2016 Cape Argus

The Cape Town Cycle Tour

Sunday 6 March 2016

Event Information


Cape Argus 2016 (now known as the Cape Town Cycle Tour) 6th March 2016

Judith and I came to Cape Town in order for me to cycle the above and then to have a holiday in South Africa. We met up in Cape Town with Majorca friends Peter (who was doing the ride) & Beryl Adams, who have a house in Knysna and we shared an apartment with them at Seapoint, which was just a couple of kilometers from the race start. My Jersey cycling friend Gus Meyer was also doing the ride and he was staying with his daughter & son in law, also at Seapoint.

Peter & I left the apartment at 06.30 after fruit & porridge and we met up with Gus at the Winchester Mansions, as agreed, at 06.35. Gus & I had the same start times (08.14) and did most of the race together, whilst Peter had an earlier start time & set off from a different gate. With 35,000 riders, the organisation needed to be & was, seriously good.

The morning was pleasantly cool with blue skies & only the faintest of breeze. We immediately headed off towards the start; only for Peter to realize that he’d left his phone behind, so he had to go back. Gus & I continued and joined a stream of cyclists all heading into the City. After a few blocks & numerous traffic lights, we came to something of a bottleneck, which saw us walking through a shopping area & towards the holding area, where only those with their cycle chips/official entrance permit & race numbers were allowed to enter. We sat around in this area for 45 minutes or so & were constantly entertained with the costumes/antics & endless variety of bikes. In the background we could hear the loudspeakers & could see the fireworks as each group set off. Gus managed to get his tyres checked and at around 7.45 we went into our ‘pen’, ready for the 08.14 departures. The official timekeeping, at the conclusion of the race would indicate it took us just over 2 minutes to get over the start line, so that my official race time, including stops, would be almost exactly 4 1/2 hours. The start, albeit slow, was quite electric & there was a wonderful atmosphere amongst all the riders, who came in all shapes & sizes and covering every age group. The cycles, included tandems, road bikes, hybrids, recumbent, folding bikes and bikes with mega fat tyres, (which looked to be designed for sand dunes rather than tarmac roads). I felt very ordinary, but also pretty fortunate as my Specialized Roubaix, lightweight carbon with skinny tyres seemed just about the perfect bike for what lay ahead.

George subsequently sent the following times off the Internet, as recorded via the transponder that was attached to my bike;

12.47.45 4:33:45 Finish
12.45.13 4:31:13 1 Km to go
10.50.44 2:36:44 60 Km
10.55 1.29.00 37 KM

My Garmin which recorded the ride (& which only records rolling time & not stops) showed;

  • 67.5 Miles
  • 16.1 Average
  • 1208 Metres of climbing
  • 4 Hours 11 Minutes

I have to say I enjoyed every minute of it and reached Simons Town (approx. 30 Kms) recording an average time of 16.9 mph before I felt the need to stop & use one of the energy gels I’d packed. This was fine, apart from the fact that I then cycled about 500 meters, around a corner & came upon a refreshment area sponsored by Pic N’Pay. A lovely lady from that Company offered to hold my bike, whilst I took a drink/used the loo or did whatever else was needed. That’s what I call service, when there are 35,000 riders out there today to be fed and watered around the 109Km course.

After Simons Town, the wind picked up somewhat as we started to head in a Southerly direction, but nothing of the sort of magnitude that the Cape is famous for and which has been known to blow people off their bikes. When we lost that wind from time to time thereafter, it was seriously hot and shade from the eucalyptus trees and cliffs became seriously welcome.

Shortly after the start, I asked a couple of young ladies on a tandem, if they took turns at the front. ‘No’ said the lead lady ‘Alice is blind’. Alice gave me a great big smile. ‘Good for you’ said I, ‘I hope you have a wonderful ride’. What courage!

I also spoke with Sandra from Southern Ireland on one of the big climbs and praised her on her impressive uphill pace (I didn’t mention her terrible riding style). I asked if she’d done the Argus before – ‘No, I don’t cycle’ she said, ‘I’m here for the Ocean to Ocean’. The latter is a run across the Cape, a seriously big running challenge and she’d just slotted in the ride as a bit of training. That would explain the terrible style, but not the speed her terrible style was achieving! I’ll put that down to youth & incredible fitness then! The same might be said of the Guy on a Unicycle, which seemed an impossible task, especially up steep hills & down or someone cycling in a furry animal costume in such heat. All these amusements made for interesting distractions from the aches & pains.

I had a nice chat with a Guy who asked about Jersey (I was wearing my Macmillan Cancer Support, Jersey top) & he told me he did business there & we chatted about people we both knew. I also managed to do the whole of Chapman’s Peak at a decent pace, chatting to a Guy from Amsterdam. We covered such topics as the Brexit & Donald Trump, in addition to our respective cycling experiences. It’s amazing how steep climbs become so much easier when there’s any form of diversion to take your mind off the hurting bits.

The very finest distraction was, of course, the amazing scenery, in particular as we headed towards Kalk Bay & from there to Simon’s Town and north to Misty Cliffs – a fabulous beach area with massive surf and a fine mist rolling over the coastal road. Cycling in that mist, we marveled at our luck to be in such a lovely place, on such a beautiful day. Previous year’s rides have been severely shortened or even cancelled because of extreme weather & one year because of fires in the area.

From then on, the scenery just got more & more dramatic with amazing coastal views looking down from Ocean View and into Noordhoek. Next came the lung busting but seriously dramatic Chapman’s Peak, a long & winding climb with a couple of false summits which, if you let them, could make you very disheartened. There was huge relief for most when they arrived at the top of Chapman’s, but then came a reward in the form of an amazing downhill. These descents are always made so much more fun, when you’re on closed roads & free to sweep around a tight bend with impunity, often completely on the wrong side of the road.

However, the relief was short lived because the next and penultimate test of stamina was the long straight & really quite steep climb up Sugarbosse, although help was at hand, (as it was throughout much of the rest of the ride), with bands, charity groups, families and everyone else besides, cheering on the riders, dancing, singing & generally creating a carnival atmosphere that makes it difficult not to smile and to concentrate too much on aching muscles or a numb bum.

Sugarbosse over, there was then only the ride into the seaside atmosphere of Camps Bay and the climb out at the other side, before a little euphoria was allowed to creep in as the end became imminent. Gus & I reveled in the flat & winding ride through Sea Point with it’s luxurious homes, glued to the side of the cliffs and we really motored along the sea front to the finish at Lion’s Head. There, we were given a medal (melted Kruger rands maybe?) drinks were dispensed, kisses were given by Judith & Beryl and we waited for Peter who came in a short while later, somewhat handicapped as he was on a heavy mountain bike and carrying a rucksack!

What a ride! The very best of scenery, the very best of weather and amazingly well organized & supported. The ride deserves its iconic status & Cape Town should be proud of itself for running such a wonderful event.

Brian Frith
9th March 2016