Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A non-cyclists guide to riding the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour


No race really compares to doing the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour. The excitement on the start line is electric, the supporters along the 109km route are joyful, the scenery is crazy and taking part is always a privilege.

Having done the ride a few times with varying degrees of seriousness, here is our low-down for the casual non-rider doing the tour for the first time: You've got 7 hours to do the 109km, which works out to doing about 16km per hour.As long as you measure your time in relation to these splits, you should be fine.

The Start to Constantia: The start is hugely thrilling and adrenalin will get you going at pace - until you realise that much of the first 11km is a gradual uphill. But the crowds at Newlands forest and Wynberg hill will have you smiling and loving the early stages.

The Blue Route highway: This is a lovely, fast part of the course that's pretty flat and open. This is your chance to get those legs spinning a little faster and make up any time you dropped high five-ing the crowds on Wynberg Hill.

Lakeside / Muizenberg / St James / Kalk Bay: If there is a South Easter blowing on the day, this is where you're going to start swearing at it. You will have done about 30km at this point so you should be all warmed up by now. Relish the narrower streets and be careful of the manhole covers in the road.

Fish Hoek to Simon's Town: A quick section of road that will suck a bit after the festivities of Kalk Bay. This is a good time to eat a banana and pull yourself together. Spectator numbers here are low.

Simon's Town to Cape Point: This is where the tour really starts. The ascent to Smitswinkel is deceptively tough, Nobody really talks about this hill, but if you're hurting now...it's about to get worse. Relax your hands on the handlebars and focus on keeping a steady pace in an easy gear. You may see baboons here.

Cape Point to Misty Cliffs: If the wind is blowing South East on the day this is where you regain your faith in religion. You'll be pushed along at a happy pace with the wind behind you and a gentle down hill to allow you to love the Blue Gum avenue all around you. Stay away from the fringes of the road here as the tree roots have caused the tar to be a little uneven.

Ocean view to the bottom of Chapman's: This is the worst part of the race. It's flat, hot and you've got about 75km in your legs and there's not much to look at. Eat cake or drink beer if you have to.

Chapman's Peak: This is obviously a hill section, but it's really not that bad. There are a few false summits that present an illusionary reprieve for the overtired, but the photo area at the top of Chappies deserves your best smile. Look at the view and love life here. The descents are fast once you've summitted - so unless you're confident at taking them at speed, stay out of the way of the carbon guys who are going for a time.

Hout Bay to the top of Suikerbossie: You will be singing a well known Afrikaans song over and over again as you tackle the last recognised climb of the day. Suikerbossie is tough, especially having already spent the last 90km in the saddle, but the hill itself is only about 2km long. Try enjoy it as much as possible and bury yourself if you have to. It's the last bit of work you'll have to do all day damn it. If push comes to shove - down a cup of half Coke / half water at a refreshment station and let the sugar high smash you over the top.

After Suikerbossie to the end: At this point you have about 14km to go and 10km of them are free thanks to a fast winding downhill. Enjoy the views of the ocean and save a bit for the final haul through Sea Point. There's a nasty bump in the road just after Camps Bay, but you should be too tired by now to really care. Smile for the cameras at the end and move quickly through the gates.


Well done! Grab a drink, stroke your medal, thank your bike and promise yourself that you'll sell the car and rather ride your bike everyday. The 109km Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour - DONE!