Unless you were sitting inside nursing a hangover or deep in the series binge watching game you will have noticed a large number of people wearing more lycra than usual riding their bicycles around Cape Town. I was one of them. For the last three years I have been cycling the 109km race on a tandem bike with my dad. Although the name has now changed to the Cape Town Cycle Tour, the level of pain you and your bum will experience has not. The first time I cycled, I was completely unprepared and it was quite genuinely only the feeling of “I owe you for life” that kept me on the bike with my dad. Last year, the memory of how hard I found it and sugar free peanut butter on bananas got me out of bed in the mornings for early morning spinning classes, and despite wind that made our bike stand still on down-hills (not an exaggeration) I loved it. Cycling a race like this means hearing port-a-loos being referred to as “thunder boxes”, my dad getting super excited about down-hills calling them “tandem town” and you will see more lycra than you ever thought it was possible to see. This year, however, is a year I don’t think anyone who has cycled the race before will ever forget.
Owing to one of the most hectic fires Cape Town has seen in a long time, the route was shortened from 109 km to 47km. The part of the route that was cut out was arguably what I have always thought to be the most beautiful parts of Cape Town. There is no view other than the one from Chapmans Peak Drive that could be an adequate consolation prize for having to cycle up Chapmans Peak Drive, if you get my meaning. The fact that the cycle route was shortened was as close and personal as the fire got for me. It’s been a bit of a reminder of the sheer force nature both mother nature, and human nature has and the awesome power of both which is rarely seen. What made this ride even more memorable, for me, were the number of people who rode in red or made sure that they had a red something with their cycle day lycra to mark this ride as a ride of solidarity with the incredible fire fighters and rescue services who fought the fire around the clock for most of the week prior to the race. We ended up cycling the race with this couple.
I loved their addition to their cycling helmets, and no they did not know I was creeping on them and taking a photo like this. There was also a very brave individual cycling in a red lycra onesie, with no cycling pant padding between him and a good few days of painful sitting.
After the race was finished we drove to Kalk Bay for a late lunch, and on the way encountered a little bit of the aftermath of the fire. The photos that did the rounds on Facebook and Twitter were chilling and even though I saw the charred earth on Sunday with my own eyes I still can’t actually conceptualise the magnitude of the fire, or that the fire fighters managed to get us all to the other side of it.
If I look back at a 109km cycle and have no idea how I managed to get through it, I can’t begin to imagine how those firefighters got through something so much worse. I think life is a little bit like that sometimes, the hardest things test us, and all you can do is breathe and fight to get through it. I have the utmost respect for the resilience and will power shown by everyone who fought the fire, as well as the spirit of those who gave what they could to help. A lot of people asked why it took something so devastating to bring people together, I think it is because we tend to get so caught up in our daily lives that it takes something extraordinary to shift our focus. The fire and something like the Cape Town Cycle Tour, both bring out the very best in human nature which I think is extraordinary in itself.