Cape Town is host to the world’s largest timed bicycle race, the Cape Argus. Each year in March well over 30,000 cyclists varying in ability from the legendary Lance Armstrong to our very own Bruce Rose and I, set out to cover the 109 kilometres of some of the best scenery anywhere in the world. The route takes you from central Cape Town down the Indian Ocean side of the peninsular to The Cape of Good Hope before returning to the city up the Atlantic side and over the intimidating Chapmans Peak before spinning through the delightful seaside of Camps Bay to the finishing line back in the city.
I have been lucky to have taken part in the race several times before and Cape Town never fails to deliver. It really is not only one of the most beautiful cities on Earth, it also has some of the finest wines and most succelent cuisine and finest hotels, all still at fantastic value.
As part of a group of eight cyclists we based ourselves at the ever welcoming Bay Hotel in Camps Bay and were greeted as old friends by the staff. We were surrounded by such legendary restaurants as ‘Blue’, ‘The Codfather’ and ‘The Grand’ and sampled each in an attempt to “carbo load” for the big race.
Sunday 14th March produced another beautiful sunny day for the event. I had managed to give Lance Armstrong a two hour head start as the elite cyclists are always first out. I was just hoping to have started before he had finished! The whole route is lined with applauding spectators urging on all the cyclists. Capetonians make a big day of it (they are legendary party animals) with barbeques being fired up all day long and the wine and beer flowing freely.
We all managed to complete the course with varying degrees of success (any time between 3hours 30 minutes to 4 hours and 50 minutes) but all with equal enjoyment. We celebrated our acheivement with another gargantuan meal (you do work up an appetite on a bicycle, and a thirst, come to think of it! ) before collapsing into our beds.
All the cyclist fly out the next evening and tradition has dictated a farewell lunch at one of our favourite restaurants, La Colombe at Constantia Uitsig where drinking the largest aperitifs, the finest food and wine it is difficult to spend more than £20 a head. Some worked up a thirst climbing Table Mountain, which is a must at least once, while the remainder went to the fabulous Kirstenboch Botantical Gardens that climb up the side of the Peak, all very high on a list of recommendations.
The Argus bicycle race has been going for over 25 years and continues to go from strength to strength. You dont have to been too energetic on a visit and as there is virtually no time difference, Cape Town lends itself to a long weeeknd away par excellence. If any budding cyclists out there fancy the ride, it is scheduled to take place on Sunday March 13th 2011. I’m happy to fill you in with some more details. I look forward to seeing you on the starting line.