Cycle Tour: Diary of 52-year-old rookie

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Rob Houwing training for the Cape Town Cycle Tour on Chapman's Peak ... (Twitter)
Rob Houwing training for the Cape Town Cycle Tour on Chapman's Peak ... (Twitter)

There is going to have to be an awful lot of “muscle memory”, is all I can say.

The last time I cycled somewhere around 100km in a day, I was a 17-year-old schoolboy accompanying a classmate - these days resident in distant Tasmania - on an adventure during the holidays from Cape Town to Cape Agulhas.

Our round trip took us four or five days, at roughly the aforementioned distance each day, and I remember surprisingly little of it, save for the fact that we a little bizarrely and hardly weight-efficiently carried a motorbike battery with us to power a communal Walkman, with a long, sound-linking cable flapping in novel manner between our bicycles.

Ant, later to become an electrical engineer, felt we were achieving something quite revolutionary for innovation, though I was smart enough to suggest he carry the burdensome battery and me the tent, plus Toppers ‘n Smash for our rather crude and monotonous dietary needs.

Oh yes, and there was my cheeky, slightly underage experience with a papsak as I roared up a hill with gusto one early evening, leaving Ant suddenly trailing spectacularly in my wake and powered by more Dutch courage than I was used to. (Yours truly wasn’t too physically flash as we regrouped for more hot tar and dust roads the next day.)

I did that ride on my first racing bike, a Carlton Chicane which I had admired for several months gleaming in the window of Soloped in Rondebosch before my parents thoughtfully forked out the required R88 for it (for whatever reason, that sum will never slip my mind) as a Christmas present.

Much, much water, of course, has trickled beneath the proverbial bridge since then ... including a great many of the previously-named “Argus Tours”, none of which I have ever entered.

My excuse for a few years, when I worked as a reporter for that very newspaper in the mid-1980s, was that on at least two occasions I had quite literally been first across the finish line: in a Weekend Argus car, along with a photographer, describing the finish of our big, headline-sponsor baby.

But yes, that’s a cop-out, and I also began to tire just a little bit in recent years of dutifully taking my children to the corner of our Newlands street annually to watch thousands of riders whizz past Paradise Motors in the fledgling stages of the famous, juggernaut event.

“Daddy, when are you going to do it?” my daughter would ask me with simplicity but hardly-concealed conviction.

Well, Daddy’s finally in ... I accepted a media entry recently from the kind Cape Town Cycle Tour 2017 public relations people, and at the princely age of 52 possibly feel just a bit like Jimmy Cook or Omar Henry did when they made South African Test debuts against India in 1992, either in or just beyond their 40th years.

In other words: “Hell, I wish I could have done this a whole lot earlier.”

Cook, of course, registered a golden duck - caught Tendulkar, bowled Kapil Dev - on that emotional, maiden appearance at Kingsmead, so if I manage to heave my way up onto Nelson Mandela Boulevard on March 12, I am going to boast that I at least “got off the mark”, as it were, in my own big-league sporting baptism.

Next time, I will tell you a bit about how my moderately conscientious training for the 109km challenge - certainly the first time I will have been amidst some 35 000 souls in a sports event - has been going.

Until then, if any less-than-hardcore, prior Tour finishers wish to tweet me short, sharp event-related survival tips of any kind, based on their personal experiences, feel free to do so to the Twitter handle below, and I will publish ones that seem particularly useful.  

What should I carry with me on race day? Where should I be in training terms right now? How should I treat particular sections? What fluids and nibbles do you most recommend?

Is it daft to do it on a mountain bike (I plan to)? How do I handle a raging south-easter? Will I handle a raging south-easter?

This ageing Tour novice is keen to know all these things ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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