The riders of Team MTN Qhubeka drove down Hindley Street in Delft yesterday, past cycle lanes painted on the pavement that led to the entrance of Blikkiesdorp, the informal, yet formal settlement on the Cape Flats. It is a place of much controversy, called a “dumping ground” for the poor, a temporary relocation settlement as they were moved away from Cape Town ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Here, some of the best professional cyclists in the world got to see what the Qhubeka in their name stood for.
It’s a grey, dusty place, a R30-million collection of one-room corrugated iron shacks that make up Tin Can Town. It’s a hard place to live, a hard place to grow up and even harder to grow food to eat. Yet, some manage to prise life from the dirt, growing plants and vegetables. Marius, who did not want to give his surname, has a lush patch on which spinach, cabbage, tomatoes and other plants grow. He uses these to feed his family. The other plants are taken back to the “treepeneurs” programme run from the Spier wine farm by Lesley Joemat, an employee of the farm. The programme is part of the Wildlands Conversation Trust, an NGO begun in KZN, that rewarded “treepeneurs” for growing saplings and trees from seeds, so they could be returned to the environment.
They swap the plants for vouchers for “food, clothing, agricultural goods, tools, and bicycles – even school and university fees”, says the literature.
The Kuku Penthouse is a place, a nirvana of cycling that costs a little extra, but takes you to a hither undiscovered heaven of freedom and comfort.
The penthouse, situated at the front of the S7 line of Assos cycling shorts is, and I quote, because you don’t want to get this wrong in a family publication: “Another Assos innovation! The front part of the insert features a round pattern insert made of skin contact textile – no foam. Not only does it create a nest in which the male’s genitals are gently cradled, but also keeps this sensitive area cooler. It’s the evolution of Kukudelux.”
Dylan Girdlestone will become the next South African cyclist to take another step on to the international stage after he signed for Drapac, an Australian Pro Continental team.
There is a South African twist to the story as Girdlestone will be riding on a team sponsored by Swift Carbon bikes, a company founded by former South African professional Mark Blewett. His agent is former South African pro, Robbie Hunter, the first South African to win a stage at the Tour de France back in 2007.
“It’s for sure the biggest contract of my career,” said |Girdlestone, who is currently with Team Bonitas.
“I’ll be moving over to Australia to be with the team, meeting up on November 28 for the first camp, which will see us get our kit and new bikes and then again on December 28, which will be a proper training camp. The Australian guys will be preparing for the national champs. It’ll be a hard camp.”
Drapac will mostly be based in Australia, but their Pro Continental licence puts them on the same level as South Africa’s MTN Qhubeka, who rode in the Tour of Spain, a World Tour event, this year.
Their programme will involve races in Asia, Australia and the United States, with aims to take it up another level next year to Europe. Girdlestone’s hopes are to make the line-up for the Tour Down Under, the first World Tour event of the year.
“The Tour Down Under is the first big race I want to race for them. There is also the Herald Sun Tour in Australia, which I’ve raced in before for MTN Qhubeka. Then there is the Tour of California, Utah, USA Pro Challenge, Cadel Evans Challenge, Tour of Korea, races in Oman and Dubai.
“I approached Drapac a few years ago. I’d raced against them in the Sun Tour. They looked like MTN and had the same feel. My dad and my brother live in New Zealand and my brother rides for the Drapac feeder team. He’ll be based in Melbourne, where I will be, although I may look for somewhere cheaper to live. I’ll be riding some races with him.”
Hunter organised Girdlestone a spell with Garmin-Sharp, the team he rode for in his last few years as a professional. It was an |experience that opened the eyes of the young man.
“It was the best thing that could have happened to me. |They were great and helped by sending me to France for two months. I got to race in France, Spain and Austria. I won a race, got a second and third and a King of the Mountains.
“Riding at the level |Garmin-Sharp operate at is a |completely different world. It’s hard in its own way. It’s a different level. Much more tactical and a different kind of hard. It’s smart racing. In South Africa we don’t do tactics as well. Everyone is just going crazy, shooting from the hip. It’s mad from the gun.
“In Europe, it’s an insane level at the end when everyone is |fighting. But you go in more relaxed and smarter because |of that.”
Girdlestone describes himself as more of a “tour rider, I don’t |classify myself as a climber, not at World Tour level. I do well on multi-day races as I have that strength.”
Girdlestone began riding at school after his superbike-riding father broke his legs in an |accident. The doctor suggested cycling as a way of rehab, the bug bit and his father became more competitive. Girdlestone junior joined in. He rode his first race in Sabie on an old Raleigh, then moved to road at 16, rode for MTN Qhubeka for a few years before spending some time at Westvaal BMC (“The best years of my |career, thus far.”) and now Bonitas.
At around the same time as Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of the National Assembly, was struggling with recognition and telling the opposition, “You wish”, in Parliament yesterday, Jerome Valcke, secretary general of Fifa, was doing a damn fine impression of the ad hoc committee on Nkandla in Pretoria.
Valcke, in the country to mark four years of the World Cup Legacy programme, spoke on the findings regarding the bids of Qatar and Russia, insisting they were above board.
“Fifa didn’t clear Russia and Qatar, it was Ethics Committee, that’s important to note.”
Yes, but the Fifa’s Ethics Committee belongs to Fifa as much as the Nkandla ad hoc committee belonged to the ANC.
The outcome was pre-determined. The good news, someone sharp tweeted yesterday, is that Fifa have come to the conclusion that they are not, according to them, corrupt. The ANC have done the same thing.
Instead, it was the English, the staunchest critics of the bids of both countries in their media and parliament, who found the spotlight turned on them for cosying up to Jack Warner of Concacaf with promises and the odd, well-laundered bribe.
A backhander remains a backhander, no matter if it is to pay for a dinner or cash stuffed into a wallet. It is, though, a distraction tactic by Fifa, much like the previous regime of Cricket South Africa orchestrated against Gauteng Cricket when they dared challenge them over the running of the 2009 IPL.
“It must be made clear that President (Sepp) Blatter did not violate the FCE (Fifa Code of Ethics). The one concrete allegation against the President, concerning an account purportedly held in his name at a US bank, was demonstrably false,” announced Fifa.
“Mr Blatter has implemented a number of critical reforms, including those that made this inquiry possible. The bidding process established by Fifa was for the most part fair and thorough, although the executive committee’s obligations in that process\[morgan.bolton\] – including its members’ obligations to abide the same reporting requirements placed on the bid teams - ... should have been made more explicit.”
It wouldn’t seem out of place to insert “Zuma” for “Blatter” and “bidding process” for “Nkandla”.
Michael Garcia, who was appointed by Fifa to investigate the bidding race for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, has said that the report, written by a German judge who headed up the adjudicatory arm of the Ethics Committee, Hans-Joachim Eckert, has misrepresented his conclusions.
“(It) contains numerous, materially incomplete and erroneous representations of the facts and conclusions detailed in the Investigatory Chamber’s report. I intend to appeal this decision to the Fifa Appeal Committee.”
Under the big red tent near the start of the Momentum 94.7 Mountain Bike Challenge yesterday, a man took a picture of the front of his bike.
He didn’t quite like the angle of the handlebars, and turned them a shade to the right so that he could get in the race number attached to the front of the bars. He snapped, frowned, smiled, snapped and then showed the picture to his wife, who was flapping like a turtle in the bean bags in the tent.