Written by guest blogger and cyclist – Andrea Levitt
My journey began this time last year when I stood at the finish line waiting for my family and friends to finish cycling The Argus. The vibe was amazing, cheering and screaming and there I stood knowing I was a runner and I would NEVER get on a bicycle.
That was then…and on Sunday I rode my first Cape Town Argus. As every runner will tell you at some point in their life injury happens and we need to look for an alternate adrenalin boost or we’ll drive ourselves crazy. I tried swimming… and realized I wasn’t nearly fit enough. One length and I was exhausted. I tried going to yoga every day….but there’s no adrenalin in that. And then my running partner (who’s a triathlete) suggested cycling and there I was learning to ride a bicycle after having not been on one in 20 years and having sworn to myself that I never would go on one again!
I and 7 of my girlfriends, all runners, took to the roads on our two wheelers. Well, first we took to the grass areas at the park, then to the sidewalk and finally after a number of stumbles and falls, we braved the roads with the 100s of Capetonian cyclists in their lycra padded gear and bicycles which cost more than my car. This was a completely different world to the world of running. A world where one would cycle only far enough to stop for coffee and a muffin and only those few kms extra if there was a race coming up. And the big race was looming…
In the past 4 months I had cycled races with between 500 and 4000 participants, between distances of 45 km – 108km, in pouring rain and in 46 degrees Celsius heat, yet nothing prepared me for the 09th of March – winds of up to 55 km and over 30 000 people participating. I woke to the howling wind and contemplated not getting out of bed, but I am so glad that I did.
The race atmosphere at the start was nervous and excited and many people were blown off their bikes even before the start line. Yet, once we hit the first stretch, and got chatting to the cyclists next to you and the hundreds of supporters along the way, you knew why this was the world’s largest timed cycling race and why people came from all over the world to do it. We had a windy cycle for the first 45km from Cape Town city center to Cape Point, but there were people standing on all the bridges and alongside the roads screaming and cheering, holding signs up for their family or friends or even their school teachers. Cheerleaders standing on the side of the roads giving the men motivation to keep climbing. The cycle continued from Cape Point down into Scarborough and Misty Cliffs – by far my favourite part of the cycle. Absolutely beautiful, pristine, untouched nature and clear turquoise seas. It was no wonder people were getting off their bikes to take photographs. We continued from here through Ocean View area, where we cycled through township areas where the children would run next to you, singing and cheering. From here into Noordhoek where home bands had plugged into an amp and sang and played music with everyone dancing and cheering. There were folks running next to you and giving you that extra push or sitting on their lounge suits with cooler boxes of drinks and the braai (barbecue) sizzling behind them. A number of cyclists got off their bikes and ate a nice piece of steak or drank a beer before getting back on their bikes and continuing. And then we hit it – the dreaded Chapmans Peak Drive (AKA Chappies) the long climb, where no supporters can get to and all of a sudden it’s quiet with only the huffing of your fellow cyclists and the sound of the wind in the trees. Luckily for all of us…the wind finally paid off…blowing from behind and pushing us up the treacherous hill. The top of Chappies had the most spectacular views, but the sense of achievement was very short-lived…a beautiful long downhill into Hout Bay to hit the bottom of the very scary Suikerbossie hill. This climb was shorter than Chappies, but much steeper. Thank goodness for the supporters on the side and the Virgin Active spinning instructor on his microphone – little does he know how his repetitive “1, 2, 1, 2, push, pull, push, pull” helped me get to the top! And this was finally it – the remaining 15km to the end, through beautiful Camps Bay, Clifton and Sea Point was the final cherry on a fantastic trip, one that only when I got to the end I realized I had been smiling like a kid the entire way!
There was no feeling of race or competition during the cycle (Obviously I was nowhere near the front), this “race” was correctly named a “cycle tour”. It was a gathering of thousands of cyclists who just wanted to get together, roll around the beautiful Cape peninsula and have a good time! It was a phenomenally organized event with massive refreshment stations, medic tents and cycle repair units all along the route. I finished the race and a friend asked if I was going to sell my bike and focus again on my running. My response – How soon can I sign up for next year’s Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Momentum cycle tour!