I landed in Africa at almost 10:30 at night and by the time I had negotiated a shuttle van home (where somehow the driver crammed three bike cases, six people and all of our additional luggage) it was almost 11:30. In reality, this was a good thing because I don’t think that my mind could have handled the sights, sounds and smells of daytime Capetown in the state of jet-lagged sleep deprivation that I was in. As it was, it was a head trip enough to see acres of shantytowns, multiple Porsche 911s and the World Cup Soccer Stadium all on the same trip. I got dropped off, built my bike in a fading haze of consciousness and then went to sleep after setting an alarm for 7:30 the next morning because we (Jason Sager and myself) had to make it to the “exhibition” race the next day for an 11am start time. No problem.
I was so asleep when the alarm went off that it actually was a sound affect in my dream for a good long while before I actually woke up. Coffee…blissful, delicious French press (thank goodness I brought this piece of invaluable bike racing equipment) made the first steps out of the apartment more manageable, but the view on the way to the grocery store; of a city back-sided by mountains and lapped at by the waves on the other was almost enough to make me believe I was still dreaming. Luckily Jason saved me from getting run over in my awe-struck delirium…turns out they drive on the opposite side of the road down here. Just this initial assessment, and the drive to the race which was about 50k outside of town, was enough to establish the fact that Capetown, and what little of Africa I could see from here, were beautiful. The giant rock face of table mountain loomed behind the city with its omnipresent halo of cloud cover, while the immensity of the ocean…in an almost three sided sense (looking from the point) was inspiring. The city bustled with activity and a Euro-meets-Malibu sort of feel to the steep streets, small cars and innumerable light cargo trucks. But there was discordance in the image too…next to the beauty, both natural and manmade, was poverty just a literal stones throw away. The course for our exhibition race, an urban short-track put on by the charity organization Songo was a surreal trip through the alleys and streets of one of these neighborhoods. We raced in front of children cheering with no shoes while their mothers did laundry on the side of the racecourse in buckets with a hose. We raced through singletrack littered with the garbage of urban poverty and the smell of…well, you get the idea. All of this while bordered on several sides of a valley with beautiful wine estates; it made for a truly surreal experience. Hearing the cheers of the community, many children, and knowing that the event supported the development of the athletic center there, made the oxygen debt and the jet-lag, and the heat all a little more manageable, if not at the moment at least in retrospect. It also made me glad that I was going to be doing the Cape Epic not just to showcase my trade team Redline who helped to make this trip possible, but also to raise funds and awareness for World Bicycle Relief…an organization that makes a tangible and beneficial difference in the lives of people throughout Africa. Hopefully our (Jason and my) efforts will be beneficial in fundraising for their cause…as well as successful on the racecourse.
After that shell-shock to the time zone addled system, the past couple of days have been more about getting some training and sight seeing in while getting equipment and logistics dialed for the upcoming week. And while there is a lot to do, and a lot to see…with excellent rides up Table Mountain and along the coast, it also means that there is down time that leaves me anxious to get the race underway to stem the nervousness. I for one, find it easier to be confident while riding my bike then in the days leading up to it when every training ride or race press-conference leaves me feeling intimidated at the sea of uber-thin euro pros who I will be competing with over the next eight days. But that said, the time has been good for Jason and I to click, for my legs to open up, to try and get the first shades of tan lines without burning myself to a crisp and to see some of this beautiful place before I have my head buried in my handlebars trying to stay with the front group. One more day to kill, and then the real adventure begins-
Thanks to everyone for all the support- Keep you posted.