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Cape Town - The Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle tour is days away and among the competitors will be a a 28-year-old taking part in his 21st tour, women who have completed it more than 25 times, a veteran and his wife, a young couple and a young cyclist who is determined to finish, writes Kieran Legg.
Joining Club 21
At just 28 years old, it is difficult to believe that Dave Morison has completed 20 Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tours. But at age eight, the veteran of the 109km route had already conquered the course for the first time.
“When I tell people this, I can often see them trying to calculate it in their head,” he joked.
In 1993, eight-year-old Dave was coaxed onto a Rocky five-speed bike by his parents.
The trio set off from the packed starting line, and as his wheels spun through Chapman’s Peak, Main Road and Suikerbossie, he knew he had been bitten by the cycling bug.
“I don’t remember much about my first time on the route, I just remember that I loved it,” he said.
The young cyclist managed to finish the route in just over five hours.
As the years went by, he outgrew his bike and soon he was leaving his father behind as he chased faster finishes.
“According to my parents, I was adamant to ride it individually and not on the back of a tandem. I also refused to let them push me up hills,” he said.
He said that every year was a different experience with a new story.
He has crashed in a bunch sprint just metres from the finish line, struggled through the inclusion of Boyes Drive and pedalled through the gruelling “De-Tour” over Ou Kaapse Weg.
But it is the weather that really stands out for him, from rainy days when black clouds hung over the route to the 2009 Cycle Tour, when gale-force winds blew riders from their bikes.
“Fortunately, this was a long time after I was weighing a mere 30kg (as a kid) in the mid-1990s,” he said.
On Sunday, when the Cycle Tour spins into life, Morison will be aiming to join Club 21 – for those who have finished the Cycle Tour 21 times.
He said the event was the highlight of his year, and nothing was more exciting for him than the starting line.
“You can feel the nervous tension and the excitement behind it,” he said. “It will feel amazing when I reach the finish as a member of the club.”
But this time round, in a break from his usual mindset, he will not be there to beat his personal best of 2 hours and 32 minutes: “My wife is joining me and I want to take it slow and just soak up the atmosphere.”
This won’t be his last ride. Morison said he had already set his sights on doing 30 or more.
It’s an exclusive club, but there are no fancy cocktails, burly bouncers or strobe lights – at least not on race day.
The “Terrific 25” is a group of 25 women who have completed the Cycle Tour more than 25 times – as much an amazing achievement as it is a mouthful.
Janet Moss, a 29-time veteran of the event, put together the club after she realised how little exposure there was for the women who had conquered 109km of tarmac so many times.
“We have heard about the magnificent seven men who have completed all 35 tours – but nothing on the splendid women,” she says.
The club’s members have seen every corner of the route, from picnic spots in Sea Point to climbs and hurtling hills that have come and gone as the event has changed through the years.
They have ridden in wind, rain and hail; under scorching sunlight and over beaten streets.
Moss, who describes herself as 61 going on 17, took part in her first tour in 1982. Back then it was a more casual meander through the hills – with helmets being optional and cars following cyclists around the route. But even then Moss was ultra-competitive, something that has kept her coming back every year.
“I’m amazed I’ve kept going up until this point,” she says.
“I’m always trying to get a better time and my ambition is to one day win my age group.”
She is relieved that Boyes Drive has made an exit this year. The heavy climb was always a thorn in her side.
“I hate climbing, but I do go downhill very quickly,” she says. “I hurtle down like a kamikaze pilot.”
She hopes that this year there won’t be any wind. “I’m fairly small, so when the wind picks up I get buffeted around a lot,” she laughs.
Moss says she won’t be doing a “sparkling time” this year, as she is still recovering from surgery, but she will still ride well.
Joining Moss to celebrate her 30th anniversary with the event, 62-year-old Marje Hemp is looking forward to the landmark achievement. The Pinelands resident has been cycling since she was 32 and is as competitive as ever.
“It started as a fun event for me, but when I realised I was posting decent times I started to take it very seriously,” she says.
Her time in the Cycle Tour is filled with memorable moments – such as riding with people dressed as rhinos or waving at baboons along the route. She particularly enjoyed the chance to spin wheels with some famous faces.
“I have participated with Matt Damon, Lance Armstrong, Miguel Indurain and Phil Liggett. How lucky can I be,” she says.
With British billionaire Sir Richard Branson also taking to the saddle this year, she will have another name to add to her list.
Hemp hopes the fact that she is still taking part in the event will be an inspiration to everyone to develop a healthier lifestyle.
While there are numerous other women who have notched up more than 25 tours, Olga Basson is probably South Africa’s most Tour’d.
On March 10, the 72-year-old will hopefully secure her 31st successful finish.
“My best time was three hours and 28 minutes. While I’ve been busy, my aim is always to do it in a good time,” she says.
Basson’s first Cycle Tour was in 1979 and she recalls the casual atmosphere of cyclists who camped along the road enjoying snacks while her friends followed her in a bakkie and shouted out words of encouragement.
A lot has changed, but she maintains the heart of the event is still there.
