Friday, 9 March 2012

Along for the Ride

Today is the last day of my first week of studying in Cape Town.   It’s crazy how quickly time passes, and yet how new everything still feels.   I’m like a kid in a candy store at this point, taking in all of the experiences that Cape Town has to offer.   This weekend marks one of the biggest events in the Cape Town calendar – The Cape Argus Cycle Tour.

Now although I want to experience Cape Town to its full, please do not think that I am actually going to attempt to cycle on Sunday!   For the past 12 years or so, my father has come up every year to ride the 109kms around this fair city.   And I always think, “There is hell no way am I ever going to do that!”   Although I am fairly familiar with this particular cycling event, last year was the first time that I had come to Cape Town to witness the Argus for myself.   And I had no idea what I was in for...

When my dad and I arrived in Cape Town on the Friday, I remember thinking that since the Argus was only on the Sunday, I wouldn’t have to hear about or see anything to do with cycling until then.   Right?   Wrong.   No matter where you looked, there were bicycles EVERYWHERE!   People were riding bikes, cars were transporting bikes, car-guards were watching over bikes.   And I’m not just talking about your run of the mill bicycle that you’ve had since you were 12.   Oh no, some of these babies probably cost more than my car!

If I thought that the streets were bad on Friday, I was not prepared for the Expo on Saturday.   Now I’m not an idiot.   I expected to see bicycles and cyclists at a cycling expo.   But what amazed me was how many people (mainly men) were running around in full cycling kit.   I don’t know if this is some pre-Argus ritual, that you need to test out your gear before you race, but I could not fathom why lycra and cleats are necessary when registering for a race.   I felt like a fish out of water wandering around this massive hall that was packed with every bit of cycling paraphernalia imaginable.   A salesman even tried to sell me a motorized bicycle, but quickly got annoyed with me when I told him that I thought that a motor on a bike is cheating.   Raising his eyes to the heavens, he changed tact by ignoring me (when just ten seconds ago I was his best friend) and turned to tell some other poor schmuck about the benefits of this poor excuse for a bicycle.

After a full day of carbo-loading, I woke up on Sunday morning and got ready to meet my dad at the finish.   Thankfully Cape Town, being the organised city that it is, had arranged for a shuttle to transport us spectators from the Civic Centre to the finish at Green Point Stadium.   As I walked into the main area, I realised that it would be nearly impossible to find my father in amongst the throngs of finished cyclists.   Never before have I seen so much lycra and so many men strutting around with bulging packages for all the world to see.   I didn’t know where to look, and found myself being jostled by crowds of people – most of whom were (in my opinion) in sever need of some covering up!  

Eventually I received a call, and found out that my dad was in the beer tent – I really should have guessed – and so I start following a parade of very tight bottoms who were heading that way.   I was feeling good about things when all of a sudden, a very energetic man dressed in a luminous orange vest, literally leaps out in front of me, arms out-stretched, and yells “STOP!”   It takes me a while to register what is happening, so I just stand there staring at the little orange man before me with a blank look on my face.   Clearly my insubordination infuriated him and he started enthusiastically waving his arms and burbling about how only cyclists are allowed this way.   When I asked him why, I was greeted with a stare that seemed to say “How dare you question ME!? I have a luminous orange vest and am therefore very important!!!   You are nothing but lowly spectator SCUM!”   After a brief moment of silence, I get told that it is a security measure to ensure that none of the bicycles get stolen.   Yes, because it wouldn’t be at all conspicuous to see a 5 foot something girl (not dressed in lycra) lugging some massive bicycle home with her.   To cut a long story short, I was redirected around the LONG way (just in case me, being the kleptomaniac that I am, has any urges to steal something else) and finally made it to the beer tent and was greeted by my awesome father and some very much appreciated alcohol!

Thus concludes my first ever Argus experience.   I like to think that this year will be different as I at least have some idea of what awaits me this weekend.   At least I’ll be ready for the intense traffic and excessive amount of bicycles, but I’m not entirely sure if one can ever be prepared for all of the lycra-clad men who I will inevitably be shoved up against.   Maybe I should buy myself a luminous orange vest and try and steal a bicycle?   Or maybe I’ll just do the same thing as last year, and get drunk in the beer tent!