hout Bay, and pushing some other struggling cyclists up Suikerbossie. It's at the back where the true Argus is ridden - the weekend warriors relying a little too heavily on muscle memory and regretting the lack of training, battling the wind, the gradients, their ill fitting cycling shorts, their heavy and poorly serviced bicycles and each other - all with grit and sheer determination. To us it's just a medal, but to them it is an achievement and that is why we all keep on coming back for more. Bring on 2012.
Two cyclists who got rather side tracked in a pub in Glen Cairn.

1 comment :

  1. Great looking kit! Wish I had been there for the beers.