The Knysna 2 Cape Town Cycle Tour is always an adventure. The first time I did it two years ago I had to deal with an upset stomach on Day 1 and a crazy American who fell off his bike. FIVE times. So when I signed up for Round 2 I was hoping for something a lot less adventurous.
A quick look at the weather forecast for the day of our departure made it clear that that was not to be the case. We were faced with the sort of rain that would have Noah concerned - not that that is usually an excuse for Corporal Claire to cancel sessions but fortunately on this occasion she wasn't thrilled about 145km in wet clothes and so delayed the start by several hours until the rain stopped.
Day 1 is probably the friendliest ride - there is no competition, no jostling, just a group of people easing into the tour and finding the correct group to ride with. 145km or so stand between you and dinner - and dinner is amazing! I still dream about the Ostrich steaks. And there is plenty of it. You know when a group of MTD athletes finish eating and there are leftovers that the catering is generous.
Day 2 is the longest day - 110km before lunch at the Shaw's farm. For those of you who haven't had Lienkie's lasagne, the effort is truly worth it.
After lunch is a series of rolling hills until you get to Ronnie's Sex Shop where we all stop for a brandy and coke and a few pictures before hitting the last few km to Barrydale. It is at this point that my favourite part of the ride comes - the downhill into Barrydale is about 3km long, and STRAIGHT , and STEEP. There is not a turn in sight and you can go down as fast as your bike and gravity can take you. I want to hit 80kph this year.
Day 2 is a long day - 192km to be exact, but it is undoubtedly my favourite day. Those who have never ridden 200km before usually go on a little further just to get that notch on the belt. It's a good feeling.
The Barrydale Karoo Art Hotel is probably the most charming hotel in the Western Cape. The food is amazing. The decor is risque. The baths are in the middle of your bedroom and there is no such thing as a shower door. And we get treated to a performance by the local musicians.
Day 3 is when the competitions start. Over 30's vs under 30's. And it is ruthless. The sprint finish starts about 150km into the 160km for the day. Or 5km before that if you are Wes Van Niekerk who put in a valiant effort, only to be pipped at the post by Travis Johnston who timed his attack to perfection. (Travis is quite good at that timing, hey Kent?)
There is also an unconfirmed rumour that day 3 involves a run off the bike for people who classify themselves as triathletes.
Day 4 is the beautiful Bainskloof pass. And this is the scene of the King of the Mountains. I don't know who won last year - I vaguely remember it being the over 30's - mainly because by the time I got to the top of the mountain, eyes popping out and dry heaving, everyone was sitting around waiting for me. But it was fun.
There really is no better way to enjoy the beauty of the Karoo than on a bicycle with friends. I've done it twice and I absolutely cannot wait to do it again. It is one of the highlights of my year.
One must just remember to pack warm clothes. ALL of your warm clothes. And wear them ALL every day. Because it is VERY cold.