After all the preparation, we arrived after a good flight giving us at least six hours sleep. The hotel is excellent, the exchange rate in our favour.The weather is hot, 35°C, and the prologue warm-up ride and the prologue ride itself was set up over 8 km of undulating terrain.
We road the course before (I think this was a good idea) allowing us to know our timings and how hard to push the ride. We are allocated into groups according to our speed and not surprisingly I’m riding in Group 3.
The first day’s ride is 153 km with just under 1400 m of climb that begins and ends at the headquarters hotel. We set off and stop briefly at the Drakenstein Prison, from which Nelson Mandela was released after his open prison confinement. The ride continued and after three hours we stopped for an hour for lunch at the Domaine Brahms Wine estate. There were two racing sections and one flat. The climbing section was Helshoogte pass.
It’s a hot day and we get through litres of riding water. The highlight of the day was stopping at the Drakenstein Prison.Day two is again hot and because we have to be clear of Stellenbosch well before the traffic builds up for the day, we meet at the event hotel at 0445hrs. Our ride starts at 0515 and are riding in the dark.
We stopped for coffee at Mooiberge Farm which allows all the groups to get together and then continue on and stop for lunch at the Arabella Hotel and Spa. This is a beautiful resort and concludes our day’s riding. Although there was the option of another hundred kilometres back again the 120 km and 2000 m of climb is certainly enough for most of us – only four of group 3 carry on the ride.
Day three is a big one and involves climbing both north and south over the Franschhoek Pass. Again a hot day and this is a big ride with a lunch break at the Houw Hoek Farm.
Day four involves the so-called Festival ride – which proves to be 115 km of ride and 415 m of claim. Sadly the ride is marred by a crash when one of our police car support vehicles ploughs into the side of a turning car.
We were all very relieved when we heard that the policeman survived. This high-speed crash highlighted the vulnerability of our support vehicles.
Amongst the cyclists there were accidents but fortunately nothing too serious in group 3. A group 1 rider unfortunately collided with another with a puncture and suffered a severe head injury, and nasty skull fracture with bone and brain bruising.
Another highlight of the trip occurred on the second day – overlooking the shore when we stop to refill water bottles we see a Southern Right whale breaching. This was an extraordinary observation in an otherwise normal looking ocean.
We finish our festival ride at a central hotel in Cape Town in Cullinan Street – the Tsongas Sun with a champagne reception feeling as though we had earned it.
A couple of days off and then on Sunday the Cape Town Cycle Tour 110 km in some heat with a vicious headwind for the first 50 km around Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion Head.
I witnessed many crashes some were truly just accidents and others frank stupidity. There was an active resuscitation on one of the hills. A bit like the Prudential ride London event, not all of those taking part had trained and were fit.
The scenery and the coastal road for the Cape Town event was outstanding and the hospitality and friendliness of the game makers most impressive.
There is no doubt I would do this ride again.
One of the most amazing features of the ride (which I cannot value enough) were the motorcycle outriders and the police escort for the Hot Chilli riding in Franschhoek. Just like the cycle tour in Cape Town we were effectively riding on closed roads. It was outstanding.My Specialized Roubaix bike held up superbly, with thanks to Chris at B-Spoke servicing, my anatomy and muscle units held up and we had a great time.
Already I miss South Africa!