Cape Town - It’s 5am and the streets are already echoing with the soft click-click-click of coasting bicycles. Bedraggled party-goers still nursing half-empty bottles of beer mingle with fresh-faced cyclists rolling their wheels towards the starting line.
While it is still dark, the dim streetlights in Cape Town’s CBD catch flashes of colour: cyclists wearing glittering halos, riders in a spectrum of neon colours and others in gorilla jumpsuits or sporting red rhino horns.
The colours of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Momentum Cycle Tour grow bolder as the race begins. Golden rays peek over the horizon as thousands of cyclists set off on the long ride beyond Simon’s Town and back.
For the onlookers it’s a spectacle. They emerge from their homes in Muizenberg, Ocean View, and Camps Bay to watch the multi-coloured pelotons skim past, their spinning spokes glinting in the bright sunshine.
Their cheers join the chorus of clicking gears and their posters, banners and flags bleed into the medley of colours. And in some places, fans become part of the race – pushing tiring cyclists up the route’s formidable climbs, or spraying riders with splashes of cool water.
But like a light at the end of the tunnel, as cyclists round onto Helen Suzman Boulevard from Sea Point they hear the pounding music of the finish line, the excited shouts of the commentator and cheers of around a thousand waiting spectators.
It’s there amid an eruption of applause that they raise their hands, let their bodies slump and enjoy their victory – 109km of winding black tarmac like a dark trail lying conquered behind them.
Pictures: Ian Landsberg, Leon Lestrade, Jason Boud, Willem Law, Robin Clark