Above: shadow cyclists on the M3.
As I write, Vincent Mounier and Henri Viljoen are slogging it out on the Cape Peninsula in freshening winds promising a blow of 60km an hour. Their group left at 8.02 am. Groups of 600 cyclists each are penned for release at two minute intervals. There are reportedly 35,000 cyclists riding today. The 109km tour is the largest timed race in the world.
The event has already been won by 36 year old South African Malcolm Lange *in a time of 2 hours 39 minutes 55 seconds. Lance Armstrong came in 9th, positioning team mate, South African Daryl Impey, for 3rd.
My 77 year old dad and my husband are looking at times of 4-6 hours. Many will finish in 8. My father has been training for months for this event, and just one week ago was knocked off his motorbike by a car, suffering a spectacular bruise (which he enjoys showing to people) to his right shoulder, but breaking nothing. Some of you might remember that he was hit by a car while training for this race three years ago. That put him out of commission entirely with internal bruising and torn ligaments. He was a black bruise from torso to thigh.
Vince the runner has had an impressive 3 training rides in one week, after deciding spontaneously to join my father, and he is on my dad's mountain bike, for his presumed sins. My mother and I positioned ourselves on a bridge over the M3 freeway and I managed to see Vince cycling on the shoulder and waving helpfully to separate himself from the crowd, and I bellowed Vive La France! at him.
There are cyclists unable to ride today. At least 3 have been killed training for this race and one is in an induced coma, after having been hit by cars in accidents near dawn.
Maybe the bug will bite me. But where will I train? Round and round Prospect Park? Check back this time next year...
So. Vive La France! En Vat Hom Fluffy!
Update @ 12.22pm: according to the television commentator Phil Liggett the wind did not blow as expected. "It is now an idyllic Cape day."
Update on the update @3.04pm: my dad says, Rubbish. [The wind] was nightmarish. A woman ahead of me was swept off her bicycle by the wind on Chapman's Peak. And people were again blown off their bikes at the start.
Anyway, they're back, in one piece. Vince's verdict? Never again. My father's verdict? If it blows like that again I'll take the turn-off to Constantia and go home...
I'm not so sure about that.
You can read Vince's account here.
Vince's time: 5 hours 20 minutes.
HPV's time: 5 hours 49 minutes.
* 3/15/10 - Malcom Lange obviously didn't get the memo telling him that the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour is a CHARITY race. He says, on Twitter, that his R16,000 prize is 'a joke'.
"What a joke 40000 riders and sponsorship for this race and guess what I won R16000, something does not balance???"
"So take R16000, less 10% for management and then split that by 8 riders(team), and I made R1800 for winning the Argus!!"
If his team didn't like the prize money, why ride?