Through her 30 tours she has seen it all. She has seen people lying on the side of the rode suffering from hypothermia, riders collapsing in the heat and cyclists being blown from their bikes by gales.
“The cheering at the end will get me across the finish line,” she says.
The Terrific 25 club holds a function every year to celebrate the achievements of their veterans and the newcomers to their group.
Most couples take a holiday in the countryside, in a new city or on a tropical island. But Danie and Jozanne Louw can think of no better way to unwind than spending two weeks on their bikes.
The married cyclists, and new parents of a 10-month-old girl, are taking part in every event that forms part of Life Cycle week.
They have already conquered over 200km of gruelling climbs and rocky pathways that form part of the Nashua Grape Escape’s difficult route – and on Sunday they finished the MTB Challenge’s toughest option, pedalling through 75km of tarmac and dirt tracks.
While most people might be exhausted just reading about this, the enthusiastic couple still aren’t done – with the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour’s 109km route waiting for them on Sunday.
Danie, 34, and Jozanne, 33, met on their bikes seven years ago and fell in love while going on rides together. Since then cycling has been an important part of their lives. The duo have raced in numerous events with the Absa Cape Epic – a 700km stage race – standing out as one of their favourite rides.
“With our schedules we don’t really get a chance to train together anymore,” says Jozanne. “These two weeks will be a chance for us to bond and ride together again.”
While the pair are used to cycling together, Danie says rising temperatures and endless climbs led to arguments and harsh words on the track.
“We have a rule though, whatever happens on the route, stays on the route. Once we cross the finish line we give each other a hug and a kiss,” he says.
Last year was the Cape Town couple’s first Cycle Tour and they say it was enjoyable.
“We are mountain bike riders at heart but I love seeing all the different people who ride in the race,” says Danie.
“I can’t believe there are people living in Cape Town who don’t do it. It’s an amazing feeling when you go up Chapman’s Peak and see the views and the crowds,” says Jozanne.
Their 10-month-old daughter will take part in the Trike Tour this week.
“Daddy will be pushing her,” jokes Jozanne. “We want our kids to share the outdoor lifestyle with us and build memories. We don’t want her to grow up thinking we always leave her behind to go cycling.”
The Stegmann Duo
After completing 21 Cycle Tours, his wife has finally been coaxed into joining him. John Stegmann, 75, has had a long, personal history with the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, and is cited as a key figure in the inception of the big ride.
He took part in the first tour in 1978, when picnics seemed mandatory and cars could drive along the route.
Until now, his wife Pam Stegmann had always followed in a Kombi, dishing out treats when friends and family got peckish and picking up those who had thrown themselves too eagerly at the mountainside – or as the rules became stricter – waiting at the finish line.
The couple, who live in Plettenberg Bay, have taken a long break from the event but are back for one final ride.
“Our daughter is coming from London and asked us if we wanted to take part… I couldn’t say no,” says John.
He says the Cycle Tour is the only chance cyclists get to have the roads to themselves and skim around the city’s streets.
The tour has been a collection of memorable moments for John. He has always ridden fast, but a few times his confidence got the better of him.
Once he was cycling along and finishing off a banana. “I decided to toss the peel in the bush and as I threw it, it went one way and my bike went the other and I crashed,” he says. “I learnt my lesson very quickly.”
He says this time around he will treat it as a fun ride and isn’t afraid to walk up the hills “It makes them seem shorter.”
Pam, 75 has never ridden in the event, but says she has suffered through 21 years of preparation and nerves.
“I’m looking forward toit ,” she said. “I’m hoping to stop for a cup of tea.”
“If you are asking what time we are aiming for,” joke the pair. “The cut-off (10 hours) – we’re hoping to beat that.”
Wonder Kid Wanga
This year he will finish it all by himself. While Wanga Moshani might not be short on energy, the |15-year-old pupil who lives in Khayelitsha admits he has struggled in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour in the past.
“It’s so hard because I’m too small,” he complains. “Every time I see a hill I know it’s going to be tough.”
Last year, he took part in his first Cycle Tour. While determined and brimming with youthful enthusiasm he found himself fighting his height throughout the route.
He wouldn’t have made it if his teammates hadn’t stepped in to guide him through the climbs and give him a push when his legs grew weary.
Moshani rides with the Velokhaya Life Cycling Academy, a beneficiary of the Cycle Tour. The club is situated in Khayelitsha and educates children and young adults from disadvantaged communities through training on road bikes, mountain bikes and BMXs.
On race day, over 80 riders from the academy, can be seen in their white kits, riding in a peloton and pushing hard to reach the finish line.
Moshani started at the academy when he was only nine. From the first day his mother dropped him off at the academy’s dirt track he was hooked.
“I like being here because it keeps me safe inside. It’s something to do after school every day,” he says.
But most of all he loves the competition.
He admits that he is competitive and relishes the challenge of trumping his team mates on the track.
This time when Moshani spins off from the starting line of the Cycle Tour he is determined to conquer the 109km route without help.
He has been training for two hours every day, throwing himself at climbs and challenging himself to beat his previous times.
And how does he think he will do?
“I’m going to do it in four hours… I want to hear the people cheering,” he says.