Words by Rupert Wertheimer
I started my South African adventure with a gentle acclimatization ride ** to Simon’s Town and back to get myself familiarized with the geography of Cape Town (CT) and get the legs spinning again. It’s a pretty flat 50k reach out and back down the Eastern side of the peninsula. Southerly winds mean it can be a bit of a push out but then you get the joy of those winds chasing you on the return.
For those who are geographically challenged (like me) CT is a great place to ride, as long as you know where the mountain (Table Mountain) is, you can’t go too far wrong. I managed a whole week’s riding without a proper map and just a few map screen shots on my phone to get me round so if I can do it, anyone can.
** All rides started from Kenilworth in the Southern Suburbs behind Table Mountain.
Decided to get a little more adventurous with a stretch down to Simon’s Town then up and over the peninsular (via Red Hill) to Kommetjie. The Western side of the Cape (certainly further south) has a more rugged feel to it and the ride up to Kommetjie takes you though Misty Cliffs, riding through the ocean spray along an amazing coast line. From Kommetjie it’s a reasonably easy stretch back up to the Southern suburbs and all in all managed a 77k jaunt.
Now things began to get interesting. Headed out through Constantia up though a stunning woodland climb up and over the peninsula to Hout Bay. With the wine lands around you, Table Mountain off to your right, and good tarmac it really is a beautiful ride to Hout Bay. Fortunately at a café (didn’t manage to try the cake menu I’m afraid so can’t comment on that) managed to meet up with a rider (Flynt from Islington CC) who’d grown up in CT who kindly guided me back to the Southern Suburbs and took me on a stunning route home. There are cyclists galore in Hout Bay, the start to Chapman’s Peak, so looks like I’ve found cycling mecca as far as CT goes.
Seeing as the ride to Hout Bay is so stunning, decided to head back up and over the peninsula again and this time take on Chapman’s Peak (thanks Nick – great suggestion). It’s not particularly long or steep but is a wonderful steady climb up along the coastline with little traffic and fantastic views.
From the top of Chapman’s Peak what follows is a fabulous descent hugging the coastline, under rocky cuttings, round sheer rock face hairpins to the bottom. It’s then a gentle ride through Noordhoek then a cut up the M64 back up and over the peninsula.
The M62 was an absolute beast and practically broke me. Having not fed at all en-route (had been hoping for a nice café at the top of Chapman’s Peak to refuel), this road became a major struggle. The M64 is a long steady climb up to just over 1,000 feet along busy road to the top. Whilst my legs were rather broken (Lowell – your “shut up crazy legs” did spring to mind) there was a fast and fabulous descent back towards CT and then with almost no energy left in my legs, a ride back through the stunning wine lands of Constantia back home to Kenilworth.
My client who’d recommended the Argus suggested a lot of people meet early morning to do the first part of the Argus route. Having ridden 4 days running, I decided to have a rest day so I’d be fresh and ready for the Argus, so can’t give you any info on this I’m afraid.
Day 6 – Race Day!
The Argus! This is the largest cycle race in the world with 35,000 riders including 4,500 international cyclists. The logistics of organizing this race must be immense but the South African organisers did a fantastic job. This was my first closed road race and I couldn’t wait to get going.
The race is 109k starting with a climb up Edinburgh Drive up and out to the top of CT. From there it’s a gentle down hill to the east coast of the Cape through Muizenberg, Fish Hoek and on towards Simon’s Town. This section is famous for the Southerly winds but fortunately they’re pretty light today.
The atmosphere is fantastic and carnival like with DJ’s and bands en-route along with masses of fans encouraging people along. From Simon’s Town (famous for the African penguin colony, cue, couple of blokes dressed as penguins), its then down and round the bottom of the Cape. It’s a bit up hill & windy but soon you’re out into the wilds and once around the bottom of the Cape one cycles back up towards CT, passing “Borat” dressed in a lime green mankini shouting “jagshermash” at all the cyclist, he’s bit of a local legend and is out every year apparently. Then it’s on though the amazing Misty Cliffs and up though Noordhoek and on to the infamous Chapman’s Peak. I made a decision before the ride I wanted to achieve a respectable time but also to enjoy it so with the scenery being so fabulous, just had to stop and take a couple of photos on the way up.
From the top of Chapman’s Peak (“Chappies” to the local’s it seems) it’s a superb fast decent in to the beautiful Hout’s Bay. With fantastic open roads & good tarmac I find myself clocking 60kph without scaring myself too senseless (I managed to clock a new PB on the first section of 70 kph so I dread to think what speed some of my fellow Baroudeurs would have made it to).
From there on it’s a steady ride towards the final climb of the day up Suikerbossie. Can’t say it was my favourite climb of the day but managed to get up with an encouraging shout of from a fella from Zimbabwe “….come on Rupert (our name are on our race numbers), we started together, we’re nearly there, push on”.
From the top of Suikerbossie it’s another fast descent and then onto the final run to the finish. This was really exciting, I’d managed my pace well so still had enough power in my legs to make a fast push for the finish, it’s closed roads, there’s a helicopter hovering by and doing low fly by “TDF style” filming all the action, and on the flat my legs are pumping away and managing to hold 40kph all the way to the finish. My neighbour (Aram in Kenilworth) had advised to get in behind a tandem on the hills and straights – couldn’t believe how fast they were so managed to get in behind a small peloton hanging on the back of a tandem and hold in for the final dash to Sea Point and over the finish line.
My official race time was 4:20:53 with an average of 25.07kph, which I was delighted with and better than I hoped for. I feel very grateful and privileged to have had the opportunity to come and ride around CT and in particular to do the Argus race. If you get the opportunity to do the Argus, it won’t be the toughest race you’ve done (unless you’re a masochist, then there is an option to do two laps provided you complete the first lap sub 3:15) but you are riding in a truly special race with beautiful scenery and a fantastic atmosphere (oh, and riding in c. 25C certainly beats riding at home when it’s snowing!).
A massive thanks to my hosts Mark & Seona Campbell. Mark (friend of my Mother’s from when she lived in Cape Town over 40 years ago) did a wonderful job of getting information about cycling in CT and rallying his neighbour, Arum, to help. Sadly Mark was diagnosed with cancer the week before I arrived and had to go to hospital the day after I arrived for major surgery. It was a huge shame not to have been able to spend more time together and I greatly wish him a speedy recovery.
His wife, Seona, was absolutely fantastic, particularly at what was such a difficult time. I can’t thank her enough for being so welcoming, helpful and a great companion for two weeks helping out, giving me the low down on Cape Town and just generally making my stay so great.
A big thank you goes to the Campbell’s neighbour, Arum, who was a huge help getting me to the Expo to collect my race pack and getting me to and from the race. Arum started to 6 minutes behind me and managed to catch me at 34km, whilst I tried to jump on the back I knew I couldn’t maintain the pace and had to back off otherwise I knew I wouldn’t have the legs to finish.
My thanks also to Simon Turner who is a client from work, who introduced me to the race and flew down from Johannesburg to complete the race, enjoy a good pre race lunch and an excellent post race dinner.