Is This A World-Record Argus?

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I’m in the start chute, about to take on my seventh Cape Town Cycle Tour. It’s taken a lot of careful planning to get here. And by ‘here’, I don’t just mean making my way to the chute – which admittedly was a long back-and-forth WhatsApp debate with my mates about what time to leave, which route to take, and where to park. – By Jonathan Ancer

Photograph by Sam Clark
Photograph by Sam Clark

I mean that in addition to months of hill repeats and TITs (Time In The Saddle), it took a lot of careful planning to steer clear of sick people and their bugs. If anyone sneezed in my vicinity, I skeefed them out, then took a step backwards. If anyone sniffed in the lift, I pressed the button for the next floor and got out. People with red noses? I avoided them like… well, the plague.

The Cycle Tour is slap bang in the heart of flu season, so it’s taken me a lot of germ-dodging to get to the start line unscathed. Not only that: I’ve registered, and survived the longest Expo walk in history. I’ve also remembered to bring everything I need – start card, race chip, race number (shirt), race number (bike), helmet, shoes (yes, one year I forgot my shoes), gloves, water, energy bars. And my bike. I had also woken up on time – 4am – and slapped on sun block and chamois cream.

The hard part is over, and here I am in all my ‘flu-free glory – with 35 000 of my closest friends – and just a few minutes away from making my way around Cape Town’s spanking peninsula. What’s more, it’s a cool, wind-free day – the south-easter, which had been lifting skirts in the weeks before the Cycle Tour, has decided to take a break. This is PB time.

I’m in 2A – the cowboy group, unfortunately, filled with aggro riders determined to get a good time, rather than have a good time. Which is why I position myself on the right – out of harm’s way.

I’ve even thought of my Strava title: “Wow, I just completed my Argus in under three hours! My first sub-three… but in the spirit of full disclosure, I must point out that I didn’t read the property section.” <itals>Ha ha, I chuckle. <itals>I wonder how many kudos I’ll get for that.<end itals>

Ten seconds to go, the race announcer declares. A ripple of tension makes its way through the riders as the countdown begins: 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2… 1. The starter’s gun fires. “Everyone say, ‘Hoopla!’” shouts the Cycle Tour’s famous Hoopla Guy. “Hoopla!” I respond. “Hoooplaaaaa!”

I clip into my cleats, thinking <itals>The next time I unclip will be in 109 kilometres,<end itals> at the finish in Greenpoint Stadium. Seven seconds later… Boom! Bang! Crash! Yarroooh! I’m spitting dust out of my mouth. An impatient rider, in his quest to get to the front, has barrelled into me, knocking me to the ground. He doesn’t even stop to check that I’m okay – it’s a hit and ride.

I stand up, shakily. My face is bleeding, skin has been scraped off my shoulder, my body’s covered in roasties, my helmet is in pieces, my handlebar is twisted, and my bike’s gears are mangled. I haven’t even made it to the timing mat.

By only covering 50 metres, I must surely hold the World Record for the shortest Argus ever. I guess it’s just as well I wasn’t Finance Minister; now I know how Des van Rooyen feels.