Words & Photos: Chris Hitchcock, Photosport
Have you ever watched a cycling race on TV or, more accurately, listened to the commentary? The top riders glide along, seemingly going uphill with hardly any effort at all and without fail, the commentators will use the cliché that the riders are ‘dancing on the pedals’. In a way, what you are watching is very much like a dance.
Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock
The form of the race leaders, the elite of the elite, can be likened to the Argentinian tango; aggressive yet controlled, elegant and fluid, while the slightly slower vets and sub vets are performing a foxtrot and quickstep combo. Meanwhile, Joe Average (that’s you and me) is huffing and puffing away at the back of the field doing what can best be described as a highly creative version of the funky chicken. Back there amongst the hoi polloi it’s all flapping elbows, whirling legs and laughter. And yes, we are laughing. Laughing at each other as much as at our collective ability to expend an awful lot of energy to travel a short distance slowly. The Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour seems to produce an above average number of funky chickens.
For some reason, the Cycle Tour has the ability to bring out the party animal in most people. It’s an annual excuse to celebrate the greatness in ourselves. To be a hero for a day. And to show off our beloved Cape Peninsula to the world.
People, who are normally sober office workers during the week, turn into fancy dressing, charity supporting, fun riders for the day. They may share the same route as the pro riders (who will have finished the race and had breakfast before most riders have even started), but their experience of the event will be very different, and probably all the better for it.
Half the field are decked out in fancy dress, either for their own fun and amusement or to support a favourite charity, while the other half are lycra clad in an infinite array of corporate branded kit. It’s a colourful, noisy, action packed and just plain old-fashioned fun day out. It is what makes the Cycle Tour such a great spectacle.
Small wonder then that the route is lined with tens of thousands of spectators who see this as an annual social event that has to be planned down to the finest detail. Spots next to the route are chosen, and jealously guarded, for best wind protection and views. Portable skottle braais produce the most delicious smells that waft over the route, and most importantly, well-stocked cooler boxes are on hand to stave off the constant threat of dehydration and sobriety.
Then there is the noise. It comes at you almost non-stop, as a rider. Vuvuzelas, cow bells (seriously), whistles, people screaming and shouting support and the constant noise of tyres humming on tarmac and freewheel hubs going brrrrrrrrrrrr. Shouts of, “Keep left,” and “Hold your line,” from riders who are obviously nervous about riding in a group fill the air and further add to the confusion. Occasionally, someone will lose his rag (it’s always a he) and swear at the hundred or so other riders in his immediate vicinity. It’s all in a day’s fun at the Cycle Tour.
Photo credit: Chris Hitchcock
Just past Kalk Bay, there is always a live band playing on the side of the road, and most major water points have live entertainment in the form of DJs, dancers and cheer leaders. There is also a famous 2 km long party from the bottom to the top of the feared Suikerbossie climb. Many a cyclist who is really battling up this last meneer of a hill has found themselves being pushed to the summit by a relay of friendly folk from the Hout Bay Republic.
Race day on Sunday, 9 March 2014 saw no surprises from the weather gods. March in the Cape is always going to be windy, so nobody should have been disappointed when that is what was on offer on race day. It was also warm. Not over the top heat-wave type warm, we have had in the past, but just the right side of comfortable for a 109 km ride around the Peninsula, with 35 000 like-minded people.
Yes, 35 000 riders! We hear that number every year, yet very few people are still awed or impressed by it. Over time, and with familiarity, we have become inured to the magnificence that is the Cycle Tour. Let’s put it into perspective and get a quick reality check then. Enter inner geek, stage left.
• If the average length of a bicycle is 1.8 metres and you lay them end to end, the queue that is formed will be 63 km long. Bliksem. That’s the distance from Johannesburg to Pretoria with 1 km of change.
• If you stack the bikes pointing towards the sky, then the okes at the top will be up in the mesosphere and experiencing a chilly, but very deadly -100 degrees C.
• If the average price of a bike is (a very conservative) R10 000, then the collective value of the machines is R35 million. But I reckon that, in the real world, you can easily double that.
Now that is impressive!
So, when you next hear that the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour is the world’s largest timed cycle race, nod your head, look impressed and make a plan to be in that number next year. Because when the Argus comes to the Cape, it’s party time.
For more information on the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour, visit www.cycletour.co.za