My Cycle Tour: memorial to a brave boy

Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing (File)
Think of me on Sunday in 8E ... that might sound promisingly like a well-front-of-wing, business-class seat on an aircraft. But I’m in “cattle”, make no mistake, smack at the back of the proverbial bus.

Only I’m referring to my lowly seeding, quite understandably, for a first-time assault on the iconic Cape Town Cycle Tour.

“Ooh, media entry?” one of my mates had exclaimed optimistically. “Maybe they’ll bump you up a few groups.” (After all, my profession is supposedly right up there amidst the free-lunch brigade in life.)

They didn’t.

And I am far from unhappy about that: a bit of an “earn your strips” sort of devotee, graft doggedly for them is pretty much what I plan to do in my maiden sampling of the 35 000-strong event ... even if I am setting off amidst the possibly less-than-Robbie-Hunter-like last couple of thousand in the vast field.

“Look at it this way,” said my sage-like, infinitely higher-seeded friend Spike after learning of the 10:00, full-sunshine (assuming it’s a nice day) start facing me, “you should overtake a helluva lot of people, which will make you feel good.”

I so nearly interjected: “And if I don’t?”

The other “advantage”, I guess, is that I get considerably more of a Sunday lie-in ... albeit that I may be awoken anyway by the buzz surrounding the elite 06:15 starters flashing past Paradise Motors on the M3 near my Newlands home only minutes later than that. (Might it be a mildly demoralising occurrence, coming way before we even heave my bike into the bakkie and head toward town?)

Still, my faithful long-time training partner and pal Steph, doing just his own second tour, sets off only 24 minutes ahead of me from the Foreshore, so my first mini-target on Sunday - don’t tell him of this extraordinarily ingenious plan -- will simply be to haul him in.

Might it be at Smitswinkel? Suikerbossie? A dramatic (well, to us anyway) sprint finish? Perhaps more pertinently, will it be at all?

There are bigger questions for both of us to address, of course ... like have we done enough training?

Well, how much is enough?

All I know is that we have faithfully ticked off early-morning Sunday rides together for several months, and supplemented them individually with a shorter, midweek “top-up” spin or two - for example, I have developed a penchant for Tuesday night MTB rides on the Constantia Green Belt, including a few pretty intense bursts of uphill leg-work on dry, crumbly jeep track.

Initially, we were pretty chuffed with ourselves if our Sunday industry got us from Mouille Point to the top of Suikerbossie and back, then we expanded our horizons to take in top of Chappies as well, then down to Noordhoek to facilitate the return climb up the big hump …

By the time we pretty much closed our training accounts last weekend, we had completed a couple of 70km-plus rides. (Mandatorily, of course, still sneaking in a coffee stop on the way home at a notably cyclist-popular establishment in Bakoven.)

I was happy to leave it at that, prepared to involve an element of mystery to that “final third” of required kilometres my body and mind will need to muster, come Tour day - they do say pure adrenaline, the mass bonhomie and spectator cajolement gives you that vital dose of “extra”.

But I will be relying on an altogether more poignant and important power, too ... one that I hope will suitably spur me even through a stiff south-easter in the event that the Cape Doctor rears its unwelcome head.

My first Cycle Tour at the relatively advanced age of almost 53 will also serve as a personal memorial to 13-year-old Nicholas Lemke, son of my sportswriter colleague and friend Gary Lemke, who died a few weeks ago.

Nicholas was a spirited, happy and loving boy - remembered with much affection by my own children - despite grappling various health-related issues at times, and had enjoyed three seizure-free years until he succumbed to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).

With the approval of Marina Clarke, national director of Epilepsy South Africa, dad Gary has helped tee up “The Nicholas Project”, aimed specifically as a legacy initiative promoting awareness of the condition among the youth.

Strictly non-profit, an account for donations has been created for The Nicholas Project by Epilepsy SA. It will be audited, so Gary and family can see exactly where every rand has come from.

Anonymity is naturally fine, though those donors willing to are asked to include an email address to enable the organisation to thank them, and provide feedback on the uses of their kind contributions.

These are the bank details: Absa, acc no 4077133143 (branch code 632005), ref: The Nicholas Project.

Your generosity will be my resolve-aiding pedal-power up those various pesky climbs on Sunday, but so much more than that ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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