Cyling pulls you in and stuffs you up
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By Kevin McCullum
A 79-year old lady was in Cape Town last week and went out for a walk. Along the way she took a tumble. A cyclist stopped to help her. She picked her up and walked with her to the nearest police station. There she got the commander of the station to pull out his first aid kit and attend to the woman’s wounds. Then she gave the tumbler her phone number and told her to call later and tell her if she was okay. Then the cyclists headed off. The tumbler asked the commander who the lady was. She was Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape.
Cycling. It pulls you in, makes you fall in love and it stuffs you up. Stories have flown around Cape Town this week with the Cape Argus pick n Pay Cycle Tour.
Julius Malema, a man between an ANC dock and a hard place, has become the latest convert to cycling. The former-current-suspended-expelled-who-knows-what president of the Yoof Leege walked into a Cyclelab franchise in Pretoria and walked out with a brand-new Trek. There is a picture on Twitter of Malema being set up on the bike, his seating position measured as he pedals on it. Witnesses say he left with a full set of kit and an eager smile on his face.
It would be easy to suggest that Malema always has an easy smile on his face, but several South African cycling retailers I spoke to this week had the same smile on their dials. They are finally managing to attract a black market to a sport that is quite white, and they are rubbing their hands in gleeful anticipation.
Yesterday I posted a Twitter picture of sports minister Fikele Mbalula finishing the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour on the back of a tandem piloted by Andrew McLean, the multiple South African cycling champion who has become integral to the South African cycling landscape through his commentary on SuperCycling and involvement with the Cyclelab franchise. At the time of writing this column, over 9000 people had viewed that picture on Twitter. McLean has damaged his Achilles tendon and will not be riding the Absa Cape Epic, but he was fit enough to ensure that the minister finished his first Cycle Tour.
McLean said he would make sure to press the minister on the need to push the campaign to have a 1.5-metre distance between cyclists and motorists when they are riding on the road. The minister said later he would look into the safety of cyclists. There was concern before the Cycle Tour that Mbalula would finish. He started in the same group as Zille, who has been training hard ahead of the Cycle Tour. Mbalula nearly fell off his bike during a television shoot with Top Billing. He’d got a new bike and new shoes, with cleats. But his bike had flat pedals without cleats. But Mbalula insisted on riding by himself, and jumped on his KTM from the start. He, said Owen Hannie, a former professional and television commentator, hammered up Nelson Mandela Boulevard. Zille started at a measured pace. Mbalula had a spill at the bottom of Edinburg Drive. Zille rode with a measured pace. She had said she would speak to the voters on Edinburgh Drive.
Mbalula joined McLean on the tandem, and had the time of his life. They needed help. Hannie helped push them up Boyes Drive, which is a tough addition to the Cycle Tour. “The minister wanted to finish,” said Hannie. “That’s all he kept saying. Helen refused any help from us. We offered to push her and ride with her, but she was pretty resolute in what she wanted to do.”
Zille was supposed to have stopped in Simonstown, but she refused that option. And on she rode. She got on a tandem at Scarborough, though. Sometimes even the toughest need some help. Mbalula said before the race admitted his admiration for the drive and strength of the Western Cape premier. She was also on a KTM, which shoes that bike brands can cut across political boundaries.
Cycling can do that. It has done it. It has cut across financial boundaries, a fit, poor man riding clunkers can compete with an unfit rich man on a R120 000 “wunderfiets”. The amateur athlete can ride in the same race as the professional. It’s about suffering, pain, speed, sweat and satisfaction. It’s about the minister in charge of sport and a white woman who runs the Western Cape riding on a hot day in Cape Town and feeling like they have conquered the world. It’s about Malema and his new Trek. About the thousands who will see cycling as the new sport for the masses. Cycling. It pulls you in. It makes you fall in love. It stuffs you up.