The Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour has become one of those epic events that every unicyclist would like to add to their list of accomplishments. There is good reason for that; it’s a long race, an epic experience and earns you the respect of the thousands of cyclists and spectators along the route and of course your peers! It’s 110km around the Cape Peninsula, with lots of climbs, descents and flats. And depending on what the weather is doing it can make or break your Argus experience. For the 2nd year in a row the weather was purrrfect, at least there was no wind but OMG was it HOT, peeking at 34º.
This year there was an assortment of 5 unicyclists participating. The collection consisted of Jonathan Benjamin (15 yrs), the Eave duo (father & son), Jim Sowers (from the USA) and myself - Donna. I’m not one for being ‘boy’ techie but it’s relevant to know what set-ups everyone was riding:
• Jonathan Benjamin – Nimbus 36” with 127mm cranks & rim brake.
• Dylan Eave – KH36 with 125mm cranks & rim brake.
• David Eave – KH36 with 125mm cranks & rim brake.
• Jim Sowers – Geared KH24 with 137mm cranks & rim brake.
• Donna Kisogloo - Geared KH29 with 135mm cranks & disc brake.
Besides knowing the techie stuff you should know who did what for and for whom:
• Jonathan Benjamin – Rode for Ma Afrika Tikkum for the project Each One Teach One / Be a Sport. He impressively rose around R30 000 for the charity.
• The Eave Duo (David & Dylan) – Rode on behalf of Darling Brew.
• Jim Sowers – Was travelling the southern countries of Africa on a motorbike with his uni mounted to the back of the bike. When arriving in Cape at the start of his trip we told him about the Argus, he proceeded to restructure his itinerary to be back in Cape Town for the event.
• Donna Kisogloo – Rode for the Boland School for Autism and raised around R2000 for the small school.
OddWheel Unicycles also got a surprise email from Primi Piatti who wanted us to be apart of their ‘Everyday Heroes Team’. A little campaign they designed specifically for the Argus. They also supported Team Bonitas (Don’t know them? Follow the link). In exchange for being an ‘Everyday Hero’, each rider got a R600 Primi Piatti voucher, a little branded orange cape that would make us look like super hero’s on the day and a pair of Primi printed arm sleeves (what a blessing those arm sleeves were). We also did a small photo shoot with them, which would be used for their viral campaign. Jim was in the DRC (I think) when we did the shoot.
Night before the race we all met at Primi in Sea Point for a carbo-loading evening. Made merry and left much later than we had planned, unlike Team Bonitas, because they are part of that elite category in the cycling world. We even managed to get Thomas – a 5FM DJ - onto a unicycle.
Race morning we all head to our gate. Riding towards the start arena you can hear the whispers and see the double takes from the crowd. I’m sure you all know this, but there is no way of being discreet on a unicycle. Ushered up to the start line we await our turn, 7:03am, I was fairly certain that was the last I’d see of the guys. BTW, I mounted first time and what a relief because there were a lot of people looking at us.
The M3 is a really long stretch of flat road. The saving grace there was that there are enough people dotted along it to make it worth while and you know this because when you pass them their cheers are much louder than when any other riders pass the same group. Occasionally there is something that you just can’t top - I saw a group of 4 BMX riders in Borat mankini’s, funny at first but slightly unpleasant when noticing the typical cycle tan and hairy bums. I can’t imagine it being a comfortable ride. Ya, like riding a unicycle that distance is a comfortable experience! And then there was the man in a reindeer outfit - padded and covered in fake fur. Remember 34º, he couldn’t have lasted long.
End of the M3 was the start of the first climb, Boyes Drive. There is something very rewarding about passing lots and lots bicycles on an uphill. It’s also fairly amusing. My favourite, and I think this applies more to being on a 29, is when you start to pass a rider, they look at you with familiar eyes and then do a double take when they realise your on one wheel. 36er’s are higher so other riders notice immediately that you're a unicyclist. It’s more discreet being on a 29 or 24. Then comes the ‘wow’, ‘it’s hard enough on 2 wheels’, ‘you’ve got to be joking’ and so on…
Eventually Boyes Drive comes to an end. We survived the descent into a sharp left hairpin bend approaching the next flat - St James to Simon’s Town. This is where you cruise and say hi to familiar faces (Rob & Andrew) that are offering up delicious homemade banana bread and to-the-core-cold water. Thanks guys!
