A quick cycle through the Cape
THIS morning, possibly at around the same time as Parliament had ended a good night of busting and bluster, BA6401 will have delivered me to Cape Town for seven days in which cycling, once again, will rule my world. There was a time when I flew to Cape Town for rugby and cricket, and even the odd boat race, but in these times of austerity and a after prolonged bout of vomiting on a boat in the Cape Town harbour, those days are few and far between.
The weekend will start with perhaps my favourite race on the South African calendar – the Coronation Double Century, 209km of rolling joy and suffering around the Western Cape, starting and finishing in Swellendam. It will be the fourth or fifth time I have rode the DC, an annual invitation from Dave Bellairs, Adri Bootsma and the good folk at the Cape Town Cycle Tour office. Save for those who invite the odd professional – like Team Sky’s Tour de France rider Ben Swift, who will be riding for Hot Chillee – the aim is to finish before the beers get warm and, most importantly, to ensure all of the team finish. It’s a ride, not a race for the rest of us. The slower teams start first. Our teams have started first every year. It’s a mark of some honour.
On Monday, I will be having dinner with the crew of Swift Carbon, the bicycle brand owned and founded by former South African pro, Mark Blewett. They are the bike sponsor of the pro-continental Drapac team, who have just signed young South African Dylan Girdlestone to a one-year contract. On Tuesday, I’ll be in Stellenbosch for the rest of the week with MTN-Qhubeka at their pre-season training camp at Spier. Doug Ryder, the founder and team principal says MTN Qhubeka has big plans for 2015, and has signed a handful of big-name riders to ensure those plans are taken seriously by race organisers, notably ASO, who own the Tour de France. Ryder was in France for the route announcement recently and with the help of the management people from Cervelo, the Canadian bike manufacturer that has come on as both equipment sponsor and a role that could be described as a mix of marketing and strategy, is hoping to become the first African team at the biggest race of them all.
In Swellendam, Nic Dlamini of Capricorn Park in the Western Cape, will ride with Swift on the Hot Chillee team at the DC, has signed for MTN Qhubeka’s feeder team. He, too, will be hoping Ryder’s dream of the Tour de France is realised.
If it is then, he and many other South African cyclists, will see their way to the big time of the sport, has become a little bit clearer.