Saturday, 24 March 2012

Day 1 - Arrival and the Prologue trial run

 After a very long trip from Sydney via Perth and Joburg, I arrived on schedule in Cape Town, 9am Friday morning. Buzz and Johnny were there to pick me up. The race is a big event here with lots of large signs at the Airport welcoming riders.

First nervous wait of the day was for my bag and bike. Anyone who has traveled with non standard bags knows the feeling of uneasiness, waiting for your goodies to be delivered. There is no plan B. If the bike doesn't turn up, Team KMD will have only 1 set of wheels. Relief is instant when I see my bike in an isolated corner of the baggage collection area. The relationship between rider and bike is a bit like the cowboy and his horse from the old days. No cyclist likes to see his trusty (and very expensive) machine disassembled and put into a case. I grab my kit and meet up with the boys.

packing the car
The plan is to go back to the hotel, put my bike together then drive out to the start for Sunday's prologue and do a familiarisation ride of the course. The hotel we are staying at called the Bay located right under the famous Table Mountain at a place called Camps Bay and is 5 star. No time to lounge around the pool, we get my kit unpacked and grab our bikes and head off.

Meerandal winery is 40k from Cape Town in the winery region. As we drive out of Cape Town, the stark contrast of rich and poor in South Africa is confronting. With a country of 40million people, 91% who are black, the challenges are enormous. All the homes of anyone who has any material possessions have 6 foot fences, razor wire on many, and full security services. This is contrasted with the shanty towns where thousands of people live in corrugated iron shacks with minimal services and dusty dirty informal layouts. They compare to any of the slum towns I have seen in Manilla or Rio.

There are people everywhere. When you stop at traffic lights (or "robots" which is the local term for lights!), people are walking the streets, and even walking aimlessly along and across the busy freeways!! One side of the freeway has luxury shopping centres which match any in Oz. The other dirty rambling shanty towns, where none of us could walk into with major risk to your being. It is very confronting and you can only imagine the challenges facing this country over the next decade.

Buzz outside a local bike store!
We reach Meerandale winery after a few little navigation adjustments from Buzz and Johnny who are busy studying the garmin for directions in the front of the van, Mark and I relaxing in the back.

We get there and the preparations for the start of the race are in full swing. There are 4 huge OB (outside broadcast) TV vans setting up their cameras as the prologue is live on Sth African TV on Sunday. Workers are putting up tents, bike stands and hospitality marquees. We get changed in the carpark, get the map of the course and along with a few other riders start to ride the course.

Team Weatherzone on the very
exposed trails of the Prologue course
The terrain in this part of the Cape is very dry, hilly and with little trees or foliage. The soil is classic winery region. Very rocky, dusty and red. The area reminds me of the Barossa Valley in SA. It is very open, windy and hot. Buzz and I realize that we will need our Camelbacks on, even for the 27k prologue as it is very hilly, dry, dusty and hot. I thought I could get away with 1 water bottle, but it is too hot and we don't want to risk being dehydrated for the next stage.

The course starts with a 2k climb to the top of a very exposed hilltop. A TV tower is strategically placed there so viewers can see the pain on the faces of the riders as they tackle the first climb of many over the next 8 days. It is followed by a technical descent with many switchbacks through thorny rocky terrain. The 4 of us take it pretty easy. glad for the chance to recco the course as there are many areas that an unwary rider can come to grief. We discuss the issues of passing people on a narrow rocky course that is 50% singletrack and very few passing opportunitys. The prologue is each team riding a team time trial leaving at 30 second intervals, so it will be interesting.
hope this isnt all thats left of team KMD and
Weatherzone at the end of the week!

After 2 hours we arrive back at the winery, hot and thirsty. A very nice lunch of chicken, pasta and wraps washed down with Coke sitting under some cool trees at the winery restuarant is refreshing. With the advantage of a strong Aussie dollar, 4 cooked meals and drinks is less than 40 dollars in total!!

We headed back to Camps Bay, where the afternoon sea "breeze" (I reckon it was 40knots) is blowing everything not tied down out to sea towards Sth America. We shower and meet up with Christelle's (Jarrod's fiancee) brother Ben who is riding is 9th Epic with his team mate, Carl. We have a few beers, picking Ben and Carl's experience of 15 Epics between them. We walk down the road for a nice dinner with a bottle of red and some fish. By 9.30pm, all the travel, 2 nights without sleep, the riding, beers and excitment catch up in one foul swoop and we get back to the hotel where I am in a jetlagged coma in about 2 nano-seconds!!

A great first day and we are all looking forward to a great race!

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