As I said earlier – I thought I wouldn’t see any of the guys again. Guess who I bumped into at Miller’s Point? Jim. Wheel set detached from frame, trying to find the puncture point. We both examine the tube again with no success of finding the microscopic wound. We need water! The ocean is right beside us with a 20-metre drop to the water, so that wasn’t a feasible option. I turn around from looking over the water to find Jim’s backpack off, camelbak reservoir open. Like surgery we insert the tube into the reservoir opening to find this hole. Success! Patch it up, pump it up and start reassembling. Then 40 minutes to late this man on a motorbike with a foot pump sticking out of his backpack stops to offer his assistance. He had a backpack full of tubes. We ask for a 24” just in case Jim needs it again. He said he didn’t have one but he had a 23”. That’s a weird size, doesn’t matter, we’ll stretch it on. Exchange tube for R50. It was a good mental security blanket – after the race we get home to discover it was nowhere near a 24”. I leave Jim with Mr Motorbike and start the Smitswinkel climb now that he is in good hands.
In this section of the race the bicyclists seemed to be going much slower than earlier on, and there were so many more of them. I had to constantly communicate to people riding a head of me that I was coming up behind them, which side I’d be passing on and that they must keep their line. This made a lavender clad lady wobble and fall over because of the dreaded cleat. Like domino’s she took someone else out. I had to stop and check if she was ok. She was. I restarted the climb to hear lavender lady say: “Does anybody know how to fix a derailleur?”. I couldn’t resist and had to respond by saying: “That’s why I ride a unicycle, LESS maintenance!”. I know I should’ve kept my mouth shut, but how often do those opportunities come about?
Soon after Cape Point I saw Jim again. He was a machine even with all his woes. I think there were 2 or 3 more occasions after Cape Point where Jim had to stop because of severe cramping. Near the end of the route I discovered that he had been doing all the hills in hi-gear, WTF! This guy is a machine, I’d love to see him ride when his fit and been training. From there on myself and Jim kept bumping into each other but he always ushered me ahead because we both new that I couldn’t afford the down time, every minute count.
The next point that I felt a definite change was going through Misty Cliffs. There was a cool temperature coming off the ocean that was incredibly refreshing. Wow! Then I remember going through Ocean’s View where I found Jim laying on the pavement like a Bergie having his first cramp session. I bummed some Cramp Ease off a cyclist and insisted Jim stop at the next physio. He was also ravenous by this point. I dashed off towards Noordhoek where I found Rob and Andrew again, this time with Energade and banana bread. I drank the Energade and insisted they feed Jim when he came by. Jim refused their offerings and soon after that bummed a banana off a spectator.
Now it was early afternoon and Chappies was a scorcher of note. Cyclists were dropping like flies and cowering in the shadows away from the sun. I made it all the way up Chapman’s Peak until I and every other cyclist were forced to dismount because of a bottleneck. A word of advice to the organiser’s – it doesn’t work having a water point at the top of Chapman’s Peak, move in along the road by at least 300 metres. I guess the walk gave me some time to text my friends in Hout Bay.
The last climb of the day was approaching, the dreaded Suikerbossie. When I was training, Suikerbossie was a really nice hill to climb, not a big deal at all. Although after far to many hours in the saddle and the blistering sun beating down on you all day you come to understand why it is such a challenge. I can’t believe I made it up, but I did. To top it off Robyn said she would be waiting for me on Suikerbossie. There was absolutely no chance I was going to stop and chat, but Robyn accommodated by running beside me for a quick chat. At the top of Suikerbossie I found Jim cramping again. This time it seemed much gentler than the first one, I think I got the back end of it.
Back on our uni’s for the last stretch down into Camp’s Bay. FYI for future Argus riders, the last hill of the day is when you are leaving Camp’s Bay. It’s a baby one and very doable after everything you’ve just done. I don’t think there’s been a time where my lady bits or I have so longed to be off a unicycle more than on that last flat stretch.
We all crossed the finish line, crying or smiling. Dylan’s record of 5hrs 17min (I hope I got it right) from last year is still in tact. So, get training!
There were three firsts this year:
• Jonathan Benjamin is the youngest unicyclist to complete the Argus and get an official time of 6hr 40min 28sec
• Donna Kisogloo was the first female to complete the Argus in 9hr 20min
• Jim Sowers was the first foreign unicyclist to complete the Argus in 9hr 24min
• Dylan Eave’s time was 7hr 8min
• David Eave’s time was 7hr 30min
What can I say about doing the Argus on a unicycle? It’s an incredible an incedible experience and everyone should try doing it! I’ve also decided that you are not a true Capetonian until you’ve experienced the Argus whether it be as spectator or a cyclist. One thing I would change for future attempts is more training and less working. I think something we all struggle to balance in our lives.