David Moseley

Get on your bike

2014-10-01 08:47

David Moseley

Last Friday the entries to the Cape Town Cycle Tour, the event that’s more commonly known as "The Argus", opened and closed within eight hours. There was some grumbling on social media about the name change (and from people unable to get in. But that’s life), particularly one gentleman who wondered how he could now participate in “The Argus” with his kids if the name had changed.

I started writing back to him, to tell him that it hasn’t been officially called “The Argus” for some time and that he could still ride the event with his children, but then realised that a man who thought a name change changed the nature of the entire race is a man not worth enlightening.

Sorry. I’m just being mean. I know the name means a lot to people, and cyclists of a certain ilk are very quick to ask “what’s your Argus time?” and “You doing Argus this year?” That won’t change overnight.

There’s a new name and a fancy new logo and so on, but the event remains the same great cycle race that so many South Africans enjoy every year. You’ll still suffer into the wind along the M3 (the Blue Route), you’ll still climb up Smitswinkel, fly into Kommetjie and then come to a grinding halt on Chapman’s Peak – unless, of course, you’re one particular participant who for years has been attempting to cut sections out of the route in the quest for a personal best.

The event organisers are on to the time cheats, but this fella gave the race officials all the help they needed one year by appearing on Chappies just behind the professional riders and slightly in front of the next batch. Not an impossibility, but highly suspicious when the only timing mat he’d crossed was at the start.

As the organisers of the Cycle Tour explained it to me, the sight of a lone cyclist wobbling up Chapman’s Peak in front of a determined racing peleton was quite amusing. Especially when Mr Course Cutter had to pull over and let them pass, hunching over on the side of the road to recuperate from his efforts to stay in front of the speedy pack. He won’t be riding next year because he’s now banned for life.

That being said, it’s close to what I may have to do if I ever want to achieve my one Cycle Tour goal – legitimately beating my wife to the finish.

The only time I’ve managed this is when the chain ring on her bike mysteriously stopped working at the start and I left her there to walk home while I enjoyed a victory of sorts. But that’s one hollow success from six attempts. Even after our honeymoon, where we’d resolved to return to Cape Town and enjoy the ride as a scenic tour of the Cape before marriage-proper began, she dropped me on the first climb and, I swear, turned around and stuck her tongue out at me as she sped off. The next time I saw her was in a beer tent with four empty Black Label bottles at her feet.

It’s a great event administered with the right spirit. I won’t bore you with nation-building rhetoric and say how it brings many different people together, but what it does do is allow people to achieve something they never previously thought possible.

Last year I was standing on the finish line with my wife, one or two pros and a handful of race officials. We’d just seen the last rider arrive seconds before the cut-off gun was fired. There were no spectators and the bright blue day had passed into a grey city sunset; wind blowing litter and sand across the line added to the post-party gloom. In the background scaffolding clanked as it was being packed away.

In the distance our small group noticed a lone cyclist chugging along, a young woman battling into the breeze on the home stretch with no crowds to cheer her over the line. She’d just missed the official cut-off, but crossed the line anyway and then burst into tears as we started clapping. She was worried that her mom had left and there was no one there to take her home; her phone battery had also died.

David Bellairs, the Cape Town Cycle Tour Trust’s marketing and communications director (essentially a race director, too), ran off to find her a jersey and returned with a medal too. Her face lit up; and her mom appeared from around the corner. She’d been standing out of the wind, watching her daughter finish. Another satisfied Cycle Tour customer.

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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