ARGUS CYCLE TOUR 2004
by Haldane van Horen
I was in Cape Town, South Africa again in March, to compete in the Argus Cycle Tour. It is traditionally held on the second Sunday in March, and is limited to 35 000 entrants. It is the world's largest individually timed Cycle race.
I'd competed in my first race in 1997 on a mountain bike, and managed to compete in every second event. Normally my preparation wasn't very good, usually getting on a bike about 2 weeks before! It's a fun event, although participants are seeded. The first group starts at 06h15, and consists of pros. A group of 6-700 competitors starts every 5 minutes thereafter, until 08h25, after which they start every 4 minutes until the last group starts at 10h21. The atmosphere is very jovial, and some people dress up in fancy dress similar to the London Marathon.
I was lucky to be starting at 07h35, which meant that I should be finished before midday, and the really hot part of the day. I was planning to finish the event in around 3 hours 30 min, although the route had changed, after a mountain pass has been reopened, which allowed the route to pass alone the scenic sea-side road of Chapman’s' Peak.
Roads are fully closed for the event, and as the route causes parts of the city to be cut off to through-traffic, there are many thousands of residents watching the event along the route. The weather forecast predicted a gale-force south easterly again, which would have meant head winds along the first half of the route, however there was no more than a gentle breeze. Drafting is very important along the main road leading to Cape Point, and I managed to catch up to a few groups by some hard riding. I was fitter this year than any other, despite tapering for the race and flying to South Africa in the week before. The hills didn't seem so bad as a result, although the heat was a little debilitating. I was happy to finish in 3 hour 31 min. In position 5745 ! A friend finished 5 minutes after me, but was 920 places down. During that time, there was an average of 1000 people finishing every 5 minutes!!
The winner of the event was Antonio Salamone who finished in 2:32, while the person on the course the longest finished in 6:58, in position 30366. (as far as I could see, as the results are in alphabetical order, and take up 21 pages of the local broadsheet newspaper!) The first 875 finishers completed the course within 3 hours.
More information: www.cycletour.co.za