Curtis and I racing (and finishing) the second biggest bicycle event in the world!
I don't remember why I decided to challenge my good pal Curtis to race the 94.7 Cycle Challenge (actually more around 100km than 95...).
I guess I've almost being known to love doing stupid things, especially if they required a lot of stamina, willpower and pain, all in name of useless glory.
This is why I managed to run 10 marathons so far (ok, the first one that I run was because I was a bit bored in the army, and the Los Angeles one was only an excuse to go to Las Vegas ) or survive the Tough Guy in a freezing January in 2007 .
Anyway, in the weeks preceding the event, I've started to experience the thrill of a mountain bike race. With Curtis we took part in some pretty tough races, and even if we finished quite far from the winners (all pros or semi pros), at least we finished long ahead of plenty of racers with bicycles worth 10 to 20 times more than mine (which was the cheapest on the market 2 years ago).
All those races were around 30 to 50km, long enough for us (cycling in South Africa under a 40 degrees sun takes its toll) to train and be ready for the final race day.
I never realized how big it was. If you check on internet, you will soon realize that with around 25.000 people starting it, it's the second biggest race in the world, just after the Cape Argus, another famous South Africa race (yes, if you love outdoor sport than South Africa is definitely the place to stay, unless you love the snow).
So after weeks of getting ready, pimping our bicycle and pumping our wheels, it was time to go. The start was from just outside Johannesburg, where 10-15000 cars had to find a place to unload their bicycles. Leaving not too far from there, we decided to leave very early (our start was scheduled at 9.20, in one of the last groups, almost 3 hours after the start of the pros, no chance to win then!) and we found a parking spot only 2-3 from the start line.
It was insane to witness how quickly the parking filled up, and Curtis and I, with our mountain bike slightly modified (new wheels, enhanced accessories, and a lot of liquids) decided to simply wait in the breakfast area for the start.
Finally at 9.20, under a true African Sun, the race started. In our group of 250 people, some decided to sprint straight away while our goal was to simply finish in a decent time (less than 5 hours) and to enjoy the race.
It was incredible to cycle through Johannesburg with all the main streets closed to traffic. For the first 15km, almost all uphill (and few people dropped already there...) I could enjoy a truly nice city that unfortunately gets an awful reputation because of its traffic and the criminality.
Outside Johannesburg things starting to become a little harder, but we took it quite easily. We stopped at every drinking station and had some fun with the many supporters around us. Curtis struggled a bit on the hills, but he always managed to get back with me. The original plan was to stay together and do a Tour de France sprint in the last 200 meters.
Only after 60km the fatigue started to kick in. Not too much (nothing compared to what I usually suffer during marathons), but enough to slow down our rhythm. Luckily we managed to survive the most difficult bit (a very long series of hills that go on for around 10km, against wind) and to witness more and more people retiring for either dehydration or muscles problems. Also, we wasted quite a lot of time discussing politics with the local supporters...
With 1 km to go, we launched our attack on the last hill, passing hundreds of participants and getting at the 200 meters mark ready to sprint. It was a great sprint, with all the random supporters cheering for these two crazy guys that after more than 95km of cycling still had some will to entertain.
Curtis gave up after 100 meters and I finished in front of him by 10 seconds. I finished in around 4 minutes and 40 seconds at the 11735th place (out of 16471 that finished, almost 9000 retired!).
Then, it was time to get our muscles massaged by the great free service offered by the organization, and then it was time for some final beers to celebrate another crazy experience.
What's next? I heard that the two oceans marathon is quite long...